28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I am sure all honourable senators will join with me in welcoming Senator Willesee back to Australia after his illness in Europe.
- Mr President, apropos of what you just said, may I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, will be absent from Australia from later today until 23 March in order to attend the South Pacific Forum in the Cook Islands. During his absence the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I shall represent those Ministers usually represented by Senator Willesee in the Senate.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I will move:
That leave bc given to introduce a Bill for an Act to approve Accession by Australia to a Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, to give effect to that Convention, and for related purposes.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
1 ) 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.
3 ) 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 direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the dinner given in Peking on Sunday night by the Government of China, hosted by Premier Chou En-lai and Madam Mao, to leaders of the Australian Communist Party, Mr Ted Hill and Mr Norm Gallagher, and the statement reported in the Press as having been made at that dinner. What action has the Government taken with respect to that dinner? Is not the function clear evidence of the commitment of the Chinese Government to support these fraternal communist parties throughout the world? Will he make a statement on what this portends for Australia?
-I shall find out the details and let Senator Greenwood know.
-I ask the Minister for Repatriation: How many previously non-entitled patients have been treated for cancer in repatriation hospitals following the Government’s decision to provide this treatment for exservicemen who have served in a theatre of war?
– Since the Government decided to provide this service- honourable senators will remember that there is a qualification that the ex-serviceman or ex-servicewoman must have served in a theatre of war- about 650 applications have been made on the new basis. I am not sure how many of those are receiving treatment currently in the hospitals but I understand that arrangements are being made for all of them to receive either hospitalisation or medical treatment. I shall get whatever further information I can obtain and give it to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. When the Government’s policy on tax rebates for housing loan interest payments comes into operation, when and under what conditions will those young home owners who have benefited from the homes savings grant policy have the right to claim tax rebates on their housing loans?
– My understanding is that they will have the same rights, subject to the means test, as any other borrower regarding interest on their loans. Consideration was given to the fact that the homes savings grant was a payment made after the contract had been entered into by a purchaser and had little effect in paying off the home; most of it was used for furnishing the home and so on. These people will not be debarred by virtue of the fact that they have had a grant.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Media, is in 4 parts. Firstly, is it correct that Australian Broadcasting Commission staff announcers are personally graded, including downgraded, on the advice of State Announcer Review Assessment Committees? Secondly, are the reports correct that at least six long serving announcers have recently been told that they have no future as broadcasters? Can it be agreed that many of the Announcer Review Assessment Committees’ comments are confusing, contradictory and even ambiguous? Thirdly, will the Minister investigate the introduction of a more realistic appraisal to assess announcers, as the present system does much to lower the standard and morale of ABC announcing staff? Finally- I do not expect an answer to this part now- would it be correct to say that most of the ARAC personnel had little or no experience as announcers, and what is the percentage of experience in each State?
-The honourable senator has asked me a number of questions. Firstly, it is a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has State Announcer Review Assessment Committees which are responsible for making an assessment of announcers employed by the Commission from time to time. I understand it is a fact that some 6 long serving announcers have recently been told that they have no future as announcers so far as the ABC is concerned. Most of these, I am given to understand, are employed on a temporary basis. I am assured that the Commission makes efforts wherever possible to fit such people into other sections of the broadcasting industry. I am assured by the General Manager of the Commission, Mr Duckmanton, that it is not true to say that many of the Assessment Committees’ comments are confusing, contradictory or ambiguous. This system was introduced by the Commission some 3 years ago after long and careful consideration. It was introduced with the approval of and after consideration by the ABC Staff Association.
All such procedures within the ABC are subject to regular scrutiny and where improvements can be made they are implemented. I am told that some 60 per cent of the members of the State Announcer Review Assessment Committees have been announcers. I have been informed that before any final decision is made, the State assessments are considered by the Director of Radio Presentation, a man with a long and distinguished career in both commercial and national broadcasting- Mr Arch McKirdy- and also by the Federal Director of Radio Programs who also has had experience as an announcer. Additionally, in the event of an announcer wanting to appeal, he is entitled to appeal direct to the General Manager of the Commission. This right was introduced as part of the present procedure, again with the approval of the ABC Staff Association.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. My question relates to an unsavoury new development in journalism in this countrypages of advertisements in certain weekly newspapers seeking clients for brothels, massage parlours and related establishments and seeking partners for homosexuals, lesbians and certain types of perversion. I ask: Are these papers registered to pass through the mail? Does the Government believe that they should be registered by the Postmaster-General to be sent through the mail?
– I cannot say whether these newspapers are registered to pass through the mail. I give an assurance that I shall refer the question to my colleague the Postmaster-General and that the honourable senator’s comments will be noted.
-Does the Minister for Primary Industry recall saying in answer to a question on meat prices last Wednesday:
From the report-
That is, the report from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics- it appears that the main reason- for high meat prices- was that the profit margin at the retail level was being maintained at a fairly high point. Mainly for that reason no reduction in the retail price was taking place.
– That is a quote, Sir, from Hansard.
– Order! That does not have the benefit of holy writ.
– Has the Minister seen other statements that the withholding of stock from the market is the main reason for high meat prices? Can he say what is the true position?
– This question is very similar to one whichI was asked last week.I can only restate the position in very much the same terms as I used then. The report does suggest that there is a continuation of fairly substantial margins at the retail level. As to the withholding of stock, I recall that I said then that I was not aware of any evidence that could be produced to show that primary producers were in fact withholding stock. Whether he markets his cattle is a matter for the discretion of the primary producer, as I am sure Senator Young would be fully aware. I only indicated the broad principle that it is better both for the producer and for the consumer if there can be a fairly uniform flow of meat to the market and said that this will contribute to more stability in prices at the retail level and also to a stable position for the producer’s product. As I indicated then, I am not in a position to say that there is any evidence of a conscious campaign by primary producers to withhold stock. The marketing of cattle is a question to be exercised by the producer at his own discretion.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. What stage has the Minister reached in his examination of the marketing report of the Australian Wool Corporation? Has he had contact with industry groups? When does he expect a Government decision on the report?
– I have indicated in the past that this matter is of very great significance to the wool industry and that, therefore, no quick decision will be taken on it. As to the specific question on what discussions I have had, I inform the honourable senator that I have met with representatives of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers and also the Australian Council of Woolbuyers. I will be meeting again shortly with the AWIC for further discussions. That is the current position, but I restate my opposition to any quick decision being made in respect of this very important matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and energy aware that the Premier in the Western Australian Labor Government believes that the Alwest alumina project has been killed by the
Federal Government’s refusal to waive financial restrictions? Have the Premier and Western Australian mining industry leaders said that the development of Western Australia’s mineral resources has been severely hindered by the Federal Government’s decision to withdraw assistance and concessions? Will this latest decision increase the suspicion and uncertainty existing throughout Western Australia?
-I saw the statement alleged to have been made by the Premier of Western Australia. I am not quite sure whether he said that refusal would kill the project, but that may be so. I feel that this question should be answered by my colleague, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, because of the implications contained in it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. What action has the Minister taken to ban the chemical Weedazol which had disastrous effects on the environment when used recently in a weed killing test in South Australia?
– I am told by my colleague, the Minister for Health, that except insofar as the Federal Territories are concerned, the Australian Department of Health has no authority to exercise any control over the use of Weedazol or any similar product used in Australia; therefore, this matter is purely one for the South Australian Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Government has announced a policy to allow graduated taxation deductions for interest paid on mortgages by people purchasing their own homes? Does this confirm the views held widely in Australia that interest rates, built to the highest levels in Australian history by the current Government, will continue to remain at these very high levels? Does this not confirm the view expressed in the Senate last week by Senator Withers that the Labor Party is a dear money party?
-During the election speech of the Prime Minister it was announced that for the first time in Australian history we would be introducing a system under which interest payments on house mortgages would be a concessional taxation deduction and that the concession was to cut out at $ 14,000. The intention was to make the concession available to those on the lower income levels. The idea is not novel in other parts of the world. Regrettably, interest rates are high and the Government regrets that this is so. I do not think that there is any connection between the 2 matters. Interest rates were not at these levels when we announced the scheme prior to 2 December 1972. This proposal is merely intended to carry out an election promise. The other matter is quite separate and I hope that it will be tackled in the near future.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I draw the Minister’s attention to a report in the international publication ‘Newsweek’ that an American hire and drive organisation will introduce a fleet of electric cars powered by batteries which will provide 8 to 12 hours’ driving from each recharge at speeds up to 60 miles an hour. In view of the world energy crisis, the high level of pollution from hydro-carbon exhausts in this country and the existence of hydro-electricity generation as we have it -
– Order! Honourable senators are developing the habit of making long explanations before they ask their questions. The Standing Orders and the customs of the Senate dictate that honourable senators shall only introduce material that will make a question understandable to honourable senators. I think that the honourable senator has gone far enough in this regard.
– I think that I have made the question understandable to the Minister. I ask him: Will he have his colleague, the Minister for Transport, examine this development of electric motor cars with a view to evaluating the suitability of their manufacture in this country?
– The Minister is doing this already. He is examining the possibility of producing an electric powered motor car. One has been demonstrated in Canberra and a number of Ministers were taken for a ride in it. 1 do not know whether an inquiry has been made into the electric car hire system to which the honourable senator has referred. I shall refer the question to the Minister. If there is anything further that he can do in regard to investigating alternative fuels, I can assure the honourable senator that it will be done.
-Yes, I will. South Australia has always had the age limit set at 2 years. Queensland and Western Australia have amended their legislation to reduce the age limit to 2 years. My information is that in Tasmania the amendments are about to go before the State Parliament. No action has been taken in New South Wales or Victoria, but I will press those States to act. In the Federal sphere, I understand that amendments for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have been drafted and will be put through shortly. This action was agreed upon some time ago. My recollection is that it was in August of last year. The basis for it was evidence persuasive enough to indicate that children aged between 2 years and 6 years could be affected adversely and permanently by being exposed to scenes of violence. Indeed, it has been suggested to me that children younger than 2 years of age also could be affected. I believe that the limits were set at 6 years and 2 years so that mothers would be able to attend the films. It was not thought that the children could be affected, but apparently they can be. I am looking into the question of whether, in order to protect children, there should be no such lower limit at all.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate had his attention drawn to recent Press reports which claim that Senator Withers, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Liberal Party spokesman on the Australian Capital Territory, is accusing the Government of sneakiness and dishonesty and saying that the Government was never serious about giving residents of the Territories a vote in the forthcoming referendums? Is it not a fact that when, during the last session, the Government introduced legislation to enable the Territories to have Senate representation Senator Withers led the attack which defeated that democratic measure and by so doing deprived the electors of the Territories of the opportunity to have their voices heard in this chamber on matters having a direct effect on their own affairs?
– I have no hesitation in agreeing with the honourable senator. I marvel at his choice of euphemisms for conduct which can be characterised in even graver terms. I would think that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has done his utmost to see that the people of the Territories do not get a vote on important questions. I have no doubt that he will go out leading his flock to campaign against the referendum Bills and to encourage the people of the States to vote against giving the people of the Territories a vote in future referenda.
– My question, which I direct to the Attorney-General, concerns his statement to the media last week about telephone tapping, in which he is reported to have said that methods of interception are more advanced than the methods used for the prevention or detection of telephone tapping. Is it true that a special report on telecommunications security was delivered to Senator Murphy by the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists and the Postal Telecommunications Technicians Association of New South Wales in which they urged the Federal Government to establish, amongst other things, a special debugging squad to check out all telephones of parliamentarians and unions? What action has the Government taken to reduce or to eliminate illegal telephone tapping?
-It is true, broadly, that I said- and I understood it was accepted all around the world- that the methods of detecting or preventing illegal interception of telephone conversations were not equal to the method of illegally conducting such interception. A great deal has been written on this, particularly in the United States of America. It is true that the union in question made a number of representations after it had considered these matters and also made various reports which were fully investigated. It is also true that the PostmasterGeneral has an efficient group of people who conduct, on request, investigations and surveys on lines in order to detect any interception. This is done quite frequently on the request of those who need it, and of course the Government has its own agencies for ensuring the security of its own communications.
– M r President, I hope that you will allow my question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. I draw attention to the statement on 1 7 March of the Minister for Overseas Trade with regard to the proposed legislation for the Australian Industry Development Corporation. It was stated that one of the most important future roles could be in helping rural producers’ non-profit-taking co-operatives and that the Minister hoped that this objective would have the full backing of farmers’ organisations and rural communities everywhere. I ask: If this is a statement of Government policy, to what extent does the Government intend to develop rural communities through the AIDC? Has the Minister held consultations with the farmers’ organisations from which he hoped the support would be forthcoming?
– I am not aware of any discussions which have taken place between the Minister for Overseas Trade and co-operative organisations. My understanding is that his statement at the weekend was expressing the principle that the AIDC will in fact be an instrument to assist the co-operative movement in Australia which the Government fully supports and which is in line with our policy. I have had considerable contact with the co-operative movement in this country. Only 3 weeks ago here in Canberra I met five of the leading persons engaged in the co-operative movement throughout the Commonwealth. I shall be having further discussions with them shortly on ways and means whereby this Government can assist the co-operative movement in Australia. Although, as I say, I am not aware of all the discussions that Dr Cairns may have had with the co-operative movement, I am quite sure that the co-operative movement will welcome the statement made by Dr Cairns at the weekend.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry noted the estimate by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that the superphosphate subsidy reduces the cost of super spread on land by 30 per cent or more? Will not the withdrawal of the subsidy have a most adverse effect on the improvement and laying down of fresh pasture, as well as on the small farmer who has not shared in the abundant prosperity about which Mr Whitlam speaks? Will the Government think again on this matter which is vital to primary producers, or is the decision final?
– I have seen the report published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It is true that the effect of phosphate fertiliser is greater in certain areas than in others. But the area which the honourable senator has just mentioned is not the principal area in which phosphate fertiliser is used. The Government has not closed the door on the provision of a bounty on fertiliser. As I indicated in the Senate in answer to a question a fortnight ago the Prime Minister in fact has invited rural organisations to submit to me a case as to why the bounty should be continued. The organisations are being assisted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to make their submissions. If they can produce a prima facie case for the continuation of the bounty or its reintroduction, then that matter will be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. I think it is appropriate to say that the Australian Farmers Federation does not adopt the view that even in the meantime there should be a continuation of the bounty. In fact, it takes the view that, should the matter be referred to the IAC, it might then be more appropriate for the bounty to have expired so that a better case can be presented to the Commission on behalf of primary producers.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether his attention has been drawn to recent statements in the Press by the representative of an ex-service action group claiming that the Government was pension cutting as a money saving device and alleging that all was not well in the Repatriation Department. Has the Minister investigated these claims? Is he in a position to answer them?
– I have seen the statement. I am rather surprised that any ex-service organisation should say that things are not well with the Repatriation Department. I, with many other honourable senators, attend ex-service organisation conferences and meetings. I have found that all the long established organisations have a great amount of admiration for the Department. So I cannot see that the point is made. It seems to me that the reasons for any claim that the Department or the Act ought to be modified or altered should properly be given to the Toose Committee which is now proceeding. Its report is expected in about June of this year. As honourable senators know, we already have the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare which has not yet been debated. Any case against the Department might well be put to the Toose Committee for its consideration.
In relation to the argument that the Government is pension cutting to save money, it seems to me that the claim is a little ridiculous because, as honourable senators know, there has been a dramatic increase in repatriation benefits since this Government took office. Since we came to power we have caught up with all the things which we thought ought to be done. I think that roughly $50m has been committed by the Government to increases in pensions and the other benefits about which we talked during debates on the Repatriation Department. Today there is free hospitalisation for veterans and acceptance of cancer as war caused. These things have been achieved. I remind the Senate that I and other honourable senators on both sides of the chamber were interested in the debates. On one or two occasions we moved for these sorts of inquiries. The last Goverment set up the inquiry which is now being conducted by Mr Justice Toose. No doubt he will have some important things to say. For those reasons, it seems to me that the claims made by that organisation are not well founded. Any special cases might well be put to the Minister or to the Toose Committee.
– Since the matter has been brought to my attention, I inform the honourable senator that the then Opposition member who had access to the file is the present Minister for Labour. The circumstances are not quite as have been reported in the Press. Mr Clyde Cameron was asked to act for the farmer in question, which he did. As is the present practice- and the correct practice- he had a summary given to him of the implications of the person’s case. I remind the Senate that the gentleman in question has been making applications since the 1950s. He had written to the former Prime Minister, to previous Ministers for Repatriation and to the then Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. Because the summary was rather complicated and in order to assist the person concerned, Mr Clyde Cameron thought that it might be advantageous to show him the summary. The person concerned did not see the file; he saw a summary. As Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who was involved in cases of this type when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate, knows, the summaries do not contain the private medical opinions. The person concerned failed to honour what was an arrangement with Mr Clyde Cameron. The summary is not generally shown to the person concerned. It should not be. I make the point that if the person concerned had acted properly towards his advocate he certainly would have advised Mr Clyde Cameron of the particulars and details involved, so as to assist his case. That is the circumstance of the whole matter.
Since those days the gentleman concerned has pursued his claims. Recently his case was brought to my attention. 1 arranged for the file to be made available, if he agreed, to supporters of what is called the Ex-services Action Association. On the agreement of the person concerned, I sent the file and a special officer from the Department to Adelaide to consult those people. The matter was resolved on the basis that they would take the next action and that, if necessary, the Department would ask the consulting psychiatrist, who was assisting the person concerned, to make a report to the Repatriation Department, and it could be the basis of new action. We have heard nothing since of what might be done in regard to the case.
– The Press report gives alleged details of the file.
– He saw the summary. That is the point I make.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. As the cost of food is one of the areas of greatest inflation in this country, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to prepare a list of the amount of foreign ownership of major food processors in Australia? Have investigations by the Treasury shown that food price inflation is being imported into Australia because of the foreign ownership of food companies?
-The honourable senator has asked me to ask the Treasurer for information. I will do so.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to a statement by Sir John Crawford that Australia is in danger of moving into an adverse balance of payments situation? In view of the high standing of Sir John in world financial circles- he is senior adviser to the World Bankand in view of his assertion that our net surplus position arising from capital inflow may disappear within the next 12 months unless the Government changes its attitude to foreign investment, is the Government giving consideration to lifting or varying the 33- 1 /3 per cent deposit requirement on capital inflow?
-I did not specifically see Sir John Crawford ‘s comment, nor am I sure that he said that it was because of Government policy that what the honourable senator has suggested would take place. I think I should get a copy of the statement and get some comments on it from the Treasurer for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: In view of the concern which has been expressed in sections of the Australian community at the detention without trial of prisoners in Indonesia, particularly those arrested during the recent riots, can the Minister say whether during his visit to Indonesia last week he raised this matter with the Indonesian authorities?
– Yes. When I was in Indonesia last week I raised this issue firstly with Mr Adam Malik, my opposite number in that country, and subsequently with other Ministers who have some connection with it. I pointed out to them that this matter is an ingredient- not the only one- in the relationship between our two countries, and I pointed out that there is deep concern. They explained to me that they were still carrying out interrogations of people arrested on 15 and 16 January with a view to bringing these people to trial on specific charges. By far the largest number of those arrested had been released and interrogation of those not released was still continuing. However, as I understood the position, these interrogations were well advanced and, arising from them, a decision would be made on whether charges would be levelled against these people.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the disastrous floods in Queensland destroyed many hundreds of miles of fencing and other structural improvements on rural properties? Is the Minister also aware that the provisions of sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which would have enabled the cost of the replacement of these improvements to be a full deduction from income in one year, were withdrawn in the last Budget? In view of the heavy cost involved and the fact that these rural producers are not entitled to social service payments and disaster fund handouts, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to consider restoring these provisions temporarily in order to cover these people?
– In answering a question asked by Senator Maunsell a fortnight ago, I indicated that it was my understanding that the losses referred to in his question asked then and referred to again now would be taken into account in the settlement of claims by the Queensland Government and the Australian Government. As to sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, if the Australian Government is prepared, as it has indicated, to accept liability for the losses in excess of $2m I do not see that it would then be fair to expect the Treasurer to reinstate the provisions of sections 75 and 76. It is my understanding that losses of both cattle and fencing will be taken into account, that being the proper way in which to settle the losses that these people have incurred.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia is pressing the State Government to withdraw from the national wheat stabilisation scheme because of the general dissatisfaction with the new scheme? What effect would an independent State marketing authority have on the orderly marketing of the national harvest, bearing in mind that the growers’ co-operative in Western Australia is well equipped to undertake this task?
– The matter raised by the honourable senator has been given much consideration over the past few weeks and many statements have been made claiming the possibility of individual States going it alone. I think it is fairly well understood by all States- it certainly was understood by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation- that to undertake such a task is beyond the capacity of the States and beyond the capacity of the industry. The honourable senator’s question points out that a particular industry organisation in Western Australia would find it possible to do this. Let me remind him that the amount of money involved in the first advance payment to the Western Australian wheat growers for this year was in the vicinity of $150m. I strongly suggest to the honourable senator that to obtain that sort of finance in Australia outside of the Reserve Bank would be well nigh impossible. Even to obtain it from overseas sources would require guarantees being provided by some State governments or industry organisations. If that were possible, quite possibly it could be done at a time of very high wheat prices such as we are experiencing now. I can assure the honourable senator that the possibility of obtaining guarantees on the world market in three or four years time, when the wheat market returns to a more normal price situation, would be very remote indeed. I hope that the objections raised in Western Australia will not be pursued. It would not be in the interests of the Western Australian wheatgrowers if they were, and it certainly would not be in the interests of the Australian wheat industry as a whole.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. He will be aware that the sheet metal workers strike is in its second day throughout the country. I ask the Minister whether strike action, which is so prevalent and is paralysing industry, at the instance of not merely that union but also the zinc workers in Hobart and the railwaymen throughout the country, has yet reached the stage where the Government is prepared to take any action to bring these disputes into the arbitration field, or is the Government acquiescing in this campaign on the part of many unions to gain increases by blackmail rather than arbitration?
– The honourable senator would know that he has raised this question previously and I have replied to it and spoken of what the Government is trying to do. The Minister for Labour has talked actively with the top labour organisations in Australia in an attempt to reach agreements which will minimise disputes. He has talked to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and to the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. He has put a number of conciliatory propositions to them in respect of the national wage case which would affect such events as are happening today. He also has proposed certain new methods of conciliation which will be brought into being if the Senate passes his new legislation.
I want to say, as I have said before, that however well intentioned a government may be in attempting to get conciliatory solutions to things such as are happening today, the situation is that prices are rising rapidly and there is an almost automatic response among a number of trade unions and workers who want to get the best they can while the market is good and while prices are rising. These things are characteristic not only of Australia but also of European countries, as I mentioned the other day. Perhaps the best example is West Germany which has had a most outstanding policy of peace in industry for many years but is currently racing the same sort of situation as we are facing. I can assure the honourable senator that the Minister for Labour, Mr Cameron, is doing what he can to have these matters looked at by the arbitration authorities. Whenever there is a dispute he makes sure that an officer is available to talk with the union and with the employers. We are doing whatever we can at the moment. If the new legislation-
– Ask them to -
-I put it to the honourable senator that some of the things which might have corrected the situation were held up by the Senate. The legislation will be introduced again soon by the Government and perhaps on that occasion the matter will be debated more fully.
(Senator Hannan having addressed a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs)-
-Mr President, I seek your guidance. I understand that there is a question on this matter on the notice paper.
– Oh, you are running away from it.
– No, I am not running away from it. I am seeking guidance. 1 am perfectly willing to answer the question and I hope the President permits me to answer it.
– Order! The standing order is quite clear. Questions may not be asked, or terms used in debate, which reflect on a head of state so I rule the question out of order.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and relates to Australian overseas aid and to the Minister’s own statement regarding Australian aid to
Indonesia. Does the statement indicate a new policy on Australia’s aid to Indonesia and, if so, has the policy been prompted by suggestions from the Indonesian Government? If there is to be emphasis on technical training, can the Minister indicate when a program may commence? In view of this new development and of recent criticisms of Australian aid, will the Minister consider making a major statement on the matter at an early date?
