29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 124 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $150 is $50.00 below the 1956-57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already over crowded and under staffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973-74 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria)-Mr President, I know we have adopted new procedures and I know that a petition which exceeds 250 words is not to be read, but I would ask for your direction. Is that a matter which can be cured by a motion that the petition be read, as in the traditional fashion, or does it require a suspension of Standing Orders and therefore some prearrangement?
– The honourable senator could ask for leave of the Senate to take whatever action he wishes.
– I ask for leave to move that the petition be read.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That the petition be read.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister asked the Premier of Western Australia to produce the documents alleged by the Prime Minister to constitute the convention which the Prime Minister has said the Premier of New South Wales is flouting in refusing to appoint an Australian Labor Party senator to fill the casual vacancy in the Senate? Is it a fact that the Western Australian Premier has produced the correspondence which he was asked to produce? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has not made this available? Is this because the material in the correspondence destroys the basic contention which the Prime Minister has been arguing? Is it a fact that the statement made in the Senate by the Leader of the Government last Wednesday that the former Premier of South Australia, Mr Playford, had agreed to the letter of the Premier of Western Australia letter in 1961, is inconsistent with what the documents reveal? Will the Leader of the Government confirm whether the Prime Minister is prepared to let Australians have a look at what is in these documents?
– I am not aware that at the time the Prime Minister was in communication with the Western Australian Premier he gave any undertaking that the contents of the material which would be supplied by the Western Australian Premier would be made public.
– We thought it would be under open government.
-Whether or not the material is to be made public I am sure is a matter for the Prime Minister himself. I am not aware of his intentions. I can only refer the matter to him to obtain his reply.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The Minister will be aware that the Australian Government has budgeted over $ 1 m in 1 974-75, including $ 1 50,000 for grants to the States for road safety, research and promotion. Could the Minister advise the Senate how this money will be spent and what part the National Authority on Road Safety and Standards will play in the program?
– The position is that in concert with the States the programs which will be encouraged and discussed will be an in-depth investigation of road accidents to see whether there are more effective means of identifying causes, and the effectiveness of any penalties now being imposed on drivers and others. Mainly, the programs will involve related activities. In addition to these programs the Federal Government is providing funds to the States and through local authorities for many safety devices. I think that the most important part of the policy is a decision by the Minister for Transport and the Government to locate at Albury-Wodonga the new National Authority on Road Safety and Standards which will consist of special operators. It is planned to have about 200 people who specialise in various areas of safety and design working for the new Authority. It will be a new authority which will take over from private enterprise. For example, at present motor vehicles are tested by the manufacturers of the vehicles. In fact, they are the people who decide whether a vehicle meets the standards that are required nationally. This new authority which will cost about $10m will be the main authority to decide motor vehicle standards. Of course, in addition it will investigate other important community issues such as emission controls, community standards and environmental impact. So it can be seen that the project is immense. It has been decided to establish the authority and plans for so doing are now in hand.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture. Is it a fact that he has admitted on numerous occasions in recent months that the Australian meat industry is in trouble? Does he now admit that the situation has worsened to the point of crisis? Is he aware that many meat producers, including third and fourth generation graziers, say that they will be forced to walk off their properties in the next few months unless urgent help is given by the Government? Is the Minister further aware that the $20m made available through the Commonwealth Development Bank is reaching only a limited number of producers because the criteria of lending are too stringent? Will the Minister state what his Government intends to do immediately to alleviate this crisis?
-I would hope that the people who may leave the beef industry, to which Senator Drake-Brockman has referred, will not leave in the same numbers as farmers generally left farming during the years of the previous Liberal-Country Party rule. At the end of that rule the proportion of the Australian population in the industry was only one-half of what it had been when that Government took office in 1949. It is quite true, as has been stated on many occasions, that the beef industry is in trouble. As a Government, we have taken all reasonable steps to alleviate those difficulties. Senator Drake-Brockman knows full well that the Government has limited options available to it. For example, we have the difficulty of one State Premier already using his own perverted political means to create problems for us in our exports of beef. I know that he has not made any substantial offers to this Government as to how he would be prepared to help, in conjunction with the Australian Government, his own beef producers.
As I have mentioned in the past, the assistance that is being given through the Commonwealth Development Bank is being given in the manner in which the industry itself sought that assistance. The National Cattlemen’s Association asked for a certain amount of money- $50m- and the Government decided that it would allocate $20m and would look at the situation again within 3 months to see if additional money was required. I remind the honourable senator that the National Cattlemen’s Association sought that money at normal commercial rates of interest. It did not seek preferential interest rates. I think that fact ought to be made clear. I believe the Government has done in that respect all that has been asked of it. If we see the necessity to make further moneys available in that form or in some alternative form we shall do so.
