29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- I desire to advise the Senate that in future Senator Bishop shall represent the Minister for Transport in this chamber.
– I give notice that, contingent on a message being received from the House of Representatives transmitting a Constitution Alteration Bill for concurrence, I shall move:
That standing order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Bill to be passed without a call of the Senate.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be laid on the table of the Senate all papers- including all correspondence, valuations, assessments and statements of account- which are in the possession of the Government and which in any way relate to the negotiations or transactions between the Government and Hobart Trades Hall officials in respect of the purchase by the Government of the Hobart Trades Hall.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Does the Minister recall stating to the Senate last Thursday that he had discussed with the new Attorney-General the future of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill? Does he also recall stating that the Attorney-General had withdrawn the Bill from the Senate notice paper because he wanted an opportunity to study the Bill and perhaps to redraw it in the light of representations made, and further that the AttorneyGeneral would reintroduce it in the other House after he had received and considered such representations? Is it not a fact that within hours of the Minister’s statement in this chamber the new Attorney-General had introduced the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill into the House of Representatives? Is the Minister able to say whether or not this is an indication of an attitude on the part of the Government that this massive Bill of 284 clauses will be rushed through the House of Representatives, as was the Trade Practices Bill, without proper opportunity being given for consideration? If not, can he explain the inconsistency between what he said and what the Attorney-General did a matter of hours later?
– I can recall having said what the honourable senator attributes to me in relation to this Bill. I was unaware that the Bill had been introduced into the House of Representatives, but I am sure that there is no intention on the part of the AttorneyGeneral to rush the Bill through the House of Representatives. I am unaware what stage the Bill has reached in the House of Representatives, but I reiterate the assurance that was given to me by the Attorney-General that full opportunity would be given to any interested party to make representations for amendment of the Bill before it was pressed on with in the House of Representatives.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy been drawn to recent statements advocating increases in Australian crude oil prices? What would be the effects of such increases on the input costs of Australian farmers? Have Australian farmers publicly stated their opposition to increased petrol prices?
– I understand a statement has been made by the Leader of the Australian Country Party advocating an increase in crude oil prices.
– What, again?
-Again. This was after his making a similar call some months ago, during 1974. As was pointed out, this indicated a disregard on his part for the effect such an increase would have not only on the Australian consumer generally but also of course in particular on the Australian farmer. At that time estimates taken out by my Department indicated that the cost would be in the area of tens of millions of dollars. Since then there has been a quite dramatic increase in the world price for crude oil. This would represent additional costs, possibly amounting to as much as $500 for each farmer throughout Australia, with a total bill of around $40m imposed on the Australian farming community.
I do not believe- a view supported by the President of the Australian Farmers Federation, Mr Hogan- that the Australian farmer would accept this situation lightly. Mr Hogan has already, on behalf of the Australian farming community, indicated his opposition to this proposal. I am not sure of the real motives of Mr Anthony in making and continuing to make these assertions. One assumes that some of his colleagues at some time must take a firm line with him and ask him to justify this additional burden being imposed not only on the Australian farmer but also on the Australian community.
-I ask the
Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: Is it true, as reports state, that the Government has decided on the level of compensation which it will grant to the unfortunate victims of the Darwin cyclone? I ask the Minister whether victims who suffered personal injury are to be paid according to the principles of the proposed national compensation scheme; that is, 85 per cent of loss of earnings while off work and, in the case of housewives, $50 a week while they recover. If so, is this a precedent which will be followed in relation to victims of any natural disaster which happens before Parliament debates and votes on the National Compensation Bill? Has the Government anticipated, while a parliamentary committee is still investigating the national compensation proposal, that the legislation as put forward will be passed?
– In fact, the Government has anticipated nothing. I regret to say that a usually reliable journal was not quite accurate in the report which it gave this morning. The question of compensation for victims of the Darwin cyclone either for loss of property or personal injury is in the process of consideration by Cabinet at the present time. No determination has been made. Once a decision has been made an appropriate announcement will be made. I do not propose- as I am sure Senator DrakeBrockman will appreciate- to enter into a discussion on a matter which is still in a rather hypothetical stage.
-Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that the threat of the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, to withhold ratification of a coal contract if Japan fails to buy Queensland beef, presents the prospect of serious damage to the Tasmanian beef industry which he specifically mentioned? Would not such action threaten not only the national structure of this industry but also potentially every other export industry? Is there any way in which potentially dangerous unilateral action of this kind can be stopped? If not, is there any prospect that Tasmania could respond in a similar way in respect of such commodities as wood chips and iron ore currently being exported in large quantities to Japan or in respect of the export of sugar from Queensland to Tasmania and other States?
-I am quite sure that the Tasmanian Government, and the Tasmanian Premier in particular, would exercise far more discretion and common sense than that which is being shown currently by the Queensland Premier. This is not the first time that this matter has been raised either by Mr Bjelke-Petersen or in this Senate. I indicated, I think in October or November last, that the tying together of beef exports and coal and iron ore exports from Queensland and virtually threatening Japan is an incredible position to be taken by a Premier. I said then that it was a good thing that Mr BjelkePetersen was a member of a State Parliament, even though that is unfortunate in itself. It would be more unfortunate if he was a member of the Federal Parliament. I am sure that common sense will prevail.
I am concerned about the possible effect on Tasmanian beef because, as everybody knows, Tasmanian beef is better that Queensland beef. It is something like our apples, Mr President. I am sure that common sense will prevail or that at least the pressure of public opinion and, indeed, the pressure put on Mr Bjelke-Petersen by his own colleagues not to proceed along the lines he has indicated will win the day. I hope that his colleagues in the Queensland Government realise the potential damage that may have been done already to our long term prospects in Japan. Not only under this Government but also under the previous government there has been a careful development of trade with that country and I am quite sure that the majority of honourable senators opposite, like senators on the Government side, wish to see that trade expanded. It is the height of irresponsibility for any State Premier to behave in the way Mr Bjelke-Petersen is behaving.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: What is the reason for the unusual arrangement of the Parliament sitting for 4 weeks straight and then recessing for 4 weeks at the beginning of a sessional period? Is this arrangement purely to suit the convenience of the Prime Minister and allow him to go overseas at the end of the 4-week sitting period?
-I understand that the arrangement was entered into between the Ministers in charge of Government business and the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses. The principal reason, of course, is the intervening of the Easter period. If the honourable senator wants to suggest that ulterior motives are involved, the Opposition will have an opportunity to exercise some discretion in the matter if it so chooses in the near future.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture. Last week, in reply to a question from me about a claim by Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, that he was entering into a trade agreement with Japan for Queensland beef, the Minister said that he did not think this would ever eventuate because the negotiations were handled by the Australian Meat Board. I now say that subsequent events have proven the Minister to be correct because the Premier of Queensland has applied a half-Nelson to the Japanese and has said: ‘You take our beef or you do not get our coal’.
Opposition senators- What is your question?
– I will ask my question now. It is one honourable senators opposite will not want to hear because they have no answer to it.
– I ask the honourable senator to ask his question.
– I now ask: What constitutional powers has Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, to enable him to interfere with the successful trading policies of the Australian Government?
-I would not undertake to answer a question involving the constitutional powers of the States. I think it is a matter for the Attorney-General and I shall refer this specific question to him for an answer.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Is he aware that fruit growers in the Goulburn Valley of Victoria are being forced to dump thousands of tons of pears as a direct result of the Government’s decision in August 1973 to remove the sales tax exemption from carbonated beverages containing not less than 5 per cent of fruit juice, an action which has completely eliminated a very valuable market outlet for fruit juice? Is it a fact that no adjustment assistance has so far been provided by this Government to pear growers or to pear juice processors to help them adjust to the new situation created by the Government’s decision? Can the Minister be influenced to assure the Senate that assistance will be provided forthwith to eliminate the serious effects being experienced by growers and processors?
-I think there may be some misunderstanding in Senator Webster’s mindthat appears to be so from the nature of his questionbecause there are 2 avenues by which the Government has been supporting the industry. The first is that, at the time the sales tax exemption to which he referred was removed, the Government provided $5m to assist those industries processing fruit to adjust to the reduced market. The second is the support scheme which the Government has provided in respect of fresh apples under the export arrangements. That scheme did not include pears and the industry at the time agreed that it would not include pears. This year we have again made offers to the States- Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia in particular- of additional assistance under the fruit stabilisation scheme to be shared on a dollar for dollar basis with those governments. This would not include pears in accordance with the principle laid down early in 1974 for the 1974 season.
The adjustment measures for the industry are mainly a matter for the Minister for Manufacturing Industry rather than me, but I understand that the present position is that about $2. 5m has been paid to processors out of the allocation of $5m. Whether this would exclude processors of pears I would not say but I would be surprised if it did because most processors process both apples and pears. I do not think that the adjustment assistance was ever intended to make a distinction between the two. This is quite different from the stabilisation agreements that were entered into. If there is any further information on processing I will get it for Senator Webster.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to statements claiming that the appointment of former Senator Murphy to the High Court has not created a casual vacancy in the proper sense of the word but rather a political vacancy which should be filled by a political appointment? Does the Minister agree with this assertion?
-By way of preface I should warn Senator Carrick who interjected not to be too eager to bandy about a trivial comment based on a letter which the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ published the other day because there is more than a suggestion that such a comment is defamatory. I will not go any further into that point. I suppose that any appointment of a practising politician to the bench could be described as a political act. I can recall a few such acts which did not attract any criticism from those on the Liberal side of politics or from the newspapers. For example, in 1956 a Senator Spicer was appointed Chief Judge of what was then known as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That appointment did not attract any criticism. Indeed, the Bolte Government did not express any disapproval by refusing to appoint a politician of the same stripe -
- Mr President, I rise to order. I raise the point of order under standing order 99. The question asked by Senator Grimes was, did the Minister agree with a statement. That is clearly asking for an opinion. Standing order 99 states that questions shall not ask for an expression of opinion. Indeed, it goes further and states that questions shall not ask for a legal opinion. My submission is that a question which asks for an expression of opinion is in contravention of the Standing Orders. There is nothing in the Minister’s answer which suggests that he is doing other than expressing his own opinion.
- Senator Grimes is seeking information from the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I call Senator James McClelland.
-And, Mr President, I am seeking to give some information which, however unpalatable it may be, is an answer to the question. I was referring to the appointment of the then Senator Spicer as Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliaton and Arbitration. Far from expressing any criticism of this appointment, the then Bolte Government followed the convention by appointing Senator Hannan, I think it was, to fill the vacancy created by Senator Spicer ‘s appointment. Coming even closer to home, in 1968 Mr Gorton resigned his seat in the Senate to contest the seat of Higgins in the House of Representatives. As a result of that, the Senate was fortunate enough to have Senator Greenwood wished upon it. In 1971- this, of course, was a rather confused year from the Liberal Party point of view- I cannot quite recall whether it was the McMahon Government or the Gorton Government which translated Dame Annabelle Rankin to the position of High Commissioner in New Zealand. Perhaps some would call that a political appointment. The Bjelke-Petersen Government appointed Senator Bonner to fill the vacancy. I suppose that each of those appointments could be described as a political act, but in each case the State Government involved followed the convention of which the Senate last week expressed its approval.
The PRESD3ENT- I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of Lord Boyd-Carpenter, a member of the House of Lords, Westminster. Lord BoydCarpenter is a most distinguished parliamentarian whose parliamentary career spans many years. On behalf of honourable senators I extend a most cordial welcome to him and hope his stay in Australia is a pleasant one.
– In directing a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate I refer to an earlier answer which he gave to a question regarding the increase in the price of Australian crude oil. Is it not a fact that in April 1972 a spokesman on behalf of the then Opposition, Dr Patterson, stated that one of the first acts of an Australian Labor Party government on reaching office would be to raise the Australian domestic crude oil price to world parity? Is it also a fact that in December 1972 in an interview immediately after his appointment as Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor stated that that would be one of the first steps to be taken by him? Is it not a fact that the Government has not done that although at the time of those statements it pointed out that vital exploration for oil in Australia would be curtailed unless there was some increase in the price of Australian domestic crude? Will the Minister explain this aspect of the Government’s zig zag policies?
– I am not aware of zig zag policies. What I am aware of is that between the time those statements were made and the present time there has been a dramatic increase in the world price of oil. An increase in the Australian price of crude oil to world parity level now would be a disastrous step for the Australian consumer of petrol. It is an entirely different proposition. I think it was Mr Anthony who last year was talking about increasing the price to world parity, and now he is talking about a 40 per cent increase. The change in the world price in that time is the factor which, with great respect, Senator Rae is overlooking.
– I am just seeking information.
-I suggest that if one takes into account that very important factor of the world price having gone from- I am speaking from memory- about $2 a barrel to about $9 abarrel in the space of eight or nine months one will understand that the Government’s position is consistent with the reality of the present world price for oil.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration whether an investigation is contemplated into the circumstances in which 9 Chilean migrant women were dismissed at the W. D. and H. O. Wills (Australia) Ltd tobacco factory in Sydney, particularly in view of the evasive attitude of the company which was compounded by the arrogant attitude of the personnel manager, Mr Reidy.
– I am aware of the case about which Senator Mulvihill asks. It happened just before Christmas. As a result of the sacking of the Chilean women the case was brought to the attention of Mr Grassby, the special consultant in community matters, who has been preparing a report. I have been told that his report is ready for submission to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I am not able to say what the report contains. I will find out and let the honourable senator know.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Will he obtain from his colleague a statement giving details of reasons for the non-payment of travelling and other expenses incurred by private citizens assisting either the Schools Commission or the Department of Education on committees such as the Building Priorities and Finance Committee and those committees which deal with libraries and science facilities for independent schools? Is it a fact that some of these persons are retired people and have not received payment of expenses since September or October 1974? Will he find out when payments will be made?
– It is true that there have been some delays in the processing of travelling allowance and consulting fee claims that have been submitted by private citizens- some of whom in fact are retiredwho assist the Schools Commission and the Department of Education. The Minister for Education has advised me that in some instances these delays have been caused by the late submission of claims by the people concerned. However, there have been delays in processing claims due to a backlog of accounts. Regular overtime is now being worked and additional accounts staff will be appointed or recruited by the Department of Education in the near future. My colleague the Minister for Education has advised me that it is anticipated that all outstanding claims for 1974 and January of this year in respect of retired private citizens who assist the Schools Commission and the Department of Education will be processed by 26 February.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, follows the question asked by Senator Poyser regarding Mr Anthony’s persistent demands that Australian oil prices be increased by 40 per cent. Does Mr Anthony rationalise his claim by asserting that this massive price increase is essential to stimulate oil exploration? If Mr Anthony’s demands were met, would there be any guarantee that Esso-BHP would actually spend any of its multimillion dollar windfall on oil exploration? Is there any logic in Mr Anthony’s assertion that the best way to stimulate the search for oil would be to pay higher prices for oil that has already been discovered? Would not the most certain way of stimulating oil search be to direct money into the Petroleum and Minerals Authority which Mr Anthony says should be abolished?
– On the information which has been supplied to me the additional profits which would go to the oil companies in Australia if this proposal were accepted would be about $140m in the first financial year. It is quite true that no one would even then have a guarantee that that money or any part of it would be used by the oil companies for exploration expansion. This Government has pointed out on numerous occasions that the value of those resources should be protected for the Australian people as much as is possible. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority was established to enable it, the Australian Government and therefore the Australian people to own and therefore to determine what happens to our oil reserves. There would be no guarantee that those profits would be passed back into exploration.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the United States Government has asked Australia to make up its mind about the installation of an Omega navigational transmitter in this country? In view of the great aid such an installation would be to commercial air and marine navigation and the possibility of Australia’s now being bypassed in favour of another Pacific country as a site for an installation, when will the Commonwealth Government announce its determination in this matter?
-As I am sure the Senate would be aware, an all-party parliamentary committee- the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence- has been inquiring into the proposed establishment of an Omega base in Australia. I think it is proper that the Government is adopting the policy of awaiting this report. I cannot say when the report is to be tabled. I understand from my colleague, Senator Wheeldon, who is chairman of the Committee, that he is not sure himself. I think that all of us are duty bound to await the outcome of that report and the debate on it before any firm decision is taken.
– Is the Minister for the Media aware that one of the biggest events of the year for film producers and marketers- the Cannes film festival- takes place shortly? In the interests of local producers and artists, does the Government intend to take part in this event to assist the promotion of our films?
-As a result of the initiatives that have been taken by this Government a viable feature film industry is developing in Australia. Only last week the opinion was expressed to me by an executive of the American industry that what has happened in Australia in the last 2 years in regard to the feature film industry is quite phenomenal. My Department has been negotiating with the Australian Film Development Corporation and also with the Department of Overseas Trade with a view to sponsoring an exhibition of Australian productions at the Cannes film festival. In past years individual Australian exhibitions have been sponsored privately by the producers of the films. I recall that last year the film ‘The Cars
That Ate Paris’, which was produced by Australian Peter Weir, was sold internationally as a result of the film being exhibited at Cannes.
This will be Australia’s first official presence at Cannes and for the first time the Department of Overseas Trade has granted official status to Australian displays. Our intention is to create internationally an awareness of Australia as an emerging production entity. The display by Australia is for the purpose of assisting in gaining wide acceptance for Australian films and television programs on an international basis and also to create an ideal environment in which Australian producers can conduct business in Cannes. I am given to understand that while the Australian party has not yet been finalised there are likely to be 10 to 15 theatrical film producers exhibiting in the international film display and at least 5, possibly 10, major television program producers in Australia.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, refers to the Australian Assistance Plan. I understand that the Minister for Social Security has received the report which was commissioned to evaluate the plan. Can the Minister advise when this report will be tabled in the Parliament?
– I apologise for having to give such an inadequate answer to a question asked with such a nice smile but I am afraid I do not have the slightest idea when the report will be presented. I shall check with the Minister for Social Security and when I have an answer I will inform Senator Guilfoyle.
-Has the Minister for the Media received any representations from people concerned with the growth of a healthy local music recording industry? Has he looked into ways in which the Government might assist in its growth? Is it not a fact that the Australian Labor Party agreed at the recent conference at Terrigal that the Government should investigate ways by which the progress of the recording industry could be encouraged?
– It is true that the Australian Labor Party at its Federal Conference at Terrigal about a fortnight ago decided to investigate ways and means of encouraging the development of the Australian recording industry. Representations have been made to me over recent months by various people connected with the industry. I can tell
Senator Mcintosh that, in addition to the 1 5 per cent Australian produced quota that has been imposed on commercial radio stations by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the establishment of the new Australian Broadcasting Commission station in Sydney, Radio 2JJ, has given quite an impetus to the recording industry. However, as a result of preliminary investigations undertaken by my Department I recently made an approach to the Prime Minister and recommended to him that the Australian recording industry be subject to an inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission. The Commission was established by the Australian Government to investigate ways and means by which assistance can be given to worthwhile Australian industries. The Australian recording industry has developed to such a stage now that I believe an investigation by the Commission might well be undertaken to see what assistance should be given to the industry.
-Is the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware of Press reports that the survivors and the relatives of the victims of the Cooma bus tragedy, involving members of the Senior Citizens Club of Brighton, South Australia, 18 months ago, have not yet received any compensation? If so, does the Minister know whether there is any truth in these reports? Can he give the Senate any information relating to the matter and what the next steps might be?
– I have seen the reports and I find them not at all startling. I would think that a delay of 1 8 months in settling a claim of this nature would be remarkably short compared with the delays that people usually suffer when they have so-called common law claims for damages against people who may have been guilty of some wrongful act such as negligence which caused an injury. I certainly am well aware of the hardship caused to people who have to wait a long time to receive any settlements. One of the most unfortunate aspects of these delays is what is known as litigation neurosis which makes the physical and mental condition of injured persons even worse than it might be otherwise. It is in order to correct situations such as this that the Government proposed a national compensation scheme which provides immediate, automatic earnings-related compensation to people who are subject to any form of injury without, apart from any other difficulties they may have, extended delays similar to that to which Senator Davidson has correctly drawn the attention of the Senate.
-Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen the article by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony, published in yesterday’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, in which he expressed his views on filling casual Senate vacancies? Prior to the retirement of Senator Prowse in late 1973 did Mr Anthony seek an assurance from the Labor Premier of Western Australia that a Country Party nominee would be appointed to replace Senator Prowse if he should retire before his term expired in mid- 1974? Is this an indication that Senator Prowse ‘s retirement was a political manoeuvre more closely related to the Country Party’s electoral advantage than to his state of health?
-I understand that such a request was made of the Western Australian Labor Premier. I am not able to authenticate it but I believe it is correct. If that were the case, obviously there has been a remarkable and sudden about-face by the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport I refer to a recent speech which I understand was made by the head of the Department of Transport in which he said that plans have been made to purchase 2 electric cars from an American company at a cost of $15,000. Can the Minister provide to the Senate more details of this proposal and of the purpose for which the cars have been or will be purchased? Is the Minister aware that an electric car has been constructed by scientists at the Flinders University in South Australia, that it is capable of a speeed of 38 miles an hour and that it has a range of 50 or 60 miles? Is he aware also that the development of this vehicle has been hampered by lack of funds? Can the Minister say why the Government has opted to purchase such vehicles from foreign sources rather than provide adequate finance to enable the development of an Australian electric car by local enterprise?
-I am able to say only that I have noticed reports of one of the facts to which Senator Jessop referred, that is, the experiments in South Australia with an battery electric car, and that people are interested. I know that both Dr Cass and Mr Charles Jones are interested in obtaining as soon as possible some experience in this area. I am not sure whether any orders have been placed. I will find out and supply the information to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that at a $25 a head luncheon in Melbourne yesterday the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, told people that a Liberal-Country Party government would abolish the Labor Government’s fee-free tertiary education and the present structure of living allowances for tertiary students? Does this statement mean that the thousands of students who were deprived of the opportunity of tertiary education under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government can expect to be dispossessed of the wherewithal for further education if by some disastrous twist of political fate Mr Snedden were to become Prime Minister?
– I read a report, I think it was in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, attributing certain remarks to the Leader of the Opposition. The report stated that a prospective Liberal government would consider the reintroduction of these fees, the abolition of which was brought about by the Labor Government. In response to Senator Brown’s question let me say that one of the great reforms under the Labor Government has been the amazing developments in education. From recollection, this Government is spending about 4 times more on education than the previous Government did. About $ 1,500m has been allocated this financial year for educational purposes. The Government’s decision to do away with the imposition of fees at tertiary institutions, in particular, was welcomed by all sections of the Australian community, especially people of working class origin many of whose children in previous years had not been able to attend a university because of the inability of their parents to pay the fees. As a result of this Government’s educational policy no longer can any person be kept out of university because of his insufficiency of funds.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The Standing Orders are quite clear. A Minister replying to a question is not to debate the question. This is constantly being done by Ministers. It is a distortion of the Standing Orders.