-The last part of the question concerned a new policy on technical aid; that was the thrust of the honourable senator’s question relating to aid to Indonesia. I have held this view for many years. In fact, 3 years ago, when I was a member of the Opposition, in a broadcast in Indonesia I said that I did not think sufficient technical aid was going into these sorts of areas. Many years ago the previous Government sent a printing team to Indonesia, which was highly successful. When this matter was raised with me I thought this was a very appropriate time to take a further look at the question of technical aid. Most of the aid in education is given by bringing graduates, university people and the like to Australia. The new policy would be different, as I visualise it, in that we would send aid to these countries. The aid would probably go to Indonesia but not necessarily so. It could be given in the new concept of the aid program which we are planning for the ASEAN countries. We have already had talks with the ASEAN countries, and just after Easter the Secretaries-General will be here to discuss a specific program. The idea of this would be not to alter the bilateral arrangements in any way but to do something that would have a common ground for the 5 ASEAN countries.
An analogous position is what we have done in the Pacific, where so many islands create a shipping problem. Australia has assisted by providing an expert to advise on the problem. We will be talking about that in the next 2 days at Rarotonga. I think this is a very sensible way, particularly in Indonesia which is going into its second five-year plan. This is the type of work that can be done. The idea would be, I think, that we would send teachers to instruct Indonesians to set up their own teaching services in such things as the building trades. I think this is one area that could be less costly. It would have an immediate effect and would suit not only Indonesia but also all of the ASEAN countries. As for the details of it, I want to set up studies on it. It is all right for me to get this idea and to think of it, but we must have the technical chaps to look at it. If anything on it develops in the near future I will certainly make a statement on it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the report that Japan has requested Australia to act as as honest broker between Japan and China. From whom did this request come, if it did come? Did it come from the Foreign Ministry or the Foreign Office? To whom was the request made? If the request was made to a person other than an officer of the Australian Embassy, was an officer of the Embassy present at the time the request was made?
– No such request has been made and it is very unlikely that it would have been made because there is quite a good relationship between China and Japan. If they wanted to do anything, let me assure the honourable senator that they have the expertise to do it themselves.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to Cabinet’s decision to allow limited tax deductibility of interest rates on home purchases. Why did the Government decide to subsidise the record high interest rates which it has deliberately created, rather than lower the actual interest rates? Is the Minister aware that the foreshadowed tax relief by such tax deductibility will not be as great for many people as the burden of higher costs incurred by them when the Government raised the interest rates and of course by the abandonment of the homes saving grant scheme? Is the Minister further aware that the tax deductibility scheme as foreshadowed greatly favours families in which both spouses are working compared with families in which there is only one working spouse? Since the estimated cost of the scheme- $ 100m in a full year- must inflict a heavily increased tax burden on most taxpayers, will not the alleged benefits be totally illusory?
– I answered an almost identical question asked by Senator Cotton earlier in the day. I pointed out then that this is the honouring of an election promise which was specifically put in Mr Whitlam ‘s policy speech. He announced that there would be a tax deductibility for people paying interest on home loans. Although the figures were not used, it works out that it cuts out at $ 14,000 a year income. Persons in receipt of amounts above that figure would not be entitled to a taxation deduction on mortgage interest repayments. This has nothing to do with interest rates which were not what they are today. We agree that interest rates on home loans are high. We hope and trust that we will be able to do something about them. But that is quite a separate question from what we are talking about. I cannot see how this can be illusory if somebody in receipt of say $5,000 or $6,000 a year is now able to claim an additional concessional deduction which he could not claim in previous years. As to the statement by the honourable senator that the concession will benefit the couple who both work, I do not quite see his point although I just may not be able to grasp it. The position is that if a person is receiving $9,000 a year he can make a concessional claim, but if his wife goes out to work and earns $5,000 a year, bringing the combined income up to $ 14,000, they will be unable to claim anything at all.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government. Are Yes and No cases to be issued in the accustomed manner for the proposed referenda on constitutional alterations? Is the Government using the advantage of knowing the date on which the referenda will be put in order to give its experts ample time to prepare a Yes case? How much time will the Government give to the Opposition to prepare the No case? Will the Government give an assurance that it will give adequate time for the No case to be prepared?
-As I understand it the answer to the first part of the question is yes, both cases will be issued. As to whether the Government will be taking some advantage of the Opposition, the answer is no. In reply to whether there will be ample time to prepare the cases, I would think that those who expressed their opposition to the Bills ought to know why they did so and should not find much difficulty in putting together in a simple pamphlet the reasons for opposing them. But I can appreciate honourable senators understanding that they would need a great deal of time to put in simple terms the reasons why they would oppose such obviously desirable alterations to the Constitution.
– You are preparing your own case now and we do not even know the date.
– The honourable senator interrupts me. He knows that cases are to be prepared. I can understand that persons placed in the position in which the Opposition is placed would need a great deal of time and a tremendous amount of thought in order to conjure up some possible No case, despite the fact that they have had months in which to anticipate the position. I sympathise with them in their dilemma. But I assure the honourable senator that they will be given the opportunity to prepare. They know that they will have to cope with the problem. They know that the referenda are to be dealt with at the May election. I understand that some approach will probably be made to the Leader of the Opposition by the Prime Minister to get him to deal with the question from the Opposition side.
– Not the other Party?
-I think that is so.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. In view of the claim by the Australian Gas Light Co. that its fuel policy is for the good of the nation will the Minister inquire into the prospect of reverting to coal instead of oil to produce gas supplies for Sydney and thereby reduce our dependence on certain types of oil?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for his reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. On 12 December last year I asked a question in the following terms:
Is the Minister aware that the regulations in relation to the use of 2-way radios on small craft will require that as from the end of this year only single sideband radios may be installed -
I also asked whether it was correct that at the moment there was a shortage of those radios, whether it was correct that the cost of them was 4 times as great as the cost of double sideband radios and whether the Minister was aware that the almost inevitable consequence of the enforcement of the proposition mentioned would be a reduction in the usage of radios in small craft with a consequent reduction in the possible safety provided by the use of those radios. I asked for a reconsideration of the decision. The Minister said that he would take the matter up with the Postmaster-General. I now ask whether there have been any results?
– I remember the honourable senator asking the question and I well recall going into some dissertation about the technicalities and the international standards that would be involved. I will see what additional information can be provided by my colleague, the Postmaster-General, who has ministerial responsibility for the matters referred to by the honourable senator.
-Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Pursuant to Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act 1 92 1 - 1 966,I present the Tariff Board Report- Tariff Revision- Cigarette Paper, dated 12 October 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report on the Conference of the Australian Education Council, 28 February- 1 March 1974.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the Australian Universities Commission’s Report on the proposal of the Government of Victoria for a fourth university in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
- Mr President, I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table of the Senate a report on the use of Australian Broadcasting Commission resources by McKinsey and Co., Incorporated, and seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Mr President, the McKinsey Report, as it has become known, is a diagnostic survey of Australian
Broadcasting Commission management commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1 972. The Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Professor Downing, late last year provided the Government with a copy of a preliminary report supplied to the Commission, which I tabled in the Senate on 4 December 1973. Professor Downing has since done me the courtesy of providing me as Minister for the Media, with a copy of the final Report which I now table.
The Government has given preliminary consideration to this Report but I believe it is important that honourable senators and members of Parliament should have an opportunity to read it before those questions in it which involve Government policy are decided upon. I would point out that by far the majority of the recommendations contained in the Report are matters for decision of the Commission alone as an independent statutory body with control over its own internal affairs, management and administration. Naturally I will be discussing many of the matters contained in the Report with the Chairman and members of the Commission. I understand that the Commission has already proceeded to implement some of the recommendations in the Report- in particular those relating to costing systems and productivity.
-! table a memorandum showing the Trade Practices Bill, as it is proposed to be amended by those amendments which were circulated last Thursday. I ask that copies be circulated to honourable senators for their convenience. Perhaps at a later stage I will move a motion. Honourable senators may find this a convenient way to deal with the second reading debate, and later I might act on the basis that this is what is being proposed by the Government. Although a large list of amendments was circulated, most of them are merely drafting changes and the main purport of the Bill is not disturbed. Nevertheless, I think honourable senators would want to see it as it would stand.
– As that is only a simple administrative matter, I will see that it is done.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to make a short statement on what Senator Murphy has just said.
– We are in the middle of the presentation of papers.
- Mr President, senators can ask for leave and the Senate can grant it or not, I submit with respect. I have asked for leave. If it is to be denied by you, Sir, I will sit down.
- Senator Greenwood’, 1 do not like the tone you are using. The fact is that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has the right, acknowledged for many years past, to intervene at any stage. As a matter of convenience I suggested that it might be deferred until later; but you have asked for leave and I will put the question. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I wish to say only that the Bill was introduced with 156 clauses and the list of amendments presented last Thursday contained 109 changes. There has been no debate on the substantive merits. I invite the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to consider the course of withdrawing the existing Bill, withdrawing the existing amendments and submitting, as a fresh Bill with a second reading speech, the document which he has tabled this morning. I am sure that that would facilitate understanding, promote debate and avoid the necessity of moving 109 amendments at the Committee stage or at the second reading stage. It is put forward only as a suggestion to the Attorney-General.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise)- by leave- I will not withdraw the Bill, but I have already considered the substance of the course which is proposed; that is, at a convenient stage to seek leave to substitute these clauses. Without actually withdrawing the Bill, I think I can take a course which will effectively achieve what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) has suggested; that is, to have it before the Senate in a simple and clean fashion. I propose to do that.
– Has it been printed showing the amendments?
-Yes. I suggest that that course can be achieved without formally withdrawing the Bill. I think I will do that when we come to it this morning.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Australian Wool Commission for the period January 1 973 to June 1 973.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) agreed to:
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leaveagreed to:
1 ) That the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1973 and the National Investment Fund Bill 1973 be referred for inquiry, and report to the Senate as soon as possible, to the Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, which is hereby authorised to consider the Bills.
That notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Committee for the purpose of considering these Bills has the same powers as were given to the Committee on its reappointment.
-I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the leaders of the parties in the Senate and an independent senator nominating senators for standing and select committees as follows:
Constitutional and Legal Affairs
Senators Brown, Byrne, Durack, James McClelland, Wright, Wheeldon.
Education, Science and The Arts
Senators Carrick, Davidson. Georges. Hannan, James McClelland. Milliner.
Finance and Government Operations
Senators Devitt, Gietzelt. Guilfoyle. Lawrie, McAuliffe, Wright.
Foreign Affairs and Defence
Senators Carrick, Devitt, Drury, Kane, Maunsell, Poke, Primmer, Sim.
Health and Welfare
Senators Sir Kenneth Anderson, Brown. Dame Nancy Buttfield, Cameron, Fitzgerald, Townley.
Industry and Trade
Senators Lillico, McAuliffe, McLaren, Webster, Wilkinson, Young.
Senators Bonner, Davidson, Georges. Keeffe, Little, Mulvihill.
Civil Rights of Migrant Australians
Senators Durack, Kane, James McClelland, Townley, Mulvihill, Webster, Wheeldon.
Foreign Ownership and Control
Senators Byrne, Cant. Cotton, Guilfoyle, McAuliffe, Maunsell, Poke, Wilkinson.
Securities and Exchange
Senators Durack, Georges, Little, Lawrie, Rae, Wheeldon, Wriedt, Sim.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That senators, having been nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate, be appointed members of the select and standing committees in accordance with the announcement of the President.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech which includes a lengthy table.
-Is leave granted?
– I would prefer the speech to be read but I am happy about the attachment being incorporated.
-The purpose of this Bill is to obtain Parliamentary approval for Australia to take up a special increase of US$4 1.1 4m in its subscription to the capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Developmentor, as it is more commonly called, the IBRD. However, only 10 per cent of this amount will be payable: The balance will simply remain at call.
As most honourable senators will be aware, the main function of the IBRD and its 2 affiliated institutions, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Development Association (IDA) is to promote faster rates of economic growth and development in their poorer member countries. This the IBRD does by extending loans on conventional terms to credit-worthy member countries to help finance soundly conceived and economically viable infrastructure projects in such fields as agriculture, irrigation, road and rail transportation, highways, port development, telecommunications, and electric power generation. More recently, increasing emphasis has been placedespecially by IDA but also by the IBRD to a limited extent- on projects with greater social implications and more direct benefits for the masses of needy people in developing countries, such as urban renewal, population control, public health and sewerage, and improved agricultural credit and extension services for small farmers.
The IBRD is by far the largest and most influential development finance institution in the world today. During the year ended 30 June 1973, it approved 73 loans to 42 countries totalling US$2,05 lm. This brought the total for all loans approved by the IBRD since it commenced operations nearly 30 years ago to a massive US$20,335m. Much of this lending has gone to developing countries of interest to Australia in the Asian and Pacific regions, including Papua New Guinea. The IBRD obtains the bulk of the funds it lends from borrowings on world capital markets, which it can arrange on relatively favourable terms- the benefits of which are then passed on to member countries- because of the IBRD’s own high financial standards and the backing it has in the form of uncalled capital subscriptions totalling more than US$27 billion at the present time from over 120 member countries, including all the major industrial countries in the western world. However, another important source of funds available to the IBRD for use in its lending operations are the paid-in portions of members’ capital subscriptions. These currently total more than US$3 billion.
Australia joined the IBRD soon after it opened its doors for business in 1947 and has subscribed the equivalent of US$643m to its capital stock, of which 10 per cent, or approximately US$64m- in terms of current US dollars- has actually been paid in. As indicated previously, the balance remains at call as securitry for the IBRD ‘s own borrowing operations on world capital markets. In 1970 Australia, along with 74 other member countries, was granted a special increase in its quota in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following the regular quinquennial review of fund quotas in that year. As a consequence, all these countries, including Australia, became entitled in the same year to take up special increases in their subscriptions to the capital stock of the IBRD so as to maintain the previous long-standing relativities between IMF quotas and IBRD subscriptions. The special increases authorised for individual countries are shown in the attached table, which I ask leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
– Most of the countries listed in this table have since taken up the additional shares to which they then became entitled. However, no action was taken by Australia in regard to this matter in 1 970- 1 97 1 because of the need for budgetary restraint at that time. In 1971-72 and again in 1972-73 the proposal was a victim of legislative and other pressures- with the result that Australia is now one of the few countries which has not so far taken up the special increase in its IBRD subscription to which it is entitled. Consistent with our general attitude towards external aid to developing countries, the present Government is concerned to remedy this situation without further delay.
Australia is entitled to take up an additional 341 shares in the capital stock of the IBRD at a cost of US$4 1 . 1 4m, allowing for the effects of the two US dollar devaluations in recent years. As I mentioned at the outset, 90 per cent of this amount will remain at call and only 10 per cent, or US$4.1 14m, is actually payable. Of the latter sum, US$41 1,000 is payable in gold or United States dollars while the balance of US$3. 7m can be paid in Australian dollars, either in cash in a single lump sum or in the form of a promissory note which would subsequently be encashed on demand as and when the IBRD required the funds involved, or else as otherwise agreed with Australia.
-Where do you get the word encashed’?
– It is an old word. The tendency among those who deal in money, especially large amounts, is to hang on to the traditional terms.
In the normal course of events, consistent with past practice, we would use the promissory note technique of payment. However, it so happens that, as a consequence of the revaluations of the
Australian dollar in December 1972 and September 1973, the IBRD is required under the maintenance of value provisions in its articles of agreement to repay to Australia over the next few years an amount in excess of that which Australia will have to pay to take up this special increase in our subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD. It is therefore proposed to try to reach some understanding with the IBRD to offset these respective payments to and by Australia, and thereby avoid any net impact on the budget of the present proposal to increase our capital subscription to the IBRD.
I might add that the proposed increase in our capital subscription to the IBRD will result in a slight improvement in our relative voting strength in that institution, although the effect will be marginal. Given Australia’s traditional bi-partisan support for the activities of the IBRD and all that it stands for, and bearing in mind the various considerations mentioned in this speech, including in particular the financial aspects, I believe that it is in our national interests to take up in full the special increase in Australia’s subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD to which we are entitled. I would accordingly commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I ‘ move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the second reading speech and a very short attachment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Bill now before the Senate reimburses the States for abolishing fees in government technical education. It is the concluding part of a sequence of actions to make tertiary and post secondary education free. Honourable senators will recall legislation passed in the Budget session of 1973 which gave effect to the Government’s policy of abolishing fees in universities and colleges of advanced education from the beginning of 1974. The Bill now before the Senate rounds off this policy by abolishing fees also in technical education. The Government has a clear commitment to do this based upon its belief that a student’s merit rather than a parent’s wealth should decide who should benefit from the community’s vast financial commitment to tertiary education. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech before the last general election stated explicitly that fee abolition would also apply to technical colleges.
The provisions of this Bill relate only to the first 6 months of 1974. The total program of assistance to the States for technical education from 1 July 1974 onwards is to be reviewed following consideration by the Government of the recommendations of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) expects to receive the report of that Committee within the next few months. It may of course be assumed that programs from 1 July 1 974 will continue to provide for tuition and similar fees not to be charged in approved technical courses.
For the purposes of this Bill, fee abolition applies to full-time, part-time and correspondence courses conducted in training institutions administered or maintained by government authorities. For the information of honourable senators, I have prepared the following list of the institutions in which courses have been approved for fee abolition:
It is to be noted that the list includes some colleges of advanced education which in addition to tertiary courses provide courses at technician level. Consistent with the arrangements adopted at the tertiary level, adult education courses have riot been included as they are mainly of a hobby or general interest nature. Fee abolition applies not only to tuition fees but also to related charges such as examination, enrolment and registration fees. Other charges, including the fees of various student organisations, will remain the responsibility of the students. The determination of the courses and types of fees to which fee abolition applies was made in close consultation with the appropriate authorities in the States.
In arriving at the amounts for reimbursement, account has been taken of expected fee increases in 1974 and of current enrolment estimates. Should actual enrolments exceed the estimates substantially, the State concerned is expected to submit a case for a supplementary amount under clause 3 ( 1 ) of the Bill. The amounts shown in the Schedule to the Bill are affected to some extent by the fee collection policy in each State. In New South Wales a high proportion of the annual fees is collected in the first half of the year. In other States collection is more evenly spread. Arrangements for assistance beyond June 1974 will be adjusted to take account of payments made in the first half of the year.
Corresponding provisions have also been made for the abolition of fees in certain institutions in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These are the Canberra Technical College, the Canberra School of Music and the Darwin Community College.
This legislation demonstrates once more the determination of the Australian Government to open up opportunities to post-secondary education as a complement to its efforts for primary and secondary education. Technical education is an investment in national efficiency. Not only that, the investment in technical skill is often an investment in an individual’s creative satisfaction and happiness. In conjunction with the new means-tested living allowances for students admitted to full-time technical college courses this legislation will help to remove the financial barriers of the past. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
-The Opposition supports this Bill. It arises as a result of a decision of the Government in relation to the abolition of fees for technical education. The net result of that decision of the Commonwealth Government is that the State governments suffer a loss of revenue which they otherwise would have obtained from fees paid by students. It is fair and appropriate that where the Commonwealth Government takes such a decision it should reimburse the States for that loss. We wholly support the measure to reimburse the States.
– in reply- The Government appreciates the early passage of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to correct some anomalies in connection with the conditions of employment of staff of the River Murray Commission. Because the River Murray Waters Act preceded the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act and the Superannuation Act, there have been problems in the application of those Acts to staff of the River Murray Commission. Furthermore, the Commission is not an agency of the Australian Government. The proposed amendments will ensure that members of the Australian Government services will not be disadvantaged if they obtain employment with the River Murray Commission, and will enable staff recruited by the Commission from other sources, who are not covered by superannuation elsewhere, to be covered by the Superannuation Act 1922-1973. In addition, under the Remuneration Act 1973, salaries of statutory officers are now to be determined by that Tribunal. The section in the River Murray Waters Act is being amended accordingly, although under present conditions no salaries are payable to the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
I would stress that this Bill deals with amendments to the River Murray Waters Act which refer only to the Australian Government, and does not affect the River Murray Waters Agreement in which the 3 River Murray States are also involved. In addition, I should mention that a good deal of thought is being given to much more extensive amendments to the River Murray administration, but these must be expected to take a good deal of time to develop, and in the meantime it is desired to correct existing anomalies in staff conditions. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
- Senator, in the second paragraph there is reference to a tribunal. The second reading speech states:
In addition, under the Remuneration Act 1973. salaries of statutory officers are now to be determined by that Tribunal.
What is that tribunal?
– It is the Salaried Officers Tribunal which is meeting at present.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 March (vide page 248), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition raises no objection to the proposals in the Fisheries (Papua New Guinea Boats) Bill 1974. It follows legislation, which received royal assent on 30 October last year, enabling a smooth transfer of powers to Papua New Guinea which became self governing the following day. The Bill before us will enable Papua New Guinea to administer its own fisheries legislation and the Government of Papua New Guinea wishes to do this as soon as possible. There is a question as to whether all that is sought in respect of the transfer of fisheries powers is embraced in this legislation. It is the desire of the Government of Papua New Guinea that its boats be in the register of that country. It desires that its boats be subject to its laws and be treated in the same manner as other foreign boats, in Australian waters. There is no objection to this Bill on the part of the Liberal Party and I understand that that applies also to the Country Party.
– I fully support all that Senator Laucke has said. The Opposition certainly does not oppose this measure but having read the second reading speech, and being appreciative of some of the unmentioned problems that are patent and latent in this area, I wonder whether the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) could elaborate a little in his reply. As I understand it, the Bill simply ensures that the definition of Australian boats will not comprehend Papua New Guinea boats. If there are Papua New Guinea boats in Australian waters and they are fishing in Australian waters, then to the extent that the Australian legislation is to apply to them it will apply to them as foreign vessels. That simply is the effect of the Bill before the Senate, as I understand it. I would imagine that if Papua New Guinea is to exercise a power over fisheries it will do so either because of a delegation of power under the existing Fisheries Act or by virtue of the Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Act which was passed by this Parliament last year as part of the steps by which we granted self government as a preliminary to the granting of independence. I imagine that the exercise of either of those powers would be sufficient to give to the Papua New Guinea legislature the opportunity to introduce legislation.
My recollection is that some mention was made in the second reading speech of the fact that legislation is about to be introduced. If that is not in the second reading speech, I have read it elsewhere. I wonder whether the Minister would indicate what is being done to determine the limits of the fishing areas between Papua New Guinea and Queensland in respect of which Australia regards itself as empowered to pass legislation respecting Australian fisheries and which it concedes the prospective government of Papua New Guinea will be able to pass laws with regard to fisheries. What is the relevance of the boundary position and the boundary dispute with regard to fisheries? Is there a prospective problem which is being glossed over at present? Are efforts being made- if so, what is the nature of those efforts and in what area- to ensure that our relations with Papua New Guinea will not be affected in the future by unresolved conflicts about boundaries and the extent of fishing jurisdiction? I sense that these are the particular problems which must arise in the future and I hope they might be resolved. 1 readily concede that the Minister may not be able to give appropriate answers immediately because of the legal complexities of the problem. However, I am sure he must have general impressions of what is being done in this area. I rise only to invite him to respond at somewhat greater length than he indicated in his second reading speech.
– in reply- It is true that the second reading speech dealt in very broad terms with the intention of this legislation. The conclusions which Senator Greenwood has drawn are correct. However, the question of the boundaries remains to be resolved. I anticipated to some degree that this matter would be raised. lt is true that legal matters of some very great complexity between the Australian and the Papua New Guinea governments have to be settled. An interdepartmental committee comprised of representatives of several departments is negotiating with the Papua New Guinea Government and is currently looking into this question. Could I pick up the term that Senator Greenwood used; ‘brushing over some of the niceties’ was the expression he used, I think. I assure the honourable senator that there is no intention to brush over anything. It is important that this matter be clarified by legislation now -
– I said ‘gloss over’.
– 1 am sorry- ‘gloss over’. The existing situation is a de facto one and it is important that we reach a proper understanding with the Papua New Guinea authorities on the use of fishing boats in these areas. The other matters to which the honourable senator referred are in fact highly complex and will not be resolved quickly. However, discussions between officials of both governments are now taking place to reach an agreement on the question of the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea after independence. I hope this explains to the Senate the need for this legislation to be enacted and the difficulties confronting both governments in determining the problems which exist so far as border arrangements are concerned.