Last Friday I had discussions with the State Ministers for Agriculture at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting. As a result of that meeting we agreed collectively that we would look at ways and means whereby the States, in conjunction with the Federal Government, can assist the beef industry. Until such time as I or the Prime Minister receive a response from the State Premiers on this matter we will continue to assist the beef industry in the way we are assisting it now. But if the States are prepared to engage in joint programs of assistance we would be sympathetic to such a proposition.
– Has the attention of the
Minister for the Media been drawn to the report that the Leader of the Opposition in another place has declared that a Liberal-Country Party government would abolish the Department of the Media? Is it true that since the formation of this Department by the Labor Government, Australian artists, musicians, writers and film makers have had the opportunity to use their talents in Australia rather than leaving this country for overseas? Is it also true that talented people overseas have returned to Australia and that in fact Australia is fast becoming recognised throughout the world for its talent and expertise apparent in these fields?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDYesterday, in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Education, I was asked a number of questions as to whether Mr Snedden, as Leader of the Opposition, had said that a prospective Liberal-Country Party government would consider restoring fees for university students. I have also noticed -
– When did he say that?
-He was reported as having said that in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ yesterday.
– Do you accept newspaper reports?
– If the honourable senator has any complaints about the veracity of the journalist involved I suggest, as the honourable senator did previously with the Melbourne ‘Age’, that he refer the matter to the ethics committee of the Australian Journalists Association. I have now been asked whether I have seen a report attributing to Mr Snedden a statement that a future Liberal-Country Party government would abolish the Department of the Media. My attention has been drawn to the remarks. It is obvious to me that either Mr
Snedden does not understand the functions of the Department or he is seriously suggesting that several very long established government functions and responsibilities should be discontinued. When my Department was established in 1972 it roped in a multiplicity of government media activities which previously had existed under a large number of other departments. For instance, the Australian Government Printing Office, which is responsible for the printing of millions of dollars worth of government publications, was an adjunct of the old Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. The Australian Government Advertising Service, I think, was connected with the Treasury. The Australian Information Service- the old News and Information Bureau- and the then Commonwealth Film Unit, now Film Australia, which are responsible for the dissemination abroad of information about Australia were attached to the old Department of the Interior which, of course, was mainly responsible for the administration of the Australian Capital Territory.
All those functions and many others have now been co-ordinated into the one department. So, all the activities of government involvement in the media have been co-ordinated and are administered by the one department. I assume, if Mr Snedden intends to abolish my Department, that he intends doing away with the Australian Government Printing Office, the Australian Government Publishing Service and all the other sections of the Department. I assume that he will be doing away with the Australian Government bookshops that have been established by this Government. He will be cancelling out the developments that are taking place in public broadcasting and the initiatives that have been opened up for creative and performing Australians will be dissipated in the dismal event of the election of a Liberal-Country Party Government.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that government spending is to be cut in a number of areas as the Prime Minister announced at his Press conference yesterday? If so, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate detail what areas of government expenditure are to be cut back?
-I did not hear the Press interview which the Prime Minister had, but I have read a transcript of it. It is not my understanding or my interpretation of it that the Prime
Minister said that there will be cuts in government expenditure. What he has said is that an expenditure review committee, composed of certain Ministers, will look at all new forms of government expenditure outside the normal Budget arrangements. From my interpretation of the transcript, this is the position which he enunciated then and also last week. It is quite erroneous, I believe, to suggest that he has made any commitment in this area. He has indicated that the Government is conscious of the need for government expenditure to be incurred only where it is absolutely necessary. The procedures which have been adopted by the formation of the committee, which will make recommendations to Cabinet are, I believe, a proper course. I believe it is quite wrong to suggest that any commitment about reductions in areas of government spending is at present being made by the Prime Minister.
– Because of a microphone failure yesterday, a question asked by Senator Webster was not included in the rebroadcast of question time last evening. Because of these circumstances I call on Senator Webster to ask his question of the Minister again.
-Thank you Mr President. My question was directed to the Minister for Agriculture. I now ask: 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 producers? 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 this Government’s decision? Can the Minister be influenced to assure the Senate that assistance will be provided forthwith to eliminate the very serious effects being experienced by growers and processors at this time?