– The Minister has almost completed his reply.
– It goes without saying that when the Australian people realise what Mr Snedden is contemplating they certainly will have a second look at the dim prospect of the election of the Opposition to the government benches again.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has it come to the Minister’s notice that the representative of Zambia presently visiting Australia has threatened that unless the Rhodesian question is resolved early there will be an intensification of armed struggle by all black Africa? Does the Minister not think that it is appropriate to administer a rebuke to an international visitor who uses his presence on Australian soil to threaten war?
-The Honourable Vernon Mwaanga, the Foreign Minister of Zambia, is visiting Australia at the invitation of Australia. I have known him for a couple of years now. He is a very responsible, able and charming man. He has reported the situation in respect of what I hope are very radical moves that are taking place in his area of the world following the fall of the Caetano Government of Portugal. As I say, I hope the moves are very radical compared with what they have been and we hope to see something finally done in the terrible Rhodesian situation.
As I understand it, Mr Mwaanga has outlined the alternatives. A war has been going on for a long time and, because of the action of his President, in particular, now at long last talks are taking place not with outside forces but between Mr Smith and representatives of the African National Council within Rhodesia. All Mr Mwaanga has pointed out is what the alternatives are. I think that is a realistic situation. A war has stopped, and if it is not settled by peaceful means then quite inevitably things will go back to the former situation. I think the honourable senator does not do justice to Mr Mwaanga when he says that he is threatening war. It is not within the province of Mr Mwaanga to threaten war. He is stating the situation as it is. Far from speaking derogatorily of the Zambians in this situation, we should be thanking them very much for the action they have taken in producing what we hope will be a good result in Rhodesia.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation say whether repatriation pensions can be paid into credit union accounts?
– Arrangements have been made by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation for the payment of repatriation pensions into credit union accounts. This is something which has been done only quite recently. The proviso is that they shall be paid only into savings accounts and not into loan accounts, because the law relating to the payment of repatriation benefits does insist that repatriation benefits shall not be paid directly by the Department in the discharge of any debts owed by the beneficiary. The arrangements have been made and it has been possible to have repatriation pensions paid into credit union accounts since 31 December. Any recipient of repatriation benefits who wishes to have his benefits paid into a savings account, as opposed to a loan account, with a credit union may make such arrangements with the relevant officers of the Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. It relates to the recent sale of beef to Russia. Is it a fact, as has been reported, that the price agreed to will return growers about 9c per lb? Is it not also a fact that had negotiations continued, with the Federal Government accepting some responsibility for the freight component, the return could well have been between 13c and 14c per lb, which price was reported to have been acceptable to the Russians? Would not the latter price, if obtained, have assisted in lifting the current disastrously low meat prices?
– In answer to a question on this matter last week I indicated that the arrangements between the Australian Meat Board and Prondingtor, the Soviet importing authority, were confidential commercial arrangements. I am not at liberty to make public the price but I think that the return to the producer is a little more than the figures which have been cited by the honourable senator. It is a matter for Government decision whether it would be prepared to undertake subsidising the freight rate. This has not as yet been considered by the Government. Whether it will be considered is a matter which I am not prepared to state at the present time. All I can say is that the Government is actively considering various ways and means whereby it can assist the beef industry. I mentioned those factors as a result of a question asked by Senator Bessell last week because of difficulties which have arisen under the $20m appropriation scheme for carry-on finance purposes but I am not in a position to indicate what the commercial arrangements were between the Australian Meat Board and the Soviet authority.
-The PostmasterGeneral will recall that in answer to my question on Tuesday last regarding communication concessions for the residents of Darwin he outlined the extent of those concessions. Will the Minister now advise the Senate of the present position regarding Darwin postal services and in particular the household delivery service to Darwin residents?
– Inter-capital and overseas mail despatches from Darwin are operating normally although initially, as the honourable senator knows, they were sent to Adelaide. Letters and other airmail articles for Darwin are being despatched direct to Darwin from various points in the States. Honourable senators may be interested in looking at these figures. Before the cyclone 15 postmen delivered mail to about 1 1 700 street addressees. As at 7 February 4 postmen were delivering to about 1500 addressees. In addition about half the private boxes previously rented are now in use, 2500 at Darwin Post Office and 1000 at Winnellie. All the post offices in Darwin, with the exception of Casuarina, are now operating normally. Although there are very few people in the Casuarina district, because of the state of that post office it is intended to open it in about a fortnight ‘s time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I remind the Senate that a Press statement describing the recently removed Aboriginal tent embassy as a symbol for Aboriginal people throughout Australia was released on 13 February jointly by the Honourable Gordon Bryant, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Mr Charles Perkins, a public servant from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I ask: Did Mr Perkins speak with the agreement or the authority of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs? Did the Minister know of and approve the issue of the statement, joining as it did this officer with a former Minister of the Department? Finally, does the Minister subscribe to Mr Perkins’s view that the embassy was serving the cause of Aboriginal advancement in Australia?
– I knew nothing at all about the dismantling of the embassy. During the last session of Parliament last year Mr Charles Perkins approached me. He wanted to discuss with me the terms under which the embassy would be removed. He telephoned me on that matter. I told him that it was no deal; that he would get no terms from me as conditions for removing the embassy. The embassy was doing a disservice to the black cause. It was discrediting Charles Perkins. It could stay there forever if it had a mission in that respect. I saw reports of the alleged Press statement. I doubt that the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would be party to the Press statement which stated that he agreed to the removal of the embassy for the purpose of giving the Government 2 months to see whether it would carry out its policy. I doubted whether Mr Perkins was a party to that Press statement, when it stated that Mr Perkins was an outspoken Aboriginal leader. I should have thought that the statement came from some other source, seeing it mentioned his credentials. The embassy has been removed. Its removal had no association with me. It could have been removed last year had I agreed to certain terms, which I was not prepared to do.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and follows on a question asked by Senator Brown earlier today. Has the Minister seen yesterday’s Melbourne ‘Age ‘ in which there appeared an article by Kenneth Davidson, the economics editor of that paper, which referred to the simple minded belief that a cut in Government spending would be of benefit to the Australian economy in the present economic circumstances? I ask the Minister: Has the Government any plans for cutting education expenses at this time.
– I did see the article to which the honourable senator has referred. At this stage the Government has no intention of cutting expenditure on education. Indeed, expenditure on education in this financial year was increased by, I think, about $400m over and above the amount apportioned for that purpose last year. I would envisage that next financial year, under this Government, there will be a considerable increase in subventions for educational purposes.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Did the Australian Government recently charter the Chandris ship ‘Patris’ at a cost of $2,750,000 for the purpose of providing temporary accommodation at Darwin? Is it a fact that the scrap value of this vessel is approximately Sim and that the owners were keen to sell it? Why was the vessel not purchased by the Government, used for its present required purpose and then operated by the Australian National Line or otherwise used for tourist purposes?
– I will have to obtain some of the answers to the honourable senator’s questions from the Ministers concerned. I know that the Minister for the Northern Territory, Dr Patterson, in endeavouring to provide emergency accommodation quickly, did sign an agreement to locate the Chandris ship in Darwin harbour. Some discussions took place with his ministerial colleagues. I am not sure of the terms of the agreement. It was obviously an attempt by the Minister to ensure that the people who have gone to Darwin to carry out certain construction works will have adequate accommodation. As everybody knows not only departmental people have been sent to Darwin but also many of the unions have sent volunteer tradesmen to rebuild the city.
– The ship can accommodate 1000 people.
– As Senator Cavanagh has pointed out it was able to provide accommodation quickly for 1000 workers. Everybody knows the conditions that were present in Darwin. Even some weeks after the cyclone, as the honourable senator probably knows, a number of Post Office people were living under canvas.
– Why charter it at a value of $2. 7m instead of buying it for $ 1 m?
-Would Senator Wright like to answer the question?
– I would like an answer to it.
– Yes. Obviously the Minister prima facie had a good case for doing what he did. I cannot give the details to the honourable senator but I will get them as soon as possible and when I get them I will give them to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I refer to the Government’s undertaking of last September to increase certain repatriation pensions and to extend service pension eligibility in the current sittings of Parliament. Can the Minister assure the Senate that those promises will be honoured?
– Naturally I can assure the honourable senator that any promises made by the Government will be honoured.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation whether the Minister has recommended the relaxation in New South Wales and South Australia of the export ban on kangaroo skins and products. Is this because the kangaroo conservation programs operating in these States comply with the Commonwealth’s wishes? Is it a fact that the other States with large kangaroo populations- Western Australia and Queensland- also are endeavouring with some success to meet the Government’s conservation requirements? How soon might the ban be relaxed in those States? Is there a suitable overseas market for kangaroo skins and products? Will the United States of America in particular accept imports if it is satisfied that Australia’s kangaroo harvesting program is designed to protect the species?
– I am not sure what kangaroo products there are apart from skins but if there are any there may well be a field for a new industry with which Senator Sheil could make us familiar. As the honourable senator probably would be aware, I do not have the information relating to this matter at my fingertips but I will obtain it from the Minister for the Environment and Conservation as soon as possible and let him have the answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Is it a fact that there is a huge backlog of applications for retraining under the National Employment and Training scheme, including many which are awaiting final clearance by the Minister? Is the Minister aware that many of the applicants are would-be trainees hoping to take up enrolments at colleges which are about to commence courses? Will he give these applications urgent attention in order to alleviate the dilemma caused by the delay?
-I understand from Mr Cameron that there is quite a congestion of applications because more people applied than the Minister anticipated. I will put the request of the honourable senator to Mr Cameron and try to get an answer for him this week.
– I present a copy of the text of the broadcast made by His Excellency the Governor-General on the Australian system of honours and awards and the letters patent and statutes relating to the Order of Australia, Australian bravery decorations and the national medal.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the protocol for the continuation in force of the International Coffee Agreement 1968 as extended.
– For the information of honourable senators I present 3 ministerial communiques on the Geelong growth complex.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act 1969, 1 present the annual statement on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a White Paper entitled ‘Science and Technology in the Service of SocietyThe Framework for Australian Government Planning’.
Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate requesting that Senator Devitt be discharged from further attendance on the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and nominating Senator Drury to be a member in his place.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Devitt be discharged from attendance upon the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and that Senator Drury, having been duly nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 17 September 1 974, be appointed to the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That in accordance with the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1973, the Senate appoints Senator Wriedt as a trustee to serve on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust on and from this day.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Wriedt be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Committee of Privileges.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leave- agreed to:
That Senator Wriedt be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Orders Committee.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Walsh be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Library Committee.
Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs
– I inform the Senate that today I received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senator Grimes to be a member of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In accordance with the resolution of the Senate on 16 August 1974, the senator nominated is appointed a member of the Committee from this day.
Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senator Button to be a member of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Button, having been nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate on 17 September 1974 be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts.
Council of the Australian National University
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of sections 1 1 and 14 of the Australian National University Act 1946-1973, the
Senate elects Senator Everett to be a member of the Council of the Australian National University to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator the Honourable James McClelland.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, this Bill, which the Government regards as a key element in its overall program of electoral reform, relates in the main to the limitation of electoral expenditure and to the public disclosure of the sources of funds made available to political parties and to candidates. Included in the Bill are provisions which require the appointment of party agents by political parties and the registration thereof by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer; require the maintenance of a Register of Party Agents by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer; require lists of all party agents and official agents to be kept in electoral offices in each State and Territory; require the filing of returns relating to electoral expenditure by registered party agents and official agents with the Chief Australian Electoral Officer within 12 weeks after an election; require returns to be open for public inspection; require the certification of returns by a registered company auditor; enable the reimbursement of auditor’s fees up to a limit of $200; prohibit electoral expenditure by any person except a registered party agent or official agent, without prior written authority of the respective agent; prohibit the making of gifts, including donations, to a party or candidate except with the written authority of the registered party agent or the official agent of the candidate; require the disclosure in returns of particulars of gifts, including donations, made to political parties or candidates, through or with the authority of party agents or official agents, but excluding any gift of less than $ 1 00, and gifts by any one person aggregating less than $100, made during the period to which the return relates; and limit the campaign expenditure of a political party, including electoral expenditure by party’s candidates in accordance with a specified formula.
Under the formula the limit of expenditure of a political party in a House of Representatives election- held separately from a Senate election- - would be based on 7.5c for every person enrolled for the division or divisions contested; that is to say, an amount of $593,740 on present enrolment for a party contesting all 127 electorates. In the case of a Senate election held alone, the permissable expenditure of a political party would be substantially less. It would be based on 1.5c for every person enrolled for the State or States contested by the party; that is to say, an amount of $1 16,578 on present enrolment for a party contesting the Senate elections in all States. In the case of a referendum, the formula provides for a limit of expenditure of a political party based on lc for every person enrolled; that is to say, an amount of $77,718. Details of the formula in relation to conjoint Senate and House of Representatives elections are included in the Bill.
The limits of expenditure presently imposed on candidates are also being varied. For the election of a senator the proposed limit is an amount of 0.2c for every elector enrolled for the State concerned, or $3,000, whichever is the greater. For an election of a member of the House of Representatives, the proposed limit is an amount equal to 5c for every elector enrolled for the division contested; that is to say, $3,250 in respect of a division comprising 65 000 electors, or $2,500 in respect of a division comprising 50 000 electors. Having regard to the importance of enforcing the obversance of the proposed new expenditure provisions, the Bill prescribes penalties up to $10,000 in certain cases and up to $20,000 in other cases.
Honourable senators will note from the foregoing summary of the principal provisions that this Bill seeks to lay down comprehensive provisions relating to the limitation not merely of expenditure by candidates but also of aggregate expenditure by political parties sponsoring those candidates. At the present time the provisions in the Act relating to maximum permissable expenditure by individual candidates are outmoded and unrealistic and moreover the Act does not presently limit expenditure by parties. This Bill seeks to rectify this anomalous situation. For the purpose of effectively controlling electoral expenditure by political parties and individual candidates, including candidates not sponsored by a party, the Bill’s provisions reflect a general realisation that unrealistically restrictive limits on expenditure should not be imposed or be permitted to continue to exist. On the other hand, uncontrolled or undivulged expenditure opens the way to serious abuses of the electoral processes. Under the existing electoral law and procedures there is no limitation or control on the expenditure by political parties and, while there are statutory limits on expenditure by candidates, the current provisions are quite ineffective. All honourable senators would know that at the present time very substantial donations are being made with the purpose of financing campaign expenditure by candidates and parties without disclosure of the sources of such donations.
The anomalous situation whereunder no adequate account is taken of expenditure by parties, and the artificially low limits imposed upon electoral expenditure by individual candidates, are entirely unsatisfactory. The existing law stipulates that electoral expenditure by a candidate may not exceed $500 in a House of Representatives election, or $1,000 in a Senate election. The existing law also requires all candidates to file a return of their electoral expenses within 8 weeks after the declaration of the poll. Yet, as honourable senators well know, this requirement is generally ignored. In the electoral expenses field, unenforceable, unrealistic law is bad law. Most candidates, from whatever party, wish to observe the law in this respect, but they and the public they serve deserve a law which is realistic, clearcut and enforceable. This proposed legislation follows an examination of the methods adopted in other democratic countries which have taken steps to reform their electoral procedures in these areas. Particular attention has been given to the experiences of the United States and Canada and in essence this Bill demonstrates the Government’s willingness to benefit from recent legislative advances made by other countries in this field.
The Government is, of course, particularly mindful of those happenings in the United States which have been characterised collectively as the Watergate affair’. Under the United States of America Federal Election Campaign Act 1971, laws requiring strict financial reporting of sources of campaign funds took effect on and from 7 April 1972. In Canada, the Electoral Expenses Act passed by the House of Commons on 3 January 1974 was welcomed by all major political parties. This legislation contained provisions for the disclosure of the names and addresses of all donors contributing more than $100. Also a limit is placed on the expenditure of candidates and political parties. Spending by national parties is restricted to 30 cents for every eligible voter. A party exceeding this expenditure is liable to a substantial fine. The Canadian legislation also contains provisions restricting individual candidate’s expenditure. Where appropriate the Canadian approach has been taken as a useful guide in the preparation of our legislation.
Up to the present Australia has been most fortunate in that it has not suffered any serious electoral malpractices or ‘Watergates’ and as Australians we tend to pride ourselves in this regard. Nevertheless, there is a real need for legislation of a kind now proposed by this Bill, not only to keep our electoral system ‘honest’ but to ensure that all candidates and political parties, irrespective of their financial standing, have a fair and equitable opportunity of being represented in this Parliament. Reports that multi-national corporations and other powerful organisations have been making substantial contributions to political party campaign funds in Australia highlight the need for urgent remedial legislation in this area. The Government considers it vital that this proposed legislation, which will form a basis for the regulation of the conduct of future electoral campaigns, be placed on the statute books.
The expenditure by political parties and candidates at the 1974 Senate and House of Representatives elections for broadcasting and televising time on commercial stations alone was in the nature of $ 1.5 m and in this connection I quote from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board ‘s Twenty-sixth Annual Report on its operations during the year ended 30 June 1 974. Paragraphs 181, 182, 190 and 191 read, in part, as follows: 181. Apart from policy speeches, S 1 3 hours 33 minutes of station time were purchased at a cost of $301,154 for broadcasts of political matter on behalf of parties and candidates. 1 82. The total time occupied by broadcasting of political matter on commercial broadcasting stations during the election period amounted to 683 hours 45 minutes and the charges for that time were $3 16,739. 190. Apart from the policy speeches, 123 hours 48 minutes of station time was purchased for a cost of $1,175,464 for the televising of political matter on behalf of parties and candidates. 191. The total time occupied by telecasts of political matter on commercial television stations and charges during the election period amounted to 196 hours and $1,334,680 respectively.
In several overseas countries the burden of the cost of broadcasting and televising is partly met from the public purse and it is intended that the Government will give some consideration to this aspect before the next election.
I mentioned earlier that laws requiring strict financial reporting in the United States took effect on and from 7 April 1972. Honourable senators may be interested to know that it was reported in the Congressional Quarterly of 6
October 1973 that fund raisers for the 1972 Nixon campaign raised $ 19.7m before that date, the amounts being collected from contributors who believed their names would never be made public. According to the report, the records revealed that the 1972 Nixon campaign effort raised a record total of $60.2m. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an extract from the Congressional Quarterly of 6 October 1973 listing the major contributors to the 1972 Presidential campaign of Richard Nixon and George McGovern.
THE PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The extract read as follows)-
Extract from the Congressional Quarterly Inc. of 6 October 1973
The Major Contributors
Listed below are the contributors of more than $50,000 to the 1972 presidential campaigns of Richard M. Nixon and George McGovern. The period covered, in reports filed with the General Accounting Office, was April 7- December 31, 1972. Large contributions before and after that period are omitted. Amounts are rounded off to the nearest dollar.
-T he Government recognises and readily concedes that the provisions of this Bill open up a new and vital field of electoral law reform in this country and it was for this reason that the Bill was taken only to the first reading stage in the House of Representatives before the Christmas-New Year recess. A comprehensive explanatory memorandum was circulated at that time, thus providing ample opportunity for all members of Parliament to closely examine the proposed new measures and to be able to express constructive and considered views on these measures when the Bill was at the second reading stage.
As every member of this chamber would know, the existing provisions relating to electoral expenditure are farcical and, in some respects, have come to be treated with contempt. How ridiculous is the situation when a serious contender for a House of Representatives seat is allowed only $500 to cover advertising, broadcasting and television, publishing and issuing posters and ‘how-to- vote’ cards, telephones and telegrams, committee rooms, places for public meetings and scrutineers. In the case of a senator the limit is $ 1 , 000. Yet this is the import of the law as it stands. The previous Government was aware of this ridiculous situation and its attitude was revealed in a Bill introduced in 1971 by the then Minister for the Interior which, in effect, proposed that limitations on electoral expenditure be abandoned. The Government does not support this ‘open gate ‘ approach. Rather, it considers that the time is long overdue to restructure the expenditure provisions into sensible, more realistic and workable legislation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12 February on motion by. Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Last Wednesday, when we adjourned the second reading debate on this Bill until today, we had some discussion about the reasons for doing so. I indicated on behalf of the Opposition that the residents of Darwin wished to have the opportunity of expressing their views about this Bill and of making those views known to the Senate so that consideration of the Bill, particularly in the Committee stage, would reflect the attitudes of the residents of Darwin to this legislation. It was stated that some opportunity had been given to the Opposition and the residents of Darwin to consider this matter. I wish to put the record straight. The first time this Bill was made available to anyone in Darwin was when it was introduced in the House of Representatives last Tuesday. When it was under consideration last week those people had had inadequate opportunity to make known their views. There was some suggestion that the Opposition had been given advance notice of the Bill. The first occasion on which the Opposition had any indication of it was on Monday afternoon of last week when a rather obscurely printed copy of the Bill was made available to us and some discussion was had with an officer of the Department of the Northern Territory. I refute entirely the suggestion made in the debate in the other place that the Opposition had had a copy of the Bill available to it for some time.
As a result of the adjournment of the debate until today, there has been some opportunity for the Opposition to discuss the terms of this Bill with the people concerned in Darwin. I am sure that as a result of the adjournment the consideration of the Bill in the Senate will be more productive, and certainly we will be able to give fairer consideration to the wishes of the residents of Darwin than we would otherwise have been able to do. It is not my intention to repeat the history of the tragedy which struck Darwin on Christmas Day. The history of the cyclone and the reaction to it by the people of Darwin and a great many other people throughout Australia has been covered very fully in the debate in the House of Representatives, by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) in his second reading speech and by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in his response on behalf of the Opposition. I wish to associate all senators on this side of the chamber with the very moving remarks of Mr Calder about the tragedy and the suffering, more particularly about the wonderful response of the people of Darwin and the way in which they coped with the calamity which they suffered so heavily.
I express our sympathy to all the victims of that tragedy, particularly those who suffered bereavement, and our recognition and very deep gratitude to the work of all who were associated with coping with the crisis which was then presented. I refer particularly to those who were there on Christmas Day and the days following, to those who performed magnificently in the course of their duty and far beyond the call of duty and to the countless volunteers throughout Australia who have responded both by thenefforts and their cash to alleviate the suffering. This Bill comes before the Parliament in accordance with the undertakings that were given by the Government very soon after the tragedy occurred. The Government indicated that it would set up this special commission to reconstruct Darwin. It has been a commitment of the Government from early days that it will rebuild Darwin on the present site, but of course with some replanning which will be necessary and perhaps in many cases desirable.
I think it only fair to say on behalf of the Opposition that this Bill, which seeks to carry out the undertaking given by the Government, goes beyond the purposes which we thought the Government had in mind. It is certainly far more than simply a Bill to rebuild Darwin. Far more than a reconstruction or construction authority is set up by this Bill. The Bill gives the Commission and in particular the Minister very extensive powers. The Bill sets up a Commission which is to have these very wide powers for a period of 5 years. We do not challenge in any way the necessity for that period of 5 years for such a herculean task as this will be, but I think it is only fair to point out that the Bill gives the Commission and the Minister over this period of 5 years very extensive powers as to the replanning of Darwin. In other words, it is not just a reconstruction authority; it is also a town planning authority.