The only other matter which I feel might be relevant concerns the operation of Papua New Guinea vessels engaged in the prawning industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Senate will recall that last year the Australian Government entered into an agreement with the Papua New Guinea Government to allow Papua New Guinea registered vessels to operate in the Gulf. I think the number of vessels was twelve. Negotiations are currently taking place to renew that agreement. No finality has been reached. Nevertheless I think I can say that a new agreement will be reached whereby more vessels may be allowed to operate in the area. That matter is in abeyance at the present time. Apart from mentioning those matters. I think it is appropriate that this legislation should go through with a minimum of delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2 p.m. (Quorum formed)
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Suspension of Standing Orders
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The intention of this motion is to carry out what was suggested this morning. If there is any difficulty, I would simply ask that -
– We will take the adjournment of the debate.
-Yes, if that is acceptable.
– The honourable senator might consult with us on this matter instead of just consulting across the table.
– We will take the adjournment of the debate.
– That is all right. Nevertheless -
– I am simply moving that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being amended in accordance with the memorandum, circulated this day and that the Bill be so amended.
– Does the honourable senator propose to have the memorandum circulated?
-I have had it circulated.
– Together with the amendments?
– It incorporates the amendment. This has put the matter in a convenient form. I have done this for the convenience of honourable senators. If that is acceptable, it would enable the matter to proceed on that basis.
– Yes, that is acceptable.
-Before my Leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), seeks the adjournment of the debate, I rise to speak to the motion. This morning on 2 or 3 occasions I was on the point of asking for leave to speak. I rise to speak on this motion to draw attention to the fact that the memorandum that was circulated this morning is simply a reprint of the Bill. It is reprinted without the print indicating which is the original Bill and which are the amendments. It means that I or my assistants must go through the Bill and mark the amendments. I find this very inconvenient. If, in reprinting this Bill, a little extra expense had been incurred in order to indicate by dark print or by parenthesis what had been left out and what had been inserted, the significance of the changes would have appeared. The extra expense would have been insignificant. I make the request simply as an individual senator that that convenience be provided so that we who are intensely interested in the principles of this legislation will have at least that aid to understand the text.
- Senator Wright, are you speaking in relation to this text or in relation to future texts?
– I am simply speaking on the motion to indicate a request to the Government.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise)- by leave- I will do what I can to accede to the request made by Senator Wright. I think that that is all I can say.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 348), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 348), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– My colleague, Senator Greenwood, has the adjournment of this debate. The Opposition would be ready to proceed with the debate tomorrow. We are not ready to go on today. I advised the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) of this. Therefore, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
We had thought that the Opposition would have been ready to proceed with the debate on this Bill. But I suppose if it is not, we will have to accede to its wishes.
– I rise simply to say that when we get some order into the management of affairs in the Senate we will all be in a position to know what we ought to be prepared to debate. This Bill was introduced last week. True it is that it was a Bill which was first introduced on the last day of sitting last year. But so were a number of other Bills. At present the Opposition does not know what the Government’s legislative program is.
– The Government itself does not know.
– I hear an interjection from somewhere behind me to the effect that the Government itself does not seem to know what its legislative program is. We have been assured that there will be a Family Law Bill. Presumably, that will be expected to be debated on about 48 hours notice. We expect that the Human Rights Bill will be reintroduced at some stage, but for what length of time is the debate on that measure to be adjourned? Presumably, the Racial Discrimination Bill will be reintroduced, but when does the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) expect that to be debated?
As to the Superior Court Bill, my Leader has indicated that we are not in a position to go on with it today; but because the Government does not have enough business before the chamber we are expected to go on with it tomorrow. We will endeavour to comply with the Government’s wishes, but it is totally unreasonable for the Government not to know what its legislative program is and to expect the Opposition to debate at short notice what little is before us. The Bill was introduced on Thursday and we are expected to debate it on the following Tuesday. It is totally unreasonable. I remind Senator Murphy that it is conduct that he would never have tolerated when he was in Opposition. If we are to do our job effectively there has to be time in which a Bill can be considered, the machinery of party meetings gone through and decisions made. It is not as if the Liberal Party is the only party to be considered. The Country Party generally joins with the Liberal Party in its consideration of these matters. Members of the Democratic Labor Party can speak for themselves. That is another party to be considered. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to have some regard for the forms of Parliament and the need for cooperation and adequate notice. Only in that way can we do what we are expected to do as a chamber.
– in reply- I will take note of what has been said by Senator Greenwood, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I concede that we have been a little hasty with the Superior Court Bill. After all, it was in 1963 that the then Government, of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not then a member, announced that it proposed to proceed with the Superior Court Bill.
– That is not so. You have said it so often, but the record does not bear you out.
-Cabinet had authorised it. Then a Bill was introduced by one of my predecessors, but in the previous Government. I think it was Attorney-General Bowen who in 1 968 introduced the Superior Courts Bill. It languished for some time and just before the previous Government went out of office- I do not say that this was the reason for its going- it announced that it was not proceeding with the Superior Court Bill. It was certainly very much on the mind of the then Government in November 1972 when it announced, hoping that the populace would understand its reasons, that it was not proceeding with the measure. We said that we would proceed with it. I introduced the Bill in October or November 1973 and now we have reintroduced it. Using the terms of the Opposition, I understand that we are acting very hastily and that the Opposition is not prepared to discuss and to debate the Bill. I suppose we will just have to learn not to rush into things like this and try to slow down a little so that the Opposition will have ample time to think about measures. If honourable senators opposite are not ready to debate these matters, no doubt we can proceed with the next matter.
Complaints about the business before the Senate are ill-founded. We have followed the order of business which is set down to be debated. Last week the Opposition announced that it would oppose the Constitution Alteration (Inter-change of Powers) Bill 1974. I hope that honourable senators opposite will find that a measure on which they can find some reason to found their opposition and to explain it to us. I invite them to do so; or, if they indicate to me that they still do not understand why they are opposing it, even though they are, I have no doubt that we can find some other matter for them. However, the Government quite understands the message that the Opposition has given us- and the people also will understand- about not being hasty with legislation.
– I am reminded that William Shakespeare dealt with the situation by saying that the appetite grows with that on which it feeds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 349), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not support the passage of this Bill at this time. To the motion that the Bill be read a second time I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘that’, insert ‘the Bill be deferred until after consideration has been given to its proposals by all State Governments and by the Australian Constitutional Convention ‘.
We acknowledge that this proposal has some merit because it seeks to clarify something that has long been an area of some doubt in the minds of lawyers and people who have had to advise governments. At the Constitutional Convention held in Sydney last September the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) indicated, following the question being raised by the New South Wales
Minister of Justice, that he was prepared to consider this matter with State representatives. I understand that the consideration took place at a dinner which the Prime Minister gave. All the State Premiers but one attended that dinner and the following day an announcement was made that in principle- I think the words ‘in principle’ convey fairly accurately the sense of what had been arrived at- agreement had been reached on a proposal whereby the powers of reference which the States have to refer matters to the Commonwealth would be clarified and that the Commonwealth would accept that there ought to be written into the Constitution a means by which the Commonwealth could refer powers to the States for State action. In saying that agreement in principle was reached, I think I should acknowledge that the persons who agreed were the Prime Minister and five of the six State Premiers. They indicated that the concept was welcome to them, but the sixth Premier- the Premier of Queensland- indicated his doubts about the proposal.
I think it is also fair to acknowledge that the Victorian Attorney-General quite clearly indicated what naturally the Premiers would not have adverted to, namely, that the agreement was dependent upon the actual text of the proposal that was made. At the Convention the Prime Minister said:
I am pleased to be able to inform the Convention that after the adjournment yesterday evening heads of delegations met and were able to agree on the principle of references either way. We propose that our Parliamentary Draftsmen should promptly confer on the terms of an amendment to the present paragraph which already permits matters to be referred by the State parliaments to the Commonwealth Parliament and on the terms of a new paragraph which would permit matters to be referred by the Commonwealth Parliament to the State parliaments.
As I said, that had general accord from five of the six State Premiers. However, the Victorian Attorney-General said:
I can only say that I look forward with great interest to seeing the proposal made by the Commonwealth to amend the Constitution in the way that the Prime Minister indicated. I think there is some good sense in this approach, and subject to seeing how the proposed amendment is drafted, it seems likely that in that respect alone we could achieve something worthwhile at this Convention.
I think it is fair to say that that represents a cooperative approach, one that is to be welcomed and one which indicates that areas of doubt can be clarified in the interests of all. But there is a vast difference between accepting that approach, recognising the goodwill which is embodied in it and accepting the measure which is now presented before the Senate.
If one examines the way this measure has been presented to the Senate, one observes the hastewhich I am gratified to hear from an earlier debate Senator Murphy will endeavour to avoid in the future- which has permitted misrepresentations to be made as to the positions of all the parties which are engaged in this exercise. The course of events since the Constitutional Convention last September was for the States and the Commonwealth to arrange for the parliamentary draftsmen of each of the governments to meet together to consider the terms of a proposed amendment. From time to time the work of the parliamentary counsel went back to the Attorneys-General to whom the parliamentary draftsmen were responsible and various drafts were considered. At the time when this measure was introduced, I am informed, there had been no agreement by any of the governments or any of the Attorneys-General as to the terms of what was proposed. In those circumstances the States cannot be said to be agreeing to the text of this amendment, nor can it be said that other persons who are interested have had an opportunity to consider fully what is involved in these provisions.
I propose to raise some questions which I think are tremendously important and which are yet to be answered, and upon which the Government has not deigned to provide, either in the course of the second reading speech or by way of elaboration in many of the Press conferences and statements which the Prime Minister has made on this subject, what is involved in some of the clauses. I draw attention to what I think is the blatant untruth which the Prime Minister has used in order to misrepresent the position of the Senate and to misrepresent the position of the States. At a Press conference which was held last Tuesday, 12 March, the Prime Minister talked about this proposal and what he calls the agreement in principle last September. According to the verbatim report he said:
Since then the 7 parliamentary draftsmen, the Commonwealth, the 6 State ones and all the Attorneys-General, the Commonwealth and the 6 State ones, have considered and approved the text of the Bill which I introduced and which the House of Representatives passed. This was promised at the Constitutional Convention 6 months ago so it would be a gross breach of faith if the Opposition parties in the Senate were to delay that Bill.
Let us examine what the Prime Minister is saying. He is saying that it would be a gross breach of faith if the Opposition parties were to delay the Bill, when he uses as some evidence of what would be the breach of faith that the 6 State Attorneys-General along with the Commonwealth Attorney-General had considered and approved the text of the Bill which had been introduced.
-They did not. I leave aside the question as to whether or not members of parties in this Parliament who cannot claim to be represented by the 6 State Attorneys-General or by the Commonwealth Attorney-General have any rights to be considered in this matter and whether their views ought to count. I would have thought that in this chamber the views of all senators ought to count and ought to be heard on a constitutional amendment of this character. As I say, I leave that aside and return to the statement as to whether or not what the Prime Minister said was accurate. It certainly was not in accordance with what I had been told prior to this Bill being introduced. I had confirmed with the AttorneyGeneral for Victoria, Mr Wilcox, before and after this statement had appeared, as to whether or not the texts of the Bills had actually been seen and approved. I was assured that they had not been seen and approved and that the Prime Minister’s statement was incorrect. I am fortified in that by a statement which the Attorney-General of Queensland made to the Parliament.
– That was the State which would not be in it. It is the other five.
-Well, let me refer to what the Attorney-General of Queensland said on Friday, 15 March, in the Legislative Assembly in Queensland. So he made his statement on the record. He said:
On Tuesday last the Prime Minister told a Press conference in Canberra that the Attorneys-General of all the States had considered and approved the text of the Constitution alteration powers Bill now before the Federal Parliament. The Prime Minister’s statement is totally false. I therefore intend to inform this House and the people generally of the true position. Together with my colleagues from the other States I agreed last year that the Services of our parliamentary draftsmen would be made available to assist in the preparation of a draft Bill relating to a constitutional amendment to provide for an interchange of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. This was done at the request of the Federal Government. However, at the time it was made clear by other State Attorneys-General and by myself that under no circumstances did this action indicate approval by the States of the proposed change in the Constitution. The draft Bill was tabled at the Conference of Attorneys-General in Wellington on 8 February last, but was neither discussed nor adopted by the Conference or by the State AttorneysGeneral. I make it quite clear that the Queensland Government has not endorsed the proposed change at any time. At the meeting of Attorneys-General in Wellington no State approved or disapproved the measure. Even the Federal Government Attorney-General was not able to commit the Federal Government at that stage because he had not examined in detail the draft Bill and its latest amendments.
I interpolate not to corroborate, because no corroboration is necessary of a statement so made by the Queensland Attorney-General, but simply to state that that accords with what the AttorneyGeneral of Victoria told me when 1 inquired from him as to what had happened.
It raises the further point as to what the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth will say on this question. He must be aware of the fact that the Prime Minister has made this statement that the text of this amendment has been seen and approved by the State Attorneys-General. He knows the facts. He was present at the meeting. I am assured that he knows full well that it was not approved by the meeting. I think the Attorney-General is remiss in not having at some stage in this chamber adverted to that situation. Instead he has suggested that there is no possibility of the Opposition parties having any reason for not approving this measure at present when at least one allegation made concerning the Government’s position is- as I sure it is the position to his knowledge- incorrect. I refer again to the statement of Mr Knox. He concludes:
In view of the fact that the Federal Attorney-General is well aware that the States have not approved the Bill, I can come to no other conclusion than that the Prime Minister has resorted to deliberate misrepresentation and untruths in an effort to force the Senate to pass the Bill. The tactics used by the Prime Minister on this occasion arc to be deplored. I trust that the Senate will treat them with the contempt that they deserve.
I have indicated that there is an initial basis upon which this whole proposition has a degree of encouraging support. I am sure that support will be forthcoming if opportunity is given to those interested to properly consider the matter and to make those suggestions which are warranted. To attempt to steamroller this Bill through on the basis of statements which are patently untrue and to suggest that there be some gross breach of faith if Opposition parties in this place, who had not even seen the Bill until it was introduced a little over a week ago, do not agree to the Bill is in my submission denigrating the role of the Parliament and risking the future of the proposal which he is putting forward.
We all know that the other referendum proposals are hotly contested. We do not know how many the Governor-General may permit to be placed before the people. But, whatever proposals are permitted to be placed before the people, they will be issues upon which there will be advocacy by some of a Yes vote and by others of a No vote. The political lines are drawn. In those circumstances, unless something unusual occurs the general pattern which prevails at constitutional referenda will prevail on this occasion also. If any proposal has the prospect of support by the Constitutional Convention, by all parties in Parliament, by State governments and State oppositions and by the people, I believe it should be divorced from the situation in which hotly contentious issues are submitted at a referendum.
– Do 1 understand you to say that, in fact, the States have not agreed to this?
-They have not agreed to the text of the proposal which is before us. They agreed to the proposal in principle. They asked for and agreed that the AttorneysGeneral and the draftsmen of the States and the Commonwealth should get together and prepare a draft and that they would have a look at the proposal after it had been drafted. They have not approved the text of what is now before the Senate, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister has alleged about the matter. So many of the things the Prime Minister has said on the question of referenda and the form in which some of the Bills have been drawn lead to the fair comment that his carelessness with the truth ought to give concern.
The amendment which has been proposed is designed to defer this Bill until it has been considered by all State governments and by the Australian Constitutional Convention. I think it is fair that the Constitutional Convention should have the opportunity of examining a proposal which, after all, emanated from the Constitutional Convention. That Convention is due to resume in September of this year when it will receive the reports of the various standing committees which were established last year by the first session of the Convention. Those standing committees have been meeting and working. Whatever be the outcome of their deliberations, they will be submitting reports to the next session of the Convention. This proposal bids fair- if the text can be agreed upon by the various parties involved- to have the support of that Constitutional Convention. If it has merit in terms of improving the working of the Constitution, one would expect that it would go before a referendum with the backing of that Convention and therefore with the prospect of support from the people. But there are matters which must be looked at because, at the moment, there are aspects of this Bill which need to be examined with a view of ascertaining what they mean and what problems they might involve.
The Bill provides substantially 2 amendments. It introduces new sections 108a and 108b into the Constitution. Proposed section 108a gives States parliaments the power to make laws with regard to matters which are designated by the Commonwealth Parliament. After the designation of certain matters by the Commonwealth Parliament the States may enact laws with respect to these matters. The second proposed section, 108b, clarifies the manner in which a reference may be made either under section 5 1 placitum (xxxvii) or under the designation which is contemplated by new section 108a. For example, it is indicated that this designation or reference may be made so as to take effect at a future time or to be subject to a condition precedent. It provides for the circumstances in which the designation or reference may come to an end or may be revoked or may be extended in time. It also indicates that the designation or reference may be made subject to conditions. Also it does not prevent the exercise of any power by the Parliament by which it is made. In short, it is to be a power which is capable of revocation and which will exist concurrently and not exclusively.
I shall deal with each of the powers in turn. The first is the reference power under placitum (xxxvii). I have read with interest a fairly long article on the reference power in the Australian Constitution and the problems which the attempted use of that power has created in the past. I refer specifically to an article by Mr Graeme Johnson in the Melbourne University Law Review of May 1973. He indicates that it is a matter of history that the States have been reluctant to refer matters to the Commonwealth, not withstanding that at the time the Constitution was established Alfred Deakin suggested that this was one means whereby the Constitution could be changed in form, as to the distribution of powers, without the necessity of having a strict amendment of the Constitution. The author of the article indicates that 23 State Acts have been passed to refer matters and only six of them remain in force. The areas in which references of power have taken place are significant matters. In 1931, 3 Acts referred the compulsory conversion of existing securities into new securities in accordance with the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act. Two Acts referred the matter of air transport. One reference was from Queensland and one from Tasmania. The sixth reference, and the one which is the most recent, is the 1 966 Tasmanian reference of power over trade practices.
They are the only matters in which a reference of power has taken place under the Constitution and in which laws made pursuant to that reference have had effective operation. Notwithstanding that those matters have occurred, it cannot be said that they have significantly altered the Constitution in the way which was envisaged by at least one of the founders. But at the same time one cannot deny that in the field of air transport significant advances have been able to be made by virtue of the transfer of power. It must also be recognised that 1 1 of the 23 Acts which were passed pursuant to the reference of power were for wartime Commonwealth powers in 1 942-43 or legislation which arose out of the Commonwealth Powers Act. The Commonwealth passed only 4 Acts in reliance on the State references. One recognises that there have been many factors militating against a use of the reference power to a greater extent. Although many of those matters have been clarified as a result of court decisions or court dicta in recent years, there has always been considerable doubt as to whether powers could be referred for a limited time. It was suggested that once a power had been referred it could not be referred for a limited time but would last indefinitely. I think that that position has now been clarified. There is always the question of whether the reference of power ceases automatically at the end of the term or whether a repealing or revoking Act is required. Of course, in a case not so many years ago it was suggested that a reference Act could not be repealed even though it could operate for a limited period of time and come to an end at the expiry of that time.
States have always been uncertain as to whether one decision of the High Court will necessarily be the decision of the High Court at some later time. This uncertainty, particularly in recent years, has given rise to a desire on the part of the States to have the matter clarified by some legislative constitutional change as is now envisaged. In addition to the matters to which I have referred, there has always been the uncertainty as to the limits of the power. Are the States entitled to refer a subject matter or must the States refer a specific Bill or specific matters? That aspect may or may not be clarified by what is proposed in this Bill. The ambit of the power is one matter which is clearly a question of concern to the States and one matter in respect of which one would believe there ought to be the utmost opportunity for the State governments to be satisfied by their legal advisers about the position.
When I turn in this respect to the exact wording of proposed sections 108a and 108b I findthis is a common expression- that the reference of a matter by the Parliament of a State, for the purpose of paragraph (XXXVII), shall be by Act of that Parliament. Under sub-section (e) of section 108b the reference ‘may be so made as to be subject to conditions, including conditions as to the laws that may be made by virtue of the reference or designation or as to the operation of those laws’. I wonder how far that provision might operate to exclude other provisions in the Constitution. If it is accepted, it is a provision in the Constitution. The interest is highlighted possibly or added to by reason of what appears in proposed section 108a which deals with the power of the Parliament of the Commonwealth to designate a matter. Sub-section (3) states:
The power of the Parliament of the Commonwealth to designate a matter under this section is not limited by the provisions of this Constitution other than this section . . .
If one considers that the operative words in subsection (1) are words which entitle the Parliament of the Commonwealth to designate a matter as a matter in relation to which this section is to apply and also to designate conditions which are to be applicable to the designation, the question must arise as to the meaning of the word matter’. There are 2 prohibitions in the Constitutionone in section 92, and one in section 99- both of which impose restrictions. Section 92 imposes restrictions on the Commonwealth and the States, as the High Court currently interprets that section. Section 99 imposes restrictions upon the Commonwealth. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Commonwealth to designate a matter in such a way as to exclude sections 92 and 99 of the Constitution. If it were possible to exclude the operations of those sections, the protection which section 92 is commonly believed to give in the interests of nationwide free trade and the protection which section 99 is concerned to give to prevent preference being accorded to one state might be able to be discarded. I think the nation has grown because of section 92, among other sections, and for other reasons. I think the nation has benefited because the Commonwealth has not been able, under section 99, to discriminate between the States and to prefer one State to another State. Any imperfections which the Senate may have in that area have been overcome by the express language of the Constitution.
I believe that if there is to be any change in section 92 or section 99 the change should be brought about directly and frontally, and the people should have the opportunity of knowing that that is the issue which is involved. It may be that the possibility which I have raised- it is purely an interpretive suggestion which I am offering- can be answered, but it seems to me to be fairly open where we give to the Parliament a power to designate matters, to impose conditions and to suggest that this power is, as sub-section (3) of section I08a says, ‘not limited by the provisions of this Constitution other than this section’.
– If the Commonwealth were to designate that area of excise duty called stamp duty would it be entitled to discriminate under section 108a?
-Senator Wright poses a question to which I am not able to give an answer. I think some argument could be advanced to the effect that the Commonwealth could. One notes that the provisions of section 86 which confines the control and the collection of customs to the Commonwealth are expressly excluded so that the States will have some powers in regard to the control and collection of customs if there is a designation of the excise area. The expression of that matter may be some indication that unless we expressly exclude other areas they may be capable of being the subject matter of conditions which are imposed. I would imagine that these matters ought to be the subject of consideration, and if inquiring minds can have their inquiries satisfied the proposed legislation is that much stronger.
I certainly feel that the Bill should not be rushed through this Parliament simply because the Prime Minister of the day thinks it is a good measure and that, therefore, it ought to be supported. There is every reason, in the viewpoint of the Opposition, why this matter ought to await the further examination by the State governments. There is ample reason why the State governments should be given the opportunity of seeing the text of the proposals and of getting advice from counsel whom they may wish to brief as to the impact of the measure. There is ample reason why the Constitutional Convention ought to be given an opportunity to examine this matter so that if it is to have approval ultimately it will be aired in the best forum in which approval can be given. There is ample reason why on an occasion such as this, when the Prime Minister has resorted to untruth and misrepresentation to support his case and to castigate any supposed opposition to it by the Senate Opposition parties, the measure should not go through at the time and in the manner which he proposes. I have moved the amendment which requests that the Bill be deferred until after consideration has been given to its proposals by all State governments and by the Australian Constitutional Convention.
-The Senate is debating a Bill entitled the Constitution Alteration (Inter-change of Powers) Bill 1974. The Bill aims, by its passage, to put to the people by way of referendum a proposal to add to section 108 of the Commonwealth Constitution, the effect of which, the Government said, would be to enable an interchange of powers between Commonwealth and State governments, and vice versa. To the motion for the second reading of the Bill the Senate Opposition has moved that all words after That’ be deleted and that the following words be inserted: the Bill be deferred until after consideration has been given to its proposals by all State governments and by the Australian Constitutional Convention.
Senator Greenwood, in speaking to the amendment, pointed out that the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that this Bill has the support of the State governments is untrue. The position appears to be that some support in principle for the idea of an interchange of powers was made at the Constitutional Convention, but no reference of this Bill with its specific content has been made to the individual States and no attempt has been made to get the States to agree or disagree with the substantive content of the proposed new sections 108a or 108b. It is one thing to think in principle that it would be a nice thing to have some interchange of powers between the 2 spheres of government; it is a vastly different thing to look at the proposed mechanisms and to decide whether in the first place they would do what one wants and, secondly, whether one agrees with them. This is far too important a matter for the Commonwealth to go ahead without there being thorough deliberation.
Let me begin by saying that one thing is certain, namely, that if the Commonwealth is seeking this referendum by way of a new power it is seeking it for the purpose of increasing, and increasing substantially, the powers of the Commonwealth Government.
– I acknowledge that the Government Whip, Senator O’Byrne, has acknowledged the fact that inherent in this legislation is a mechanism by which the Labor Party aims to gain more and more powers for the central government. Whenever we look at a device of this nature which is brought forward by the Whitlam Labor Government we should keep in mind one thing, namely, that the Labor Government aims to destroy the States and to centralise all power in Canberra. To suggest that the Labor
Government will play a game of political pingpong, other than in Peking, with the States, whereby some days the States can have more powers and other days powers can be referred to Canberra, is a ridiculous idea in view of the fact that the Whitlam Government is pledged to destroy the States. The Whitlam Government in all its referenda is asking for more. It is equally clear that since Federation in 1901 all referenda have asked for more power for the central government. I think I am right in saying that there has not been a referendum which in fact sought to give back power to the States; that is, to relinquish power from the central written Constitution.
I say by way of interpolation that I wonder whether I could have the civil liberty of referring to the plural of ‘referendum’ as ‘referenda’. My own concept of human rights is that I like to refer to the plural of ‘referendum ‘as ‘referenda’ and I dislike my speeches being edited to the extent that I am shown as using ‘referendums’. I have not used that word, and I propose to use the plural ‘referenda’ as it appears in the dictionaries, as it appears in Fowler and as it is employed in general usage.
Having established the fact that the Commonwealth Government’s motive is to centralise powers, I do not want to get caught up in the legalistic jargon, with deference to the lawyers, regarding these Bills. I simply say that whilst uniform taxation persists and whilst the Commonwealth exerts its powers of takeover and duress through the uniform taxation device and through section 96 of the Constitution, any idea of a game of political ping-pong is illusory. The simple fact is that before we look towards the interchange of powers we should, first of all, agree to establish the sovereignties. The real test of the bona fides of the Commonwealth Government with regard to the existence at any one time of powers within the Commonwealth and powers within the States is this: Is the Commonwealth Government willing to establish and to assert the sovereignty of the State governments? If it is, then of course it will act to do something to rectify the injustices of the present uniform taxation system and the present gross breach of section 96 of the Constitution.
Obviously it will not do that. It is proposing by these 2 instruments to take over State powers. I remind the Senate that the people of Australia decided that they should determine where the power should lie as between the written and fixed Constitution of the Commonwealth and the residual constitutions of the States. The people decided that they would determine this by vote at a referendum which was related to a specific power. The device foreshadowed under this referendum in fact enables the States and the Commonwealth to transfer powers from time to time- assuming it were a 2-way bid which I doubt very much- without reference to the people and, indeed, to entrench them for a long term- perhaps forever- in one sphere or another without the people specifically having said that they want those powers so to lie. Whilst the sovereignty lies with the Commonwealth in terms of uniform taxation and in terms of section 96 of the Constitution, it will always be possible for the Commonwealth, by the duress of finance, to persuade the States to give up certain powers for a defined or indefinite period.
The fact that proposed section 108b of the Constitution puts all sorts of legalistic qualifications on this matter is, to me, of no importance at all because after a while the power becomes entrenched; after a while the will to take it back is gone and, in fact, the ability to take it back is gone. It is for this reason that I warn the Senate and the people of Australia against the inherent dangers. We are not looking merely at the de jure powers. In fact, of that were so, the position of the States today would be entirely different, because the Commonwealth Constitution sees for the States an entirely different de jure sovereignty from the de facto sovereignty that exists today. This, I think, is the important thing. Let the lawyers argue and let them get into litigation in the High Court. I am not here to discuss that. 1 am here to talk about the people of Australia and the very important fact of their sovereign powers.
If we allow this kind of Bill to go through and thereby entrench this kind of power, then sovereignty will not lie with the people. The sovereignty of recall or the power of the people to decide where the power shall lie- with the Commonwealth or with the State- will not exist, because the States and the Commonwealth can, in particularities, determine the transfer of powers and the Commonwealth, by its force of financial arms, can entrench those powers. Indeed, over a period of years governments of different political colours come and go and there can be a balance of different governments, State and Federal. It would be possible for all sorts of arrangements to be made and all sorts of bargains to be struck between the Commonwealth and the States in defiance of the people. These would be under the blanket arrangments rather than ones made with popular sovereignty, and this I object to entirely.
The States, I think genuinely, want their sovereignty. But one thing is clear: The States and the State governments are ruman and they have a tendency to want to give up those powers and responsibilities which at any point of time are unpopular- those that are too costly, those that are difficult and those that they feel they could let the other fellow have without losing votes. The running of States railway systems is a classic illustration of what I am saying. From time to time, therefore, there would be a natural tendency for the States, having been beckoned by the Commonwealth with an enticing offer of money, to say: ‘This is something that is unpopular. There are no votes in it. We will transfer it. True, it is only for the time being. True, we can get it back in a couple of years time’. The former Premier of Queensland used a very expressive expletive to underline what I am saying. Of course these powers would not come back; they would move inexorably to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth knows this. The Commonwealth knows that, by its money power and by its beckoning to take over unpopular things, it can take over more and more powers- unpopular powers, yes- until, as it does so from time to time, the States’ powers become smaller and smaller and the States become in effect total vassals of the Commonwealth. This is the real danger that I see in this whole proposal.
Therefore I support entirely the need for its deferment until the matter is looked at again by the Constitutional Convention and by the States. I urge the States, if they want to assert their sovereignty, to look at the small print. I urge the States to apply the simple test of sovereignty to the Commonwealth Government. I urge them to ask the Whitlam Government: ‘If by this you are implying that you recognise the sovereignty of State governments and the division of power between the Commonwealth and the States, what steps will you take to underline and underpin our sovereignty by financial measures? Will you give us back our income tax? Will you give us access to powers? Will you, as a gesture, give us a definite undertaking regarding a specific source of finance?’
Let me test the bona fides of this proposal. As you may know, Mr Deputy President, at Premiers Conferences and Loan Council meetings it is what is done under the blanket that is more important that what is done on top of the blanket. I suppose that is largely the reason why there is so much illegitimacy in politics. This being so it is quite clear that all sorts of arrangements can be made on the side that the people never know. The people never know the reasons why an option was made to exchange powers. I have heard that the Commonwealth Government has said that if it could have this interchange of powers it would give the excise power to the States. I do not believe this for one moment. I do not believe for one moment that the Commonwealth Government would give up a source of great financial power, a source of great revenue to it. If it wanted to do that now, why could it not do it in another way? Why could it not give access to the income tax or to other forms of taxation that would give buoyancy of revenue?
The fact is that everything that the Whitlam Government has ever said on this matter has indicated that it wants to destroy State sovereignty, that it wants to take powers from the States. Not one single sentence can be shown to me of any announcement by the Whitlam Government that it proposes to transfer powers back. If it is interested in this matter as a demarcation dispute, to use an industrial term, then why does is not call a conference of the States on the whole range of governmental powers and get a clear demarcation of functions so that we do not have this enormous difficulty that happens all the time of the Commonwealth intruding, by means of section 96 of the Constitution, into the affairs of the States, in terms of its erosion of these powers and its takeover bids.
That is the substance of what I wanted to say about this Bill. I wanted to stress that it is not the de jure power that matters much; it is the de facto power of the Commonwealth, once this objective is achieved, to fulfil its pledge to have in Australia all power residing in one body- the other place- in Canberra. This the people of Australia would not want. I believe there is only one way in which the people of Australia should resolve sovereignty as between the Commonwealth and the States and that is by, from time to time, giving specific powers. Let me test this finally. There was talk that there should have been some temporary giving up of powers by the States to the Commonwealth recently in regard to incomes and prices. Indeed, the States agreed to do this but there were some disabilities regarding the true meaning of section 5 1 of the Constitution. Apparently there is no alternative method of the Commonwealth giving powers to the States under the existing Constitution. It is a fascinating situation that when the people of Australia were asked whether they wanted to give power over incomes and prices to the Commonwealth Government they emphatically said no in one of the most emphatic results of referenda that have occurred in this country’s history. If the people are asked on a specific, they resolve on a specific. I therefore urge the Senate to support the amendment and I urge the States to look at the small print of this contract.
– I oppose the amendment and I wish to say a few words about the attitude adopted by Opposition speakers in regard to this matter. It seems to me to be another example of procrastination and delay. It seems to me to be an endeavour to raise another bogy to convince the Australian people that no attempt should be made by any government to revise the Australian Constitution. I think it has to be said fairly that the views of the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in respect of the Constitution are well known. He has consistently adopted a policy of seeking to have transferred from the States to the Commonwealth certain powers which would enable the Commonwealth to assume greater responsibilities in the development of our country. One has only to read the reports of the committees of the Parliament which met from time to time when he was a member of the Opposition to see the consistency of his attitude in these matters. He raised his views, and the views of the Government, on this matter very strongly and convincingly at the Constitutional Convention which was held in Sydney in September last.
I think it was a unique experience for those of us fortunate enough to be members of that Convention to find that in the great majority of the contributions at that Convention there was general agreement on the need to revise the Australian Constitution. Delegates from the States, from local government and from this National parliament expressed in one way or another a need for the Constitutional Convention or for a referendum to determine these matters. After all, the Convention itself was the product of a decision of the Victorian Parliament in a period in which the Opposition parties here occupied the government benches in this Parliament in Canberra and also in the Victorian Parliament. It does seem to me that there was a general conviction amongst wide sections of the Australian public of the need to revise the Constitution. I have to stress the fact that this Government has endeavoured to refer matters of constitutional change to the Australian people, not to make some back door arrangement, not to attempt to bypass public opinion, but rather to give the Australian people an opportunity to have a 1970 look at the Constitution, which people should know is now well over 70 years old.
There is nothing wrong with this proposition. Senator Carrick and Senator Greenwood seemed to take the view that this Bill represents some sort of underhand move. They seem to think that the
Government is not looking at the position squarely and that the Government has something to hide. Senator Carrick quite rightly drew attention to the fact that there is a reluctance on the part of the Australian people to change the Constitution. If we followed his line of reasoning through to its logical consequence, any government which seeks to do this is acting in a foolish manner and committing political hara-kiri. No government would constantly put matters before the Australian people if all the forebodings that Senator Carrick and Senator Greenwood suggested hold any water at all. 1 think the Government is acting correctly. If the people are not yet able to see the need to change the Constitution it ought to be part of their general education to have the debates in this place presented to them; then by a campaign, to try to make them understand that the responsibilities of government require that they should look at this matter in a more responsible way.
The Prime Minister did say at that Convention that he proposed to have a referendum on the transference of powers from the Commonwealth to the States and from the States to the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that Opposition speakers have not referred to the fact that what is involved here includes the transference of powers from the Commonwealth to the States. It is not a one-way process. Yet when one listens to the speeches of those who oppose the Bill one would imagine that all that is involved in the referendum proposals and in the Bill that is before this House is a one-way process. It is a twoway process. It is a matter on which the Parliament is being asked to adjudicate. It is a matter which the Parliament is being asked to decide; and, finaly, it is a matter which will be placed before the Australian people. Anyone who listens to the debates in this place would imagine that we were already out on the hustings campaigning for the issue. After all, the Government seeks only the opportunity to place this matter before the Austraiian people. As I said, the Prime Minister made his views on this item which we are currently debating well known at the Convention. It is certainly my impression- the other delegates can speak for themselves- that there was a fairly general agreement with this principle by the heads of the other delegations. I do not recall any of the Premiers disagreeing in principle with what the Prime Minister had to say. In fact, it is my firm recollection that on this issue there was almost unanimity of opinion. But just as it is in any organisation, it is very difficult to get complete unanimity of attitude, and some qualifications were expressed. However, there was general agreement by all Premiers- at least by those who spoke on behalf of their respective States- and by delegates from the national Parliament and those representing local government.
I appreciate the point that has been made by some speakers that the States have a different attitude on this matter. That is why it is necessary to refer the matter to the people so that they may decide. On occasions at the Convention five of the six Premiers had an identity of attitude to certain issues, with the Premier of Queensland acting as a maverick in certain of the debates and taking a more obstinate and more difficult position than the Premiers from the other States. This inevitability of all men failing to agree on important questions meant that the Prime Minister has had to take steps to put a Bill through the House of Representatives, meeting the very strict requirements of an absolute majority of both Houses of Parliament, which is one of the safeguards in the Constitution, then have the matter go through the due processes and ultimately to be placed before the Australian people. Here, of course, there are additional safeguards because one has to get a majority of votes in respect of the States so that four out of the six States, as well as a majority of voters, must approve the proposed change. It is a rather tortuous path which those who seek to change the Constitution have to travel. It is not one on which there are no adequate safeguards both for the present and the future. One would imagine that even when all those procedures are followed the Australian people will act irresponsibly, in the view of those who have opposed these matters when they have been before the Senate. Surely as a result of the safeguards that are built into our Constitution and with the good sense of the electors there is ample opportunity for the Constitution to be protected from any act of irresponsibility. I do not suggest for one moment that there is anything irresponsible in the matters tha’, have come before this place.
Senator Carrick has said that the Prime Minister desires to destroy the States. This is just not so. Even if he held those views, they are not necessarily the views held by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. I have never heard the Prime Minister suggest that the States should be abolished or that all power should be centralised in Canberra. He has on occasions expressed the view that there should be a transference of some of the powers. Honourable senators must surely recognise that this proposal seeks the concurrence of the States to transfer powers from the States to the Commonwealth. Consider the path that must be traversed before one can get the 6 States to agree to the transference of power. Yet we have this calamity howling, this great interest for protection of democratic rights and civil liberties and so on which is always plucked out of the wardrobe when honourable senators on the other side of this place have nothing else to present in their arguments. This is from Opposition senators who, when in power, were prepared to gaol young men for their convictions about the war in Vietnam, to deny Australian citizens the right to travel outside their own country, and to implement a whole number of issues which denied the normal democratic liberties which we defend in this country and regard as an inalienable right. There is no substance in the view that the Labor Government, or the Prime Minister, is seeking to curtail democracy. The Prime Minister is seeking to extend it, and I think I have indicated that in his desire to do this he will be recognised not only by the Australian people but ultimately by historians as a person who was prepared to go to the full extent of the democratic procedures to convince the Australian electorate to change the constitutional provisions relating to powers between the Commonwealth and the States.
We have only to examine the position of the States in their formative years to appreciate that they were six distinct and different colonies of the British Crown. They grew up with and still have different attitudes to their respective development and to the Commonwealth. It is a matter of regret that members of the Opposition, for sheer political advantage, are endeavouring on every occasion to base their arguments upon the backwardness of attitudes that exist in the various States and among sections of the Australian people who still want to regard themselves not as part of one nation but as six different nations. Surely the Prime Minister ought to be recognised as a very courageous man for taking the steps that he has taken in a period of political difficulty, in this country, seeking to effect changes in the Constitution which after all, if agreed to, must still be determined by the Australian people and which would mean only a transference to the Commonwealth of powers that already exist at the State level.
Is it suggested that powers which now exist at the State level are misused or that those powers will be misused if held by the Commonwealth, or that the same public opinion that exists in the 6 States would suddenly disappear and not express itself if there should be any attempt to exercise wrongly those powers at the Commonwealth level? We have to be dragged into the latter half of the 20th century. That is apparent to me. Clearly we will have difficulty convincing the Australian people of the need to agree to these matters that will go before them by referendum. Nevertheless it is only right that the Government should have the opportunity to go to the Australian people and give them an opportunity to review the Constitution. I believe that in the last 20 or 30 years the States have not exercised as they should the powers they have held. That has been a period of great development in this country. The States have adopted a dog in the manger attitude in respect of a variety of matters.
– Mention them.
– Take prices, for example. It was reported in this morning’s newspapers that the New South Wales Government is prepared to sit down with the Australian Government and transfer to the Commonwealth for a limited period of time power to control prices. That was the view that was expressed at the Constitutional Convention by the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer. It was a view that was strongly dissented from by the Queensland Premier. So honourable senators can see the absurd position in which there is no form of uniformity in price control or incomes control. Clearly these have to be dealt with on a national basis. It is clear from the decision made yesterday by the Premier of New South Wales that he is either campaigning for his own political advantage and is not sincere in his desire to hand over to the Commonwealth the powers to control prices and incomes or he genuinely holds that view and is fortified by the fact that his co.’league in Queensland will not be prepared to take the necessary step. I give that as one of the many examples of the absurd position that exists in respect of sovereign rights in this country.
It is clear that the Senate has already made up its mind. We know that a decision in respect of these matters has already been determined in the Party room and that there is no possibility of either the Senate agreeing to the Government’s propositions or a sufficient number of senators agreeing in order to give us the absolute majority which is required to pass this Bill. So we are only putting off what Senator Withers regards as the evil day by postponing the debate in this place. That is what he seeks to do. These are the same sort of tactics as were synonymous with the Opposition in 1973 when it refused to debate a matter in November of that year and used delaying tactics to prevent the matter being dealt with in this place. Despite the fact that it was dealt with expeditiously in the lower House, the Senate took the extraordinary step of refusing to debate the matter logically and expeditiously. Senator Greenwood is seeking again to delay consideration of the measure despite the fact that he knows as well as everybody else the views of the Prime Minister, the Government and the Labor Party on this matter. Honourable senators opposite should cut out the humbug and give us the opportunity to deal with the Bill. Let them defeat it if they must, but give us the opportunity to take it to the Australian people. We should have the opportunity to go out and talk to the Australian people to convince them that the time has arrived in Australia’s development for updating and modernising the Australian Constitution.
– I have listened with great interest to the debate which has ensued on this very important question of the transfer of powers on a reciprocal basis between the Commonwealth and the States. I have heard from Senator Greenwood and Senator Carrick 2 excellent speeches in opposition to the measure. Senator Carrick gave expression to many of my views, probably in better language than I could have used myself. But it was a startling revelation by Senator Greenwood when he said that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has misinformed the public of Australia at a Press conference with regard to the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States on this matter. It is a very wrong and an unexpected performance by a Prime Minister when giving out information to the Press to say that there had been a conference of State Premiers in conjunction with the Commonwealth at which an agreement more or less had been reached when that was not the position at all. I do not have to disclose my feelings on this as an Australian citizen who has been in political life for a period approaching 42 years as a good solid Laborite. I am a federalist, not a centralist.
– That puts you 42 years behind the times.
– Forty-two years behind the times because I subscribed to the policies laid down by pioneers of the great Australian Labor movement before they were red-anted by the communists and other destroyers of good Labor principles. Of course Australia would never have advanced and progressed to the extent that it has if we had not been enunciating a principle of federalism. We, particularly in Queensland, which was a garrison State during the war, know the value of State government. We know what happened during those war years when our State was virtually overrun with armed forces, Australian and American, and when the major States such as Victoria saw no evidence at all of war. At that time the civilian population of Queensland was required to do without the things which people in other States could get quite freely. Is it any wonder that the public reject referendums when people talk about centralism? Is it any wonder that the Democratic Labor Party was successful, with the aid of a few odd members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party, in defeating the referendums for the breaking of the nexus? When the ALP, the Liberals and the Country Party had their machinery operating to break the nexus the DLP, with the aid of a few such as Senator Lillico, Senator Wood, Senator Wright -
– And Senator Prowse.
- Senator Prowse and others joined with us and we successfully defeated the resolution in all States with the exception of New South Wales where the Yes vote won by a handful of votes. Is it any wonder that all the referendums that have been put to the people have been rejected by the people because they did not want any disturbance in any major way of the existing constitutional rights of the States and the Commonwealth? Senator Gietzelt, who is not present in the chamber to hear what I have to say in reply to him, talked about the States not using the powers that they already enjoy. I asked him to enumerate the powers that they had failed to exercise and he mentioned the matter of prices. What is the history of prices? We had price control during the war years and everybody accepted it as they did the rationing of goods. After the war Mr Chifley, the then Prime Minister, submitted to the people of Australia a referendum on prices. What did the people do? They rejected it.
– Because they were filled with fear.
– No. They had had a bellyfull of bureaucracy during the time that they had price control.
– They are getting a bellyfull of high prices now.
– Yes- and only because of inactivity on the part of the honourable senator’s Government. I happened to be Minister for Prices, amongst other things, in the Queensland Government following the defeat of the Chifley referendum. I made a conscientious attempt to control prices. But I found, as I have told the Senate before, that it was utterly impossible because of section 92 of the Constitution and because of interstate trade.
– That is why the honourable senator wants centralism.
– That is not why 1 want centralism. I have admitted already that a central government can control a matter such as that better than 6 State governments with different attitudes. When 1 wanted to control the price of commodities produced in Queensland, there was an allegedly friendly Australian Labor Party Government in New South Wales that favoured decontrol of prices. The result was that our products from Queensland went over the border into New South Wales where they could be sold at any price. Our consumers in Queensland were left without, a position for which I received the blame because I endeavoured to control prices. But if that Labor Government in New South Wales had been as conscientious with regard to price control as I had been, there would have been no decontrol of prices in New South Wales. That Government would have worked in conformity and in unison with me. Only recently, the people of Australia had a second opportunity to deal with prices and wages. But what did they do with that opportunity? They threw it out because they did not have the confidence in the present Government to administer and to properly control prices and incomes.
Senator O’Byrne- They were confused again by that old goanna Bjelke-Petersen.
– Whatever name the honourable senator may call Premier Bjelke-Petersen or whatever the honourable senator may say about him, it does not become the honourable senator in the first instance, to speak of the Premier of a State in that way. Secondly 1 am sure that it will not upset him very much. At least he has sufficient stamina to stand up for the principles which he espouses. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Constitution to enable an interchange of powers between the Australian Parliament and the State parliaments. That is a very laudable and attractive proposition. But let us know just what are the strings attaching to this proposal. Let us know just to what extent the States are prepared to go in the transfer of powers. The States have not been overanxious to refer powers. An honourable senator mentioned during the course of a speech today that over the years the States have referred powers on about 25 occasions, and most of those referrals were made during the war years. But I would like to know what powers the Commonwealth is likely to transfer to the States. I do not think that it is likely to transfer any powers to the States. I believe that even before this matter is submitted to the people we should have a clarification of what is likely to take place.
Much has been said about Mr Whitlam ‘s statements and his conference with State Premiers, with the exception of the Premier of Queensland, on this question of an interchange of powers. But that was only a cursory discussion. Even though I might be determined to uphold State rights, I have always been a realistic Australian. I have tried to do the thing which I believe to be in the best interests of Australia and the people as a whole. I was not hidebound by State boundaries or anything else. But I found that anything that emanated from the central Government always was indisputably slanted in favour of Victoria and New South Wales, disregarding Queensland and the outposts of Australia.
– What about South Australia and Western Australia?
– South Australia is a suburb of Victoria. A small example of this is the matter of the closing hours for butchers shops which was determined on what suited Victoria. No regard was paid to the high temperatures or to any of the different circumstances that applied in Queensland or anywhere else. Whatever suited Victoria was invariably the Australia-wide rule. That was the type of thing to which I took exception on every occasion when it was warranted.
I agree with the amendment. I think that there should be further discussion between the States and the Commonwealth on this very important matter. As a former Premier of Queensland, I warn State governments not to concede powers to the Commonwealth merely to relieve themselves of the odium or the responsibility of implementing some power that they possess. Any loss of sovereignty suffered by the States has been due to their readiness to avoid some responsibility and hand it over to somebody else. Even the transfer of taxation powers was a temporary measure originally. But it was to the credit of Mr Forgan-Smith, the Premier of Queensland at that time, that he always opposed it. In line with his thinking, I have always been opposed to it. At an Australian Labor Party Conference held in Brisbane in 1957 I took up that attitude and read a paper in support of the restoration of taxation powers to the States. The late Joe Cahill Premier of New South Wales was there. He read a paper in support of uniform taxation. Of course, he, like so many others, wanted to avoid the odium of collecting taxes. He wanted someone else to collect them, but he wanted to spend the money which had been collected on a very unfair basis.