As we read the Bill, it will give the Commission and the Minister complete powers in respect of replanning Darwin, including powers which would enable it to decide upon the closure of certain areas of Darwin. The Commission could decide that it will not allow rebuilding to occur at all in a particular area of Darwin, create new areas and so forth. It could also replan roads, public facilities and other matters. So it will be seen that the Bill is of very grave import. In order to carry out the replanning and rebuilding of Darwin the Bill gives the Commission and the Minister powers to override any laws existing in the Northern Territory which may impede the Commission in its operations and which may be contrary to its own decisions. For instance, to the extent that the Commission wishes to alter existing building codes, health codes and town planning provisions it will have the power to do so.
Naturally, all these matters have given and will give the residents of Darwin and the Northern Territory cause for grave concern. That is why we have taken the stand, and we continue to take the stand, that there should be the utmost consultation with and consideration given to the views of the citizens of Darwin and their representatives. We are aware, and I am sure the Government is aware, of a number of very influential groups which have formed themselves since Christmas Day in Darwin and which are vitally interested in and are expressing views on the replanning and rebuilding of Darwin. Apart altogether from the formal groups such as the Legislative Assembly and the Corporation of the City of Darwin, which naturally have taken the most vital interest, a number of other groups have been formed. I mention particularly the Darwin citizens advisory committee which is headed by a Mr Ian Barker, but a number of other committees have formed themselves, have submitted views and are taking a very active interest in how Darwin should be replanned and rebuilt.
I have in my hand the notice of the meeting which was held on Sunday, 16 February, in Darwin. It is described as a Darwin survival meeting. It was called by a number of individual citizens of Darwin, including members of the Assembly, Mr Barker, who is the chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, and a number of others. It refers also to a number of resident groups which have been formed in Nightcliff, the northern suburbs, Parap-Fannie Bay and Stuart Park. These groups are taking an active interest in this whole question. We in the Opposition believe that it is of prime importance for the Government and the Parliament not only to be aware of the existence of all these people who are so vitally and so rightly concerned with the rebuilding of their city but also at all times to give them the opportunity to be heard.
I emphasise this point now because this will be a continuing matter. It is not just a question of the Parliament now dealing with this legislation, perhaps amending it and passing it; it is a continuing problem which we must bear in mind from time to time in this Parliament, and the Government must do so continually over the next few years. We believe that the proper approach by the Government and the Parliament to this whole question over this period of time will require that the utmost consideration be given and that the greatest consultation take place with such groups in Darwin which are properly representing the residents and in particular, of course, those statutory bodies which have been set up by this Parliament to represent fully the electorate itself. I refer in particular to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, which has been elected recently and which has the fullest authority of the electorate as conferred on it as recently as last October, and naturally the Darwin City Council.
Apart altogether from getting the Reconstruction Authority under way, one of the most urgent matters will be the making of some important policy decisions by the Government. We believe that the Government should be making those decisions as soon as possible. In particular, of course, there is the question of what is to be the Government’s policy on the full reconstruction of Darwin on its present site, re-establishing its own services and departments in Darwin and in particular what sums of money will be provided by the Government for the purposes of this Commission. The Minister has said that it is a little early yet to be making these decisions and making them known. I strongly urge the Government to make some of these decisions as soon as possible because there is the utmost urgency for them. The citizens of Darwin eagerly want to get on with the job of reconstruction. It is not only a matter of the Commission’s getting on with the job; many individuals also want to get on with the job. Some people have received their insurance monies or have other assets or other sources of finance available. They are particularly anxious to get on with the job of re-building their homes. The sooner they can be allowed to do so the better for all concerned.
As I have said, as far as we are concerned it is not simply a matter of getting this Commission going. In itself that is not the total answer to the problem. We appreciate that that is a vital step but it would be wrong for the Senate and for the Government to simply take the view: ‘Well, now we have set up the Commission and that it that. It is their problem from now on. That is the solution to the problem.’ It certainly is not. Many other major decisions will have to be made by the Government. As I have said, we make the plea that people who are willing, able and axious to get on with the job of reconstruction as far as they personally can do sn should not be unnecessarily impeded in carrying out their desires in this matter.
We know that the Government has said that Darwin is to be rebuilt on its present site. Of course we fully support that decision. We also believe very strongly that by and large the people who own homes which have been destroyed or seriously damaged should be allowed as a matter of principle, unless there is some very special reason, to rebuild on their own sites. They should be entitled to rebuild where their homes were. We hope that there will not be any suggestion of major shifts from one area to another. We hope that people will not be prevented from rebuilding on their own land as far as that is consistent with the new building codes which may be established by the Commission. These are some of the general principles which the Opposition believes should be followed in relation to this matter.
I now turn more particularly to the provisions of the Bill. As I have said, the Opposition has been a little concerned at the fact that the Bill gives very much wider and more extensive types of power than we had assumed it would. We recognise that these powers may well be necessary in the case of the serious emergency which has arisen but they would not necessarily be required for a period of 5 years. We must at all times bear in mind that we are setting up this Commission with such powers for a considerable time. We are not setting up an authority which will cope with an emergency. This authority may well consider the very detailed re-planning of Darwin. In addition to that the Bill gives power to an unspecified Minister. At present the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory has the carriage of the project. Presumably he will continue to be in charge but there is no specification in the Bill as to which Minister will have the carriage of this task throughout the 5-year period of its life.
It seems that the powers which are given to the Minister are such that they may completely override the Commission in all respects. I believe that one of the major benefits of the Government’s early decision in this matter and certainly one which I think carried a great deal of support from the Australian electorate as a whole was that the Government was setting up an independent commission under the chairmanship of a very notable Australian in Sir Leslie Theiss. The
Commission would have a task and a responsibility. Certainly it is rather surprising and disappointing that the Bill should be chock-full of ministerial powers and discretions. The extent of the powers are such that the Commission by and large is virtually an arm of the Minister. I can understand that there must be many areas where there will be ministerial decision and, to some extent, ministerial discretion but, as I have said, we are surprised and disappointed with the way this Bill is drafted. It virtually means that the Commission is just an arm of the Minister. It certainly will not have the independence and authoritative status under, as I have said, a very forceful and independent chairman which we were led to believe would be the case when the Government originally announced the policy it would follow in reconstructing Darwin. Therefore we believe that there should be some limitations on the powers of the Minister. We have drawn amendments. I think they are probably now available for circulation. Perhaps one of the clerks could arrange for them to be circulated at an early stage in the debate. Could it be indicated whether those amendments are available?
– I have a copy of the amendments.
– I think that is an earlier copy.
– Honourable senators opposite do change their minds.
– No. This is just an easier read, cleaner and more accurate copy which is available now.
– I have about 6 pages here.
-That is right. The amendments which we propose in regard to this Bill cover some major areas although it seems that a great many are in fact consequential amendments. They are major areas which we believe need reconsideration. The amendments are put forward in a spirit of co-operation with the Government about this matter. Certainly they are being submitted by us after consultation with representatives from the Northern Territory and in particular members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly with whom we have had an opportunity of discussing the Bill. I have no hesitation in saying that the amendments the Opposition will put forward are fully supported by the members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and in particular by the majority leader, Dr Goff Letts, and an independent member, Mr Withnall, both of whom have been in consultation with the Opposition in regard to the Bill.
I will deal firstly with the area of ministerial power which, as I have said, runs through the Bill. The Opposition believes that, although there must be a very important area of ministerial discretion in regard to the administration of this legislation and some very major political decisions will have to be made from time to time by the Government, the proper way of resolving any difficulties which arise between the Minister and the Commission should be the same as under the National Capital Development Commission Act. Therefore, we are proposing that there should be consulation at all times between the Commission and the Minister and, in the event of differences arising between the Minister and the Commission, if agreement cannot be reached then the matter must be referred to the Governor-General. Of course, ultimately it would mean that a Cabinet decision would resolve such differences. We believe that this matter is of such importance that if differences occur they should be resolved at that level and should not be simply left to ministerial direction or discretion.
There are some other areas of ministerial dominance over the Commission which I will come to specifically when speaking to the Opposition’s amendments. By and large that is the general approach which the Opposition believes is correct in this matter. We should bear in mind as I have said at all times, that the Commission is and was presented to the Australian people as an independent body which would have the responsibility for the reconstruction of Darwin and that the task would not be one to be carried out by the Minister and his Department.
Another area of concern to the Opposition is the composition of the Commission. As provided in the Bill, the Commission is to consist of 7 members. These will include, of course, a chairman, a deputy chairman, and a general manager who is not to be appointed by the Commission but who is to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral. The appointment of the general manager will be quite independent of the Commission. The Legislative Assembly will nominate one member, the Darwin City Council will nominate another, and there will be 2 other members. Therefore, it will be seen that of the 7 members of the Commission only 2 members will directly represent the residents of Darwin or the Northern Territory, that is, the member nominated by the Legislative Assembly and the member nominated by the Darwin City Council. Admittedly Sir Leslie Thiess is an independent chairman, but so far the Government has indicated that the other members of this Commission will be permanent heads of the departments which are concerned with the reconstruction of Darwin.
– And possibly Darwin residents.
– On the Interim Commission there are 2 permanent heads.
– And Darwin residents also.
-They may be Darwin residents but they are there as senior civil servants. Undoubtedly they are there as arms of the Government. We are completely dissatisfied with the fact that only 2 members of this Commission will be necessarily Darwin residents. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) said, others may be appointed, but the indications from the Government’s appointments to the Interim Commission are that they will be permanent civil servants, albeit one or two of whom may be resident in Darwin.
We believe, therefore, that the Commission should be increased in size to give a greater representation to the citizens of Darwin. In particular, we believe that the Darwin Citizens Advisory Committee, which has been formed under the chairmanship of a leading citizen of Darwin, Mr Barker, and which I think all parties would agree has been exercising a very considerable influence on this whole question of reconstruction in Darwin, should be given the right to nominate a member of the Commission. That is an amendment with which we will deal in more detail. It is an area to which the Opposition attaches very great importance.
The Opposition believes that the Legislative Assembly, which has the right to nominate only one member, should be given the right to nominate 2 members of the Commission, thereby increasing the local representation. We are concerned also with the fact that the general manager of the Commission should be appointed independently of the Commission. We believe that if the Commission is to have a proper independent status it is only natural that the Commission itself should be the body to appoint the general manager- its executive officer. This seems to be the normal practice in regard to statutory bodies. I notice that that is so in regard to the Australian National Airlines Commission and the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. We believe that the proper course is for the general manager, the executive officer, of such a body to be appointed by the body and not appointed by some outside person, as this Bill provides.
– Who is the outside person to whom you are referring?
-The Minister. If the Government is to set up an independent Commission with a chairman like Sir Leslie Thiess, surely the proper course is for a Commission of that standing and authority to be entrusted with and given the authority to appoint its own principal executive officer.
– It will recommend the appointment, surely.
-That is not what the Bill provides. For the information of honourable senators opposite the Bill states, in these bald terms:
There shall be a General Manager of the Commission who shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
The General Manager holds office on such terms and conditions … as are determined by the GovernorGeneral.
We are saying that if there is any reality at all in the Government’s much vaunted claim that it is setting up an independent body- the Government has sought great political capital out of the fact that it has acquired the very valuable services of no less a person than Sir Leslie Thiess as the chairman of the Commission- it should permit the Commission, with the type of authority the Government expects it to have, to appoint and to lay down the terms and conditions of the appointment of its own executive officer. No doubt this will be a matter for further argument in the Committee stage. All I am trying to indicate at this stage- I do not want to argue it any further- is the general approach the Opposition is making to the Bill.
Another area of concern that we have relates to the advisory body which the Bill provides should be set up and be known as the Darwin Citizens Council. This body is to have statutory force under the Bill. As I have said, there is already a Darwin Citizens Advisory Committee in existence.
– Who brought it into existence?
– The citizens of Darwin have formed themselves into this body. The Bill provides not that that body as such should be given statutory force but that a similar type of body should come into existence. The body will consist of up to 20 persons and the membership of which in the first place will be the subject of nomination by various interested groups in Darwin or by any 2 electors. All these nominations are to be made to the Commission and then, the.
Commission having processed them, the selection of the members is to be made by the Minister. Here again we come back to these extraordinary powers of the Minister. I can well understand that if the Parliament or the Government were setting up a truly independent commission, a truly independent statutory body, it may be entirely appropriate for the Minister to have an advisory body set up which can give advice either to him or to the Commission. It might be perfectly suitable in those circumstances for the Minister actually to select the personnel of the advisory body, but in this case the Minister is involved very deeply at all stages in the administration of this Commission and of this Bill. In those circumstances the Opposition certainly does not see it as appropriate that the members of a so-called independent body advising the Commission and the Minister should be wholly selected by the Minister himself. The nominations that are made admittedly will throw up names from all sections of the community in Darwin, or hopefully this will be so, but the only obligation on the Minister in respect of these nominations is that he has to select from the names submitted. The Opposition believes, therefore, that the members of a body such as a local advisory committee should be selected locally and that if it is to be able to act and have any authority as an independent body representing local interests its members certainly should be selected and appointed by a local body and not by the Minister. Therefore we propose that the members of this advisory committee should be appointed by the Administrator of the Northern Territory on the advice of his Council.
That, I think, covers the 3 major areas of Opposition concern with this Bill and the subject matter of the majority of the amendments we propose to move in the Committee stage. However, there is a number of other amendments which we will move. As I have said, we are quite happy with the 5 -year term which has been selected although we are not satisfied, of course, that that 5 years can be regarded as the period of emergency. Certainly that period will be needed to do the vast job that lies ahead.
– That is only the maximum life.
-We appreciate that. However, we are concerned about the area specified by the Bill, covering, as it does, a radius of 60 kilometres from the Darwin post office. That takes the area of the Commission’s authority way beyond any conceivable area that has been affected by the cyclone or which can be regarded as in any way needed for the foreseeable limits of the city of Darwin.
– What about water supply?
– The water supply has not been affected and we are advised that the water supply of Darwin at this stage will be perfectly adequate until the end of the century. So there will be no need for this authority to be concerned with new sources of water supply. Any new aerodrome will be well within such limits. We believe that an area of 40 kilometres from Darwin would be more than generous for the operation of the Commission’s authority.
The other amendment of consequencehopefully all our amendments are of consequence but I cannot detail them all now- which I should mention at this stage because it is a matter of policy relates to the town planning functions and powers of the Commission. As I have already indicated, they are very considerable powers indeed. The Opposition does not intend to take away any of those powers although it has indicated some limits within which the Minister should exercise his powers. We concede that such powers will be necessary for this Commission to do its job properly. But the extraordinary thing about the legislation is that it has none of the provisions which appear in ordinary town planning legislation and which provide the citizens of the community affected by the planning proposals with an opportunity to make their views known. As we read the Bill it simply provides that the Commission shall draw up plans and submit them to the Minister, and the Minister may then accept them and the Commission act upon them subject at all times to the Minister’s oversight. What has been forgotten entirely in the Bill is the need to give the citizens of Darwin themselves an opportunity to take part in or to express any opinions on the plans which are for them. All town planning decisions are in the end for the benefit of those people who are living or will come to live in the town. I would have thought that one of the major considerations in this day and age of any town planning proposal would be for the citizens of the community affected to be given adequate rights and opportunities to express their views in regard to the plans.
The Opposition appreciates the urgency for decisions to be made by this Commission and, in many cases, the urgency for those decisions to be carried out. I indicated earlier in my speech that there should be the earliest opportunity given to individuals to start the job of reconstructing their own premises. So the Opposition appreciates that ordinary town planning provisions which give fairly lengthy periods of time for the advertising of plans, the calling for objections and for the plans to be reconsidered in the light of such objections would be entirely inappropriate in a Bill of this character. Nevertheless, we believe that some opportunity of appeal must be given to the citizens of Darwin or any number of them affected by any of these plans. Therefore, we are proposing that any town plan affecting the use of land in the Darwin area should be at least published in a place open to members of the public, and that no decision should be made on the plan and no action taken to implement it for a period of 1 month. We think that that should be the minimum period. It is really a very short time for the public to be able to consider properly and react to these matters but because of the urgency of it we have selected a period of 1 month although, as I have said, normally speaking that period would be quite inadequate. We are proposing that in the course of that month anyone affected by the plan should have the right to make an objection and it will be the obligation of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to give that person the right to be heard. The Commission must consider such objections. Those are the general areas of concern of the Opposition in relation to this Bill. As I have said, we will be moving these amendments at the Committee stage and no doubt we will be debating them at much greater length and in much greater detail then. At this stage I simply point out the general nature of the concern we have with areas of this Bill.
I come back to the point that I made at the beginning of my remarks and which I think we must reiterate at all times. It is that now and in the future the Government and this Parliament must have the closest regard to the views of the citizens of Darwin, to their elected representatives and to the community groups that have been formed, and will be formed, to express the views of the citizens of Darwin in relation to the rebuilding of their city. It is a matter of grave concern that the Government attempted to rush this Bill through the Parliament in such great haste as it did last week. It was prepared to adjourn consideration of it until today only because of the vote of the Senate. If the Bill had come on last week there would not have been an opportunity to have heard the views of the citizens of Darwin as we have now had the opportunity of so doing. We have had very fruitful discussions with the representatives who have come from Darwin and who are here today listening very intently to this debate. They will be carrying back to Darwin full reports of the way in which the Senate has dealt with their views and problems, because it is essentially their problems that we are discussing today.
I express on behalf of the Opposition our concern that not only now but in the future the people of Darwin who are the people most vitally concerned with this Bill should have their views fully considered. As far as possible proper effect should be given to them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- I call Senator Georges.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I have a request to make in relation to a statement that Senator Durack made last Thursday night in regard to telegrams that he had received.
– Do you seek leave?
– Yes, I seek leave.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Do you seek leave to make a speech?
– No, I seek leave to make a request of Senator Durack that he table telegrams which he referred to in a speech on Thursday night and which he said were available for honourable senators to peruse.
– Make your request outside the Senate.
– I am making it inside the Senate. I request that they be tabled.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator McLaren, you may seek leave or move a motion for the documents to be tabled. What is your choice?
Motion (by Senator McLaren) proposed:
That the telegrams referred to on Thursday night by Senator Durack which he said were available to all honourable senators be tabled in the Parliament.
Senator Durack- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to order. I am fully aware of the requirement under the Standing Orders that if an honourable senator has a document in his hand and quotes from it, he may be asked to table it. As far as 1 am aware, the relevant standing order applies only at the time an honourable senator is speaking to the document. I had the telegrams here on my table. I did not quote from them and I doubt very much whether the Standing Orders would have applied. I do not have the telegrams with me now. They were not my telegrams. I indicated at the time that they were telegrams that had been received by Senator Drake-Brockman.
I indicated that they were there and then available. I have had no request from Senator McLaren or anyone else to look at them. I am in no position to do anything with them at the present time.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to order. I think that what Senator Durack said in relation to the right of an honourable senator to ask for the tabling of a document at the time another honourable senator quotes from it is the position under the Standing Orders. But on Thursday night Senator McLaren did not utilise the Standing Orders to have the documents tabled. Senator McLaren has learned today that Senator Durack apparently referred to some telegrams last Thursday night and said that he would make them available to honourable senators. I take it that if Senator Durack said that he would do this then he would, and that Senator McLaren, as one of the honourable senators who wants to see the telegrams, could then make them available to everyone. Senator McLaren obtained the leave of the Chair and moved a motion. I do not know how he can compel a member under the Standing Orders to table documents from which he has quoted. The honourable senator is moving a motion that some perhaps foreign documents that Senator Durack referred to be tabled. I do not know the power of the Senate to compel someone to table something under such conditions, but we could, motion, request Senator Durack to table the documents. I think that Senator Durack was pre- pare on Thursday night to table the documents to make them available to honourable sena- tors. Although he may know that he cannot do so atthis minute, he may be able to make some ar- rangements to see that they are available for those honourable senators who desire to see them in accordance with his undertaking last Thursday evening.
– In accordance with Senator Cavanagh ‘s remarks, I certainly will be prepared to see whether I can obtain the documents again. As I have said, I think that I referred to them as being telegrams that were received by another senator. I do not have them in my possession but I will see what I can do to make them available on a private basis to Senator McLaren and to any other honourable senator who requests them. I must express my surprise at the matter arising in this way. I would have thought that the normal way of approaching me on the matter would have been on a personal basis outside the Senate chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- The Chair was under the impression that the telegrams referred to were quoted in the course of debate. Senator McLaren, having heard the point of order of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) and Senator Durack ‘s desire to agree with your request, I suggest that you now withdraw your motion and allow the debate to proceed.
– I will do that.
– There is no question before the Chair.
– Yes, I moved -
– Well, it was not seconded.
– Yes, but -
– Who seconded it?
– Well, it is not before the Chair now.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to a point of order. No leave has been given for any motion to be moved. There is no motion before the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call upon the next speaker.
-lt is the duty of the Opposition to perhaps exaggerate the concern when it is faced with Government legislation. That is exactly what Senator Durack, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, has done. He has exaggerated perhaps without realising it. It is apparent that he is not aware that during the weeks since the Darwin disaster various Government agencies have been actively at work informing the Darwin people of the Government’s intentions in a variety of fields. In fact last Saturday I attended a meeting of Darwin refugees in Brisbane which was attended by representatives of various departments who gave the people who were present a clear indication of what the Government intended and sought the advice of those people. At that meeting I gained the impression that similar meetings were being held in the other cities to which refugees had been sent. I also gained the impression that the Darwin people are in a position to be informed of the intentions of the Government. It is clear from that meeting that what the Government intends to do is to reconstruct Darwin upon its present site because it is believed- the decision was made early in the piece by the then Acting Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns)- that the hard core of Darwin remains no matter what the surface devastation is. So, the reality is that if Darwin is to be reconstructed it will be reconstructed mainly on the existing sites and using the existing areas.
It is believed that people cannot be dispossessed of their remaining possessions, few though those possessions may be. In many cases the only possession that is left to a Darwin family is the land upon which their dwelling previously existed. It is only right that a person should have a say as to whether he should build again on that piece of land, whether he should repair the home which may be in a position to be repaired or whether he should surrender that land for the purpose of the reconstruction and redevelopment of Darwin. In all the propositions that I have heard the opinion or the position of the citizen of Darwin was the first consideration. It was carefully considered. That is exactly what is being done in this legislation. The position is qualified by the emergency situation in which Darwin finds itself at present.
– That is not so in the Cities Commission’s preliminary recommendation.
– It is a preliminary recommendation.
– The whole area is contemplated.