It is very easy to transfer powers that you do not want to somebody else and then to cry about not having them. We hear all this talk about the Commonwealth taking over the railways. I do not suppose that there is a State government in Australia that would not readily hand over its railways to the Commonwealth. But I warn State governments that every time they surrender control of these functions they are giving away their sovereignty. I have stated repeatedly that the day the State governments gave away their taxing powers they gave away their sovereignty. Their representatives, including me, came to Canberra like mendicants begging for a return of the tax collected. It did not belong to the Commonwealth. Some of it belonged to the taxpayers of Queensland, the State that I represented. I said to Sir Arthur Fadden on one occasion, with respect to loan moneys: ‘You would think by your statements that you have been magnanimous and generous. You state that you have allocated so much loan money to Queensland and so much to other States. That is not a gift. That is money that you are empowered to collect from the market that is available to you and distribute it amongst the States. The States have to repay it plus interest. So what credit is due to you?’ None at all. The people of Queensland have to repay the loans plus interest. There is a lot of ballyhoo talked about the Commonwealth, about what it does and about the money it spends on education, hospitals or anything else. From where does the money come? It comes from the people of the States. Probably, over the years they have received a lot less than they should have received. So I say that while this Bill which seeks to amend the Constitution and to enable an interchange of powers between the Australian Parliament and the State parliaments is indisputably attractive in its text, it is something that has to be examined very carefully and there must be unanimity between the States and the Commonwealth before a decision is made. It is quite natural that at the Constitutional Convention in Sydney the Premiers said to the Prime Minister: ‘That is a very good idea. You might have some powers that you could give to us, and vice versa’. That is a natural reaction to such a submission. But let us know where we are going. Let us have unanimity amongst the States. I repeat that some leaders of State governments are prepared to sacrifice and to surrender any power which they think might cause them to lose votes, instead of having the courage and determination to preserve the sovereignty of the States which they are charged to control.
I have no objection to people who want to be centralists. When I charge Mr Whitlam with being a centralist I do not mean that he is any different from Mr Chifley or Sir Robert Menzies, who I believe regarded the States as an incubus on the parliamentary system of government.
– There is no doubt about that.
– They agree with me. However, as a representative of Queensland I will be fighting to the bitter end to preserve the sovereignty, rights and powers of Queensland.
– What about the sovereignty of Australia? That includes the less, does it not?
– The honourable senator would want to give away the power of Queensland to a central power. He is not conversant with what took place during the war years. He knows absolutely nothing about it.
– He is a turtle man.
– He is said to have no knowledge of that subject either. But do not distract me in my concluding remarks on this matter. It is important enough to warrant further consideration, and the Party for which I speak will support the amendment. The speeches of Senator Greenwood and Senator Carrick expressed my views very thoroughly and fully. I was not at all impressed by the apologia of Senator Gietzelt. He knows as well as I do that there are no great powers that the States would want from the Commonwealth, unless in respect of something that the Commonwealth wanted the States to implement for it and had to confer the power on the States for that reason. As honourable senators know, I have had a lot of experience in these matters. I very seriously warn the States to hang on to what they have. Otherwise the people in the States will suffer in the ultimate.
– During the last week we have been engaged in discussing various proposals for constitutional reform which the Government wishes to put before the people. In that time we have been treated to some very extravagant and wild-eyed allegations. But I did not think that I would ever hear anything so paranoid as the contribution from Senator Carrick this afternoon in which he suggested that even when the Australian Government attempts to confer powers upon the States it is attempting to crush them. I can assume only that he has looked at this proposal in a very cursory fashion. The present constitutional arrangement, as provided by section 5 1 placitum (xxxvii) is that the parliaments of the States may refer powers to the
Parliament of the Commonwealth. The proposal we are discussing here today is the reverse of that, or at least it is an addition. It suggests that there are certain spheres in which the Australian Parliament and the Australian Government might wish to confer powers on the States. The purpose of this proposed constitutional amendment is to enable the Australian Government to do so. However, Senator Carrick says that this move is part and parcel of the plot, the conspiracy, the dire plan of the Australian Government to destroy the States. Words have lost all meaning if that meaning can be read into this proposal.
Another point which is overlooked by Senator Carrick and other opponents of this proposal is that the States are not being asked to give any power irrevocably to the Australian Government. I direct the attention of honourable senators opposite to the proposed new section 108B, which reads as follows: ( I.) The reference of a matter by the Parliament of a State for the purposes of paragraph (xxxvii.) of section fifty-one or the designation of a matter by the Parliament of the Commonwealth for the purposes of section one hundred and eight a shall be by Act of that Parliament and-
How can it be an invasion of the powers of the States when they are left in complete control of the duration of any reference of power that they give to the Commonwealth? This elaborates, expands and in every way increases the powers of the States in relation to any matters that they may refer to the Commonwealth. The proposed new section goes on:
It is particularly shameful for lawyers on the opposite side of the chamber to suggest that this proposal detracts in any way from the powers of the States. Up to now there has been considerable doubt among lawyers as to whether, when a State delegated or referred powers to the Australian Government, there was any power, to impose conditions or to include a power of revocation. By this amendment the Australian Government, which is accused by Senator Carrick and other honourable senators opposite of attempting to destroy the States, puts a specific limitation on any reference of power which the States may choose to give to the Australian Government. Yet this is pilloried as an attempt by the Australian Government to destroy the power of the States.
asked rhetorically and repeated in his speech by way of deprecating the sincerity of the Australian Government in suggesting some 2-way traffic: ‘What powers would the Australian Government wish to confer on the States?’ He and other honourable senators opposite have suggested that the offer by the Australian Government to refer certain powers to the States is merely a trap or a bait with which to catch some references from the States. But if he had taken the trouble to refer to the speech which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made at the Constitutional Convention when this proposition was first floated, he would have found a couple of specific instances which the Prime Minister gave of the sort of powers which the Australian Government would be willing- indeed eager- to confer on the States. It must be well known to the lawyers opposite that section 52 of the Constitution has caused considerable problems, going right up to the High Court, as to the interpretation of competing powers of the States and the Australian Government. Section 52( 1 ) provides:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to-
The seat of Government of the Commonwealth, and all places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes:
One result of that conferring of exclusive power on the Commonwealth is illustrated in the well known case of Worthing v. Rowell and Muston Pty Ltd, which was heard in the High Court in 1 970. It was an action by a man named Worthing who was injured at the Richmond Air Force base. The action was based on a breach of statutory duty by his employer, relying upon the New South Wales Scaffolding and Lifts Act. It was pleaded by the defendant company that the provisions of the regulations under the Act did not apply to the Richmond Air Force base because of the operation of section 52 (i), that is, that the Australian Government had exclusive powers to make laws in respect to territory which had been acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes. There was no doubt that the Richmond Air Force base had been acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes. It was held by the High Court that the scaffolding and lifts safety regulations which had been introduced by the New South Wales Government did not apply to the Richmond Air base.
In the result this worker, who brought the action for breach of statutory duty which would have automatically entitled him to a verdict if he had been suing an employer for injuries received at any place in NSW other than a place which had been acquired by the Commonwealth, lost his action. The Prime Minister has suggested, as I think all lawyers would concede, that this was an injustice which is wrought by this conflict of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. The Prime Minister suggested that this would be an appropriate field in which the Australian Government would cede power to the States, that is, would acknowledge that the States’ laws of that nature would apply to a place which had been acquired by the Commonwealth. So far from this being purely window dressing and far from suggesting that we merely want to make a pretence of conferring powers on the States in order that they might see fit to confer powers on the Australian Government with respect, for instance, to such matters as family law and defamation, I point to this offer of the Prime Minister which I respectfully suggest to honourable senators is an earnest of our sincerity and our genuineness in wanting to make this a 2 -way traffic. Of course this is the way this offer was interpreted by the representatives of the States which were present at the Australian Constitutional Convention.
No matter what may be said by Senator Greenwood about alleged attempts by the Prime Minister to mislead the public about the attitude of the States to this offer, I refer him to the report of the proceedings before the Constitutional Convention, which I believe Senator Greenwood along with myself attended on the relevant day. After the Prime Minister had floated this suggestion which is embodied in this proposed amendment of the Constitution, the Premiers and representatives of the various States rose in their seats and expressed their reaction to this offer.
– With one exception.
-With one exception, but the notion which is suggested by this amendment that this is something which is sprung on the Parliament without a proper opportunity being given to the affected parties to consider it just will not hold water.
– What was the proposition to which the States acceded?
-The Prime Minister said:
It is urged on us that these aspects are matters which can be, in the words of paragraph (xxxvii) of section 5 1 of the Constitution-
. referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
In respect of this paragraph New South Wales and Victoria have proposed that the reference power should be amended to remove doubts both as to power to refer for a limited term and as to power to revoke a reference.
This is covered specifically in proposed new section 108b. The Prime Minister continued:
New South Wales also has suggested that the Commonwealth should be authorised to referpowers to the States. Victoria wishes to ensure that a reference may be made subject to terms and conditions.
The Prime Minister then went on to cite Worthing’s case to which I have just referred. He also referred to the fact that if the Commonwealth seas and submerged lands legislation is valid, it would suit the Commonwealth as well as the States to refer to the States the power to make laws with respect to jetties, marinas, moorings and water sports.
– If I may say so that was not a unanimous approach by the States.
-If Senator Byrne would let me make my point he could then comment on it. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Prime Minister got a written definitive statement from each of the Premiers or representatives of the States saying, in effect, Yes, we have considered this fully and we agree with it fully’. I am not putting it as high as that. I am saying that at the Constitutional Convention the Prime Minister floated this idea and referred specifically to the instances which I have given and he evoked the responses from the representatives of the States to which I am about to refer. I say that in rebuttal of the proposition that this is something which is sprung on the States without their being given an opportunity to consider it.
I refer also to the consideration which has been given in detail to the proposition by representatives of the States. After the Prime Minister at the Constitutional Conventionwhich as I say was attended by Senator Greenwood and myself- sat down, having said the things which I have just quoted, Sir Robert Askin, representing New South Wales said, among other things:
Delegation leaders have agreed not to take more than 2 minutes each to state our respective attitudes on the statement just made by the Prime Minister.
That was an odd agreement which was immediately broken. Sir Robert Askin then referred to the statement of the Prime Minister and said:
I believe that it is a step in the right direction. If carried, it will place the Commonwealth in the position where it will be able, when and where deemed expedient, to refer certain powers to the States on terms and conditions.
Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, said:
Mr Chairman, I merely indicate very briefly that the Victorian delegation as a whole would agree in principle to this proposal which was hammered out last night.
Mr Dunstan, for South Australia, expressed his agreement. Mr Tonkin, for Western Australia, expressed his agreement. Mr Everett, for Tasmania, expressed his agreement. Anybody, including the most profound constitutional lawyer, who could tell me, after reading what Mr Bjelke-Petersen said, whether he agreed or disagreed, is a better man than I am. I cannot read into anything that Mr Bjelke-Petersen said any flat footed rejection of the proposal put by the Prime Minister. He hedged what he said with ifs, buts and conditions but he certainly was not horrified, as indeed why should he be horrified? The notion that there is some trap in this proposal, that it is part of some suggestion as is put forward by Senator Carrick for the Australian Government to crush the States beneath a ruthless heel, just will not hold water.
We are offering to let the States have some powers, and Senator Carrick says ‘powers which are now within the exclusive power of the Australian Government’. Senator Carrick says that this is another illustration of the Australian Government’s attempt to crush the States. As I said in quoting the reactions of the various representatives of the States to the proposition when it was put forward by the Prime Minister, the consideration which the States have given this proposal did not stop there. After the Australian Constitutional Convention broke up it set up various committees one of which was designed specifically to consider the fine print and the detail of this proposition for mutual interchange of powers between the Australian Government and the States. This committee met several times and considered this matter in depth. I am not suggesting that there is any document in existence which embodies a consensus of the States. But, once again, to suggest that there is anything new, anything precipitate, or anything ill conceived about this proposition will not hold water. After all, what are we asking here? Are we asking the Parliament of Australia to make some drastic and permanent alteration to our constitutional arrangement?
– Yes, of course you are.
-Senator, we are not. We are asking the people to pass their opinion on it. In every one of these proposed alterations which has been considered Senator Greenwood has shown a total inability to distinguish between passing a Bill in this Parliament and permanently altering the Constitution. The Constitution is not altered until the people of Australia, with the difficult processes which have been set out- so difficult that, as many honourable senators have pointed out, there have been few alterations to the Australian Constitution- as the final arbiters -
– It is not unreasonable to expect a majority.
-The honourable senator does not want them even to consider these matters. He acts as though we are using some brutal numbers- which of course we do not have here- to steamroller some proposition, to put something over the Australian people when the reality is that what we have put before the Senate is a matter which already has been suggested to the States and which already has won the approval of the States in principle. It has been discussed by a committee of the Constitutional Convention. Now we say: ‘Let the people pass judgment on it.’ But what do we get? We get an amendment which says that the Bill should be deferred until after consideration has been given to its proposals by all State governments and by the Australian Constitutional Convention. If this does not indicate a paranoid determination by the Opposition to oppose all suggestions for change of the Constitution and to deprive the Australian people of their rightgiven to them under the Constitution- to pass judgment on proposals for alteration of the Constitution, I do not know what it does.
– I rise on behalf of the Australian Country Party to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Greenwood). I will speak briefly and simply because, as I see it, the principle is very simple. At the present moment I think the principle has been badly misconstrued. When introducing this Constitution Alteration (Interchange of Powers) Bill the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) in his second reading speech stated:
The Bill has been settled in consultation with the parliamentary counsel of the States as was foreshadowed at the Constitutional Convention.
I say that this is not so. It was accepted in principle at the Constitutional Convention. Now I shall read to the Senate from a statement made by the chairman of a committee of the Australian Constitutional Convention which examined the proposals in detail and expressed its reservations. It states:
The chairman of the committee, the honourable Leon Punch, said only recently that his Committee had commended the draft legislation and said the proposal would bring about a highly desirable and important improvement to the Constitution.
I know that the Australian Country Party in this chamber supports that principle. But that is not the issue that is at stake. Mr Punch went on to say that there were some aspects which should be further considered. One point was that the draft did not guarantee a truly mutual reference of powers. Mr Punch said:
The view was expressed that the Bill, as presently drafted, could be subject to the criticism that while States are for practical purposes compelled to refer ‘exclusively’, the Commonwealth Parliament could be made to appear to be retaining to itself a special privilege by virtue of its opportunity to legislate so as to supersede State legislation pursuant to the designation.
A second point made by Mr Punch was: lt was suggested that consideration be given to amending the draft so that powers designated by the Commonwealth Parliament might only be made exercisable by and available to all States, and so as not to permit a designation in favour of one or more States only, to the exclusion of others.
To say that the Bill has been settled in consultation with the States is incorrect. To my mind the point which we are debating here is how the matter should be determined. My understanding of the role of the Senate is that its first obligationand has been so for some 74 years- is to preserve the rights of the States against Federal Government encroachment.
– That is what we are doing. We are giving them the right to vote.
– Fair enough. That may be so. But I say that the role of this Senate is to refer this matter to the States first, and then, if necessary, to the people. I say that members of the Government have their priorities out of step. The first step of this chamber should be to refer the matter back to the States because there is no unanimity. I believe that I have proved this in the submissions which I have laid here before honourable senators. The issue is which way do we go. The Opposition does not say that it rejects the principle. In fact, it is in favour of the principle of the exchange of powers. What is wrong with referring this matter back to the States for consultation? What is wrong with that? Is there a fear in Government circles that the States may change their minds or that they might want to write something into the Bill to safeguard themselves? This is the question which has not been answered. Why is the Government demanding that we race straight to the people after there has been a broad agreement of principle following the Constitutional Convention? The argument does not stand up. Because of the role of this Senate its first priority is to protect the States against Federal Government encroachment. I believe that that is its first charge and first responsibility. The Attorney-General in his second reading speech said:
However, there are several unresolved questions on the operation of the existing provision for the States to refer powers to this Parliament which have made them reluctant to do so.
Why have the States in the past been reluctant to do so? There is a good reason. I believe that the previous speakers have covered most aspects of the issue of whether we should adopt a centralist approach in this matter or a federalistic approach. The purpose of this chamber is to adopt a federalistic approach.
– I think the honourable senator is a little out of date.
– No. Honourable senators on the Government side said that we were 43 years out of date. They cannot have it both ways. By virtue of my tender age I cannot be 43 years out of date in this case. I say that never since Federation has there been a greater challenge to the type of government that we have. Surely we are approaching the crossroads of the type of government which we are to experience in the future. Are we to have a centralistic government or are we to have a federalistic government?
There is only one thing new in this change and that is the word ‘inter’. If it were just a change of power probably it would be well known to honourable senators in this chamber, but we have a new word in this Bill. It is an interchange of power. Of course the interchange of power is the carrot which is dangled before the States. Perhaps there is some value in it. To be quite honest, I have closely read the second reading speech and I cannot see any real meaty issues of benefit to the States in it. But then I am not a lawyer and I do not pretend to be. Those issues could be there. I have taken the speech to academics. They cannot find where the real benefits of transfer of power lie.
Let us look at the track record of change of power in the past- not the interchange of power, because we have not seen an interchange of power. It has been one-way traffic. I quote from an article in the ‘Sunday Independent’ of 17 March. The Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, speaking of the Federal Government, said: lt aims. Tor a start, to control schools, teachers colleges, universities, transport- including railways- local authorities, Aboriginal affairs, and the off-shore minerals. In fact, the Labor Government in Canberra would like to control almost everything.
A very deep grass roots fear and suspicion of the erosion of authority and of the States rights versus Commonweatlh rights issue are spreading across Australia. I quote again from that article in the ‘Sunday Independent’. The Premier of Western Australia said:
Since the Whitlam Government came into power there has been a remarkable flowering of Federal interest in States’ affairs . . .
That is a remarkable statement. He said that there has been ‘a remarkable flowering of Federal interest in States’ affairs’. There has been nothing except erosion of the States by a centralist approach to the States. I found it somewhat enlightening to read in the ‘West Australian’ of 19 March, 2 days later, this article about the Labor Premier of Western Australia:
A bitterly disappointed Premier, Mr Tonkin, said last night he believed that the Commonwealth decision not to waive the Reserve Bank deposit rule on imported funds would kill the project.
He said that he had spent half an hour on the telephone with the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, arguing about the decision.
I have given him a piece of my mind’, he said. 1 am both discouraged and disappointed by the result’.
Well he might be. The point is that Mr Tonkin belongs to the same political Party as the Prime Minister. It is no good crying on the shoulders of Western Australians and saying: ‘I did a good job, but the Commonwealth would not let me do what I wanted’. If the Premier does not believe in the philosophy which Mr Whitlam espoused and to which he must have agreed, he should resign and join another party. The point in question is the change of power. I wish to quote now a statement made by the Leader of the Country Party- the National Alliance- in his policy speech.
– Make up your mind which one it is.
– It is one or the other.
– If honourable senators wait I will read what Mr McPharlin said. They will be most interested. An article in the ‘West Australian ‘ of 1 4 March stated:
I have little need to remind Western Australian electors that on issue after issue, particularly in the areas of taxation and mineral resources, the State Labor Government has sold this State short in its dealings with Canberra and has acquiesced in the drive for centralised power’, Mr McPharlin said.
At the national level we will always be prepared to discuss programs with the Commonwealth in a polite and reasoned manner.
But we will never- I repeat, never- go to Canberra like beggars on the street when we are seeking an allocation of funds from taxation revenue which is rightfully ours. ‘
– Like Senator Gair used to do under the Federal Liberal Government.
-That is all right. I am talking about an interchange of powers. I put to honourable senators that there is a responsibility on all of us, irrespective of our political following, to uphold the principles of the Senate. The first principle or objective is to preserve for the States their rights against Federal Government encroachment.
– Is not the national interest predominant?
– Of course it is.
– The other is then secondary.
– There are always 2 ways of doing things. One can adopt either way. On behalf of the Country Party I am arguing that the role of the Senate should be adhered to by taking this issue back to the States. We do not want to see this issue marketed by the Government like soap powder, without reference to the States, because quite obviously the chairman of a committee of the Constitutional Convention, which was looking into this matter, does not agree and is recommending that it should be changed. Is the Government trying to pull a fast one? Why is the Government frightened of taking this measure back to the States?
– What did the people say about the breaking of the nexus?
– Never mind that. Put the matter to the people, and see what they say.
– The Opposition, if I might interject on an interjection, makes the point that it is not quarrelling about presenting it to the people; it is claiming that the Government, by getting its priorities mixed, is leapfrogging a set of circumstances which, because of the Senate’s role, it should be adopting. The first thing to do if there is any dispute- there is certainly disputation in this matter- is to refer it back to the States for consultation. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that he is prepared to do that. Why the sweat? What is the fear? Take it back to the States. If they agree, present it to the people. We do not want it wrapped up in gift wrap, like soap powder, so that the real issue is lost to the public. Let us do this through the proper and normal channels. Let us refer it to the States and, if necessary, to the people.
I wish to close by sounding a note of warning to all States. How can a State relinquish or transfer without adequate and proper safeguards, power to a centralist government which has openly advocated the devolution of the Senate and the authority of State governments? The Country Party supports the amendment.
– I think it is appropriate that I should inform honourable senators that, in accordance with my advice to the Senate last Thursday, 14 March, the Address-in-Reply will be presented to the Governor-General at 5 p.m. today. Cars will be available at the front steps of Parliament House at 4.40 p.m. to take honourable senators to Government House. Accordingly, at 4.30 p.m., I shall inform honourable senators that the sitting of the Senate is suspended until 8 p.m.
– The genesis of this proposed amendment to the Constitution appears to have been a discussion which took place at a dinner during the Constitutional Convention last September. Apparently the dinner party was attended by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and all Premiers, except the Premier of Queensland. In this very informal manner an alleged agreement was made between the Prime Minister and those Premiers that in principle they agreed to a constitutional amendment by which the interchange of powers between the Commonwealth and State parliaments would be facilitated. That agreement was never put higher than one of broad principle. It is rather odd that it should have been made at all. As I have said, the occasion was the holding of the first sessions of the Constitutional Convention. The Convention will be held over a long period of time. In fact, various committees of the Convention are meeting from time to time, and there will be further meetings of the Convention itself.
In September of last year a major convention to review the whole of the Constitution of Australia was held for the first time for many years. It was a convention which held and does hold some considerable promise for a thoroughgoing review of the Constitution. The Convention is representative of the Commonwealth Parliament and the Commonwealth Government, the State parliaments and State governments, and local government authorities, lt is representative of the whole political spectrum in this country. As I have said, it is the first convention of that representative character to be held for many years. Maybe it will be able to produce some worthwhile amendments to the Constitution which could be expected io obtain the support of the Australian people. This being the case, it is very odd that in the course of such a convention the Prime Minister and 5 of the 6 State Premiers should informally get together and decide on some amendment to the Constitution, particularly when those 6 gentlemen made up only a very small fraction of the total number of people attending this Convention. For my part, I cannot see how they would have had any authority whatsoever to speak on behalf of this Convention or in any way to represent the views of the Convention and to bind the members of the Convention, or anybody else for that matter, by some agreement at which they are alleged to have arrived.
It is even more extraordinary that the Prime Minister should have stated publicly, on the basis of this so-called agreement, that the Senate would be in breach of faith if it were not to pass the Bill which will put this agreement into effect. That, as I said, is a very odd result, and the claim made by the Prime Minister is even more odd. Why should this Parliament, this Senate, the State parliaments of Australia and the local government authorities of Australia be bound in any way by a decision taken at such informal discussions which took place at a private dinner attended by a few members of that Convention? The whole case put by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Murphy) is really hardly short of preposterous, and it cannot be given any attention at all by the Senate.