-The maps which were shown at the meeting in Brisbane seemed to indicate that these recommendations were not firm and were merely suggestions, and that no matter what the Cities Commission may wish to do the hard fact is that the city itself cannot be altered substantially.
– That is not what the Bill says. The Bill allows for radical alteration.
-The Bill gives to a Commission extraordinary powers.
– Of replanning.
-Of replanning, yes; but the real essence is the approach to the emergency powers. The emergency powers have been given to deal with an emergency situation, but the honourable senator will agree with me that the manner in which these emergency powers are employed is the real consideration. I am putting to the Senate that the whole approach of the Government to this point, which I believe will continue, is to give consideration to the wishes of the citizens of Darwin. That has been my impression.
– Yet it wrote no right of appeal or right of objection into the Bill.
-The honourable senator may raise those matters, as he no doubt will. I notice that he is to follow me in this debate.
– Well, they are fundamental.
– Those matters are fundamental.
– And I hope you will accept them.
– I would say that built into this Bill is the ability to accept such appeals. In this Bill there are provisions which, in spite of what Senator Durack has said, will allow the citizens of Darwin, groups of citizens in Darwin and the corporate institutions of Darwin to have some considerable say in what happens to Darwin.
– Will you indicate where?
-At this point perhaps I cannot; but during the Committee stage, when we will analyse the amendments that the Opposition brings forward, we will be able to take up those matters. The amendments of the Opposition will be carefully scrutinised and I think one or two of them may even be accepted. But by and large one will find that the amendments that have been proposed by the Opposition are not necessary. I will not deal with those amendments now. In the Committee stage we can deal with them one by one and perhaps gain by the exchange.
Let me return to the situation in Darwin. I cannot speak on this matter at this stage without making some reference to what occurred in those few days. I received from the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) a request to go to Darwin because it was possible for me to reach Darwin from Brisbane much more quickly than the Minister could reach Darwin from Western Australia. The Minister in Western Australia found himself in the position of not being able to travel directly to Darwin. There were some problems with normal transport and VIP aircraft were not available at the time. This meant that the Minister had to travel from Perth to Melbourne and then from Melbourne to Darwin which meant a loss of 2 or perhaps 2Vi days. But it was possible for people in Queensland- I could mention 2 people in particularto catch a civilian aircraft which would arrive in Darwin on Boxing Day. I shared an aircraft with the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and 2 other people whose names I cannot recall at the moment. We reached Darwin early on Boxing Day to view the devastation which in some way has been disclosed by the television cameras; but the tremendous impact of the tragedy of Darwin cannot be explained in simple words.
It is for this reason that we should say to Senator Durack that his question concerning communications out of Darwin must be considered in the light of the tremendous impact of the cyclone upon Darwin. It stunned the city and its people. I am surprised that communications were restored in so short a time. In fact the radio transmission tower in Darwin stood intact throughout the whole of the disaster. Communications were restored quickly and it is to the credit of the personnel in Darwin who were responsible for communications that they were able to restore contact between the city and the southern States. One cannot enter this debate in the Senate without giving to the people of Darwin the same credit as was given by various members of the House of Representatives. I think Senator Durack mentioned the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), and I strongly support what Mr Calder said. The work of the Natural Disaster Organisation is worthy of the highest commendation. The work of MajorGeneral Alan Stretton also must be highly commended. For a soldier he approached his work with great humanity, and the over-emotionalism which he may have shown in the last few hours of his duties in Darwin was the result of extreme fatigue caused by his efforts during the previous 4 or 5 days.
Major-General Stretton was supported by a remarkable organisation which was set up by the people of Darwin themselves. This should give us great comfort when we consider what must be done in the future. At least 12 committees were set up in support of the relief organisation. Those committees carried out their various functions in a most remarkable and efficient way which would be a standard for and an example to all other organisations in the States. In fact they were far superior to the organisations which were in control after the 3 disasters that have occurred in recent years in Queensland. I should like to put on record my admiration not only for MajorGeneral Stretton and his small staff but also for the Commissioner of Police in Darwin, Commissioner McLaren, the co-ordinator of the effort, Ray McHenry, and his assistant John McDonnell. I have other names of people who were chairmen of the committees. I could not name the members of the committees because many people were acting under the supervision and leadership of the various chairmen. In the face of extreme disaster and tragedy they did a tremendous job.
I wish to place on record the names of these chairmen. I shall not name the committees which were formed, but they covered a variety of responsibilities. The chairmen were: Ken Wallace; Alec Orford; Barry Humphries; Captain Eric Johnston; Dr Hedley Bear; Bill Hancock; Jack Larcombe: George Redmond; Gresh Godwin; Bernard Valadian; Hyacinth Tungatulum; Dr Charles Gurd; Captain Allen Walker of the Salvation Army; Lloyd Wilson; Gordon Williams; and the trio who were responsible for the tremendous job of evacuation- Alan Shakespeare; Jeff Carter; and Ted Evans. This trio of people worked under Group Captain Dave Hitchins, who co-ordinated the airlift out of Darwin. In mentioning Group Captain Dave Hitchins one must mention also the Hercules Squadron which carried out around-the-clock operations for 4 days and without which the whole of that part of the evacuation could not have been sustained. I refer also to the tremendous effort by the civilian airlines.
– Would you add to that list the honourable member for the Northern Territory who worked with a pick and shovel, helping to clear the debris?
– I do not think that the honourable member for the Northern Territory would expect me to name him. I have referred to him earlier. If I named him I would have to name quite a number of other people who are expected to do that work as part of their duty. Quite a number of people came into Darwin to assist, but the people I have mentioned were in charge of committees and were, in fact, the people who were responsible for the supervision of our work in Darwin, including that of Mr Calder, myself and a considerable number of people who worked there for five or six days. Mr Calder was at the airport along with some members of the Legislative Assembly, including Mrs Lawrie, and they were all doing the work that was required of them. They were assisting people into planes. Once we get into that area we must name many people.
– It is a matter of natural parliamentary courtesy; that is the only reason I have for suggesting it.
-Thank you, Senator. In speaking of this area of goodwill let me say that there was co-operation on the part of people of all political complexions and all religious attitudes. In mentioning religious attitudes one thinks most about the Salvation Army and the remarkable effort that it was responsible for in Darwin. I have not seen a group of people who could come to an area of crisis and be so well organised in carrying out the relief operations. But for the work of the Salvation Army even greater distress would have occurred at the airport.
We could go further and nominate and give credit to the organisation which existed at airport after airport as the people from Darwin were evacuated. It is hard to explain the situation of 600 people being placed upon an aircraft that is supposed to carry less than half that number. There must have been considerable difficulty for people at the main city airports and the refugee organisations set up in those cities to have hundreds of people suddenly before them. Without proper identification it was impossible to send people even to the right city. No shelter was available at the airport in the event of a further storm and it was necessary for the evacuees to be sent quickly away. The fact that the nation managed to handle the evacuation so efficiently is a credit to all those people who worked, and, in fact, is a credit to the nation itself. I do not think the same sort of operation could have been carried out as well in any other nation with which I am familiar.
I refer again to the Bill before us. The situation in Darwin was one of extreme emergency. It continues to be one of extreme emergency and needs extraordinary legislation and extraordinary measures to handle. I believe this is such a Bill. Some concern has been expressed but it is necessary for the reconstruction of Darwin to commence quickly. It may be necessary to put through legislation with some weaknesses, and these weaknesses may need to be corrected later. One great danger in the setting up of a reconstruction commission is that this legislation may delay the reconstruction of Darwin and not expedite it. We can further delay this legislation by breaking down into political controversy.
There is a danger that we will delay the reconstruction of Darwin by breaking down into party alignment. Unfortunately this has already occurred in Darwin with the relief funds. The dispersal of relief funds in Darwin has been sadly affected and the amounts of money which were given were sadly affected by the first disagreement which took place as to who would control the funds. In fact when the people who disagreed got down to thinking about the situation it was found that the 2 groups were practically of the same mind, but the damage was done. I would say that one of the reasons why as much money as was pledged did not come forward was this disagreement. Another reason was that party politics began to intrude.
An anti-Australian Government attitude was emanating from Darwin. I think it is still happening. It seems that because of the sensitivity of the political climate anything that the Australian Government does is to be opposed. That might be fair play elsewhere but in the situation in which Darwin finds itself the attitude is to the disadvantage of Darwin and its citizens. I have said that a continuing emergency exists. It is this: Scattered throughout Australia are many families which need to be back in Darwin and want to be back in Darwin. Many families want to be reunited and cannot be until the reconstruction of Darwin gets under way. The Australian Government is taking certain emergency measures. I believe some 400 prefabricated houses will be sent to Darwin for erection on the people’s land. A further 1000 caravans have been properly fitted out so that they can be placed on the land and connected to the sewerage and other services. I understand that those 1400 housing and accommodation units will mean that some 4000 people can return to Darwin. This is an interim and makeshift arrangement but it will enable us to deal with this very human emergency. Many families are separated and people living in the south want to go back to their city.
There is a need to get this legislation through quickly. I hope that we can discuss the amendments, deal with them and get the Bill through today. We should take some risks in order to get the Commission operating effectively and to the point where it is constructing houses. We could talk for months and months, as we have done in relation to other matters, and not get a house built. In this case delay cannot be permitted. It is necessary to give comfort to the citizens of Darwin beyond the comfort of explanation that I spoke of earlier. It is necessary to give them the comfort of knowing that something is being done, that houses will be reconstructed and that new homes will be built. It may be necessary also to pass quickly other legislation in support of the Darwin people. It may also be necessary to expedite the compensation provisions. Here again we may enter into another area of dispute and conflict. Nevertheless, if we approach this problem in the way I suggested in the first place, putting the position of the Darwin citizens first, I do not think we can fail. I think that the point which the Opposition has expressed is one of overconcern. I think we should pass this legislation quickly, bearing in mind the things that have been suggested. Reference was made to the term of the Commission but it is a maximum term and it is quite possible that in 18 months or 2 years the powers of the Commission can be limited. It is to be hoped that in 2 years there no longer will be a need for the Commission.
– I rise to lend the support of my Party to the amendments to this legislation foreshadowed by the spokesman for the Opposition, Senator Durack. The foreshadowed amendments are not all that we would desire but we think that we can wear them, that the Government can tolerate them and that the people of Darwin can live with them. In no way could we be seen to be denying the severity of cyclone Tracy that struck Darwin, the damage done there, the courage of the people of Darwin, the way that organisations and people rose immediately to help, or the wonderful response to the appeals that were made. We recognise all those things and they were mentioned earlier in the debate. Now it is a matter of reconstructing Darwin. This Bill is designed to facilitate the reconstruction of Darwin.
I am pleased to see in the chamber three of the honourable senators who were members of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. The honourable member for the Northern Territory, Mr Calder, is in the gallery and I noticed a little while ago that the majority leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly was in the gallery. This indicates the importance which they and the members of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory place on this Bill. I want to bring to the notice of the residents of the Northern Territory that the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory has been reconvened and is to meet tomorrow morning. I do not know the purpose of the meeting but this shows that this Parliament regards the reconstruction of Darwin as important.
I think that this Bill, like a lot of the Bills that have come into this chamber since I have been a member of the Senate, is badly named. It is called the ‘Darwin Reconstruction Bill’ but it is really a Bill to create a huge and powerful commission. A lot of Bills are badly named. The Family Law Bill really was a divorce Bill. We also dealt with 6 health Bills, and the Australian Industries Development Corporation Bill. Lots of Bills are badly named and I think this one is badly named. It will create an all-powerful commission and that is the thing we want to correct with our amendments.
– Would you make ‘Tiger’ Brennan a dictator?
– Certainly not. Despite the powers that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission will accept it will still remain under the direction of the Minister.
– That means that it will be under the direction of the Government, does it not?
– Not strictly. The Bill refers to the Minister. The Commission can ask any of its officers to go into anyone’s premises and, without giving them a reason, throw them out. We seek some reassurance on that point.
– Where does the Bill say that? In which clause does that appear? With what proposed amendment will you correct it? I think you had better stick to growing rabbits.
– Such a clause is in the Bill and it is referred to in one of the amendments. The honourable senator will realise that in the Committee stage. Despite the name of the Bill and the location of the swathe that cyclone Tracy cut through Darwin the Bill seeks to extend the locus of the operation of the Commission to an area of 60 kilometres around Darwin. If the fiery fangs of the Federal Government are to take a bite that big out of the Northern Territory, it is not commensurate with the need. The BUI will give the Commission power to decide priorities for suburban construction and reconstruction and even the relocation of suburbs. This will be done without reference to the people of Darwin, particularly the ratepayers of Darwin. Senator Georges referred to a plan but nowhere in this Bill is there provision for a plan which the people of Darwin can look at to see what the Commission will do. There is no provision for an avenue of objection to or appeal against what the Commission intends to do. I think this is the most vicious thrust of the Bill. It forces government down the throats of the people.
I want to revert to the query raised earlier about oral direction to people in Darwin. I refer honourable senators to clause 16, the side heading of which is ‘ Removal of Occupants ‘. It states:
The Commission may, by notice under the seal of the Commission, or a person authorised by writing under the seal of the Commission to give directions under this section may, by oral direction, direct all or any persons or person to leave, or prohibit all or any persons or person from entering, premises in the Darwin area . . .
I think the intention of this legislation is to take control of the city.
– The Opposition’s amendments are designed to give the Commission even more power.
– Certainly not. They are designed to give the people of Darwin a say. The thrust of this legislation is away from the people of Darwin. I think all Australians should read this sort of legislation to see what is in store for them if this Government is in office long enough.
– Break it down. That is stale now.
-It is not stale. This Bill provides for the Commission to take control of works, service facilities and public utilities in Darwin. The Commission will be in charge of all those things and there will be no consultation with the Northern Territory Administration or the local government authorities. The Commission will be in control. Not only will the Commission need the approval of the Minister for most of its actions; it must do what he says. If honourable senators want to hear these wonderful words I invite them to listen to clause 9 which states:
The Commission shall comply with any directions given to it by the Minister with respect to the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers.
By that clause the Commission must obey the Minister. On the other hand, the Commission can do almost anything it wishes with regard to land in the Northern Territory. Clause 13 states:
The Minister may, by instrument under his hand, place under the control of the Commission any land in the Territory that is the property of Australia and is not comprised in a lease granted to any person.
– What is wrong with that?
– What will the Commission do, take control of a chunk of Alice Springs? Why should the Commission have control of any land in the Northern Territory? Did cyclone Tracy go near Alice Springs? According to that clause, the Commission could take any land there.
– You quoted a proposed amendment to limit the Commission’s powers which will cover an area of 60 kilometres from Darwin. Now you say that it can take control of land at Alice Springs.
– The honourable senator can talk about the matter in the Committee stage. Our amendments concern the make-up of the Commission, seek to make the membership more equitable, seek to remove a lot of the influence of the Federal Government and seek to improve the influence of the people of Darwin. In addition, the amendments propose that the General Manager not be a voting member of the Commission and that he be, in effect, a servant of the Commission. We realise the importance of this legislation. Certainly it must be passed. We hope that the amendments will give the people of Darwinnore say in the reconstruction of their city than th ; Bill gives them.
– I think the tendency on the part of Opposition senators is to get away from the real purpose behind the Bill. I commence my remarks by quoting from the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) which was delivered in this chamber last Wednesday. The Minister said:
The Government moved quickly to establish the Interim Reconstruction Commission in order to make the necessary arrangements for the speedy restoration of the city. The Interim Commission has met 3 times and has resolved cr. a good many matters including the need for underground electrical wiring, a new building code, the necessity to consider Government assistance for housing to meet the string. »r safety standards which will need to be laid down, the general nature of redevelopment of devastated suburbs, land availability, etc. They also recognised the need to employ as far as possible locally based firms in the reconstruction program and indicated their belief and intention that this mammoth construction task could and would be met by building organisations within Australia. Indeed, I would expect the Department of Housing and Construction would play an important role in this construction field.
A wide spectrum of community interests has assisted the Interim Commission . . .
From what Opposition speakers have said to date, one would think that no local consultation had taken place.
– It is not envisaged.
– I will comment on some of your statements in a moment. The Minister continued:
Apart from its distinguished Chairman, Sir Leslie Thiess, and the permanent heads of the Departments of the Northern Territory, Urban and Regional Development and Housing and Construction, the nominees of the Legislative Assembly and the Darwin City Council represent the full involvement of the community in deliberations about reconstruction. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the publication and free distribution by the Interim Reconstruction Commission as from 4 February of the Cities Commission ‘Planning Options for Future Darwin’. This is not an authoritative final statement. It was intended as a basis upon which those with a view can consider some of the alternative starting points and has already proved effective in this respect.
Many of these actions were taken in haste for the benefit of the people of Darwin, for the reconstruction and continuation of commerce in the city, for reuniting families where evacuation was necessary and, in general, for the overall well being of Darwin. From what Opposition speakers have said, one would think that none of these things was taken into consideration. The Minister said:
I now turn to the particular provisions of the Bill. Honourable senators will realise that the Darwin Reconstruction
Commission must be a forceful body which may need to vary some of the present and normal arrangements operating in the city of Darwin and its environs. The Commission should clearly have power to do this in the performance of its functions. Naturally the normal processes of government will gradually be reestablished as the city is rebuilt. This is the underlying purpose of the Bill.
Clause 4 of the Bill limits the effective operation of the Commission to a duration of S years after commencement of the Act or such earlier date as is fixed by proclamation.
As the Minister said, by way of interjection in the chamber a few moments ago, that is the maximum period for which it is likely to operate. I suggest that those paragraphs which I have quoted state fairly clearly the Government’s intentions. I wish to comment now on some of the statements made by the preceding speakers. In particular, I refer to Senator Durack who stated with some pride that the Opposition would move 41 amendments. Looking through the 41 amendments which have been circularised, one would have thought that the honourable senator would have mentioned, at least by way of guidance, at that point some of the details and some of the reasons for moving certain amendments. A large proportion of them can be described only as piffling. They are another one in a series of delaying tactics which we have noticed in this chamber now for over 2 years. Everything that the Government does is wrong in the eyes of the Opposition. The only time it agrees with motions moved by the Government is at the end of a session so that its members can go home to an easier life.
Senator Durack referred at some length to the Darwin survival meeting. It is good that meetings of this sort are being held in Darwin, in the Northern Territory and in other areas at present because it gives an opportunity to local people to express themselves. One would wonder, however, where some of the incentive comes from to organise some of the meetings. I propose to make some comparisons later between the storm at Darwin and one that happened 3 years ago in the area in which I live. There has been a complaint that consultation is not taking place. This is not true. From 25 December 1974 there has been consultation in every possible way. The Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory has indicated that it is not happy with some of the actions which the Australian Government has taken. It has a democratic right to express disagreement if it wishes to do so. But cyclones will not wait until the Legislative Assembly is organised and able to express its views. The suggestion that the plan be delayed for one month is a further problem for the people of Darwin.
Senator Georges indicated the action which has already been taken by the Australian Government and I do not propose to repeat it. Senator Sheil ‘s first objection to the Bill was that it had been badly named and he mentioned a whole host of other Bills which had been badly named. If that was the only objection which we had to Bills which came into this chamber when we were in Opposition, it would have been a pretty puerile sort of objection. Somebody interjected and asked Senator Sheil to state the number of the clause to which he was referring. He could not give the clause number and he became sadly confused. He belongs to the same Party as that to which the Leader of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Dr Letts, who was in the gallery at the time, belongs. I am sure that Dr Letts became confused also. I am sorry that Senator Sheil has left the chamber because I want to make a couple of points. However he can read them in Hansard tomorrow. When he was running for the Senate he had an article published in one of the subsidiary publications of the League of Rights. Members of the Australian Country Party would know that organisation. In the article he said that if he became a member of the Senate he would take directions and guidance from the Queensland State Government as long as it was a Country Party government but if it changed to a Labor Government he would change his mind. I remind Senator Sheil of the statement he made at that time because it ties in very well with his comments on this Bill. He was in a state of confusion because apparently he had not received his directions from anyone in the Northern Territory as to how he should approach the Bill. He had some political doubt about whether he ought to stick with the people of the Northern Territory or go off on his own tack. Apparently, because he had not examined the Bill he went off on his own tack That must have further confused the member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly who was sitting in the gallery.
Why did Darwin fall down when the storm hit the city? A friend of mine, who was one of the very experienced builders who went to Darwin in the very early days, told me that 80 per cent of Darwin was built on government contracts and that the racketeering started at that level. The major contractors, instead of paying award wages to all of the people employed on the construction of homes and commercial buildings, indulged in the piece work system- the bane of the building industry throughout this country which has caused jerry-building in the last 30 or 40 years in every State of Australia and in its Territories. The major contractors sub-let to labour only contractors. Because under the piece work system workers are paid less than award wages it is necessary for rush jobs to be done and for work to be slummed. That is precisely what happened in Darwin. I shall cite two or three examples later of what was found after cyclone Althea hit Townsville in 197 1. These are some of the things that this very experienced builder said in a statement that he made to me:
Few buildings had any roof windbraces. In some cases bracing was only a single hoop-iron strap bracing the wall only from a blow in one direction.
Anyone who has experienced a tropical cyclone- I suppose 1 have been through as many in this country and in other countries as any other member of this chamber- knows that cyclones do not always blow from the one direction. Once the eye of the cyclone has passed the wind changes direction. It can come from completely the opposite direction and do damage on 2 sides or 3 sides of a building. It is quite obvious that as Darwin was in the direct line of cyclone Tracy this is precisely what happened.
My builder friend states that wall sheeting, in many cases fibro, was expected to act as bracing. Fibro, while it makes quite adequate wall sheeting, ceiling and roofing material, is subject to all sorts of problems in a cyclone area. If it is hit by flying pieces of other building material- wood, iron or whatever it may be- it quickly cracks. Once cracks appear in walls or windows are broken, wind gets into the building and the damage continues. I was also told that roof trusses were often tacked into place by 2-inch nails and that roof battens were lightly nailed. One of the other common habits of the jerry builder in all areas but particularly in cyclone areas, where special precautions ought to be taken, is to use screws only around the outside edges of the roof and to use nails on the rest of it. Roofs should be properly screwed down on to properly constructed structures in these areas. In most cases no cyclone rods were discovered and in at least one case it was noticed that the rods were placed in but the screws had never been put on top of the rods. Cavity brick walls had insufficient or no wall ties joining them, and in no case was horizontal reinforcing observed in brickwork.