But the matter has been taken to the extent of the Prime Minister saying that because the Bill which is before us has been approved by the State Attorneys-General and the parliamentary draftsmen we should pass it without further ado. Is it seriously suggested by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government in this chamber that we are bound, on pain of breach of faith, by some discussions that have been held between the parliamentary draftsmen of the States and the Commonwealth about the terms of a Bill? Even if it is true that the agreement about the terms of the Bill was given some imprimatur by the Attorneys-General, it still appears to me to be a preposterous suggestion that that invalidates our independent consideration and judgment of a Bill which proposes that the people be asked to alter the Constitution, and to alter it permanently.
Government senators have said in this debate, as they have said over and over again when speaking on other constitutional alteration legislation, that somehow or other the Senate is not really entitled to consider independently or to oppose Bills which provide for the alteration of the Constitution. I have already had some occasion in a previous debate to deal with that point and at this stage I do not wish to do more than reiterate- and reiterate over and over again if I have the opportunity-the fact that the Constitution places upon this Parliament and this chamber the responsibility of proposing amendments to the Constitution. It is a responsibility and duty which under the Constitution is placed fairly and squarely upon this chamber and the House of Representatives.
How naive is the proposition which was put this afternoon by Senator James McClelland that we, with that responsibility on our shoulders, should simply say that, even though we may be opposed to a particular constitutional amendment, even though we may believe that this is a matter that should be given further consideration, and even though it is a matter which perhaps vitally affects the States and which the State governments and the State parliaments should be given the opportunity to discuss before it is put to the people, we should not give any consideration or weight to these things; we should simply pass this Bill through the Senate without exercising any of the responsibilities and judgment which, as I said, are placed upon our shoulders by the Constitution. The proposal to amend the Constitution in this Bill is, in my view, a very minor question of constitutional amendment. A case may be put in favour of an amendment of the Constitution so as to facilitate the reference of powers by the States to the Commonwealth. An argument may be made that there should be provision for a reference of power by the Commonwealth Parliament to the State parliaments, which provision is absent from the Constitution at present. I propose to say something about that shortly, but before doing so I wish to deal with the actual timing of this suggestion and the way in which it is now being presented.
As I have said, it is a proposal which- I hesitate to say it- emanated from the Constitutional Convention, although that body has not properly considered it. It may be in the process of considering it, but at this stage it is merely a proposal which emanated from the informal meeting which took place at the time of the Constitutional Convention between the Prime Minister and 5 of the 6 State Premiers. The agreement reached by the 6 gentlemen was an agreement only in principle. It is one of the numerous proposals relating to the alteration of the Constitution which were put forward at the Convention. Although it may have been taken a little further because of the support that it obviously has obtained from the Prime Minister and 5 of the 6 State Premiers, it is still being considered by the appropriate subcommittee of the Convention. That subcommittee has not come forward with any clear recommendation in relation to it, and it certainly has not had before it the Bill we are presently considering.
Sitting suspended from 4.30 to 8 p.m.
– Honourable senators, I report to the Senate that, accompanied by honourable senators, I this day waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General and presented to him for transmission to Her Majesty the Queen the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty on the occasion of the opening of Parliament agreed to on 12 March 1974. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
In the name and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen I accept the Address-in-Reply. I will forward it to Her Most Gracious Majesty.
I note the expression of the Senate’s message of loyalty. I note also the other views expressed in the Address-in-Reply and the dissent from those views of Government senators.
– Could I mention one thing: The absence of Government senators -
– Order! Are you asking for leave to make a statement?
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the rather peculiar circumstances which appear to have given birth to this Bill for an alteration of the Constitution. I think I covered them fairly fully. It does leave one with an uneasy feeling as to why this Bill should now be rushed on by the Government ahead of all the other major questions for constitutional amendment which are being discussed by a committee of the Constitutional Convention. It does appear that the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- I think I have already mentioned this- have tried to indicate that this Bill has been accepted by all State AttorneysGeneral and processed by all parliamentary draftsmen of the Commonwealth and the States. But of course we have heard today from Senator Greenwood a speech in which he quoted some recent comments on the Bill, at least by the Attorneys-General of Queensland and Victoria, which show that that claim by the Prime Minister is completely unjustified.
So we are left with this measure, supported only in principle by the Premiers of 5 States- a principle which is still being considered by a Committee of the Constitutional Convention and which was, as I said, a relatively minor issue before that Convention by comparison with many other major constitutional changes which are under consideration. Therefore I say that it is rather strange and that it leaves me with an uneasy feeling as to why this Bill should be rushed on at this stage ahead of all the other matters which are under consideration by the committees of that Convention. I see no urgency about the matter. Even if there was an agreement made by the Prime Minister and the Premiers or the State Attorneys-General, I could not regard it as binding on me. But, I point to the absence of any such agreement, the absence of urgency in this matter and the fact that this measure is one of many being considered by the Constitutional Convention. For those reasons I intend to support the amendment that the Bill be deferred until proper consideration has been given to it by all State governments and in particular by the Australian Constitutional Convention.
However, I do not wish to leave my comments on the measure to those considerations alone. I have real concern about the substantive provisions of this Bill and the real motives of the
Government in bringing these proposals forward. As I have said, there seems to be no particular reason why they should be brought forward at this stage. I believe there must be some ulterior purpose on the part of the Government and on the part of the Prime Minister in particular in trying to bring this measure forward at this stage. It appears to me that the Prime Minister is promoting this Bill largely because he wants to give the State representatives and local government representatives at the Convention some earnest of the open-mindedness of the Government’s approach. I think he is trying to indicate to them this viewpoint: ‘This is not a one-way traffic measure. We are not holding this Convention to try to obtain more powers from State Parliaments. Here I am prepared to consider having a constitutional amendment which will give some power from the Commonwealth Parliament to State Parliaments. ‘ I think he is hoping that by doing something along these lines he will cloud the real policies and purposes of the Government which Senator O’Byrne, who is interjecting, fully supports, and which he kept on supporting in this debate. The honourable senator fully supports the view of this Government that there should be one-way traffic only- that power should come only from the State Parliaments to this Parliament. There is no real intention that there should be any transfer of powers from this Parliament back to State Parliaments- and Senator O’Byrne does not believe there should be.
The argument that has been put forward here today by Senator James McClelland gives force, I believe, to the suspicions which I hold about the purposes of the Government in promoting this amendment to the Constitution. Senator James McClelland has said that our opposition is paranoid. It is a favourite word of Senator James McClelland. I am not quite sure what it means nor, probably, do most honourable senators. I do not know whether Senator James McClelland is too sure what it means. Anyway, ‘paranoid’, one of his favourite words, is the word he chose to describe the expression of concern by Opposition senators regarding this matter and particularly the concern expressed by Senator Carrick. I fully share that concern.
I was in no way convinced by Senator James McClelland that there was any honesty of purpose whatsoever as far as the Government’s proposals are concerned. He said: ‘Look at this Bill. It is not concerned just with facilitating the transfer of powers from State Parliaments to the Commonwealth Parliament. This Bill starts off by providing means for the transfer of power from the Commonwealth Parliament to State Parliaments’. On the surface- which, I suppose is all that Senator O’Byrne has looked at, if that- it would appear that the Bill does intend to provide for the transfer of some powers of the Commonwealth Parliament to State Parliaments. But the question is: What powers might be transferred? Indeed, what powers are available in any meaningful way for transfer from this Parliament to State Parliaments?
I have read what the Prime Minister has said about this matter and heard what Senator James McClelland has quoted. In this Senate I asked a question of and received an answer from the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) on what he conceived might have been some of the powers. Let me look at what conceivably and meaningfully they could be. As we know, the vast majority of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are known as concurrent powers, that is powers which are held by both the Commonwealth Parliament and State parliaments. In this field Commonwealth law prevails over State law by virtue only of a special section in the Constitution. There is, therefore, no need for any special provision such as is proposed in this legislation to enable State parliaments to legislate in this great range of areas in which there is Commonwealth legislative activity. All that is needed is for the Commonwealth Parliament to refrain or desist from legislating on these matters or, if it wants to enable the States to legislate, to withdraw part of its legislation. The only powers of the Commonwealth Parliament that one can conceivably see as being the subject of transfer to State parliaments are those powers which are known as exclusive powers. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have indicated only one or two of the exclusive powers as being the subject or the potential subject of transfer to State parliaments.
Under section 52 of the Constitution the first of the Commonwealth exclusive powers is the power to legislate with respect to the seat of government of the Commonwealth. I cannot imagine that there is likely to be any transfer of power in that respect. The second power relates to places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes. As Senator James McClelland would say: ‘Ah, here we have an excellent example of where there would be a transfer of powers to State parliaments because’- and he quoted the High Court decisions on the matter- ‘this has been a problem in respect of which the High Court has held that State parliaments cannot legislate in respect of Commonwealth property such as an Air Force base, a post office or a telephone booth.’ True enough, the decison of the High Court was to that effect, but it caused an extraordinary state of affairs. It revealed a peculiarity in the Constitution which this Parliament under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government immediately rectified. How did it rectify it? It did not have to transfer powers to the State parliaments in order to do so. All that it had to do was to pass a law, which it did very rapidly through both Houses of this Parliament, to provide that in future State laws would apply to Commonwealth places within the territory of a State. That problem was overcome without any great difficulty. So all the hoo-ha that is made about this by the Prime Minister and Senator James McClelland as an example of the so-called 2-way traffic is revealed as a great deal of eye wash, particularly for State representatives who believe that they are getting something out of this deal.
The third matter which is an exclusive one under the Constitution relates to any department of the Public Service. Can anybody imagine that there will be any transfer of power in that sphere? Another one that is mentioned in section 52 refers to other matters declared by the Constitution to be within the exclusive powers. The one that most obviously comes to mind in that direction is the excise power. I think that in the excise power we have come to the nub of the question. It is hoped by some State governments, I think, or by some State Ministers or Premiers, that there may be a transfer of the excise power or some of that power back to State parliaments to enable them to raise revenue by means of taxes, which the High Court on its past record would almost inevitably declare to be excise. Does the Government seriously intend under this Constitution Alteration Bill to transfer to State parliaments any powers in relation to raising revenue of the nature of excise? I believe that if there is any really good faith on the part of the Government in this matter, here is the opportunity for it to say definitely that if it had this power it would hand it over to the State parliaments. But of course it has only been suggested in a vague airyfairy sort of way that that might be done and there is absolutely no undertaking by this Government that it is seriously contemplating any such thing. Therefore I believe it is again trying to hoodwink some of the State Premiers or State Opposition leaders into believing that under this proposed constitutional alteration the States will gain some benefit.
I strongly question the wisdom or the propriety of inserting into the Constitution a power which would have such a major indirect effect on the existing provisions of the Constitution. If there is to be such a major change in the revenue raising by the Commonwealth vis-a-vis the States the only proper, open and honest way to do it is to put to the people a referendum that section 90 of the Constitution be changed to give the States the right to raise revenue in the nature of excise. Why should it be done by this backdoor or hole in the corner method if this Commonwealth Government was ever minded seriously to put it forward at all? Why should taxes in the nature of excise be imposed in a way that could discriminate between the States or the various State parliaments simply on the say so of this Commonwealth Parliament? If a major change such as that is to be made and it is the people who are going to pay, it should be their decision by referendum to change the Constitution in that way. What will be the position if it is done in the way contemplated under this legislation, even it were seriously intended?
There is in the Constitution a very salutary provision that the Commonwealth Parliament in raising taxes shall not discriminate between States or between parts of States, yet under this legislation, if it were passed, it appears that the Commonwealth Parliament would have the power to hand the power over to the States without that salutary provision. It would thereby enable duties in the nature of excise to be raised in the States at different levels and in different ways. This would completely abrogate and bypass that very important provision in the Constitution which provides that taxes imposed by the Commonwealth should be uniform and not discriminatory between the States or parts of States. I think I detailed the main provisions that would be available for transfer to the States. We see that either all these provisions, few and all as they are, are not conceivable propositions, they are not meaningful propositions or that they represent a backdoor method of changing the Constitution in a very material and major way without any reference to the people who should really decide whether major changes are to be made to their Constitution.
In other words, if the Government wants to make changes to the Constitution it should put the proposals for a clear cut amendment to the Constitution one way or the other and not leave the matter to bargaining that may go on informally at dinner parties or behind closed doors where the people are not consulted and are not able to decide whether they approve of this method of changing the Constitution. This proposal would enable that sort of back door bargaining to be carried on and would enable the people to be bypassed completely in making changes to the Constitution. So it is clear that this proposal is not one in any serious or meaningful way for the interchange of powers between the Commonwealth Parliament and the State parliaments. It is not really in a meaningful way to provide for a 2-way process as the Government represents in the hope of getting support from the States and in the hope of softening them up for many other major constitutional changes designed to transfer more and more power from the States to the Commonwealth Parliament.
The only realistic purpose of this legislation is to try to induce the States more readily to transfer their powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. As I have said, there is very little quid pro quo for them, if there is any at all. The States have been very careful about transferring powers to the Commonwealth Parliament in the past, and I believe rightly so. As I have said, I believe that it is wrong in principle that changes in the Constitution relative to the powers of the Commonwealth and the States should be determined by the State and Commonwealth Parliaments alone. I think that State parliaments have been very sensitive to the feeling of their electorates in not readily making a transfer of powers to the Commonwealth Parliaments.
Another thing about which they have been concerned is the doubts which have existed as to the extent of their power to refer, whether they would ever get back the powers referred, whether they could be revoked and so on. This is a proposal to try to encourage the States more readily to transfer powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. As I have said, I am opposed to that in principle as a method of changing the Constitution. I am deeply concerned that what the Commonwealth Government is really trying to do in this leglislation is to induce the States to transfer their powers to it under some illusory suggestion that there would be a quid pro quo and that the Commonwealth would be transferring some powers back to the States. For all those reasons I will support the amendment and oppose in principle generally this method of seeking to amend the Australian Constitution.
-I intervene in this debate to make only a limited contribution because of a misconception that now seems to have been bruited abroad in the Senate by Government senators who have addressed themselves to this Bill. The impression that is being given by speakers on the Government side is that a proposition for an amendment to the Constitution having been presented, all this Parliament should do is to let that proposition go to the people for their decision. They suggest that there should be no intermediate proceedings but that the matter then should be given to the people for their ultimate decision by way of referendum. I think that that is a dangerous misconception. It is a dangerous misreading of the Constitution and a dangerous misreading of the powers of the Parliament in relation to an amendment to the Constitution. After all, a number of things emerge from an examination of section 128 of the Constitution. It is stated that a proposal for a referendum can be presented from either House of the Parliament. Section 128 of the Constitution states:
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament . . .
It goes on in the second paragraph to state:
But if either House passes any such proposed law by an absolute majority, and the other House rejects or fails to pass it . . .
And so it continues. In other words, the Constitution lays down firstly, that a Bill must go through the legislative process and either pass through both Houses of Parliament or be twice rejected before it can go to a referendum. In other words, this Parliament is given a very definitive place and role in the presentation and passage of a proposed constitutional alteration Bill. Secondly, it is stated that the proposal may come from either House. After all, the House of Representatives is usually under the complete control of the Government of the day. This chamber, as is the case at the present moment, is sometimes not under the control of the Government of the day. Yet the Constitution contemplates that this chamber could pass a Bill for a proposed constitutional amendment and it could go to the other place. It would not be a government measure.
As a matter of fact, the Australian Democratic Labor Party presented a Bill for an incomes referendum at the same time the Government presented a Bill for a prices referendum. If that Bill had been passed by the Senate and gone to the House of Representatives, that House probably would have rejected it. If the Senate had insisted on the Bill and passed it again, it would have been within the ability of this chamber to present its proposed constitutional amendment to the Governor-General for presentation to the people. If the Government states that when it presents a Bill for a referendum it should not be opposed but that the people should speak, I challenge the Government on this point: If we on this side of the Senate pass a Bill for a proposed amendment to the Constitution and it is rejected in the other place and, we pass it again and it is again rejected, would the Government resist that legislation and say that we were not entitled to put our proposal to the people? On the Government’s own proposition, it would say that this chamber is entitled to have its proposal put to the people as it claims that its proposal should be put and should not be resisted in the Senate.
In other words, what the Constitution says is that there must be, as it were, a primary scrutiny of proposed referenda proposals by the legislatureby the elected persons. Of course, the idea is that irresponsible or undesirable amendments or amendments that fundamentally might contradict general principles might easily proceed and be put before the people if there is not a prior considered examination of the proposals by this chamber and /or another chamber. That is what is contemplated in the Constitution and what is laid down in it. If we were to pursue any path but that which is laid down in the Constitution, we would then ourselves be failing to discharge a responsibility which has been entrusted to us and, in fact, imposed upon us under section 128 of the Constitution. Therefore, it is important that the people should know that this chamber, approaching this matter as it does, has discharged a high constitutional obligation. It is not denying an opportunity to the people to be heard because ultimately the people can be and will be heard. What we are doing is to examine a proposition with the best ability at our disposal, with the skills which we may possess and the advice which may be tendered to us. We have to examine the proposals in this debating chamber so that when the matter goes to the people for consideration and for determination, we in the Senate, by the proper presentation of the proposition, can assist the people to come to what we consider to be the best decision.
I would say that any honourable senator who thinks otherwise in relation to the passage of this Bill completely misconceives his individual duty and completely misconceives the role that the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Parliament at large must play in the presentation and passage of constitutional amendments. Let that be made quite clear without any qualification or equivocation. Let the people realise that as we consider this Bill and other constitutional bills in depth and at leisure and examine them in this prior way before they go to the people we are discharging our constitutional obligations. I think the people will understand that that is the only way in which these matters can be properly put before them for decision. I believe that there is an obligation on all senators not merely to use a political ploy which would have the effect of destroying the effective participation, constitutionally contemplated, of this chamber in the passage of referenda proposals. If we were to be parties to such a manoeuvre we would be recreant to the trust which is ours, imposed upon us under the Constitution as senators representing the States in the federation.
-I had not intended to enter this debate, but I have been forced to do so by the amazing arguments put up by members of the Opposition as reasons why they wish virtually to reject this Bill. In effect they say: ‘We are not rejecting it. We are just deferring it for further consideration’. The question is very simple. After discussions with the States and at a major conference in Sydney, the Government has decided that the Commonwealth should have power to give back to the States certain matters that come within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Government at present.
The Opposition is scared to allow this matter to go before the people in conjunction with the forthcoming Senate election because it does not want to be in a position where it is opposed to four of the questions that will be asked in the referenda or, if it is preferred, referendums, and in support of the fifth. I have heard old college boys arguing as to which plural should be used. I do not mind which is used, as long as people understand my meaning. Honourable senators opposite know that the simple associated question is whether the Commonwealth should be able to give back to the States certain powers that it now holds. Senator Durack referred to a number of areas in which such a step could be taken but he knows that none of the questions he raised is involved at all. This afternoon I heard honourable senators opposite referring to uniform taxation. There is no way that the Commonwealth will ever give that right back to the States, irrespective of which Federal government is in office.
However, some matters are vital. One of them was touched on briefly by Senator James McClelland this afternoon. It carries many implications. I refer to the legislation that has been carried in this Parliament in relation to the powers of the Commonwealth over off-shore and submerged lands. This matter is going before the
High Court and people are confidently predicting that the decision will go in the Commonwealth’s favour. The situation may arise in which hundreds of Commonwealth Acts will have to be changed by specific Act of this Parliament if the Commonwealth is not able to grant powers back to the States.
– Why can it not be done in the same way as in the case of the High Court decision to which I referred?
– The facts are that each State has a great amount of legislation covering all matters associated with areas off its shores. It deals with the licensing and safety of small craft, harbour trust operations and the activities of port authorities and many other authorities. Hundreds of Acts are involved at this level. It would be a far simpler process for the Commonwealth to be able to grant these powers in what might be called domestic areas back to the States than to go through all the paraphernalia that will be necessary if it is found that the Commonwealth has all the power associated with areas off-shore from the low water mark. That is one area in which there should be a reciprocal operation between the States and the Commonwealth.
All honourable senators know that the States have the power to refer to the Commonwealth certain constitutional rights that we now have but did not enjoy at the time of Federation. We can see many difficulties associated with the future of this country if the Commonwealth cannot reciprocate. The questions raised by Senator Durack have nothing to do with the case. They were red herrings dragged across the path to fool the people of this country in respect of areas in which there would be no intention by either side to transfer powers. Senator Durack knows that. He is trying to excuse his stand, knowing that he does not have the courage to face the question at a referendum. He knows, as every other honourable senator opposite knows, that all States except Queensland have given a very clear indication that they support this type of operation.
Senator Condon Byrne spoke a lot of waffle about the situation as he sees it. He said: We must go through all the paraphernalia in relation to our passing the Bill twice and the House of Representatives passing the Bill twice’. Again this was intended to fool the people.
– All we are doing is consulting the people.
-We have consulted the people. We are giving the States and the people a chance to stand on their feet and say that this is a constitutional alteration they desire. The attitude of members of the Opposition to the other 4 questions is that they do not intend to provide for democratic elections; they do not intend to give the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory any rights to vote in a referendum; they do not intend to allow local government authorities to come before the Loan Council; and they do not intend to allow any of the things that we believe will bring greater democracy to this country. They are trapped, and because they are trapped they are saying: We will not vote against it. No one can ever say that we will vote against this question’. At a future date they will come out and support it. That is obvious, because they know that the States in which their own parties are in control will demand that they vote for this question at a later date. They have put off the evil day because they are playing politics on the question. They do not want to be in the situation of supporting one question and opposing the other four. It is a matter of semantics, and not one argument put up by the Opposition will hold water. It is like a sieve, with water pouring out the bottom.
We have heard from the Opposition a lot of nonsense about State rights. Honourable senators opposite say that they are members of a States House, but for 99.99 per cent of the time they vote on party lines. This afternoon we heard a new senator talk about representing his State in this House. He will vote along the Country Party line every time. We all vote with our parties and it is nonsense to say that this is a States House when a question of this nature is before us. The Opposition is staving off the evil day on which it will have to stand up and be counted. We are dealing with a matter in which the States want clarification and reciprocal rights with the Commonwealth. Honourable senators opposite know that, but they will not stand up and admit it. They have used the device of a meaningless amendment to put off the evil day in the hope that the issue will never be raised again. I hope that the amendment is not carried.
– I want, firstly, to comment on the remarks of Senator Byrne who entered the debate quite late. I was at a loss to understand the point of his contribution. Senator Byrne referred to section 128 of the Constitution. I listened carefully to him and it seemed to me that the argument which he advanced was basically correct, although it was, as I say, irrelevant to the matter before the Senate at present. He seemed to imply that there was some irregularity in the Government’s approach in respect of section 128 of the Constitution. Had there been any argument to support that contention there might have been relevancy in what he was saying. I was waiting for him to support his case by indicating where in fact the Government was not abiding by the constraints of section 128 of the Constitution. For that reason I still remain at a loss as to why he raised that particular point, technically correct though it might have been.
The substance of this debate is centred on two or three main points, but essentially it seems- as Senator Reid unfortunately was of the opinion during the course of his remarks- that it has become a debate involving State rights and Commonwealth rights. I thought that the Senate would have accepted this Bill as not a matter involving State rights and Commonwealth rights. It is not a question, as Senator Carrick said before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, of whether the Government was determined simply to take away the rights of the States. In fact I think he said that the Labor Government was pledged to destroy the States. This, of course, is a complete fabrication and I doubt very much that Senator Carrick really believes it himself. Senator Carrick was the one who advanced this in very foreseeable terms. For the benefit of Senator Carrick and also for Senator Webster, who has suddenly come into the chamber and starts to interject after having heard perhaps one-tenth of the debate which has taken place, I will read the preamble from the platform of the Australian Labor Party which is quite clear and which I feel should be written into the record for their education and for the education of some of their colleagues. The preamble states:
The Labor Party is constitutional in that it believes that its objectives must be attained by the constitutional utilisation of Federal, State and local governments;
It would be a complete misrepresentation of this legislation to suggest that there is any intention on the part of this Government in any way to take away from the States any powers which they now have.
– There are other parts of your platform from which you have not read.
-Well, Senator, it is a pity that you did not think of quoting them during your speech. I did not hear the honourable senator make any reference whatsoever to those particular provisions. I would have thought that a person such as Senator Greenwood, who is very good on his feet, would think of it at the time. I do not desire to get involved in the pure legalities of the debate. I want to comment on some of the points which were raised and which, as Senator
Poyser has pointed out already, were raised for political motives and not much else.