There have been many cyclones over the last 10 years in tropical areas of Australia and there will be many more in the future. The onus is on all responsible people in the community to make sure that those who live in cyclone-prone areas live in the type of building that will stand up to the maximum wind surges or in buildings constructed in areas where tidal waves or cyclonic surges do not damage them by water. On 24 December 1971 cyclone Althea, the last major blow before cyclone Tracy, struck the Queensland city of Townsville in daylight. That was on Christmas Eve. The wind velocity was approximately the same as in Darwin, but Townsville was fortunate in that only a small number of suburbs were on the edge of the eye and consequently the damage was not anywhere near the magnitude of the damage that Tracy inflicted on Darwin. Cyclone Althea struck in daylight, so people were able to take the necessary precautions. Of course, some people were silly enough to drive cars during the height of the storm, but the did not get far. A number of people were injured this way. The total number of casualties to receive hospital treatment was 329, but only 3 people were killed. The suburbs of Cape Pallarenda, Garbutt and West End were all in the direct Une of the cyclone and were devestated in virtually the same way as Darwin was. The remainder of the city was badly damaged. In fact, the insurance payout was many millions of dollars, as it was in the case of Tracy. Buildings in at least two of the bay areas on Magnetic Island off Townsville suffered total destruction. At Picnic Bay, the most heavily populated area, only the police station remained intact. It was only a small building and the wind probably blew under it. Everything else- hotels, motels and other buildings- was razed.
Cyclone Tracy, which also struck during the Christmas period- on 25 December 1974- came in the hours of darkness. We ought to be mindful of the things that Senator Georges said when he gave credit to people who were deeply involved in restoring order to the city and to the people who worked beyond the bounds of duty in trying to help their fellow men. Government reaction to the Darwin tragedy was vastly different from what it was when Althea struck Townsville. It was 48 hours or more after the event before any member of the then Australian Government showed any interest in the devastation that Althea caused. For three or four hours late in the afternoon the then Prime Minister Mr McMahon, who had flown to Townsville, has a quick run around the devastated areas, and then he went back to his holiday on the Gold Coast, promising that unlimited money would be made available to repair the city. I might say that we fought for many months after that and did not ever get the government funds that we hoped we would get to repair the city. No other Minister of the McMahon Cabinet visited the cyclone area until the city was again in a fit condition to look at, and that was many weeks later.
A public meeting was called during the visit of the then Prime Minister. Certain local members of the Establishment were invited to the meeting. No Labor member of either the Federal Parliament or the State Parliament received an invitation to attend. Senator Georges, who was the first outside politician to come into the city, as he was in the Darwin episode, was assisting our office in the meeting but were told that we would not be admitted. When we threatened to gatecrash the meeting, saying that the cyclone and its aftereffects were not the invention of the Liberal Party, we finally were let in to have our say.
One of the other tragedies was that the telephone system was almost put completely out of order, although the situation was not as bad as it was in Darwin. It was difficult in the holiday period for thousands of people to contact their relatives away from the city. A then member of the Government reported me to the appropriate department for misusing my Commonwealth office facilities because I had allowed my telephone to be used to get almost 1000 calls away to people inside Australia and, through the respective embassies, to people outside Australia. The charge was never proceeded with.
– That was hardly a crime.
– It was hardly a crime. As the Post Office was closed down for the holiday period we had great difficulty in contacting the Postmaster-General. It was only through the Deputy Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs- after the Prime Minister had given permission some 48 hours or so later- that we were able to get the telegraph counter open at the Post Office in spite of the fact that members of all postal unions volunteered their services. This is why I wonder about some of the crocodile tears being shed by honourable senators opposite. At that time volunteers wanted to help to clean up the mess that Althea had left. The local master builders said that they would not have volunteers in the town, in exactly the same way as this was said in the Darwin area. The master builders did not want volunteer building tradesmen to come into the town to repair or even to assist in any way. In Darwin the volunteers were more successful. There 300 qualified people were able to go into the city but such people were not allowed into Townsville. Master builders told me on the side that they did not want anybody to come in because enough work had been created for them for the next 10 years. Three years after that cyclone, places in Townsville are still being repaired and rebuilt.
A racket operated between assessors and some of the builders. Master builders were allowed into the town by the locals provided that they brought their own plant and equipment. Some of these people had never been master builders in their lives but they were permitted in by the local petty committees. A time of natural disaster is a great time for playing petty politics. It is a time when all the petty little prime ministers come to the surface. They all want to run the show. I wonder now that this is not happening in Darwin. When I make a comparison with Tracy we will be able to see the difference. An attempt was made to put an ordinance through the local city council which would have compelled builders in the future to carry out proper construction work. Do honourable senators know what happened to that ordinance? It did not get through the city council because the master builders would not let it through. So today in Townsville, ready for the next cyclone, jerry building is going on in exactly the same way as it has been going on for the last 30 years.
This is the difference between Althea and Tracy. In the case of Althea there was no suggestion that the Government would give the amount of money which would be needed. In some cases the State Government, if it could have got the funds, was prepared to rebuild homes owned by pensioners which had not been insured against storm and tempest. Some of the insurance companies ran rackets too. The aftermath of such action will show in Darwin between now and Christmas of this year. These are the sorts of problems which the Darwin people will have to face. In Townsville a so-called master builder with his team of workmen was wandering around looking for jobs to do. He knew that out of our relief funds we had given pensioners and other destitute people money to carry out repairs to their homes. When an old gentleman asked the builder what it would cost to repair his house the builder said: ‘How much did you get out of the distress fund?’ The gentleman replied: $2,500.’ The builder said: ‘It will cost $2,400 to do that. It might be $100 one way or the other.’ He was determined to get that other $100 out of the old gentleman. We had an honest carpenter have a look at the place. The total amount required, by the most generous sort of contract, was about $500 but the owner had paid over the money before the work was done. There was no chance of getting it out of the builder because he had left town and had handed over his contract to somebody else. That was the sort of thing which we saw time and time again after the devastation of Althea.
A local youth hall had been built by a contractor with government funds. It was almost a brand new hall when the cyclone hit. It lost most of its windows, nearly all of its roof and then the floor blew up. The floor was only 3 feet off the ground but it buckled in the middle. The reason this happened was that the cyclone bolting which was to go into the windows was put up so that one could see it from the floor which was some 1 5 feet below but there were no nuts on the tops of the bolts. In many instances the tops of the bolts would not have carried a nut anyway. The floor blew up because the part where people walked in and where they could see had been properly nailed down but the rest of the floor had never been nailed except for an odd board here and there. That is why “1e wind got in. Then we had problems with insurance companies. I am not saying this against all assessors. The great majority of them are honest and look after the business of their companies but some of them were not honest. Some assessors coaxed their building cronies into the town. Some of them already had cronies in the town. Old and destitute people were their chief victims. They operated in these places by coming in with the carpentry teams and saying: ‘We will fix your house for you. We will not give you the money to do it. ‘ Nobody worried about that. The repairs to my home were carried out by a contractor in direct negotiation with the insurance company.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– As I was saying before we were rudely interrupted by the suspension of the sitting for dinner, there are a number of parallels between the storm that hit Townsville in 1971 and the storm that hit Darwin in 1974. There are a number of parallels also between the people who obtained rake-offs and who will make money, even under the most adverse circumstances. But credit must be given to a number of groups. No words can express the praise that is due to the people in the Australian Army who carried out the great brunt of the work in the days immediately following cyclone Althea. Whilst there were those in the commercial world who tried to make as much money as possible out of the disaster, the people in this particular arm of the Services gave up their annual leave. That applied to the local Royal Australian Air Force base as well. Unlike Darwin, we did not have a great number of Navy personnel available to assist in the cleaning up. These two arms of the Services deserve credit for the work they did under very adverse conditions.
Credit should also go to the local civil defence organisation. These are some of the matters about which I want to talk in the next few minutes. The local civil defence organisation was the only organisation that was partly geared to cover a natural disaster of this type in those days. In Townsville our organisation worked out of a building which it had been given by some sort of grace from the then Government. It was well equipped to handle a nuclear disaster but not well equipped to handle a natural disaster. Part of the direction, of course, in the case of a nuclear disaster is that the people who are responsible for the organisation, for evacuation and so on get as far out of town as possible so that the equipment and personnel are preserved in order to come back to do the cleaning up. This country, in no circumstances, is prepared in any other way for a nuclear attack.
The organisation had never been given a great deal of information and instruction on how to handle a natural disaster. An entirely different set of circumstances surrounded cyclone Tracy, and I shall elaborate on that shortly. The local police force assisted considerably during cyclone Althea. As the cyclone progressed the local police inspector shifted his office 3 times as the roof progressively came off the building. I understand that something similar happened to the police in the Darwin cyclone. But within a matter of hours after the Darwin cyclone the Australian Government put its Natural Disasters Organisation into operation. I know the effectiveness of that Organisation because I happened to spend some of my annual leave in Darwin. A large number of people contacted me at various times during a period of several days after the disaster. They were people who were trying to find relatives and people who were trying either to move into Darwin or to get people out of Darwin. I know how effective the local office was. I know how effectively the Department of Defence operated.
Other departments and Ministers who were associated with cyclone Tracy also worked effectively. In a matter of hours the then Acting Prime Minister of this country (Dr J. F. Cairns) was in Darwin assessing the damage for himself Shortly afterwards eight or nine other Ministers followed him to Darwin. The Prime Minister interrupted his overseas tour. In spite of what the Opposition said about the Prime Minister’s overseas tour and in spite of what some sections of the Press said about the tour, it was a very valuable exercise for this country.
– The less said about it the better.
– If an honourable senator wants to make interjections of that nature I can tell him that Bob Menzies, in his heyday as Prime Minister of Australia, used to wander across to the other side of the world- not by fast jet plane but by ship- enjoying the pleasures of life while he travelled there and enjoying the pleasures of life while he travelled back. He stayed away from this country for several months. He particularly did this when the Test cricket series were on at Lords and other places in England.
– Get out of the gutter.
-This is the truth. The honourable senator does not like it. Our Prime Minister was away for four or five weeks. He did a tremendous job for Australia. He had the guts to come back and spend a considerable time here to assist his Cabinet to get the disaster organisation operating effectively, but he was still criticised. He is the only Prime Minister in the last 25 years who has had the guts, the courage and the administrative ability to do this sort of thing. So honourable senators opposite should not complain. When we were in Opposition we tried time and time again, by urgency motions and other motions in this chamber, to get some sort of a natural disaster organisation off the ground. Do honourable senators opposite know what their attitude was? They said that we did not need a natural disasters organisation. The Opposition has people such as ‘holy Jo’ who at the moment is saying that if there is a disaster in Queensland he will not let them into the State, in much the same way as he is standing over Japan. He knows that there is a big deal about to be made with Japan. He knows that there is not enough Australian content in this company that he is going to ban from Queensland. He thinks he has got all the marbles in his corner. Some honourable senators opposite are silly enough to fall for it in the same way they are silly enough to fall for the verbiage of their honourable friend- whatever his name is; he is not well enough known- in New South Wales.
Major-General Stretton, who was appointed as head of the Natural Disasters Organisation by this Government, did a tremendous job. If the Opposition had been in government and in charge of the administration of this country at the time it would have been holding meetings and having discussions to find out where Darwin was. Unless honourable senators opposite examined a map they would not have known that such a place existed except when they were going on an overseas tour and discovered it was the last port of call before they left Australia.
The situation on this occasion was vastly different from the situation in Townsville. Now the Opposition is adopting a dog in the manger attitude by holding up legislation as long as possible until their friends, who want to make a fortune out of the disaster in Darwin, are in the box seat. This Government will not tolerate that. If that is the way the Opposition is going to look after the people of Darwin it does not even deserve to be the Opposition, let alone the alternative government. The evacuation of Darwin became necessary. As I pointed out earlier in the debate tonight, when the eye of a cyclone hits a city, whether it is large or small, that city will be completely devastated if the velocity of winds is the same as in this particular instance.
– Who wanted a car when he got to the airport?
– Well, that is another story. I have a story about galoshes too, in a moment. On that occasion the Natural Disasters Organisation had its first trial of strength. It operated effectively. The evacuation of people from Darwin was the biggest mass civilian evacuation anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world. It was done with a rninimum of fuss and a minimum of trauma for the people concerned. Anybody who has experienced a cyclone of this nature would know the trauma it causes and would well know the upset it causes children. My older children can still remember the terror associated with cyclones in their younger days. My youngest these days can still remember cyclone Althea. Even the wind on a hood carrier of a car can create the type of sound that comes with a cyclone if the car is travelling at more than 40 miles an hour, and that noise causes the same reaction in small children as does the noise of a cyclone.
Instead of criticising the Government and instead of trying to hold up this legislation members of the Opposition ought to be big enough, as politicians, to say: Well, the Government is trying to do the right thing, but if it fails the people will put it out of office in 3 years or at the next elections. If the operation is successful we will have to put up an alternative proposal to the people. Probably one of the major things was the way some little people- it has happened in every major disaster in this country; it happened in the Brisbane floods on Australia Day in 1974- some petty politicians tried to make capital out of the situation. It happened in respect of Althea. Petty politicians were trying to make political capital out of it. Unfortunately it happened again with Tracy. In the other place the shadow Minister for Northern Development, or whatever he is called, before he went to look at the damage that Tracy had caused arranged with his office to make sure that he was properly met with a limousine so that he could carry out his inspection. What sort of tripe was that? The Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) did not put on any of this hullaballoo. He slept under a table for the first three or four nights he was there. He went there and worked with and helped the people. The Opposition’s shadow Minister, who is a member of the National Party or the Country Party or the League of Rights or something, is known as Katter. In fact he has been in the Labor Party.
– He used to be a member of the DLP.
– He has been in the Democratic Labor Party. He has been in the Country Party. They tell me he was going to try to get into the Liberal Party next but unfortunately there was not a vacancy, so now he is in the National Party. The Opposition’s alternative Prime Minister turned up wearing his galoshes.
– And a tie.
– And a tie, I understand, because he heard that there had been some rain in Darwin and a little bit of wind. So he set off on his journey wearing galoshes to keep his feet dry. That is the attitude that the Opposition is adopting to this Bill. It will keep its political feet dry if it is the last thing it does. It will not get off-side with the members of the Legislative Assembly who think the same way politically as the members of the Opposition do.
The damage that has been caused in this and other natural disasters in this country in the last few years ought not to be dealt with as a political issue and this Government has not done so. We appointed Sir Leslie Theiss as the chairman of the organisation which it is proposed will rebuild Darwin. I know that there are people with land investments, people with building companies and people manufacturing building materials and that their interests are all based on the other side of this chamber. I do not blame the Opposition for sticking up for the people who provide its finances for election campaigns, who provide it with the sinews of political war. It has to defend them. But for God’s sake do not do it at the cost of the people of Darwin for that is precisely what the Opposition is doing with its 41 amendments to this Bill. As I said earlier this evening, a lot of the proposed amendments are piffle. They are machinery amendments on which this chamber ought not to be wasting its time. Even the honourable senator who will move the amendments is not convinced by them. He did not approach his contribution to the debate with any great degree of sincerity because he could not. He could not even back up his arguments.
When Senator Sheil spoke at a later stage he became so confused that it was obvious he had not read the Bill. Senator Sheil these days has started a company known as Thumper. The way in which he approached this Bill this evening, it appeared he was out to thumper the Bill. Thumper for those on the other side of the chamber who do not know is a rabbit company. The Premier of Queensland said that the honourable senator could not set up his rabbit company in Queensland, so he went to Tenterfield and is importing rabbits to set up his rabbit farm there. I will not refer to him as Senator Thumper but I would venture to say that if his company is more rewarding than his parliamentary salary it will not be long before he is out of this chamber. Then he will need the profits that come from Thumper. I say in all sincerity that this Bill ought to be allowed to go through the way it is. If there are anomalies in it that appear in the future, if there are problems that come up and can be overcome by legislation then we can bring the matter back into this Parliament and overcome the problems in that way because that is the proper way to do it. We do not trade the trauma and shock and worry of the Darwin people for a political exercise in this Parliament and that is precisely what the Opposition is doing. I hope that every amendment that is placed before the chamber is defeated. (Debate interrupted)
– Before I call on Senator Carrick I would like to draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Vernon Mwaanga, the Foreign Minister of Zambia, and his party who are visiting Australia. I welcome them and hope that their stay in Australia is memorable and enjoyable.
– The Senate is debating the Darwin Reconstruction Bill, the stated intention of which is to rebuild Darwin in accordance with the needs and desires of the Darwin people in terms of homes and other buildings. It is important to stress that, because the test of this Bill is whether it does meet that objective. We have just heard a thoroughly intemperate speech which I intend to ignore except for 2 things. I understand the reference to the visit by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and of the shadow Minister for Northern Development to be a complete untruth. In fact they rode as others did on the back of trucks and worked and slept as others did, in the ordinary fashion. I put that aside because I think it does nothing for the dignity of this chamber or for the serious nature of this Bill for such untruths to be uttered. Having said that I want to say that the Opposition will bring forward a number of amendments. There are five or six key amendments, the remainder being related or consequential amendments.
– I rise to order. A member of another House came into this chamber and made an attack on a senator in this chamber. Mr President, I ask you to reprimand that member because he has no right to do this. I rose to a point of order and he has left the chamber like a cur.
– Speaking to the point of order, I point out that I did not see the incident but if the accusation is made that a stranger came into this House- it does not matter whether it was a member of another House- and made an attack upon a senator I think you have a duty to refer this to the Privileges Committee.
– With Keeffe lying his head off.
– I do not think we can submit honourable senators to this indignity where a stranger can come in here and make an attack within the precincts of the chamber. Mr President, I ask you to consider whether this should be referred to the Privileges Committee.
– I am placed in a rather difficult position because I did not see anything happen and I am not certain of the details. What are the details?
- Mr President, it is obvious that I offended Mr Katter. He said: ‘Well, step outside’. I am quite prepared to step outside but I know that is against parliamentary practice and I do not propose to do it. There are plenty of witnesses who heard the statement. I am quite prepared to step outside but I am not prepared to descend to gutter tactics like having a physical brawl in Parliament House. I am not prepared to do that.
– I rise to order. I find the words of the Deputy President, who referred to Senator Keeffe as telling lies and a liar, offensive. I ask you to order him to withdraw them. I think they are unparliamentary and are certainly not befitting the office he holds in this place.
– I want to keep this situation as much in control as I can. The subject matter before me is that raised by several senators by way of a point of order. The main allegation is that someone made an attack on Senator Keeffe. I think I should take this matter into consideration now and report back to the Senate.
– I rise to order. Since this relates to an allegation that some stranger in the gallery -
– I rise to order. The point of order was raised -
– I would like to take a point of order -
– If everyone takes points of order at once we will not hear any.
– I know, and that is why I was taking mine.
– I take a further point of order. Senator Webster is canvassing your decision.
- Senator Carrick, do you wish to pursue your point of order?
– I think that my point of order is pertinent to the matter that has been raised. As I understand it, the allegation is that a stranger in the gallery said -
– Order! Senator Carrick, I remind you that I have ruled on this matter. I am taking it under consideration and I will report back to the Senate. If you wish to take a point of order on my report, then I will hear you.
- Mr President, if I can explain myself, I was going to ask whether, in so doing, you could widen your consideration to report upon the fact that over recent weeks and months it has been commonplace day by day for strangers in that other part of the gallery to hold conversations with honourable senators opposite. Not one of us on the Opposition side has sought to take a point of order in regard to that. In fairness and in equity, if there is to be a ruling on restraint will you apply a general restraint upon the whole of the Senate?
– I will also take that into consideration and offer comments upon it when I report back to the Senate.
- Mr President, I rise to order. Whilst you are taking the matter into consideration, would it be possible for those who are making the allegation against the stranger to put the matter in writing so that the Senate may be alerted as to what you are taking into account?
– I will also take that into consideration. I call Senator Carrick.
– This is a very serious Bill, as is the debate upon it. I repeat -
– You did not think so on Thursday night when you delayed it.
-I will respond to that interjection, Mr President.
– I wish you would.
-Senator McAuliffe has said that we did not think this was a serious matter on Thursday night when we delayed it. I invite Senator McAuliffe and every honourable senator opposite to read every word that is published in the Darwin Press and broadcast over Darwin radio in regard to this matter. The Opposition has been applauded for seeking a deferment of the Bill for a few days to give the people of Darwin a chance to see it. Let the people of Darwin know that this screaming hoard on the Government side is trying to deny them the right to see the Bill which will impose an institution upon them for the next 5 years.
– Bludger Tiger Brennan.
– Order! This debate must continue in an orderly fashion. Senator Carrick has the call. We will have to hear him in silence. I call Senator Carrick.
- Mr President -
– I repeat: Tiger Bludger Brennan- he had to retract his attack on the police force.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. The words ‘Tiger Bludger Brennan’-
– He had to retract.
– The words ‘Bludger Brennan’, which refer to the Mayor of the Corporation of the City of Darwin, are offensive to me and ought to be offensive to all honourable senators. I ask that the honourable senator withdraw those words.
– He had to retract because he attacked the police force.
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, there has been a request that you -
– No, I would not withdraw that. The man had to retract to the police force and I will not retract my statement. He is a bludger.
- Senator Mulvihill, there is a request that you retract that statement.
– I move that the appropriate action be taken.
– I do not think that the honourable senator can move that.
– No, I will not. I will not retract it. You know what you can do about him. I repeat that if Brennan can attack the police force and get away with it, I am entitled to attack him.
- Mr President, I rise to order. I ask you: Has Senator Mulvihill got the call of the Chair? He is continually talking during the speech of Senator Carrick.
- Senator Mulvihill does not have the call of the Chair. Senator Carrick has the call of the Chair. I have been examining this matter. The request has been made for Senator Mulvihill -
- Mr President, I have a lot of respect for you, not for the Mayor of Darwin, and I retract
– Thank you. I call Senator Carrick.
– I made the point that the true object of this Bill should be to serve the needs and desires of the people of Darwin in rebuilding houses and other structures in that city. A number of people have made the comment that the Opposition, in presenting these amendments, is representing a section of Darwin. Mr President, I want to tell you that in seeking these amendments the Opposition has consulted with a cross-section of the people of Darwin.
– What rubbish.
-Let the Senator Keeffes of this world seek out the viewpoint of the trade union movement in Darwin. Representatives of the trade union movement were at the meetings to which I have referred. The trade unionists, the people who are essentially Labor voters throughout Darwin, have expressed their views which are precisely the views that we are putting forward here tonight The essence of these amendments represents a cross-section viewpoint, a strong and imperative viewpoint, of all the people of Darwin. Yes, they are the viewpoint of the people of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Yes, they are the viewpoint of the Darwin City Council and, in addition, they are the viewpoint of trade unionists, of ordinary people. They are the viewpoint of the National Council of Women. Senator Martin brought to me a letter from the National Council of Women in Darwin in which it is stated that the Council opposes this Bill unanimously on the grounds that the powers given to the Minister are too sweeping, that there is no right of appeal from the decisions of Commission and that the citizens of Darwin are not given sufficient representation. Do honourable senators opposite say that the women of Darwin have not the right to speak? Do they say that these people are a privileged few? Do they say that the trade unions, the ordinary working people, who came to that meeting do not represent Darwin?
– Why do you not read the Bill?
-What a strange thing it is that it so hurts the Minister that he has to interject in such a manner. He sat there tonight and during the whole of this day and let a speech be made, as he said to me informally, about another cyclone. Did he intervene on his colleague who talked about the Townsville cyclone? Not one bit.
- Senator Carrick, please disregard the interjections and continue with your speech.
- Mr President, I would be delighted to disregard the interjections but they are very helpful to me and I naturally have an instinct to respond. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) when introducing the Bill in another place submitted a great number of pages which contained material relating to what happened before the event, during the event and immediately after it. In commenting upon those events he said a number of things in praise of people with which I fully agree and generally commend. However, I think that in some places, however merited most of those things were, there was an element of apologia. In no way do I want to detract from the great job that was done. However, it would be fundamentally wrong if the people of Australia did not recognise that a number of gravely serious things happened from 24 December onwards. By way of question in the Senate I have drawn attention to the fact that for the second time in the space of some 30 years the total communications of Darwin, including all defence communications, were destroyed. I do not speak in a partisan fashion on this matter. Mr President, you will recall that I said that this must also have happened under a non-Labor government. But having had a little experience of what happened on 19 February 1942 and the consequences of the destruction of those same communications by enemy action then, it should not have been possible in the decades following 1942 for Navy, Army and Air Force communications in Darwin ever to have been destroyed again. It should not have been possible- it should not have been allowed- for Darwin, a key defence point of Australia, to be cut off from the rest of Australia.
– Who was responsible?
– I said that the decisions in part must have been taken under governments of my political colour also. This goes far beyond the partisanship of politics. In my view, it is utterly serious that twice in a period of 30 years one of the most important areas of Australia should be cut off from communication with the rest of Australia.
I make a second point from knowledge that is equally first hand. In my view the delay in establishing full and effective communications in Darwin was unnecessarily long. With the capacity of our defence forces and other bodies, it ought to have been possible to relay messages much faster. I was privileged to work for five or six days alongside some wonderful people at Mascot Airport amongst the evacuees. For most of that time relatives and friends of evacuees were quite unable to find out from Darwin whether someone was dead or alive, sick or well. To me it is an utter failure of our communications systems that that was not possible. Never at any time was it possible to know before an aircraft arrived, or even when it arrived, who were the people on board, what was the nature of the problems on board, what were the illnesses of the people on board, what was their degree of injury, what was their destination or what were their accommodation needs. A simple manifest would have helped enormously. A simple telex type of message could have been prepared on the aircraft and sent on. But that was not done and, because that was not done, despite the wonderful efforts of thousands of volunteers delays amounting to hours, often many hours, occurred at the points of arrival.
On the other hand I applaud the heroism and the great qualities of the people who contributed, including the defence forces and the people on the Hercules aircraft. I pause to pay one tribute which I hope the Government has already paid. If it has not, I ask it to do so. The American
Government sent a Starlifter aircraft from California to Darwin to ferry people from Darwin to the southern States. It was a most generous gesture to send the aircraft to Australia, and the crew worked round the clock bringing evacuees from Darwin. I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), if he would not mind, to check on whether a message has been sent. If it has not been sent, I wonder whether that omission could be rectified. I imagine that a message has been sent. In any case I pay my tribute in this place.
I also pay tribute to the voluntary agenciesthe Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the churches, the Girl Guides, Apex, Rotary and Lions- all of whom did a magnificent job, and to the off-duty hostesses and nurses who did a marvellous job. I would like the Minister to give consideration to this point: In an operation which was, by and large, first rate there have been nevertheless many experiences from which many valuable lessons may be learnt. Would the Government consider circulating to all those concerned a letter inviting comments and criticisms so that the national emergency services can benefit from them in the future? At another time and in another place I would add to those comments. I believe it would be of enormous importance if we could cull from the experience of this disaster so that we could compile new manuals and add to the manuals that already exist. I think we could have improved on many things. If it is possible in such an evacuation when women and children are being carried it is devoutly to be desired that commercial aircraft, and not Hercules or Starlifter aircraft, be used. Those of us who saw- and many of us have seen -
– It was impossible in the situation.
– I saw aircraft flying on interstate routes in Australia which could have been used.
– The aircraft could not get in and out.
-If Hercules and Starlifter aircraft could get in and out, the commercial aircraft could get in and out.
– That is not quite the case.
– I know the distances required for lift off. I asked some commercial pilots about this matter and they said that they could have done it.
– Why was it that a civilian aircraft returned to the ground with a load of passengers and those passengers were taken out in a Hercules?
-I do not know of that particular incident. Those people who saw women with 5-day-old and 6-day-old children coming off aircraft, the children being quite seriously dehydrated and affected by the heat and the women themselves having experienced much, saw the difference in women and children who had come off commercial aircraft where they were seated and given a drink. I do not say that in any criticism. Could we compile a manual and could we look at this kind of thing, because despite all the devotion and dedication there was still room for improvement? I also pay tribute to the 300 building workers who went to Darwin and gave their services voluntarily. I think that was an outstanding gesture.
Let me now draw the threads of this Bill together. Does this Bill seek to find out and serve the needs and desires of the people of Darwin? What it does is to set up a Commission. In examining the functions of the Commission one can test the situation. The Bill contains 2 weapons. It sets up a Commission and an advisory council of citizens. The Commission, as set out in the Bill, is a creature, a front and a tame cat of the Minister. The Chairman of the Commission, who is an outstanding Australian, has his potential powers totally emasculated by this Bill. Let nobody think that the appointment of Sir Leslie Thiess as the Chairman of the Commission will enable Sir Leslie to bring his undoubted powers to bear in Darwin. The Bill sets out to make sure that this cannot happen. The first matter to consider is that the General Manager, who is supposed to be responsible to the Chairman, is not appointed by the Chairman or the Commission. His terms and conditions are not even governed by the Chairman. The Chairman cannot even decide whether he may have leave of absence. All appointments to the position of General Manager are to be made by the Minister. How in the name of Heaven can we have vested responsibility if the General Manager owes his allegiance not to the Chairman but to the Minister? How, in a Commission consisting of 7 members, can there be any expression of a local viewpoint if the local community is represented by only two of those 7 members and if the Minister controls 4 members who, by definition, are likely to be public servants?
A Commission is to be set up under the pretence that it is to be an independent Commission, but the General Manager and the majority of the members of the Commission are public servants and are directly responsible to the Minister and not to the Chairman, and the local viewpoint is put by two out of 7 members. All the talking in the world about being responsive to the desires of the people of Darwin will not wash. We have said in our amendments that if the Government is really intent on bringing to bear the viewpoint of the people of Darwin it should appoint to the Commission 2 people from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and one person from the citizen committee. What could be the opposition to that proposition? I know what will be said. I will be told: ‘You have not read the Bill. There is to be a Citizens Advisory Council’. The Citizens Advisory Council is deliberately constructed as a pretence and as a tame cat of the Minister who will appoint the members of the Council. In the name of goodness, how can there be a Citizens Advisory Council of the people of Darwin when the people of Darwin do not appoint its members and when the Minister can say: ‘We will not have you; we will have you and you”?
– The people of Darwin nominate them.
– The people of Darwin do not appoint them. The people of Darwin have the right to nominate the members of the Council.
– They will be nominated by organisations in Darwin.
– The Minister cannot tell me that his people will not make sure that the right kind of nominations go in so that the Council can be stacked with tame cats. We have not had the experience Government senators have had in union elections. We are quite willing to accept that they are professionals in this matter. The point I make is that if the Government is fair dinkum- to use a good Australianism- that this Council is to be representative of the people of Darwin let the Government use the advice that is contained in the proposed amendment which states that the people of Darwin, through their properly constituted bodies, can select members for the Council. Let the Government give teeth to this Council. Let it give the Advisory Council a job of work to do.
One of our amendments states a task for the Council. We have said that it shall investigate complaints made to it by any person in relation to the administration of the Act, and to report thereon to the Commission or the Minister, as the case may be. If this proviso is not contained in the Bill, under the guise of urgency, under the guise that something big must be done and under the guise that the Government will spend money there will be total government control from Canberra. All the town planning powers and every rule of law that normally exists is being swept aside and the Commission is being given overriding powers. What appeal have the ordinary people of Darwin against this power? They have not a single appeal. There is not a single word in the length and breadth of this Bill which gives to the people of Darwin a chance to object and receive a fair go at an appeal. Who is talking now about a fair go in this situation? We have written into the amendments- we hope for the Government to accept- a method of selecting a council of people by the citizens of Darwin and a method of giving to the council an ombudsman’s role. If people cannot go to an ombudsman, where do they go?
This Bill allows people tremendous rights. It allows a person to enter another property and say to the person on the land that he has to get off it. Perhaps the person is living under a temporary shelter on his land and someone can say to him that he has to get off the land. The punishment is there.
– That is not right.
-It is written into the Bill precisely in that way.
– Only if it is for the person’s own safety.
– If ever there was socialist paternalism here it is. The kindly Minister will know better about the safety of the people than the people. We want this proviso written into the Bill so that the reason people are being ordered off their land can be stated in writing. If we take out the phrase ‘in the opinion of the Minister’ the matter could then be litigated in a court of law. Is the Government intending to deny the right of people to go through the ordinary common processes of law? This will be fascinating. Having set up Darwin virtually as a military town and taking over the powers of law, will the Government deny the people the ordinary human rights of appeal to common law in this situation?
– If the Minister acts outside the Act the person concerned can go to law.
– Right; then the Government should accept the amendments we propose. What a situation it is that in a Bill such as this the Government of the day can decide to do major replanning of Darwin which will affect the lives of hundreds and even thousands of people. The
Government has toyed with this idea in the preliminary Cities Commission report, yet no appeal is available to the people concerned.
We are not building a new growth centre. We are doing a great human thing. Before this cyclone 40 000 people thought they owned the right to blocks of serviced land on which dwellings stood. The blocks of land are there today and the services are on them. The people who previously occupied the land ought to have a virtually unalienable right to rebuild.
– They have.
-No, they have not. When Senator Georges spoke he said that the people of Darwin ought to have a say. He put it as high as that. He said the people ought to have a say. What say have they got? Ministers from another place are saying that this is a great opportunity to undertake a major replanning of Darwin, lt may well be that some replanning, consistent with the rights of the people, ought to be done, but if a major replanning of Darwin is to be undertaken what right have people got if, in an equitable fashion, it is decided that they ought to be removed from the tidally affected areas? It could be declared that they could not go back there. They could sit on their leases and get no compensation at all. Where is it provided that if this is done they must receive compensation. It is not provided at all.
I accept the fact that where possible good planning ought to be built into this scheme. Of course it should, but this is a wrong headed attempt. One would have thought that by now we would have known a number of things. One would have thought that we would know the future intentions of the Federal Government with regard to the structure and size of its Public Service in Darwin. Upon that basic decision a whole host of things rests because the public servants are a significant part of the population of Darwin. Has any decision been made on this matter? Have we heard of any reallocation? Do we know whether Larrakeyah barracks will stay where they are? What will happen? Have any of the people of Darwin been written to and asked whether they want to go back to the piece of land that is theirs and rebuild on it? Have they been asked whether they want not to go back? Have they been asked whether they willingly would accept an alternative block if it was of equal attraction. Do we know any of these things?
It is now several months since the disaster. We intend to replan Darwin and the only people we have not asked are the people who want to live there in their houses. The Commission of the day- that is the Minister, because the Commission is a polictical eunuch- can say to people that they cannot come back on their land. What is the redress for those people under this Bill? I thought we were rebuilding Darwin primarily to put back in decent and proper shape the houses that were knocked down.
-Then there ought to be an unalienable right for people to be able to say that they want to live on their land. The only argument should be in a basic thing such as tidally affected areas or some great situation in which the rights of all override the rights of the individual. That matter needs testing. The Government has put nothing in this Bill that a plan shall be made, that a plan shall be exhibited, that people shall have the right to object and that people shall have the right to appeal. There is nothing at all. What an extraordinary situation when the Government, which intends rebuilding a great city, puts none of the equity of town planning into this Bill at all. Government supporters are saying that they are standing for the rights of the people of Darwin. Yet the people of Darwin say they want a greater say on the Commission and the right of appeal. They have said what they want.
When the rebuilding commences it seems to me’ that some indication of minimum requirements should be made to the people concerned. Much has been talked of the need to make Darwin more weatherproof. If we can we should build all the safety factors into the rebuilding of Darwin. One must keep in mind that it will not be the Government primarily that will be spending the money, it will be the people of Darwin spending the money which is theirs, the insurance companies having given it to them. The people of Darwin will be spending the money which the insurance companies are paying out. The Darwin people will be trying to rebuild homes in those circumstances.
– A fraction of what is required. You said a large amount.
– That will represent a large fraction of the expenditure in Darwin.
– It is a fraction of what is required. I did not say large. You said large.
-No. If the honourable senator would only listen, I will add to what I said. I have been waiting to hear the Government come forward with plans to meet the problems of bridging finance for the Darwin people. I have waited and the silence has been deafening.
One would have thought that the very first thing that would have been done, and lauded to the hilltops, would have been the introduction of a device so that the Government could say to the people: ‘We know that your insurance payouts are not goint to be enough.’ Of course they will not be enough. Why, in the time since they have been paid out inflation, running as it is, is increasing the cost of a building by another $ 1 30 a week. Next week a building will cost $130 more.
– I will be interested to see how you vote on the Australian housing corporation when that legislation comes before the Senate.
-Senator McAuliffe ‘s hypertension should contain its emotionalism. He will have to wait and see. The simple fact of the matter is that the people of Darwin deserve special financial arrangements. They deserve a special system of grants and loans for building. If there are to be loans they should be loans at the same kind of interest rate that the Defence Services people get. They should be loans at 3 3/4 per cent. If they are grants the interest burden or the capital payment will not be there.
– Do not put that proposition up to your Leader.
- Mr President, is it not noticeable that when the political vacuum of the Labor Party is exposed its members try to fill it with noise instead of ideas? Plans for finance should be coming forward now to fill the gap between what the insurance payments were and what the reality is, and particularly to fill the gap which will be caused when the Commission lays down new standards and therefore adds to the cost of homes. For example, I imagine that the Commission ultimately will reach the view that houses cannot be thoroughly weatherproofed but a structural cell can be incorporated in each house so that it can, if properly built, withstand happenings of this nature. Probably it would be the bathroom and toilet. If that is so, if this is insisted upon, it is my view that for this rebuilding special fiscal arrangements should be made and they should be announced pretty soon because people who want to rebuild are entitled to know. I urge this strongly upon the Government. That is the basis of the Opposition’s position on this Bill.
Some attempt has been made to suggest that we are delaying this Bill. The people of Darwin have thanked the Opposition for the fact that they have had 3 or 4 days in which to look at the Bill before it becomes law. They do not thank the
Government for not even paying them the courtesy of sending them a copy of the Bill. I want to refer to this argument of urgency. If there is urgency it must relate to the temporary crash program of the next month or two. On the say-so of the Government the planning program of the commission is to take up to 5 years. It is not going to get away with the argument that it wants police powers, military type powers, for 5 years. For a few weeks of emergency, yes, but for 5 years, no. The Opposition takes the view that if this Bill is to express the viewpoint of the people of Darwin the Commission must cease to be the tame creature of the Minister and become responsive to the people of Darwin. If it is to be a success the Darwin Citizens Council must be spontaneously put together by the people of Darwin and must be given teeth to perform its functions. If it is to be a success there must be a right of appeal. If it is to be a success the Government does not want it to cover an area of 60 kilometres which takes in hundreds of little farmlets that have not seen -
– Do not exaggerate. Reduce the area to 40 kilometres if you want to. That is the proposed amendment. Do you know the reason why 40 kilometres is suggested?
– The simple fact is that southwards and eastwards for 60 kilometres would take into account many, many farmlets that have no relationship to the growth of Darwin or the cyclone devastated area. Certainly no Bill ought to give to a commission the right of land acquisition anywhere in the Territory outside the 40 or 60 kilometres.
– Does it?
– Yes, it does, anywhere in the Territory. Senator Georges has seen fit to speak in criticism but asks: ‘Does it?’ He did so with a surprised look on his face. This is one of the most profound pieces of political militarism that you can get and there it is in the Bill.
– What about this afternoon?
– What about this afternoon?
– I never saw a man go as white as you did.
- Mr President, I am intrigued about this. May I reply? I want to make this point because otherwise I will have to make a personal explanation. I take it that Senator McAuliffe refers to the fact that Senator James McClelland responded to an interjection by me.
Hansard will prove that it was a threat. In essence he said that I may find the making of certain kinds of comment is actionable. Since when does a person in this chamber representing an Attorney-General threaten the free right of an honourable senator who is on his feet in this chamber because something might be actionable outside?
– Order! This is an entirely different matter from the subject before the Chair at the moment. We are debating the Darwin Reconstruction Bill and I would like you to confine your remarks to the Bill.
– I will be happy to do so. The proposed amendments we are putting forward are the viewpoint of all the people of Darwin, including the traditional supporters of the Labor Party. If the Government seeks to override them it will do so at its peril; it will be recreant to its claim that it is seeking to express the will of the people of Darwin. With the ordinary simple amendments that we propose to move, this Bill will become a good workable Bill and we commend them.
– When this Darwin Reconstruction Bill was being debated in the House of Representatives it was interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the principal Opposition party, Mr Snedden, said that the Opposition approached the reconstruction of Darwin on a totally non-political basis. But, of course, here we have been subjected to the usual farrago of nonsense from some of the Opposition speakers. However I must admit that Senator Durack, who led for the Opposition, played this matter in substantially a low key. It is pretty clear that the Opposition is going to use every device, every tactic and every portion of the media with a view to inflaming public opinion in Darwin and trying to make the people believe that the Australian Government, in fact the Parliament, is acting against the best interests of the people of Darwin.
Senator Carrick had a great deal to say about the fact that the people of Darwin did not see this Bill until it had been presented to the Parliament. That seems to me to be a specious and irresponsible argument because that was the procedure followed by governments formed by Opposition parties in the past and it will be followed by this Government for the present and in the future. Bills to be debated in the Parliament will be presented to the Parliament. Due notice will be given to the persons affected by the legislationin this instance, the residents of Darwin.
Senator Carrick ‘s criticism was strange, coming from a supporter of a government which conscripted and sent young men to Vietnam without allowing them any opportunity to determine their involvement in a war in which they wanted no part.
It seems to me that for the first fortnight after the tragedy that struck Darwin there was no criticism- in fact, there was praise from the media and from all sections of the Australian community- of the alacrity with which the Government acted, of the compassion which the Government had and of the effective and competent way in which the Ministers carried out their responsibilities. However, since that time it is clear that a group in Darwin and a group in the fanatical wing of die Opposition parties decided to try to destroy the goodwill that was built into the work of the Australian Government in those first few days, and set about consciously to undermine public confidence in the Government and to deprecate the words of the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke on this matter in the early days of the tragedy that was Darwin. It is historically the role of the Opposition to oppose but it is not historically the Opposition’s role to undermine and try to belittle the efforts of the Government to reconstruct Darwin. Mr President, as you well know, at the Federal Conference of our Party only a fortnight ago I was privileged to move a motion to establish the basic principles in respect of the recognition of Darwin as an important city in the Commonwealth and of the right of the people of Darwin to participate in the reconstruction and the rebuilding of that city.
It makes my stomach turn to hear the sort of nonsense that was peddled by Opposition speakers this evening about public participation and the need to remove the influence of this Parliament in the reconstruction of Darwin. What did the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), in a book which has been published and distributed to every citizen who was a resident of Darwin, say in respect of this question which has been so widely canvassed here and in the other place? He said:
An aspect of particular concern to me is the need for the participation of the public- the present Darwin community, the Darwin evacuees and organisations and individuals interested in Darwin- at all stages of the planning work and in the process of redevelopment.
It seems that in the Darwin incident we will see politicking of the worst kind, politicking which will show to the people of Darwin that the Opposition is not interested in the proper reconstruction of that city. The Opposition will not take advantage of the opportunity presented to the Australian Parliament and to the citizens of Darwin to plan properly their city, but it will play and prey upon the misery of the people of that city. Less than one-third of the people who were living in Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974 are living there now. The overwhelming evidence is that the ex-residents want to return. Everything that has been said by Opposition speakers in the other place and here and, to some extent, by those who claim to represent the real interests of the Darwin people is designed to delay the return to Darwin of all evacuees. Yet the overwhelming evidence is that they want to return tomorrow. How can they return to a city which is stricken by the lack of public facilities and which suffered so disastrously only a few weeks ago?
Of course the residents of Darwin want a say. If every resident is to have an opportunity to say what should happen to the city and if every legal pretext is to be used in respect of land ownership, control and redevelopment of that cityeverybody admits that the opportunity ought to be taken in respect of this matter- the people will not be back in 5 years; they will not be back in 50 years. The Opposition must be prepared to take the responsibility for the delaying processes to which it seems to have so much allegiance. Of course we want the citizens of Darwin to be involved in the reconstruction of their city. Of course we want to give them complete and absolute say. It is about time that Senator Carrick, as the Opposition spokesman on urban affairs, got the message. What is involved in planning is a question of whether one concerns oneself with public interest, community or private interest. That is the dilemma which faces planners everywhere. It will face planners in our country, and it will face the planners in Darwin.
What do the proposed amendments seek to do? I have counted it up in round figures while I have been listening to the debate. Approximately 16 of the Opposition’s proposed amendments seek to take the power from the Minister and invest it in the authority. That is the tactic which the Opposition parties have sought to devise. It seeks to establish a bureaucratic and autonomous body which is subject to nobody; not subject to the will of the Parliament; not subject to the will of public opinion; not subject to the views of the residents of Darwin whether they are at the moment at some centre in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne or in Darwin. The Opposition wants a completely autonomous body making the decisions which affect that city. I find it rather strange that the Liberal Party should have so much concern about the rights of individuals and the rights of elected representatives. Australia has a very short history in respect of planning. The first planning organisation was established in New South Wales in 1945. It was established on a somewhat bureaucratic basis. As experience in New South Wales developed, the States followed the same pattern to some extent. In the next 20 years or so there was an evolution in thinking in respect of planning. That evolution was that the States would give the authority for planning to the bureaucracy. That has been the general rule.
In recent years the experience in most of the States has been to move away from the bureaucracy making the decisions in respect of redevelopment and planning and to vest such power in a Minister. This applies to the conservative States such as New South Wales. I do not think we can blame Mr Lewis for this, although we may be able to blame him for other things. 1 defy any member of this chamber, any member of the other House, any person associated with Darwin and with the clamour which is being whipped up there by subversive elements to show where that philosophy has any substance in the planning in this country. In my home State of New South Wales the Minister for Public Works has in the last 2 years assumed ministerial control of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board which spends $ 1,000m or more of taxpayers money each year to supply water facilities. The elected representatives no longer have any say. The Liberal Government in New South Wales, with which Senator Carrick had close association for many years, no longer has any say in the disbursement of funds or in the development of works programs in respect of that public authority. It is exclusively in the province of the Minister for Public Works.