Senator Carrick was one who said that no attempt had been made to get the States to agree on this proposal. Surely the record shows that there was a prolonged series of contacts between the Australian Government, through the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and the States. I think it should be written into the record because Senator Carrick would be the only senator on the Opposition side who tried to convey the impression or did in fact say, as Senator Reid and also Senator Durack implied, that the Government was rushing into this legislation. In fact there is a long chronology of events between the Commonwealth and the States. I shall read them so that they are clear and in the record. On 12 September last year the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers following the September meeting of the Constitutional Convention, advising that the Attorney-General would be in touch with State Attorneys as to arrangements for draftsmen to consider the Bill. That was on 12 September, no less than 6 months ago. On 2 November the first draft was sent to State draftsmen by the First Parliamentary Counsel. On 19 November the draft Bill was considered at a meeting of Commonwealth and State draftsmen. On 20 November a letter was sent from Mr Punch, the New South Wales Minister, to the Prime Minister asking for copies of the Bill for consideration by the Committee as soon as possible. There was a reply by the Prime Minister advising that discussions between parliamentary draftsmen were still continuing but he would meet the request as soon as possible.
– He never did though, did he?
-Let us have a look at what the record says from there on. On 30 January this year the Federal Attorney-General wrote to the State Attorneys-General forwarding the revised draft. I interpose here to correct a statement that was made earlier during the debate. It might have been made by Senator Greenwood but I apologise if I am taking his name in vain. A comment was made to the effect that no States had accepted the revised draft. I have been advised that Tasmania did, and knowing the Tasmanian Attorney-General I am sure there would have been a most comprehensive and thorough consideration of that revised draft before he accepted it.
– That must have been in the last week or so after the Bill came in.
– When did it happen?
-Well, it is a matter of record that it was accepted and that is the point I am making. On the same day, the 30 January, a letter was sent from the First Parliamentary Counsel to the State draftsmen forwarding the revised draft. The following day a letter was sent from the First Parliamentary Counsel to the Chief Executive Officer of the Convention forwarding copies of the revised draft for consideration by Standing Committee B. On 13 February the draft Bill was considered by the working party of Standing Committee B. On 14 February, the following day, the draft Bill was considered by Standing Committee B at the Sydney meeting. On 18 February the draft Bill was considered by a meeting of Commonwealth and State draftsmen at Wellington and the revised text was produced. The following day copies of the revised text of the Bill were handed to the Attorneys-General at a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in Wellington. On 22 February a revised draft was prepared by the First Parliamentary Counsel following the Wellington meeting -
– They had said they did not approve of it.
– And incorporating some further revision particularly relating to the title and the continuation of existing laws upon renewal of a reference sent to the Prime Minister’s Department. Senator Greenwood, I would not go through all of this if you had not implied, with your colleagues, that this legislation has been rushed into and nothing has been done.
– I said that the Standing Committee at Wellington did not approve.
-I have not finished yet by a long throw. On 25 February a letter was received from Mr Punch making points on behalf of Standing Committee B. On 1 March a reply was sent by the Prime Minister to Mr Punch adopting the main point in the text and rejecting the other and advising adherence to the view that the referendum should be held with the Senate elections. Finally, on that day a letter was sent by the Prime Minister to each State Premier forwarding copies of the Bill. Telegrams foreshadowing these letters and advising that the Bill would be introduced next week- that is, this week- were sent earlier that day. I have taken the trouble to read that into the record because it should then be clear to any fair observer that this Government has not rushed this legislation into the Senate. There has been every consideration between the Australian Government and the States of all the matters that were to be debated in relation to this Bill. It would be quite ludicrous, I believe, to suggest otherwise.
Of course Senator Carrick said many other things, which I noted at the time, but I suppose there is not much point in pursuing them all because we would be here half the night answering comments which do not really have any substance at all. Senator Durack ‘s contribution raised one or two points. He tried to suggest that the Commonwealth Government should in fact be able to tell the States what these powers are that should be referred by the Commonwealth to the States. I think the Prime Minister gave a very good example- this was touched upon by Senator James McClelland in the very good contribution that he made to this debate- during the course of the Constitutional Convention when he said in instancing these powers:
For example,to meet the situation in Worthing’s case it would suit the Commonwealth as well as the Stales to refer to the States the powerto make laws with respect to Commonwealthplaces within the States.If the Commonwealth seas and submerged lands legislation is valid, it would suit the Commonwealth as well as the States to refer to the States the power to make laws with respect to jetties, marinas, moorings and water sports.
These are examples of what the States and the Australian Government may find to be a very useful machinery if it was established by legislation and then by referendum. In fact it is not necessary for specific examples to be cited because what we are in fact doing is providing the machinery so that in the eventuality of such laws being necessary they are available to both Australian and State governments for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of the Australian people. I restate- this was stated by Senator James McClelland in his contribution- that it is a myth that the Commonwealth has been trying to put something over the States. Senator Carrick said that once these powers are granted they will never be taken back. The fact is that the Bill has adequate protection for the States under proposed new section 108b. It states quite clearly that the reference by the Parliament of a State:
It is unfortunate that this debate has been used by honourable senators opposite in an attempt to create confusion in the minds of the Australian public on the basis that this is an action on the part of the Australian Government to in some way take away powers from the States to the detriment of the States. The fact is that the Australian Government has been seeking to bring in this legislation, I might say, on the original suggestion of the New South Wales delegation to the Australian Constitutional Convention. This is something of which I was not aware at the time. Apparently the suggestion was floated originally by New South Wales and taken up by the Prime Minister. I am surprised that Senator Carrick would be so critical of his own Government in saying that this would be an act of discrimination against the States. As Senator Poyser says, that docs not stand up. In fact, what we have witnessed is a stalling operation on the part of the Opposition, to try to prevent the bringing about of something which undoubtedly is desirable and will prove to be of long term benefit both to the Australian Government and to the State governments.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greenwood’s amendment ) be left out.
The Senate divided. ( The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The conclusive and ratifying question, therefore, is:
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 December 1973 (vide page 2848), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate resumes its debate on the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill 1973. It appears to me that an enormous change in our society is being attempted. As a reasonably young nation, this country has been most fortunate in the way in which it has developed over the past century. All citizens can be proud of the record of success that has come to this country. It has been elevated in the eyes of other nations generally for its work in overseas matters, its relations with other countries, its stability, including stability of government over the years, and the courage of its people. As a nation it has established friendships with its near neighbours and its far neighbours. It has proved itself to be a country of great standing and of high living standards. The standards obtained in the development of our society have been achieved without racial discrimination and without the problems that have beset other countries. This was the situation generally until we entered 1 973. We entered that year economically with probably the lowest rate of inflation of any country in the Western world. In December 1 972 the Australian public elected a Labor Government. That Labor Government won its way into the hearts of the people by promise and by gimmick.
– And by fulfilment.
-Senator Wheeldon is happy to smile and say ‘fulfilment’. If the honourable senator is proud of the Government’s record over the last 12 months, he ought to be ashamed.
– We have made history.
-The Labor Government certainly has made history, as can be seen from what I have said. The Labor Government is dragging into the dirt the wonderful country of which I spoke, and well the honourable senator knows it. Even in the areas in which he is so interested, the Labor Government has falsified its account to the people of this country. But the people elected a Labor Government. As I said, it won its way into the hearts of the people by promise and by the great gimmick: ‘It’s Time’. Another of its gimmicks was: ‘Don’t blame me’. This is the type of thing that people are encouraged to believe has some merit.
In the last week that same type of gimmick has been evident in the title of each of the Bills which propose that constitutional alteration questions be put to the people. Each gimmick in some way conveyed something which caught the imagination of the people. One can only congratulate that great overseas owned and dominated advertising agency which the Labor Party has engaged to handle all its publicity. In doing so it displays a double standard. Labor is criticising the multinational corporations and the overseas owned consortiums. But, for the purposes of its publicity campaign, it does not go to an Australian company; it goes to an American owned company.
The policy of the Party was hidden behind a curtain. The man with the impressive bearing on television had the wand and he had the hidden rabbit ready to be produced.
– What about the League of Rights? Did you address it last night?
– I was speaking at a meeting last night.
– What, the League of Rights?
– I have addressed communists. I addressed communists when Dr Jim Cairns was present and the people there tried to blow off the hands of both Jim Cairns and me. I have addressed Catholics; I have addressed Freemasons. I do not say that I belong to any one of those groups, and I have an abhorrence of some . of them. If a particular group was represented by you, Senator James McClelland I would probably have an abhorrence of it, in- view of what 1 hear of the policies that you expound.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant)- Order! Senator Webster, I think you had better address the Chair.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. There was one thing which the Labor Party did not choose to make clear to the public at the last election. It made clear many things. We have the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) which is a most impressive document signed by Mick Young. One must congratulate Mr Young for thinking up all the points covered in that document. It is very interesting to note that the document is signed at the bottom by Mick Young. But the Labor Party did not make clear its true platform in one area. As you know very well, Mr Acting Deputy President, the Labor Party did not make clear its platform on socialism. Although this is the main plank in the platform of the Party which won power in December 1972, no Labor senator stands on a platform and says that this is the main plank in Labor’s platform.
– What is that?
– It is the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I know that this is a policy in which Senator Wheeldon firmly believes. I have not been in Western Australia to see how he handles himself on a platform. I have heard him speak here, and I believe him to be a true socialist. But I do not think Mr Whitlam or any of the Labor members of the Parliament who come to Victoria are willing to stand up and say: ‘We believe in socialism. We believe in the governmental control of industry and the means of production, distribution and exchange’. That is what was hidden behind the curtain.
If one realises that the definition of socialism is that it is a political and economic theory of social organisation which advocates state ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, one realises, after witnessing 12 months of Labor in office, what the Labor Party’s true policy is. One must really evaluate whether this is the type of system which the Australian public wants. If the Australian public had looked into the philosophy of Labor and the true platform of Labor, they would have seen this policy enshrined in them. I do not believe that the Australian public want that total socialism which is expounded by Labor. But one sees that this philosophy is put forward, and nowhere is it more evident than in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill which we are presently debating. In the last 12 months the Government, in truth, has acted on the type of philosophy which it expounds in its policies. But I repeat that very few members of the Labor Party, other than those in the left wing, are prepared to stand up and say: ‘We envisage eventually the total governmental control of all these areas of production, distribution and the monetary system ‘. This socialisation program is becoming more hurried because the great ‘It’s Time ‘ hourglass is starting to run out. In the last 12 months the Labor Government has encouraged the granting of extremely high wages for workers, longer holidays, and great benefits to the Public Service. I believe it is impossible for the private sector of the Community to meet the cost of these benefits, taking into consideration the circumstances of the last year. It is possible for a government to confer these benefits on the Public Service when it does not have to meet the bill for them. The Australian Public Service has become the leader in terms of granting higher wages, shorter working hours, longer holidays and even a quite sizable bonus payment. Eventually this must lead to similar demands being made in the private sector and this, of course, will lead to higher costs.
Although the worker’s wage has increased, because of our present tax scale the only successful participant in all of this has been the Australian Government. We are given some encouragement by the fact that after 18 months in power the Labor Government proposes to revise the tax scale. The average wage earner who receives approximately $ 100 a week these days is paying an extreme amount in taxation. If he receives a pay increase of $5 a week, one can bet that at least half of it will go to the Australian Government and the other half will be eaten up by the higher costs which have been caused by the excessive demands made by the unions and the Labor Government.
I believe that the producers in the community face quite a serious situation in the future. The people engaged in primary production have very little argument with the Government at the moment because I doubt whether there has been any other period in history when the returns to the wool grower, the meat producer, the cereal producer or the oil seed producer have been better than they have been in the last year. I do not think it can reasonably be said that the Labor Party produced that situation for them. But when a producer is tinkling money in his pocket he does not realise the great inroads that have been made into those great areas of stability provided by the underpinning of primary producers in this country. I refer to the primary producers in this country who have to produce in times of drought, in times of flood, in times of fire and in times of the pestilence that we have in my own district at the moment- a grasshopper plague that seems to be infesting and eating everything that looks like a blade of grass. This Government, in my opinion, came to office with a definite proposalperhaps it is honest in doing it- to lay bare all the support that has been given to primary producers.
Constant revaluations of our monetary system have brought about a situation that will be a great problem for this country in the future. I noted that one of the Government’s advisers said the other day that in fact we would need a devaluation shortly because the value of the Australian dollar was too high. The exporters of this country, mainly in the ranks of the primary producers, are the people who have been harmed because they have not had the ability to earn the higher incomes that would have been available to them. Higher taxation of primary producers has been the order of this socialist Labor Government. It increased the tax on fuel without farmers knowing too much about it. It increased postage and communications costs. There has been a loss of tax benefit. I refer to the depreciation allowances that were available, the initial allowance on the purchase of new equipment, and the allowances for fencing, the provision of water tanks and fodder storages. These things were available to farmers so that they could prepare for the years of hardship which follow good times.
I was very interested to note at question time today a most amazing comment made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). He was asked a question about whether farmers in the flood areas of Queensland would be enabled to write off the cost of the renewal of fencing or of other assets which had been lost by flood. The Minister gave us a promise that the Australian Government would compensate those farmers in full for their loss. That statement exists on record today, Mr Acting Deputy President. I doubt whether the Minister for Primary Industry really knew what he was saying. However, he was quite right in saying that if the Labor Government is going to fully compensate for the cost of replacement of boundary fences, internal fences, water tanks, fodder storage, and cattle or stock, it will be a most wonderful move by the Labor Government. I would congratulate it for doing so. We believe it would have been a better proposition if the farmer had been able to be responsible for their own losses with the ability to write them off their incomes over the next few years.
– I raise a point of order. I have listened closely to Senator Webster and I suggest he is straying a long way from this Bill. My point of order is that he should return to the subject matter of the Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant)- Yes, Senator Webster, I think you might address yourself to the Bill now and again. I do not object to a wide ranging debate but would you mention the Bill now and again.
-Obviously Senator James McClelland is intent on listening to my speech. He would have noted that I brought into it quite regularly the fact that a black curtain came down when the Labor Party announced its policy speech, and when it gained office up went the curtain on total socialism. One of the greatest pieces of socialism that this country has ever known is this Bill that is before us tonight. I am one of those who hope that this piece of legislation will never be passed. For the benefit of the honourable senator, who is listening for his own edification, let me say that I am sure he will be pleased to learn of the things that this Labor Government has done which are leading to the denigration of the means of production.
– Well, were you at the League of Rights meeting last night, Senator?
– The honourable senator does not understand. He has some misconception as to what it is. He has been very close to the communists over his life- I know that- and he takes an objection to people -
– I take a point of order. I claim to have been misrepresented. I ask that Senator Webster withdraw that last comment.
-I withdraw the last comment, Mr Acting Deputy President. The primary producers of this country have been beset by a direct policy on the part of this Government to withdraw support for the means of primary production in this country. What will be the fate when normal years occur?
– What about the petrol Bill?
– I hear Senator James McClelland muttering into his whiskers again. I wish you would be quiet, senator. Mr Acting Deputy President, I will have to ask for your assistance at this hour of the evening. I realise that half way through the evening some honourable senators become annoyed. In fact they become contemptible. It would be a good idea if they stopped making such a noise. I was mentioning the way in which under socialism the means of primary production are being withdrawn so that eventually, if this socialist Labor Government has another term of office, we will be under complete Government control. Higher company tax has been applied. A promise was given prior to the last election that taxes would not be increased. The moment that this crowd came to office what did they do? They raised taxation for private companies and this affects many of the people engaged in this area of production.
Incentives for primary industry have been withdrawn. The latest example was the withdrawal of the bounties on superphosphate. This, too, gives light to the fact that private individuals will be unable to compete. Then the great Labor policy of Australian Government control of land will come into being. We have seen this great socialist philosophy in the Government’s policies in the last year but it was never mentioned when Labor was putting its policies forward prior to the election. Of course, the manufacturers have been treated in the same light. According to the headlines the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said in a speech the other day that he hoped for a truce with manufacturing industry. There is then a pause while he is able to thrust the knife a little deeper towards the heart and carve private industry out of this country altogether. We have seen bounties cut. We have seen the cutting of import protection duties without any reference to these committees which have been set up. The Government promised that it would not cut one bounty and would not erase any protection for industry without reference to some committee so that the matter could be looked into.
The 25 per cent cut across the board in tariffs was aimed at giving overseas manufacturers the ability to import into Australia. This typifies the denigration of our private industries. Indeed, Mr Hawke, and other unionists in the rag trade, the footwear trade, and in others, have seen the complete elimination of the ability of private industry to compete in Australia. The Government will move into production and manufacturing because that is in the Labor Party’s policy and platform. What Mr Whitlam forgot to do in his policy speech was to attach to it that statement well known in all commercial documents: Caveat emptor. Government members say ‘Ah!’ because they realise that that would have been something of which the Australian public would have taken note: Let the buyer beware. But the Australian public bought the policy- they bought the gimmick- and now we see under a variety of legislation that is brought forward a situation whereby socialism is being thrust upon them. I think it is incumbent upon the Senate to debate these matters and to see where Government policy is leading; to attempt to evaluate the question: Is total socialism acceptable to the Australian community? I believe it is far too serious a matter to be passed over lightly by the encouragement of Government leaders and by their false claim as to the direction of their aims.
We have seen the power of the present Federal Government being directed to the subversion of the States. That has been evident in so many matters, even those relating to constitutional questions that we see put forward. We see it in relation to land tenure and transport. We see the Government increasing its stake in manufacture by having the capacity at present to move into the manufacture of chemicals. We see it moving for government interests in financial corporations and the eventual elimination of those corporations. We see it taking an interest in and denigrating insurance companies- and insurance companies make a very interesting picture. We hear Government senators decrying private insurance companies for having contracts with individuals in Queensland for insurance against loss under a variety of headings but specifically excluding loss by flood. I have heard Ministers and back bench senators criticise insurance companies for specifically excluding loss by certain causes. But I have not heard one word from the very vocal Labor senators when they look at their own Australian Government’s contracts with those who have war service homes which specifically exclude -
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Acting Deputy President, despite your direction earlier the senator, I submit, is not confining his remarks to the Bill. I have not so far heard him mention either petroleum or minerals- and it is the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill which is now before the Senate. By listening to the honourable senator one would not have the slightest idea what the Bill is. I suggest that you direct him to confine his remarks to the Bill which is before us.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant)- Senator, I ask you to address your remarks to the Bill, please.
– I am speaking to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill and I think that you, Mr Acting Deputy President, can appreciate the tenor of what I was saying. Here we have in a policy of this Labor socialist government the complete erosion of private industry in this community. I know that Senator Wheeldon will accept that what I am saying is correct and that he will believe that it is the right move. I do not doubt the honesty of his purpose, he wishes to see total Government control in all these areas. I was mentioning the two-timing attitude of Ministers and senators on that side of the House. I made the point of their criticism of private insurance companies when the senator interrupted me. I was saying that specific clauses in an insurance company’s contract with an insured person in Queensland, in instances, have specifically precluded damage by flood. There has been great criticism of that in the newspapers and by the very vocal senators in the -
– I rise on a point of order. Under the Standing Orders the honourable senator should relate his remarks to the Bill. He has been reminded two or three times to do so. He is defying the Chair because he keeps referring to floods and other matters- to anything but the subject matter of the Bill. I believe he should be warned that he cannot defy the Chair any longer.
– Speaking to the point of order, I submit that the Bill itself is of such an enormously wide ambit that to suggest that it is concerned only with minerals and petroleum is to present a completely false picture. It would be unjust to restrain honourable senators unnecessarily from discussing the ambit which the Bill covers. I point for your information, Mr Acting Deputy President, to clause 7(l)(e) of the Bill which relates to a function of the Authority regarding minerals. This clause does not mention petroleum- we come to that one in a moment. Clause 7( 1 ) (e) states:
That is the whole ambit.
– Has the honourable senator mentioned coal?
– He has mentioned motor cars, and they are made out of construction materials. He might mention trees. Trees are a construction material, and they are not mentioned in the Bill. Obviously Senator Webster is merely moving in his speech towards the enormous range of subjects covered in the Bill. There is nothing in this chamber, nothing in this Parliament House, that in some way or other is not affected by the Bill. No goods displayed in any shop window in any town in Australia are not subject in some circumstances to this Bill. To suggest that the title of the Bill- Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill 1973- is paramount is not enough. One has to examine the Bill to see what the Bill itself says- to see what is a petroleum product. The Bill goes this far in clause 7(2 ):
That is everything. That is the clothes one wears and everything else. I submit that the honourable senator is quite in order in roaming so widely on the subject matter of the Bill which itself roams so widely over everything that is possible for humanity to construct.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- With respect to the point of order, I have examined, not for the first time, clauses 6, 7 and 8 which set out the functions of the Authority, and I agree that they are very wide ranging. But I have yet to see where the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is related to the floods in Queensland.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I appreciate the great wisdom of Senator Little in being able to see the relevance of the comments that I am making on this Bill. I think that you, Mr Acting Deputy President, will agree with me on the general point that I have made relating to the socialism which I see as such a threat to the community. I see it as a great threat to our Australian society. I agree that Government senators do not do so. I am attempting to evaluate whether one should be encouraged by such a Bill, which is a petroleum and minerals Bill- a Bill which will mean the total socialisation of the means of production, distribution and sale of all minerals farmed in this country. Senator Little saw the wisdom of what I was saying. I only regret that it is he and I who are the subjects of some dissension in the State of Victoria. There is no dissension between us.
– I am satisfied that you will lose. There is no dissension between us at all.
-That appears to be the only point on which Senator Little is wrong, in my opinion. When I was interrupted, I was making the point about the double standards of the Government. I was speaking of financial institutions.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Financial institutions are not referred to in this Bill. They are in a separate Bill.
– But private companies are in this Bill, and the aim of this socialist Government is to undermine and do away with private institutions. I was about to say- I realise that the 3 Government senators who have been interjecting are trying to stop me from making my point- that on the one hand honourable senators opposite criticise the private insurance institutions because they specifically preclude from their insurance contracts cover for damage caused by flood, but on the other hand they say nothing about Australian Government insurance policies on war service homes which specifically preclude cover for loss due to electrical fault. That matter should be given great attention.
I realise that I am being distracted by interjections from the points I am trying to make in this debate. Opportunities are given to this Government to take positive steps, but it is denied by this Senate the opportunity to do what it wants to do in matters of health, including hospitals, private medical practitioners, nursing homes and health insurance generally. In those areas the aim of this Government is to control and put out of business the private institution. We see also the expansion by the Government into the accommodation side of the tourist industry. Now we see the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill as the basis of providing for this Government a means for the total takeover and socialisation of private mining companies which exist in Australia today. One must certainly assess the wisdom of the Government’s policy in this field. Is it more profitable for the Australian public to have everything controlled by the Australian Government?
– Socialist government.
-Thank you. Is it more profitable for the Australian public to have everything controlled by a socialist government or would there be greater benefit if private industry were willing to attempt to explore and exploit our mineral wealth? I think that no greater example has been given of the abject stupidity of Ministers and the abject stupidity of this Government than the first step towards socialisation which was taken a year ago in the proposal to establish the National Pipeline Authority, the circumstances of which you, Mr Acting Deputy President, would be aware. Under that proposal a private company was prepared to use money that was not in the public sector. There was no requirement that taxation revenue to the extent of $ 150m or $200m would be used to construct the pipeline. The Australian Gas Light Co. would have risked its own money- not public money- in putting in a pipeline from Gidgealpa to Sydney. But that did not suit this socialist government. This Government says that it wants to be the means of distribution, which is one of the 3 legs of Labor policy, and that there is no need for the Australian Gas Light Co. to spend its own money. This Government wants to spend the taxpayers’ money. Today we see the biggest clown act which has ever taken place whereby this Government purports to be saying: ‘Let us use Australian expertise.’ Is the Government using Australian expertise? No, it is using Italian expertise in digging the trenches and laying the first lengths of the pipeline.
– What is wrong with that?