The same position applies to the Board of Fire Commissioners in New South Wales. The elected representatives who hitherto were supplied from the local government representatives have been abolished and in their place a bureaucracy has been appointed subject to the Minister. In the last few months the State Planning Authority, which was the successor to the Cumberland County Council, has been abolished and we have a Planning and Environment Commission under the direct control of the Minister. The same can be said of the other States. I have taken the time to check out the position in South Australia and I find that, in the period of time during which Senator Steele Hall was Premier and subsequent to that, the experience was the same. The same can be said of Queensland, Victoria and all the other States. The general experience is to get control of planning, redevelopment and building closer and closer to the hand and the whim of the Minister.
Why is this happening? It is happening because we found that the bureaucracies were more inflexible and more bureaucratic and were not bending to the changing attitudes of the community in respect of redevelopment. The Minister, because he was subject to the control of the Parliament and to questions in the Parliament and because he had some regard, as all governments have, to public opinion, was thought to be more responsive to public opinion and changing public opinion than was the position hitherto. This is the evolution of thinking in respect of the whole area of planning. Yet one would imagine when one hears members of the Opposition that they want to go off at a different tangent or in a diametrically opposite direction to what has been the experience in all States. One is entitled to ask the question: Why is it that honourable senators opposite, certain people associated with so-called protest movements in Darwin and certain people in the other place have set out to try to create an entirely different apparatus, an entirely different structure and an entirely different arrangement for what must be one of the great challenges for this Government and this Parliament?
I see nothing wrong with giving to the Minister the powers which have been provided in State parliaments and which up till now have been provided in the national Parliament by the previous Government and the present Government. In point of fact, I can point to many instances in New South Wales where the Minister for Local Government, or the Minister for Planning as he is now called, has been able to override both the local opinion and established planning principles because in the opinion of the government of the day they were the decisions that were necessary in the public interest.
What are the main issues? As the Opposition sees them, the main issues- it will move amendments accordingly- are to remove, diminish or minimise the influence of the Minister. In other words, it is saying that the current Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the current Minister for the Northern Terrritory (Dr Patterson) do not have any support from the people in the reconstruction of Darwin. It wants the Minister who will be responsible for administering this legislation to surrender his rights- that is what is involved in the amendments- and to vest those rights entirely in an autonomous body.
Yet in the same breath Senator Carrick had the audacity to suggest that only two of the 7 members who will constitute the Commission will represent the point of view of the Darwin residents. How is he able to make such an assertion? In what way is he able to say that only two such persons will represent the views of the Darwin residents? Is he suggesting that the eminent Sir Leslie Thiess to whom some speakers have referred has no regard for the residents of Darwin? Is it suggested that the Deputy Chairman will not be sympathetic to the views of the Darwin residents? The Opposition is suggesting by moving an amendment that the General Manager should have no voting power.
This is strange coming from a Liberal Party which recently sponsored in New South Wales a change in the whole local government system which would vest more power in the general manager and less power in the elected representatives by virtue of the general manager system. I suggest that those who are concerned about what will happen in Darwin might look at the Barnett Commission’s inquiry and its recommendations in respect of the effective way local government should operate in New South Wales. That Commission which was appointed by the Askin Government was designed to remove certain powers of the elected representatives and to vest them in the general manager. Now the Darwinians and those who support them in this place and in the other House are suggesting that that course of action is wrong when it comes to Darwin. I wish the Liberals would really sort out what their philosophy is- or is it a matter of the Country Party tail wagging the Liberal Party dog?
– They cannot sort themselves out.
– I do not think they can work out where they are. They still believe they are back in about 1947 and not in 1975. Everything that has been said by them in the debate and all of the propaganda that has been pouring out of Darwin seem to indicate a parochial and inadequate understanding of the problems that exist in Darwin.
The facts show that in the life of my parents and many older people in this community- those who were born after 1897- there have been 4 tragedies in Darwin. I understand that in 1897 or 1898 there was a cyclone of some intensity. There was another one in 1937. Darwin was bombed during World War II- from memory, in 1942- and of course there was the destruction caused by Cyclone Tracy. I think that in those circumstances we are able to draw the conclusion that about every 30 or 40 years through natural causes Darwin will be faced with problems of the sort caused by the calamity that hit on Christmas Day last. In those circumstances, what action has been taken by the elected representatives of Darwin those members of the Corporation of the City of Darwin and the elected representatives of the former Northern Territory Legislative Council? I leave out the members of the new Legislative Assembly because it would not be fair to challenge their integrity or their understanding of their public responsibilities.
But clearly the national Government and the Australian people are entitled to ask: ‘What was wrong with the building code? What was wrong with the health code? What was wrong with the subdivisional plans? What was wrong with the construction of buildings and public facilities in Darwin? Did we not learn, expect or come to understand that what happened in 1897 and 1937 would happen again? What did the elected representatives do? What were the responsibilities of the people, who now claim to speak on behalf of the people of Darwin, in this matter of building and construction of public facilities so as to avoid the death, the tragedies and the miseries that took place as a result of cyclone Tracy? Are those self-same people now to be given exactly the same open door to repeat the mistakes of yesteryear? Is the Australian Government expected to pick up the tab to the tune of $50m or $60m without saying that we learned from the mistakes of the past in order to avoid the difficulties that might occur in the future?’
As sure as we can be, the facts are that Darwin will experience another cyclone some time in the life of some of the younger members of our community. I will not say that there were guilty men in Darwin, because I think that most people who serve the public interest and most people who go into public life do so with the best of intentions. Surely at this time we are entitled to ask: ‘Why did they not have a building code capable of withstanding the worst ravages of cyclone Tracy?’ We are indebted to Senator Keeffe who told us of some of the experiences of Townsville some 3 years ago. We would be irresponsible if we did not say that some public authority should evaluate what has happened in the past so that we may learn from those experiences. Of course there are members of the present Legislative Assembly who have been holding public office for considerable periods of time. Did they seek to improve the code? Did they seek to influence the Northern Territory Building Board? Who were the officials? Did they make any attempt to upgrade the standard of development? Was there jerry building? Were the residents badly advised? These questions ought to be publicly asked and answered.
I think it would be a matter of great regret and irresponsibility if the Australian Government were not to say: ‘Well, we are in a position. We have the staff. We have the experience. We have examined what we are doing in relation to Albury-Wodonga. We have examined the experience of the National Capital Development Commission here in Canberra. We have the expertise. We have the men and women who can properly advise us in these matters. ‘ Those who take the simplistic view suggest that all we have to do is to set up a structure for the minority of the people in Darwin and then we have carried out our responsibility. Honourable senators opposite make no suggestion as to how we might involve the great majority of the Darwin residents who are not there any more. Are those in Darwin speaking on their behalf? Are they speaking on behalf of those who want to go back? Are they speaking on behalf of the Australian communities which donated so generously? Are they speaking on behalf of the Australian Government which surely must have some responsibility when we talk of the sort of public investment which it has been suggested is required in these circumstances?
The second reading speech has made it quite clear that the Australian Government is committed to public participation. But public participation does not mean that the elected representatives and governments abdicate their responsibility. Someone has to make the decisions. No one can tell me that meetings here and there and uninformed people here and there are in a position correctly to estimate and understand the need for a national approach on these matters. A great song and dance has been made by the Opposition parties about the size of Darwin being reduced from 60 to 40 kilometres. Why are they making this matter such an issue? In whose interests are they speaking? Maybe some of those who are active in the protest movement in Darwin are correct. I do not know whether experience shows this, but maybe it can be shown that certain areas of Darwin should not be reconstructed. Maybe we ought not to have Darwin the size that is planned.
The Government has a responsibility and it has decided that Darwin should be 60 kilometres. Surely this is not a matter on which we will seriously divide one another’s views, attitudes and decisions when, at the same time, in relation to the redevelopment of AlburyWodonga the Australian Government has been able to reach agreement that we should have a parameter in relation to the size of that proposed city of about 55 kilometres. This has been agreed to by the Conservative governments of New South Wales and Victoria in alliance with the Australian Government. So why do we have different yardsticks? I cannot understand why it is that people can produce arguments, some of which are specious and some of which are irresponsible. Clearly when some people suggest that there is something ulterior, something wrong in the size which we believe Darwin should be, they do not understand the motivation of this Bill. To what extent do those who involve themselves in the protests, who whip up the hysteria, understand the Australian Government’s approach to the defence potential of Darwin? Do they understand it? Do they know? Are they in a position to make a judgment? I doubt whether members of the National Parliament are in that position because of the way in which the bureaucracy has worked for many years in Canberra. Yet these are certainly important factors.
What is the future tourist potential of this area? Are these matters in which the people of Darwin are able to make objective analysis and judgment? I have very grave doubts about whether there is any sincerity in those who seek to make such a mountain out of a molehill in relation to the size of Darwin. I think it was Senator Durack who made the point that it is the intention of the constructing authority once this Bill is passed to close up some areas and that new districts might be opened. I ask Senator Durack: Are we in a position to make that sort of judgment? If people are to be resettled in a better environment in Darwin and if they are to suffer no monetary loss, who is to say that that is not right? What right have the Opposition Parties to attempt to inflame public opinion? I have sounded out my connections in Darwin and what I have been told does not square with some of the calamity howling which I have heard in this place in the last 24 hours or so.
Senator Durack makes the point that this legislation seeks to override- I have written these words down- any law to control health, building and town planning. Does the honourable senator seriously suggest that that is not desirable in certain circumstances? If he does, I suggest that he read the Town and Country Planning Act of Western Australia or the town planning legislation of New South Wales and of the other States. That is precisely the power which the States gave themselves under which to operate in certain conditions. Why does the situation alter when we come to Darwin which is clearly a city which is not able to stand on its own feet, which needs direction, compassion and assistance and a great deal of technical know-how? I believe that the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory, who has spent a great deal of time in Darwin since the tragedy, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development have shown that they want to use the powers of persuasion and discussion in order to resolve these difficulties. Already Senator Carrick and, I think, Senator Durack too, have spoken of the Citizens Advisory Committee. But Senator Carrick suggested that the Government would bypass the citizens of Darwin. It is clear that he is talking with his tongue in his cheek. It is clear that he has no understanding of the Bill or he is out to try to create a complete misapprehension.
Clause 7 of the Bill is designed precisely so that the Darwin Citizens’ Council, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee and the advice of the people in Darwin will not be bypassed. They will be involved. Their point of view will be listened to. That is in the Bill. That is not an amendment which is to be moved by the Opposition. That is a clause of the Bill which seeks to involve the people of Darwin at every stage. It is in all the public documents. It seeks, as the Ministers have said in their second reading speeches, to involve citizens in the whole process of the redevelopment of Darwin. If that is the case, then what is the reason why honourable senators opposite are trying to create an impression that this Government is not consulting the people of Darwin about the reconstruction of their city? I appreciate and the Government appreciates that the people of Darwin love their city, that they want to get back to it as quickly as they can, and that they do not want parliamentary interference to the point that will prevent their early return to their city. In those circumstances, I think the Opposition is doing the citizens of Darwin a great disservice in its endeavours to change this Bill and in its endeavours to take away from the Parliament the right of the Minister and the right of the Governor-General to make ordinances in respect to Darwin, its reconstruction, its planning, its building code and so on. We know we have rights in this place to disallow ordinances. We know that the Parliament has the right at any time to revise its Bills and to learn from what has happened.
I am surprised at the fourth proposed amendment of the Opposition, which seeks to delete clause 9 and to insert another clause. I do not know whether Senator Carrick understands what he is seeking to move. He will seek to insert a provision which is contained in the National Capital Development Commission Act that was enacted in 1957-18 years ago. In the proposed amendment the Opposition is using the same words, the same phrases and the same experiences as though there was nothing to learn from the experience in Canberra. That is not realistic It is not reality to attempt to put into this Bill a clause which in the minds of even the National Capital Development Commission and the planners generally in this country needs revision and updating. That opinion is based on their experience of this city where the Government, of course, is in a unique position.
One could go on seeking to show the hollowness of each of the amendments which have been moved by the Opposition. I think the Opposition has been mesmerised and has been put into a hysterical position in its endeavours to belittle the efforts of the Government by seeking to remove from this Parliament and from the Minister his important power to exercise a discretionary role. That belittles the role of the Parliament. It certainly takes away from the Government its day to day exercising of its authority and its responsibilities. I would hope that based on the evolutionary experience of planning in Australia members of the Opposition will not turn the clock back; that they will learn from the experiences of people even within their own Party and within their own State governments; that they will even at this late hour discuss the matter with Mr Fuller, the Minister for Planning and Environment in New South Wales, and with Mr Hamer in Victoria and those other enlightened Ministers who, based on their experiences, have seen the need to change the emphasis from the bureaucracy back to the Parliament; that the Senate will not be stampeded, on the basis of a false, incorrect and inadequate understanding of what is involved in this important Darwin Reconstruction Bill, into amending the Bill, emasculating it and rendering it sterile when the important job is to pass the Bill to enable the Australian Government properly to carry out its responsibilities to the people in Darwin. The Government wants to get the message through to the people in Darwin that we are not on a collision or confrontation course but that the Australian Government stands committed to the philosophy of citizen participation.
I can assure honourable senators that that is my stand. I can assure this Senate that that is the stand of the Ministers concerned. If honourable senators opposite have any doubts about it then I suggest they should look at the manner in which the Ministers have operated and at the way in which I have operated in local governmentinvolving people at all stages in their immediate affairs and not relying upon bureaucratic processes to create the better environment that we all want to see. It would be a great tragedy for the Australian nation and for the compassion that was expressed in the weeks after cyclone Tracy, it would be a tragedy for the people of Darwin, and it would be a tragedy for the elected representatives of Darwin in the Legislative Assembly and in the Darwin City Council if we did not seek to improve the building code and to learn from what has been an obvious example of what could happen to Darwin in the future.
In those circumstances the Government feels obliged substantially to oppose the Opposition’s proposed amendments. I do not think we will lose very much sleep if at the Committee stage some of the proposed amendments are improved, especially in respect to appeals against planning decisions. I do not think anyone who has been involved in public life would give to any authority the right not to listen to those people who have a legitimate grievance and a legitimate claim against a planning decision. But surely the Bill in its general philosophy and in the desires it expresses ought to be supported. I commend it to the Senate.
– A great deal of extravagant language seems to have been used tonight. I suppose that in one sense this is the most divisive discussion about Darwin since the disaster struck that city. I take issue with Senator Gietzelt when he says that the Opposition, in seeking to move amendments in this House, is listening to subversive elements in Darwin. That, I think, is something that on reflection Senator Gietzelt will regret having said. It is unfair to those citizens who have sought to retain at the most local and closest level some effective say in how the city of Darwin will be reconstructed. That, whether it is right or wrong, is a natural desire and it is not to be labelled subversion.
Senator Gietzelt also, of course, predicated his argument on something which assumes that the Northern Territory, particularly Darwin, is to be controlled from Darwin. He said that the modern application of town planning is to have the final, in fact paramount, say in the hands of the Minister. What Minister? There is no Minister for Town Planning in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory is at the dawn of its evolution in political terms, as it seeks statehood some time in the future. It is, therefore, a very special case. What Senator Gietzelt is saying is that he wants to put the clock back rather than forward by retaining absolute control of the reconstruction of Darwin here in Canberra, instead of allowing some new political development in Darwin on the lines that have developed in the other States of Australia, when it can look forward to having perhaps its own type of ministerial control and its own town planner situated at least in the Northern Territory- one would expect in Darwin. I find great inconsistency in Senator Gietzelt ‘s remarks. I certainly deplore the extravagance of the language he has used.
I believe too that some fault has developed on the side of the Opposition in assuming that the Government is at great fault. The Government has much to be proud of in the way it has handled the Darwin disaster. Until this time there has been very little public criticism of what it has done. It can point with some pride to the fact that there was a disaster organisation set up within its term in office which enabled a very swift reaction to the cyclone disaster in Darwin. One can only assume that it would be proud of the swift reaction to the call for assistance. So if the amendments are largely passed here tonight and the people of Darwin are able through canvassing members of this Parliament to effect amendments which sufficiently recognise the local desire to participate in the Darwin reconstruction we may very well have an ideal Bill passing out of this Parliament. It seems to me a pity that in the process of getting together a Bill which may please most people and serve the reconstruction of Darwin well this chamber should divide on a political basis when it ought not to do so.
I will listen to arguments on the amendments but I feel committed to support the major amendments that are to be moved by the Opposition. I will listen with care to the arguments which are put up in support of them and to those which do not support them. I do not intend to try to be an expert on Darwin. I spent a day and a half in the middle of January in that city. I did so on the basis that one ought to have a look at it because I expected that there would be in the future some discussion and perhaps division on what ought to be done about its reconstruction. One thought I came away with, and that was not with any idea that I had an overall knowledge of the problems of that place after such a short stay there, was that the cost structures which would develop in Darwin under the pressure of that enormous reconstruction which would have to be undertaken there would have to be very carefully watched.
After talking with local business people and those who held responsible positions in the city I believed and I still believe that the Government should take action in relation to the tax structure as it affects the city of Darwin. I found upon my return that others had taken this up before I had. The member for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives, Mr Calder, had put forward a case for substantial tax alleviation in Darwin a day or two after the disastrous cyclone struck. I know that there was a report in the media of one of the members of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory recommending that there ought to be a year’s delay in tax collection. On my return from Darwin I, quite independently submitted to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that there ought to be for the remainder of this financial year and 2 further financial years an exemption from personal income tax and company tax in the disaster area of Darwin. I suggested also that there ought to be a remission of sales tax on all goods purchased as replacements for goods lost in the Darwin disaster for a period of 18 months until the end of June 1976. The Prime Minister was good enough to send a reply from his Treasury officers without expressing any political opinion as to the Government’s view of the general submissions which had been made to it on tax relief.
Whilst I recognise the general official view that it would be somewhat difficult in a sense to isolate income earned in Darwin and to isolate for sales tax purposes the goods sold in Darwin for use in the Northern Territory, I find none of the objections overriding and none to be greater than those, now existing in respect of the application of other tax concessions in the rest of Australia. For instance in relation to sales tax it is well known that primary production, as one instance, has a general exemption from sales tax on many goods which are used in the furtherance of that industry. One way to obtain an exemption is simply by signing a form at the point of purchase. I suggest that that would be far more likely to be abused across the general complexity of life in Australia than it would be in a place such as Darwin which is so easily isolated in a geographical sense. I would suggest that if encouragement is needed in the Darwin area to entice experts, tradesmen and people who work in industry or will have to work in industry there to restore that city, and a very fomidible physical task it represents, it would be better if the whole of Australia bore that cost by way of a reduction of taxation so that the incentive can be given in that way rather than by way of an over-inflated wage structure. Once the economy of Darwin is inflated specifically because of the special demands which are made by its reconstruction it will be very difficult in the future to contain costs and bring them back to normalcy with those in the rest of Australia.
In addition local business organisations will tell those who are interested that there is an enormous requirement for capital to replace that which was lost in its many forms in the disaster. One of the surest ways to accomplish a resurgence of business and commerce in Darwin is to make it tax free for a significant period and I suggest that 2Vi years is a significant period of time. I remind honourable senators that taxation remission or freedom from taxation existed in the Northern Territory, I think, from 1 945 to 1 950. It is therefore not without precedent for a tax free period such as this to apply specifically to the Darwin area. If honourable senators want to see what a remission of taxation does there are plenty of places in the world to show how it will revitalise the community and do it very swiftly. I suggest it would not be unfair and would be the best way to create a resurgence of business there without over-inflating the general economy above that of the rest of Australia.
I urge the Government to take careful note of the submissions which have been made to it, not to be put off by difficulties of detail which already exist in other aspects of taxation applications in Australia, but to see the general prinicple. I believe that there would be enormous cooperation from people involved and that a normal surveillance of the system would prevent its basic misuse beyond that which would exist in other areas today. This policy, however, would have to be adopted quite early because businesses and individuals will soon have to take significant planning steps. I suggest that the Government ought to decide very soon to take some action in relation to taxation remission and that it should not be niggardly about it. I believe that the rest of Australia would not begrudge the tax loss which would, of course, be borne by the general community during that period. I would like to say a little more but it is obvious that much that has been said tonight ought not to have been said and I suggest that we and the people of Darwin would be better served if we got off the second reading stage and attended to the amendments.
– It is quite a change to hear comments from the other side of the chamber which in the main are not attacking the Government for the introduction of this piece of legislation into the Parliament. All afternoon we have had to listen to honourable senators opposite criticising and attacking the Government over the provisions contained in this legislation without their mentioning the real purpose of the Bill. I want to draw the attention of the Senate to the purpose of the legislation which we are now debating. The Bill is entitled ‘Darwin Reconstruction Bill’. On page 3 under the heading ‘Part II- Establishment, Functions and Powers of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission’, clause 5 reads:
There is established by this Act a Commission by the name of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
Clause 6 goes on to set out the functions of the Commission and paragraph (a) states: to assist the Australian Government in determining the desirable extent, nature and purposes of the use and development of the Darwin Area.
However most of the speakers from the other side of the chamber tonight have used the words Northern Territory’. They have castigated the Government by saying that what we are trying to do is to take over the whole of the Northern Territory, but it is stated specifically in the Bill that it relates to the Darwin area. Clause 6. (b) states: to carry out planning in relation to development, construction and land use in the Darwin Area in accordance with any determinations of the Australian Government in respect of matters referred to in paragraph (a), and recommend to the Minister general planning and development schemes for the Darwin Area;
Clause 6. (c) states: to carry out, and to supervise, control and co-operate in the carrying out by other authorities and persons of, development and construction in the Darwin Area;
Again, I point out that that sub-clause relates to the Darwin area. Clause 6. (d) states: to provide, and to arrange, co-ordinate and control the provision of, works, services, facilities and public utilities in the Darwin Area;
I think that my colleague, Senator Gietzelt, dealt very thoroughly with those matters in his remarks tonight. Clause 6. (e) states: to furnish to the Australian Government, through the Minister, advice with respect to matters relating to the expenditure of public and private moneys -
The Senate ought to concern itself with the words public moneys’. Is this Government or this Parliament to hand over to some small committee in Darwin the whole responsibility of expending public moneys for which we, as the Australian Government, whether it be a Labor Government or a Liberal Government, have the responsibility? Are we to abdicate that responsibility? From the way honourable senators opposite have spoken today, that is what we ought to be doing. I go on to quote the paragraph: in and in connection with development and construction in the Darwin Area and the co-ordination of that expenditure and with respect to other matters related to the functions of the Commission; (0 to formulate proposals for the making of regulations under this Act; and
Clause 7 states:
All Departments of the Australian Government, and all public authorities, carrying on operations in the Darwin Area shall give to the Commission such assistance in the carrying out of its functions as is reasonably practicable.
That is stated in clear and concise terms in the Bill. I am a little disappointed that honourable senators opposite did not relate some of their remarks this afternoon and tonight to the specific functions of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission which are set out in the Bill. As a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory, I want to place on record my sincere sympathy for all those people who suffered bereavement in the tragedy that struck Darwin on Christmas Day 1974. I join with others in commending the residents of Darwin for their fortitude, calmness and courage during the time of the disaster and the days immediately following. I also want to associate myself with those people- this applies to members of all Partieswho have praised to the highest degree every person and organisation who so unselfishly applied themselves to relieving the suffering of the unfortunate citizens of Darwin in that catastrophe which occurred only a few short weeks ago. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) should be warmly congratulated for bringing this legislation before the Parliament at the earliest opportunity. This is in keeping with the promise made by him on behalf of the Government to the effect that Darwin would be rebuilt. If my memory serves me correctly, when the then Acting Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, was in Darwin he also made that promise to the people of that city.
Senator Durack said this evening that representatives were present from the Northern Territory and that they were going to carry back to Darwin the attitude of the Senate. What did he mean by this? I hope that he did not mean it as a threat that if the Government opposed the amendments which he and his colleagues were putting up here tonight they, on their return to Darwin, would misinterpret the intentions of the Government. Quite a few comments have been made about that in the Senate tonight and I will not repeat them because they will appear in the Hansard record for people to read. In his second reading speech the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who represents the Minister for the Northern Territory in this place had this to say:
A wide spectrum of community interests has assisted the Interim Commission in the formulation of its views and plans. Apart from its distinguished Chairman, Sir Leslie Thiess, and the permanent heads of the Departments of the Northern Territory, Urban and Regional Development and Housing and Construction, the nominees of the Legislative Assembly and the Darwin City Council represent the full involvement of the community in deliberations about reconstruction.
Yet we have been told quite often that this Government has not been prepared to consult with people other than members of the Government on the provisions that should be contained in the legislation to try to rehabilitate the Darwin area and the people who live in it. Of course, this Bill has drawn the usual comments from honourable senators opposite. They claim that there is no merit in any measure introduced by this Government, no matter what it is. We have had to suffer the indignity of every piece of important legislation introduced into the Parliament being criticised and pulled to pieces, and being told that there was no merit in any of it. We have witnessed that here again today. We have witnessed members of the Opposition trying to create an emotional issue out of a matter that should have been passed through the Parliament in a very short time.
– Last Thursday.
-As Senator Donald Cameron reminds me, this legislation should have been passed through the Parliament last Thursday, the day it was introduced, so that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission could have gone on with its work and be so much further along the road in carrying out what is intended in this Bill.
Senator Georges referred in some detail this afternoon to the reasons behind the statements which were being made by Opposition senators. I add that since December 1 972 it has been the policy of honourable senators opposite to try to create in the mind of the general public of Australia a large degree of uncertainty. But I never thought for a moment that when the people in the Darwin area suffered a tragedy such as they suffered, honourable senators opposite would turn their attention to the people of Darwin and try to create a feeling of uncertainty in the minds of those people that this Government was not going to do what it ought to be doing and that it was not going to carry out the promises it made through its Ministers when they were in Darwin shortly after the catastrophe.
This Government is sincere in its intentions to do the very best it can for all those who suffered from this devastating natural disaster. I refer to what honourable senators opposite have been saying, namely, that the people in the Northern Territory have not been consulted. It is obvious that very few of them have read the publication Planning Options for Future Darwin’ which was issued by the Cities Commission. Supposedly, it was to be read by every person who was interested in this problem in the Northern Territory. Several acknowledgements appear in this document. The acknowledgements by the Cities Commission, through the agency of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, are as follows:
Thanks are expressed specially to the public servants still working in Darwin who helped compile statistics on existing population and building conditions at such short notice and under most trying circumstances.
The Cities Commission also wishes to acknowledge the willing support of its agents:
Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd
G. Pak Poy and Associates Pty Ltd
If people who are criticising the Government had taken the time to study this publication of the Cities Commission, I do not think they would be doing what they have been doing, that is, trying to hoodwink the people of Darwin. They have not been able to hoodwink all of them. I have spoken to quite a few of them and they are happy with the legislation. The people whom honourable senators opposite and their counterparts in the Northern Territory have been trying to hoodwink should have asked them whether they had read this document. Undoubtedly at the public meetings which were organised by members of the Opposition parties in Darwin, they had copies of the Bill to refer to although they say that they did not have it. But in all fairness to the people of Darwin did they also make it known that copies of the journal to which I have referred were available so that people could hear the other side of the argument? Senator Gietzelt has quoted from this publication tonight. I quote the last paragraph of the opening remarks of Mr Uren, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, in this document:
I suggest that this first report be widely distributed and that comments be invited. These comments would be carefully considered and as far as possible taken into account in the next report on the planning of Darwin proposed for early March 1975.
I wish to refer to a statement which was made in the other place by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). When he was speaking on this Bill he made accusations against this
Government- by way of interjection those accusations were made here today- that copies of the legislation were not available to interested people in Darwin and in particular to the members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. As reported on page152 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 12 February 1975 Mr McLeay stated:
We on this side are, I think probably more than anything else, concerned about the shabby way the Government has treated both the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the Darwin Council. I believe that neither body has even been given a copy of the legislation.
By way of interjection Dr Patterson, the Minister for Northern Development, said: ‘That is not true ‘. Mr McLeay said:
The members of those bodies certainly did not have a copy of the legislation before we did.
He calmed down a bit then. He watered down his previous statement. He said that they ‘did not have a copy of the legislation before we did ‘, but those were not the remarks that he had made previously. Mr McLeay continued:
The Minister says that what I said is not true but I believe it is.
Dr Patterson said:
I am telling you that they all received copies at the same time as the Bill was introduced into the House yesterday.
As Senator Gietzelt pointed out so well here tonight, the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in 23 years of office was never on record as having sent out a Bill to any interested party so that the Bill could be studied, until that Bill had been introduced into the Parliament. That is another illustration of the honourable member for Boothby trying to mislead the people of Darwin by saying that this Government was depriving them of the opportunity to read the contents of the Bill.
Another criticism was levelled at this Government tonight by Senator Carrick when he said that contained in this Bill is a provision which refers to the acquisition of land anywhere in the Northern Territory. He continued to repeat that proposition when Senator Georges interjected and said that it was not correct. I wish to quote from clause 53 of the Bill which has the sidenote: Application of Lands Acquisition Act.’ That clause reads:
For the purposes of the determination of compensation under the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1973 in respect of the acquisition, by compulsory process, of land in the Darwin Area-
Yet Senator Carrick said here tonight that we were going to acquire land all over the Territory.
– Read out clause 13- ‘any land in the Territory’.
– I am referring to the clause to which Senator Carrick was referring. Senator Georges quite rightly pointed out to Senator Carrick that that was not the position under that clause. I am repeating that for Senator Carrick ‘s benefit.
– You obviously do not understand the Bill.
– I understand the Bill all right. This is what I am concerned about: Have the people of Darwin been told the full story concerning what the Government had done and is continuing to do to rehabilitate Darwin and the residents of the Darwin area, or are we faced with opposition to this Bill by some Darwin residents who have not been told the full facts by those who have organised the meetings of which we have been told today? Recently we were told of Opposition senators having received, in one case, 70 telegrams. We were told that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) had received a similar number. Yet members of the Government Party have received very few telegrams. I have received 3 telegrams asking me in the main to support the delaying of the Bill. Members of the Government Party have received very few telegrams and nearly all the telegrams of protest have gone to members of the Opposition. But the Government is introducing the legislation. Why is this so?
The situation reminds me of a debate which took place in this Parliament a couple of years ago. It may not have been that long ago. The debate concerned the acquisition of 32 square miles near Darwin. Honourable senators opposite made great protests about the people being so up in arms that many hundreds had signed petitions in protest. When we examined the petitions we found that only 27 people who were affected by the acquisition had signed the petition. This is a matter of record. The protests were all phoney. This is what concerns me here tonight. How genuine are all these telegrams that have been sent to members of the Opposition? How genuine is the overall protest of the people in Darwin who, we are told, are protesting against the provisions contained in this Bill? As I said earlier, I have spoken to people in Darwin. I respect them, their knowledge of the area and their integrity. They have seen the Bill and they are quite convinced that the provisions contained in this Bill are necessary to get this Commission off the ground and moving forward immediately.
– Will you name the people?
– I will not name them because, knowing Senator Jessop ‘s type, he would be the first to endeavour to victimise them. I will not name them. Some of them are in very high places in Darwin. I am convinced that this legislation has the support of the majority of the people who reside in Darwin at present and of the majority of people who had to leave Darwin because of the catastrophe which took place. I have no doubt that when the legislation is passed the Government will get on with the job and the Commission will get on with the job.
If the Government had been a little lethargic in introducing this legislation honourable senators opposite would have criticised the Government for its tardiness. We have been criticised previously because we did not act hastily. When we do act speedily, as we have done in relation to this matter, we are criticised for doing so because certain people want time to study the Bill. This is one of those situations in which the Government can never please the Opposition no matter what it does. The situation is never right for the people on the other side. But on 2 occasions in recent years when we have put our propositions to the people they have agreed with them and they have voted us back into office. This legislation is worthy of the unanimous support of the Senate. I hope that we can get through the amendments and get the legislation on the statute book tonight.
- Senator McLaren’s concluding remark that he hoped we could pass the Bill tonight is obviously wishful thinking. We cannot. I believe there is a desire to adjourn this debate at 10.15 p.m. to enable the introduction of another Bill into the Senate. But, even if that were not so, it is obvious, with approximately 3 1 amendments, that the matter cannot be finalised this evening. I think honourable senators have forgotten the whole history and purpose of Darwin. There has been a great deal of concern for the people of Darwin because of what they have suffered. After listening to the debate tonight I must say ‘God help the poor people of Darwin’, because the concern, the willingness and the activities of everyone who assisted the people of Darwin have been overshadowed today by the attempt to make political capital.
Honourable senators will remember that the cyclone that hit Darwin involved the Natural Disaster Organisation in its first operation. The first person to act was the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). He sent representatives of the Organisation to Darwin on the day following the tragedy. On that occasion possibly dictatorial attitudes were taken by the Major-General who had the responsibility of restoring normal conditions in Darwin. The people of Darwin were in a state of panic and a state of bewilderment. Perhaps we can point to some mistakes that occurred in that operation, but the following operation- getting the people out of Darwintook place with the threat of disease, the lack of water, the damage to the sewerage system and the lack of electricity in Darwin. It is true that the method of transport used would not be encountered in normal times. While we can point tonight at mistakes in some areas we should look at the marvelous job overall which was achieved in evacuating the people from Darwin.
We hear complaints of the Hercules planes. People were sitting at the airport for 10 hours in the heat of Darwin with no air conditioning and with half the airport blown down. They then had to endure a 5-hour flight on a Hercules plane. Of course no manifests could be taken when the plane arrived. Our Natural Disaster Organisation was a success. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) returned from overseas and went to Darwin. He took with him the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden).
– He should have taken his Qantas 707. It could have done some carrying.
-He may have had to replace the Leader of the Opposition if he did that. Opposition senators should not try to make political capital. The Prime Minister was concerned with Darwin. He did the best he could. He went to see the area. He took his political opponent, the Leader of the Opposition, with him so that some joint activity could be engaged in for the people of Darwin. There was a real concern for Darwin. Now we hear the snide criticism that the Prime Minister could have used his plane for other purposes. As a result of his visit he said that the Government will rebuild Darwin. His companion, the Leader of the Opposition, stated that his Party was with the Government all the way and that no politics would be involved. Those 2 men were concerned with the welfare of the people after they had seen their plight on that occasion. It is not a question of the Commission’s rebuilding Darwin. The Government, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, has undertaken to rebuild Darwin.
The Australian Cabinet met on the following Monday in Sydney for the purpose of seeing how it could enact the promise that the Prime Minister, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, had given to the people of Darwin. The Cabinet decided that it must act immediately and establish an interim commission for the purpose of assisting the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) to rebuild Darwin in accordance with the Prime Minister’s policy. The Interim Commission evolved while the draftsmen were working on legislation to give some bite to the power of the Commission to operate in Darwin. Everyone was happy with the Government ‘s policy. It was supported by all sides. The local bunch of newly elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, because of their political persuasion and because the Labor Government was promising to rebuild Darwin, tried to wreak havoc in everything the Labor Government proposed for Darwin. Most members of the Legislative Assembly do not live in Darwin. The majority live outside Darwin. The Leader of the Legislative Assembly lives at Victoria River, which is 20 miles from Darwin. He is a representative on the Commission.
A struggle then occurred over who was to handle the donated funds. Good God, did it matter who was handling them? No one thought the Australian Government intended putting the donations in its Treasury. No one thought Dr Patterson wanted the money donated to him. Members of the Legislative Assembly said, in effect, they had come to fight. They said they had the power and not the Australian Government. The members were not concerned with the people of Darwin. They were concerned to establish their status as a political party in the area of Darwin. The members represent the whole of the Northern Territory. Today they are organising meetings to protest and condemn the action of the Minister in seeking to rebuild Darwin. I attended the first meeting held in Darwin of the Darwin Citizens’ Council. No one could say that it expressed a view of the citizens. Resolutions were carried which the members of the Council were told to carry. The Mayor of Darwin was on one side and wanted to be the big man of Darwin. The Legislative Assembly was on the other side wanting to establish itself as the controller of Darwin. The Australian Government was honouring its promise to rebuild Darwin. All the other people had forgotten about the Darwin residents.
– The members of the Legislative Assembly are representatives of the people of Darwin, are they not? They were elected to their positions. They gave the Labor Party the greatest thrashing that it has ever had. You cannot reply to that because it is true.
– The honourable senator asked me whether the members were representative of the people of Darwin and obviously he expected a reply, even if it was only in agreement with him. But I am not going to agree with him because he does not know what he is talking about. He wants to study geography. The majority of members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory were not elected by Darwin electors. The majority of the members do not live in Darwin and are not representing Darwin. They represent electors outside Darwin. Those who represent Darwin- they are monuments today- have only one-third of their electors left in the town. The rest are in the southern States.
The whole basis of this matter is the Government’s promise, and therefore the Minister’s promise, to re-establish Darwin for the people of Darwin. The Minister has tried to set up a Commission to assist him. He is trying to obtain a view of the Darwin people. In part VII the Minister seeks to establish the Darwin Citizens’ Council to assist him and to advise the Commission with the normal overriding responsibility that he has for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in honouring an obligation to rebuild Darwin. What will happen if authority is given to another body? Who will look after the interests of the various sections? Will the Citizens’ Council look after the interests of the Aboriginals at Bagot and Kulaluk who have been guaranteed land rights in their areas? Is it possible that we will hand the authority over to someone else who can decide to build something other than Aboriginal houses on the areas? The Minister has a responsibility to the Australian Government and a responsibility to see that the Prime Minister’s obligation is fulfilled.
The Government will rebuild Darwin. Since the disaster a political element has crept into debate on it. With the hurried drafting of the Bill possibly we can find mistakes in it. Where there are mistakes we will concede any reasonable amendment to them. The delay that has occurred since this Bill was introduced has been a deliberate delay for the purpose of organising this campaign of citizens’ demands. We know the citizens’ demands are not there. What if there was a mistake in the legislation? When the legislation came before the House Senator Durack said that it would be held up for only one sitting day. The legislation has been held up another 4 days and no power has been given to the Interm Commission to carry on its duty. There has been delay after delay and obstruction after obstruction. Opposition senators have a political concern greater than any concern for the rebuilding of Darwin for its citizens. The most important thing at the present time is to get families reunited in Darwin but we cannot do that unless we build houses for them. We cannot send them back without roofs over their heads. We have reached the stage now where the only thing stopping progress is the delaying tactics of the Opposition in this chamber. Honourable senators opposite brought three of their colleagues from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to sit behind them. It shows the lack of trust that those members have in the Opposition. Those members are here trying to boost their positions and to see that the Opposition does not waver from what it has been told to do.
Although the foreshadowed amendments proposed by Senator Durack are to be dealt with in the Committee stage he was in no way honest in their presentation. The suggestion that the Minister for the Northern Territory wants to take over the whole of the Northern Territory obviously is aimed at deceiving the Senate. Senator McLaren was challenged to read clause 1 3 ( 1 ). It states:
The Minister may, by instrument under his hand, place under the control of the Commission any land in the Territory that is the property of Australia and is not comprised in a lease granted to any person.
The Minister can do that without this Bill. He can do it in order to enable that land to be utilised by the Commission. What if we want a storeroom in Katherine in which to store building materials? That is why we have this provision in this Bill. Is it to be said that we cannot have that building because by means of this provision we might take over the whole of the Territory? The Bill also goes on to say that when the Commission has no further use for the land it shall be returned and become Crown land. Certain land in the Territory may be required for the rebuilding of Darwin; yet the Opposition proposes to refuse that power in order to make political capital out of the issue and thus greatly impede the Government ‘s capability to rebuild Darwin.
It also was suggested that the poor citizen has no appeal against the action of the Minister. Again that is entirely false. All this has been under consideration. I invite honourable senators to look at clause 6 1 ( 1 )(e) which refers to regulations made by the Governor-General for various functions and, in particular, to provide ‘for appeals, including appeals to the courts of the Territory, in respect of matters arising under the regulations’.
– He does not have to do so. It is only a power that he is to have.
– Of course it is a power that he will have, but does the honourable senator think that the Minister wants to deprive anyone of justice? The Minister is acting as a good Samaritan who wants to rebuild the town but the Opposition is saying that he will impose hardship. If some people feel aggrieved they will have the benefit of the specific power stipulated in the Bill. The matter may be drawn to the attention of the Governor-General or the Executive Council. It was intended to include this power and there is a provision to cover it. All this has been considered.
I want to refer to a few other things. Mention was made of the composition of the Darwin Citizen Council and the advisory committees. Surely there is local representation through the elected member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the elected member of the Darwin City Council. They are members of the organisation. There is provision for 2 other members who can be elected to the Commission. It is considered that all sorts of opinion is represented. Now there is a desire, as there was in regard to the handling of the funds, to stack the Commission with another local handpicked person, another member of the Council. Probably this is because there is a lack of trust in the one person who would be appointed. I believe that the Majority Leader in the Legislative Assembly has been appointed to the interim body. Is there a lack of trust and a need for a watchdog to watch him? I do not know but there now is a desire to get 2 more members on the Commission for the purpose of controlling it. It appears that Darwin does not matter. It appears that this is again a question of politics.
I shall deal with the various amendments to the clauses as they arise when we reach the Committee stage. The Government will agree to amendments where politics are not involved. We do not agree that the matter should go entirely out of the hands of the Minister because the Australian taxpayers’ money is involved and he is the responsible custodian. Senator Gietzelt mentioned the need to revise the building code and we should not hand over responsibility for building a cyclone-proof Darwin. We are not prepared to do it and we will not give way on that question, whatever the consequences. The question of compensation and whether anyone would lose as a result of being unable to build on the land he or she previously owned is occupying the attention of the Minister and the Cabinet at the present time.
– They did not think it out beforehand.
-The brilliant boy from Victoria who interjects was asleep during question time this afternoon and did not hear the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator Wheeldon, say that he has a submission and Cabinet is considering it. If the honourable senator paid attention he would not ask these inane questions from time to time. That is a question that the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation will have to look into. Many legal questions are involved, such as what insurance is paid, whether the cover is for total loss and whether loss of site is included. All these questions have to be worked out. While we are waiting to find the answers to them we must get on with rebuilding Darwin. One thing is stopping that and it is the delaying tactics of the Senate. This Bill was introduced on the first possible day after the sittings began. It was rushed through the other House and brought in here with a request that it be dealt with straight away. The Opposition sought a delay of 4 days and carried on with the delay today. I believe that the motion for the second reading of this Bill is agreed to, so I will not say any more.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Ordered that consideration of the Bill in Committee be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Earlier this evening points of order and questions were raised by Senator Poyser, Senator Cavanagh and Senator Keeffe regarding remarks made from the gallery by a member of the other House, Mr Katter, M.P., to Senator Keeffe during the course of a speech being made by Senator Keeffe. Senator Poyser asked that the member be reprimanded and Senator Cavanagh submitted that it should be a matter for consideration by the Privileges Committee. I undertook to take the matter under consideration and report to the Senate.
I have since received a letter from Mr Katter stating that he realised he was quite out of order in speaking as he did and extending to me and to all members of the Senate his sincere apologies. I intend to read the letter I received from Mr Katter. It states:
Dear Mr President,
Tonight, as you are aware, I leaned across and quietly asked Senator Keeffe if I could see him outside the House. This is precisely what I said to him.
I realise now that it was quite out of order to speak in the Chamber and I extend to you and all Members of the Senate my sincere apologies.
That letter was received at 8.48 p.m. this evening. I suggest that unless the Senate by motion decides otherwise the matter should rest there.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I make this personal explanation because I was the person who drew your attention to the behaviour of an ex-Minister of the Crown in this House tonight. While I accept the apology contained in the second paragraph, there is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many other honourable senators who saw and heard the incident, that the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the exMinister, was very angry, was gesticulating in an angry manner and that he said to the honourable senator who had just spoken: ‘Step outside, Keeffe’. This is quite clearly established. I do not accept that the ‘honourable’ member for Kennedy- I use inverted commas for that word- has told the truth in the first paragraph of his letter. There is no doubt that Senator Keeffe raised matters which caused the honourable member for Kennedy to make his statement, but there is no question or doubt in my mind- I observed the incident- that he did not speak in a quiet voice, as he indicated, because I heard him quite clearly from where I am now. He challenged Senator Keeffe to go outside for a purpose which I believe to be a physical assault. I do not intend to take the matter any further other than to say that the honourable member for Kennedy is a man of great political experience. He was a member of at least 4 political parties, to my knowledge, before finally getting into Parliament. His experience should be such that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated.
– 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 10.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator will be aware that the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties has amongst its terms of reference the task of examining the need for wide-spread screenings of young children to detect the existence of specific learning symptoms so that adequate remedial programs can be recommended from an early age.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
Why are grants under the Child Migrant Education Program as shown in the Minister’s press release of 9 December 1974, made to Roman Catholic, but not to other nonGovernment Schools.
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Under the Child Migrant Education Program the Australian Government provides special assistance to both Government and non-Government schools to assist migrant children in learning English.
The only non-Government schools which have sought assistance under the Program are Roman Catholic schools. There has been no discrimination between Roman Catholic and other non-Government schools.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750218_senate_29_s63/>.