-That false claim is the greatest falsity that could ever be made up by a government. Now we hear that great socialist saying: ‘What is wrong with that?’ I hope that when the Prime Minister and other Ministers stand up and say ‘We want to see Australia develop; we want to see Australian expertise used’ that the honourable senator who interjected will point out to the Government that its first contract in this project was with an overseas country and that money will be paid to an overseas country. Great wisdom has been displayed in this instance because the contract cost will be a couple of million dollars less than any other tender. But the principle which honourable senators opposite have attempted to put in relation to having everything Australian is not quite the same principle for which others may argue in respect of wisdom in pursuing a proper policy.
– What is it that you wanted to point out?
– I am anxious to point out to the Senate that this Bill tends completely to socialise under the Minister for Minerals and Energy the whole of the petroleum industry. In fact, so far as I can see it goes further than that. If one looks at the clauses in this Bill one realised that the extent to which they place authority in the hands of the Minister is frightening. It has been said to me that it is not an unreasonable approach for the Government to propose that there should be a government authority which could assist in the development of mineral deposits and the development and encouragement of the industry in the exploitation of the petroleum wealth of this country.
A study of this Bill reveals that it is a particularly frightening piece of legislation. The functions of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority are set out in clause 6 of the Bill. They include exploring for petroleum, recovering petroleum, refining petroleum, manufacturing petroleum and petrochemicals in Australia or elsewhere, the buying and selling of petroleum and the transporting of petroleum. Here is that great old philosoghy of the Labor Party- to gain control of the means of production, distribution and exchange with its proposal for this particular industry. It all falls into line. But there is never a word of this in the Government’s policy speech.
– It is printed in the Labor Party’s platform. It is quoted every day. You blokes do not even have a platform.
-The honourable senator from South Australia is such an expert on matters relating to fowls but probably on no other subject. He should read his own Prime Minister’s policy speech announced at the last election. If he does he will find not one word about what I have referred to. The honourable senator should know this. He says that it is printed somewhere. What this Government intends to do is probably printed on the backdoor of his own house. Under clause 7 of the Bill the functions of the Authority will include exploring for minerals on the Australian continental land mass and elsewhere. Money which has been provided by the taxpayers will be used to drill holes in the ground from which nothing can be produced. The great record of production as a result of drilling in this country shows that the majority of exploration attempts have failed to produce anything.
– That was under your Government for a period of 23 years- not under this one.
-The brilliant senator who interrupts me believes that when drilling begins under this Government it will be successful. When this Authority is established I hope that it starts drilling in his fowlhouse. Under this Bill it will have the right to do that. Whether Senator McLaren is asleep in the Senate or in his own industry he will find that under this Bill the Australian Government will have the right to enter his premises and excavate or drill wherever it wishes. Have you told that to the citizens in South Australia, senator? No, you would not have the stomach to do it, 1 am sure.
I have already mentioned that the functions of the Authority are to explore for minerals, to recover minerals, to treat minerals, to refine metals, to crush, screen or otherwise treat or prepare for sale, to buy and sell minerals and to transport minerals. By no means are those functions confined to the petroleum industry. There is mention in clause 7 of coal and many other items which this Government intends to explore and to process. Clause 8 of the Bill sets out other functions of the Authority as being:
Again, we see that the duties of the proposed Authority and the restrictions of its functions are set out in the Bill. I note the powers of the Authority that are set out in clause 12 of the Bill. Surely the Senate should try to protect the public against the inroads of powers made by an allpowerful Canberra based Government. Clause 12 states that without limiting the generality of an earlier proposed section, the Authority has power for or in connection with the performance of those functions which I have mentioned. The first one is to purchase land. There is no limit associated with that. It can purchase any land. I made the point that this Government had a policy not only of total socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange but also of the total ownership of the land in this continent. So we have the powers of the Authority as follows:
Further the powers of the Authority are:
to form, or participate in the formation of, a company:
I pause there to say that we saw a Bill introduced into the other place recently by Dr J. F. Cairns for the expansion of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. This Bill gives this Authority complete right. So we see that the Government has power, if it feels so inclined, to buy up large parcels of any corporation in Australia and exert its influence on the expenditure of funds in that company. It is of enormous import that we should realise what this Authority is empowered to do. One may say that the Government is a believer in true socialism and that it wishes to see unfair competition by a Government Authority against private industry so that private industry cannot compete. That will be the outcome of all this because the Authority will not have to pay taxation. If it acquires a majority holding of the shares in any private ventures and places union officials and other experts on the boards of such companies and the companies concerned make a profit, that profit will not be paid in taxes to the Commonwealth. There will be a socialist treatment of the position and the Authority, in actual fact, will merge into the minerals industry for the purpose of taking over the means of production and distribution and the financial terms associated with this great industry.
– For the prevention of exploitation. Why does not the honourable senator quote the whole of the Labor Party platform?
– I hear Senator McLaren -
– The honourable senator is quoting only parts.
– What about the subparagraph at the bottom of the page at line 40 which states:
Any undertaking other than a mining undertaking -
That gives much wider powers still.
– Between Senator Young and Senator Little, the honourable senator is having his speech made for him.
– I think that both Senator McLaren and Senator James McClelland have played their part. I see the point and I realise that Senator Young is anxious for me to make it. Whilst I was attempting not to cite all the powers that this Authority is likely to have if it gets under way, Senator Young draws attention to the fact that clause 12(1) (o) states that this Authority can acquire upon such terms as it thinks fit. What a fair Government we have in Canberra. It may acquire an interest in:
I would say that the producers of steel pipe in this country, whether they produce the raw material or actually make the pipe, are under threat of take-over by this Authority. There is no limit to its powers. Clause 12 goes on to state that the Authority will have the ability to lend money, to underwrite issues of shares, to enter into partnerships, to give guarantees and to do anything incidental to any of its powers. This is a most iniquitous Bill. There is no way to deal with it other than to throw it out.
The point has been made that the Government in its true style has some idea that the Bill demonstrates an interest in the minerals industry on behalf of the Australian public. I do not doubt that most members of the Opposition would believe that we should be encouraging some overseas investment in the exploration for minerals. Surely a good balance is to be found in what was achieved in the Bass Strait oilfields and in the great benefit that Australia is sharing in those fields at the moment. It was a great day on which Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and ESSO Australia Ltd got together. That would not be the view genuinely held by Government senators. They hope to see the Australian Government through this Authority, kept busy with many of the oil rigs that have gone out of operation since this Labor Government has been in power. They hope to see the oil rigs busily drilling on the offshore areas and on the land masses of Australia looking for some of the oil fields which have been tried unsuccessfully in many instances with the use of private investment. In 1973 the footage of oil drilling undertaken by exploration companies was about half that undertaken during the previous year- before this Government came to power. It is interesting to note that during 1973,7 drilling rigs were operating. Now there are only four. At present- a little more than a year after Labor came to office- 22 rigs are available in Australia, but only one of those rigs is drilling. How can Labor ever suggest that it has achieved some sort of benefit for the Australian public by the actions it has taken? We have seen only a total breakdown in investment in oil exploration, the important industry with which this Bill attempts to deal. Earlier today in another place my Leader the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, used these words:
The Minister boasts that there will be 54 off-shore wells drilled this year, but there were 62 drilled back in 1970. What a boom in oil drilling! This year there will be a total of 90 off-shore and on-shore wells drilled, one-third fewer than in 1972. And in the last 5 years there have been 758 wells drilled, or an average of 1 57 a year. This year- 90.
What great expertise in the area of socialisation the Government intends to put before the people! What it is doing is disastrous for the Australian public. My Leader went on to say that many of the exploration companies are transferring their interests to overseas areas. One cannot blame them for that, in view of the way that the Minister for Minerals and Energy speaks of the industry and in view of the policy that his Government pursues. The course on which this Government is embarked at present is just plain stupidity. Mr Anthony went on:
I saw reports in Saturday’s ‘Canberra Times’ and today’s Sydney Morning Herald ‘ saying that this year’s 54 off-shore wells would compare with a total of only 40 over the last 10 years.
He went on to pinpoint in a very reasonable fashion the lie in those reports. He said:
There were 62 off-shore wells drilled in 1970 alone, with fluctuations up and down since then. This shows the lengths to which this Minister will go to attack the oil industry.
It is most depressing to realise that the Australian public have returned to office a government which concealed the purpose that it had in the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange- 3 particular areas of great importance in the petroleum industry. In the last year Labor has demonstrated its intentions. As a result we have seen a complete depression within the industry. Now a Bill is presented to the Senate with the intention of setting up an authority. The money of the Australian public will be used in drilling throughout the whole of the continent. I suppose that an attempt will be made to build oil cracking units throughout the Commonwealth. I do not know what the Government intends to do about the latest proposition in Western Australia, but any reasonable Western Australian senator would be appalled by the action it has taken. If Labor stays in office for some months it could reasonably become a competitor with private industry. I have no objection to that.”
It is possible that the Government will say that it will take over some fields with prospects in offshore or on-shore areas. I remind honourable senators of, for instance, the airlines industry and the shipping business. The Government could say: ‘We will put our hand to seeing what a government department can do in relation to drilling and the production of oil’. It may be a disheartening project. It may be that the Australian people would see where their money went, if it were on a small basis. Of greater concern is the fact that the overall review of the industry’s relationship to the community at large would be conducted by the proposed authority. If private industry gains information relating to prospective areas and has a right and obligation to hand it to the Federal Government’s authority, what are we likely to find the Federal Government doing? As set out in the provisions I read earlier, the Government seeks the authority to enter on to land or to do any of the things to take over a particular field on which an interest has been discovered. Any thinking person must realise that no private company will do any drilling whatsoever. If a slight amount of exploration is occurring in Australia today, it certainly will be eliminated in the next year under Labor control. One could say a great deal about this measure. I do not think it is a Bill that can be amended. I think it must be thrown out, and I hope that the Senate will do that at the first opportunity.
– On 13 December last this legislation first came to the Senate. I recall that on that occasion Senator Durack spoke on the measure, deploring the haste with which it was brought into the Senate from the other place after it had been passed there the previous day. The Government sought a quick decision. The Bill was given its rightful place. It was given short shrift in the Senate and, on the motion of Senator Condon Byrne, the debate was adjourned until the first sitting day of this session. I find the legislation quite mind boggling. If given effect to, it will constitute the most authoritarian and dictatorial assumption of power ever undertaken by the central government in the history of this country. Australia has developed a strong, well-balanced and advancing economy through the initiative, drive and efficiency of free enterprise. Because of the background which so clearly shows the successful attitudes adopted by the previous Government, there has been mounting activity in both petroleum and mineral search and development. Through income tax the Treasury has been receiving at least half of the profits made after certain concessions have been granted in respect of capital outlay in certain mining investments. In addition, the companies have paid sales tax, payroll tax and other indirect taxation. In all, the taxes tot up to between two-thirds and threequarters of the returns of the industry generally. But that was not good enough. The state has to do it.
I am completely opposed to this legislation which is socialistic in the extreme. It aims to move the control of the mineral and petroleum industries from the State governments to Canberra, and ownership from the private sector to the public sector. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) in his second reading speech, said that the Government was not unmindful of the contributions by overseas countries to our development by the provision of capital, technology and commercial opportunity. But he insisted that Australia would be the primary partner henceforth in such enterprise in our country. That is to say, the concern of the Government is not that the individual Australian is the investor but the nation as a whole. There is all this song and dance about the desire to return the Australian natural resources in their entirity. The primary partner will be the State itself, not the individual, the company or private enterprise. It is sheer outright nationalisation. In countries around the world where nationalisation has been pursued as a policy in very few instances has it been anything like successful. As a matter of fact some of the strongest economies in the world have become very weak through this sort of policy.
I am utterly committed to a policy whereby government provides the framework in which the initiatives, the ingenuities and the abilities of persons and companies can operate and in that way retain the verve, the go and the drive which lead to the success which has marked the growth and development of our economy since we became a federation. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said:
It was the policy of our predecessors to make their contribution to the search for and development of our petroleum resources by a variety of indirect means including payment of subsidies and special tax arrangements, and to accept the abuses necessarily associated with such a system.
I refute the suggestion that abuses are necessarily associated with the system which we pursued successfully through quite a period. The Minister continued:
Our policy is direct contribution by a Petroleum and Minerals Authority, the subject of this Bill. The Government has already announced the termination of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Scheme, as from the end of June 1974 and the withdrawal with effect from early, in May, of the income tax concessions provided by sections 77c, 77d and 78 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Matching finance will flow through the activities of the new Authority.
A moment ago Senator Webster referred to the great slowdown in exploration for minerals and petroleum in the Australian scene. The removal of the incentives via taxation have in no small way led to this situation. These policies that have been pursued gave us a pretty high self sufficiency in petroleum products. Now we find that the position dramatically has changed in regard to a sustained program of search and development.
Exploration is in the doldrums. We heard the figures on this a moment ago from Senator Webster. Exploration programs are being directed to countries with prospective areas where some incentive for investment is provided. It is quite natural for capital to flow to investment at points where there is an encouragement for such investment and a reasonable expectation of a fair return. The provisions of the Bill apply to the whole continental land mass and extend off shore to the outer boundaries of the continental shelf. In the legislation power is given to the Authority to explore for, recover and refine petroleum and minerals. It will have power to buy, sell and transport petroleum and minerals whether in Australia or elsewhere. The Authority can purchase land and equipment, form companies and subscribe for shares in existing companies. lt will be given a special power to acquire an interest in mining undertakings being conducted in Australia on such terms as the Authority deems fit. The Authority will take to itself a fantastic degree of liberty and power.
I sometimes wonder whether this Government is really serious in some of its attitudes. We have never experienced the sheer audacity of proposals such as these in any previous Parliament. The Authority will have the power to enter and occupy land in areas it would like to explore and develop, and in the event of the occupier’s withholding his consent the Authority may apply to a Justice of the Peace for a warrant to enter, and neither the owner nor the occupier can raise any effective objection. Should they impede the activities of the Authority they will be liable to a fine or imprisonment. A very vital power will be given to this Authority. It will have the right to declare any area of the Australian continental land mass to be an exploration area by simply publishing a notice in the Australian Government Gazette. This is that vitally important device by which the Authority can take over any prospective or known mineral or petroleum area whether or not it is being prospected, explored or developed by an individual or a company. The Authority will not be subject to State laws or to royalties. There is a complete over-riding of State rights in this legislation as I see it.
I refer now to the matter of fair and reasonable compensation. Clause 45, sub-clause (2) of the Bill states: . . this Authority is liable to pay to the person (including a State) who was the owner of the petroleum or minerals immediately before it becomes or they become the property of the Authority such fair and reasonable compensation . . .
I understand that under most State laws the minerals are not the property of the owner of that area until the minerals are extracted. So we have a situation of extreme difficulty as to whether compensation could and would be paid promptly to the owners of land through the provisions of this legislation.
In every respect I regard this legislation as being totally unacceptable to a reasonable attitude towards our petroleum and mineral resources. It is not in accord at all with the accepted powers that exist between the States and the Commonwealth. Here we have an overriding authority to take over and to nationalise what is a fundamentally important consideration of any country- its energy resources. The Liberal Party Opposition is adamantly opposed to this legislation and we will not have a bar of the proposals put before us. We most certainly will oppose this Bill.
-The Democratic Labor Party has a great deal of sympathy with the objectives that are laid out in this piece of legislation. We can see a great case for an authority to be established to assist ordinary industries which are a very hazardous proposition on many occasions. Of course, it is not always that mining ventures are successful. One seeks minerals or even finds them, but that does not mean that access to the site will be easy or that the cost of developing the mine, once a deposit has been discovered, will be within reach of the people who discovered it. We can see many reasons why there should be an Authority which could be an equal competitor with private industry and which could stand behind to assist where assistance was required by the industry concerned. But this Bill, from our examination of it, seems to go a lot further than is suggested by its title. Indeed, it goes way beyond the things which it is suggested it would do. This proposed Authority is not to be limited to mining, the quest for petroleum or anything else.
Right at the beginning of my remarks I want to establish that although I have no intention of mentioning the floods in Queensland- a point of order was taken tonight suggesting that an honourable senator was not within his rights in mentioning that subject in this debate- I draw attention to clause 4 paragraph (a) which states:
There was so much flood water in Queensland that I suppose one could argue that within the ambit of this Bill one could discuss the floods in Queensland. The ambit is so wide that one could discuss the carpet on this floor or the wooden surrounds of the chamber. One could discuss the microphone equipment which allows us to broadcast, or anything else, because these components are brought within the established powers of the Authority which is to be set up. It is suggested in the legislation that the Authority shall consist of 5 people, 3 of whom shall be full time and 2 part time. I do not know who the Government has in mind to appoint to the part time positions. I do not know whether the Government would be able to find a trade union official who is sufficiently close to it these days and who would be able to get sufficient time away from his strike-creating activities to be able to join the proposed authority.
– Bob Hawke.
– I accept that, in an authority of this character, if it were not Bob Hawke at least it would be Mr Halfpenny or Mr Mundey who would be one of the 5 members. I wonder whether 5 members would be sufficient for an authority with the enormous breadth which this Authority is to be given. We do not know who will be chairman. But there will be a secretary. I have no doubt that he will come from the Department of Minerals and Energy as is stated in the Bill. I have watched the development of mining industries, particularly large ventures, and have seen that the acquisition of a skill is gained over many years of association with the industry. This enables a project of some magnitude to be carried on successfully. It seems that on the Authority we will have at least a couple of public servants, a couple of part time people and a chairman who I hope will be an authority and not a member of the Australian Labor Party who will be defeated at the next election.
– He will not be a former Australian Labor Party senator. The honourable senator can be sure of that.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party has been optimistic only when it has been sure that it would win. It is sure that it will win in this Senate election as it has won in the last 3 Senate elections, in spite of the stories from the Australian Labor Party that it was withering on the vine. It has grown from strength to strength. But this is not in the Bill. I abhor the fact that the Labor Party should waste its time as a government in introducing such a subject. We are not on the air today and I do not want to discuss the election which is about to take place. If Senator MacLaren incites me tomorrow that might be a different proposition altogether. Whether or not we are on the air I will be able to take care of him tomorrow.
In my view this Bill covers far more than the title suggests and far more than the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), suggested when introducing the Bill. He gave some excellent sounding reasons as to why it was necessary. I do not know that foreign capital is racing around madly trying to get control of mineral industries in this country. Recently a foreign company quite deliberately reduced its holdings in Mt Isa Mines Ltd to below the controlling interest in the company by offering the shares to Australian shareholders. 1 believe that there has been a great deal of tremendous benefit for Australia in welcoming and encouraging foreign capital to come in and develop projects which we seem reluctant to develop ourselves. I suppose the bauxite project at Gove is a classic example. Australian shareholders just would not or could not find the sort of capital which was required for the venture. Ultimately a great deal of it was taken up by overseas capital. But the project is now operating in the interests of Australia as much as in the interest of overseas capital.
In a Bill of this character it is wrong to suggest that a government authority of this nature in this industry will suddenly make every Australian a part-owner of a mine or that he will have any more equity in the project than he would have if it were developed with foreign capital or by anyone else. I have always believed that from wherever we get the capital it should be our objective to retain a major shareholding in Australia. But that does not necessarily enrich every Australian or make him a potential owner of a share in the mine. Quite the contrary. The establishment of this Authority probably will not make one more Australian a mine owner in his own right. Of course, if the Government has an interest there may be some who feel that they have a share in the equity of the mine. But the Government will not reduce anyone ‘s taxation because the mining project is a success. Once the Government becomes concerned in a project it usually raises taxes to meet losses caused by the incompetence and inefficiency of management which sometimes is allowed to develop. Instead of a person becoming a wealthy shareholder- it was almost suggested in the second reading speech by the Minister that every Australian will automatically become wealthy because this Authority is to be established- he will find that his taxes will go up to help pay for the losses, particularly if the Government unwisely, ill-advisedly and stupidly leaps in during a period of inflation to increase annual leave and to improve all other conditions, quite apart from increasing wages.
The Government and the trade union officials know that the most inciting factor in inflation is a decrease in the hours of work and the capacity to produce, particularly if the overall hours are reduced by 5 hours from 40 to 35 a week. In this event the means of production, the machinery, is lying idle for another 5 hours a week unless shift work is introduced to keep it fully occupied. Capitalisation has to be increased to maintain productivity at the same level. If productivity falls in a period when demand is being increased all the time there is inflation, and nothing in the world will stop that sort of inflation. One of the great mistakes of this Government was that it raced in with its proposals. Wage increases may be justified and the economy may be able to cope with them. This does not lower production. But unless we gear leave and shorter hours to the capacity of industry to recapitalise and to generate more productivity in the same time- however desirable this may be for those who receive it- we impose an enormous inflationary impetus on the economy which, if it occurs at the same time as wages are being increased, the economy cannot absorb. That is one of the very basic reasons for inflation. At the moment we will leave the other aspect, the strikes which have been engendered by those who feel that they can twist the Government’s tail much more easily than they can twist anybody else’s tail because they have certain influences on and power of threats which they maintain against the Government. They are creating the stoppage of production by stupid and foolish strikes such as we know are occurring at this very moment.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
While I appreciate Senator Greenwood’s continued interest in the illegal regime whose guest he was in 1970, 1 have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to a similar question on notice on 11 December 1973 (House of Representatives Hansard, page 4579).
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (l), (2) and (3) I am aware that the Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam holds the view that the Paracel Islands are a part of its territory, and that it has accused the People’s Republic of China of illegal military occupation of those islands. I am aware also that the Government of the People’s Republic of China holds the view that the Paracel Islands are a part of its territory, and that it has accused the Republic of VietNam of attempting armed occupation of the islands and has stated that China was obliged to take action in its own defence. The Republic of Viet-Nam, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines each claims sovereignty over the Spratly Islands. A statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on 4 February 1974 accused the Republic of VietNam of despatching forces to invade and occupy certain of the
Spratly Islands. The statement said in part that ‘The Government of the People’s Republic of China definitely will not tolerate infringement on China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by the Saigon authorities on any pretext’.
The Australian Government for its own part takes no stand on the merits of any of the competing claims to the Paracel or Spratly Islands. This was also the position of the previous Australian Government (Hansard, 26 October 1 97 1, page 2555 ).
I note that the actions and attitudes of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Viet-Nam are explained by them as being in defence of what they hold to be part of their territory. I see no reason to question the genuineness of their views or to draw alarmist inferences or general conclusions from what happened.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Has the Government decided that, in future, medical benefits will not be paid to patients for electrocardiographs unless performed by a specialist medical practitioner.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. However, the Government is implementing the Medical Fees Tribunal determination that Medical Benefits should not be paid both for a consultation and for a diagnostic or procedural service undertaken at the same time as the consultation. This means that where during the course of a single attendance there are rendered both a consultation and a service, say electrocardiography, medical benefits will be payable for either the consultation or the electrocardiography but not for both. This rule will apply irrespective of the professional status of the medical practitioner concerned.
People’s Republic of China: Reports by Australian Journalists (Question No. 49)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What is the car entitlement of the Permanent Head of a Department.
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Public Service Board has advised that the rules governing the use of official transport are set out in Appendix A to Section 6 of the Treasury Directions under the Audit Act and Treasury regulations. Within the framework of those rules, Permanent Heads have access to official transport in connection with the performance of their official duties. In June 1971 the then Prime Minister sent a letter to all Ministers clarifying the rules, as they apply to Permanent Heads, as follows:
Within the framework of the rules governing the use of official transport it should be open to a Department to make a case to the relevant transport authority for allocation of a car of suitable standard to the Department for official use primarily but not exclusively by the Permanent Head, i.e., on a “first-call” basis. This is to enable the Permanent Head to be readily available when called at short notice during the day or night; to travel between home and office and other points on official business; and to travel to and from functions and other engagements connected with the business of the Department. The car should continue to be serviced and maintained by the transport authority providing it, but I do not consider it necessary that a Permanent Head keep a detailed running record of its use. As and when needs dictate the Permanent Head may garage the car at his home ‘.
These arrangements still apply.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What is the travelling allowance entitlement of Permanent Heads of Departments.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am advised by the Public Service-Board that Permanent Heads are entitled to payment of travelling allowance for travel within Australia where an overnight absence from headquarters is involved. They are paid an allowance for the period of absence, calculated on an hourly basis, at the rate of $34 a day. That rate has applied since 17 May 1972.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740319_senate_28_s59/>.