-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 of 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 Foreign Minister. Has the Minister seen reports that an autonomous TurkishCypriot state has been set up in Cyprus? Does the Government agree that this move will only obstruct negotiations to reach agreement in Cyprus? Is the Minister aware that this move is of great concern to the Cypriot community in Australia? Will the Minister state what Australia’s policy is towards Cyprus in view of these recent happenings?
-I certainly think that the latest moves are of concern not only to Australian-Greek Cypriots but also to the whole world. On 13 February the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Mr Denktash, announced the proclamation of an autonomous Turkish-Cypriot state on Cyprus. The Turkish-Cypriots would seem to see this autonomous state as forming part of a biregional federation in Cyprus. The announcement named Mr Denktash as President of the autonomous Turkish-Cypriot Administration. It is not clear to us whether the Turkish-Cypriot announcement has led to a breakdown of the intercommunal talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. The effect of Mr Denktash ‘s announcement must surely be to hinder the process of negotiation rather than to help. The Australian
Government would regret any action in this direction and urges the 2 parties to continue their efforts to find a lasting and durable political settlement to what undoubtedly is a most complex problem.
From the beginning, Australia has demonstrated concern over developments in Cyprus and has joined other members of the United Nations in efforts to ensure that peace and security are re-established there. I refer to previous statements on Cyprus made by me in Parliament on 16 August and 16 October 1974. Australia has given aid for humanitarian relief operations on Cyprus, and Qantas Airways Ltd has carried, free of charge, on a space available basis, several tons of supplies for refugees in Cyprus collected by groups in Australia. On 13 December, the Security Council, then under the Presidency of the Australian Representative, extended until 15 June 1975 the mandate of the United Nations peace keeping force, which had been established under a UN resolution in 1964. The Australian Government recently reaffirmed to the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations its willingness to maintain our contingent of civilian police as part of the peacekeeping force there. The Australian Government is watching closely the situation in Cyprus and will continue in its efforts to encourage the parties concerned to reach a lasting settlement.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration but it may come within the province of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Has the Minister for Manufacturing Industry noted the decision of the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia Ltd to cut production again at the zinc refinery at Risdon in Tasmania, leaving the refinery operating at 40 per cent below its zinc producing capacity? Has he noted that the company will cease the manufacture of superphosphate in Tasmania due to an almost total lack of demand? Will he use his influence with any other Minister who might be able to help and meet the EZ company to determine whether retrenchments, which could number between 200 and 300, can be avoided in an industry so essential to the livelihood of southern Tasmania?
-Yes, I have noticed reports of this matter and am closely looking into it. I will let Senator Townley have an answer within the next couple of days.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General who represents the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Has the Minister seen Press reports of a survey taken by the Centre for Urban Research and Action amongst Italian migrants living in the northern suburbs of Melbourne? The survey alleged that Italian migrants, for a variety of reasons, generally were deprived of the normal community services provided by the Australian and State Governments. Can the Minister arrange for this survey to be studied by the Australian Government to ascertain whether its findings are correct? If they are correct can action be taken to help alleviate the social and economic circumstances in which these migrants find themselves?
-The attention of Mr Cameron already has been drawn to the report. He is concerned about what is happening in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and he has asked his Department to investigate the complaints and to make a report. In addition his Department already has commissioned a study related to this sort of circumstance and, in particular, there has been a nationwide survey of some 8000 migrants who arrived in Australia between 1963 and last year. That study has been completed. Both studies are being examined by the Minister and he hopes to be able to make some determination on aspects of the matter in the near future.
– In view of the reply yesterday by the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a question on oil prices asked by Senator Poyser, I ask: Is it a fact that oil exploration in Australia has slumped dramatically? Is he aware of a report by the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association showing that the number of new wells drilled last year was the lowest for 12 years and that a further 44 per cent drop in drilling will occur this year? Is it also a fact that Australia will pay approximately $ 1,000m this year for imported fuel? Is the Minister satisfied with this situation? Does he not agree that one of the most important ways of encouraging oil search would be to hold out the incentive of a more realistic price for oil instead of the present price which is about one-quarter of the world price and which is discouraging oil search?
-A distinction should be made between the uses to which oil produced in or off Australia can be put and the fact that we must import heavier oils because Australian oil is suitable not for use as furnace oil or heavy diesel fuels, but mainly for motor spirit and lighter fuels. Irrespective of any increase in present production around Austrafia we still would need to import those heavier crudes and we cannot avoid -
– We might find our own.
– We might, but that is very unlikely according to all the information available to me which indicates that heavy crudes are not available around Australia or in this part of the world. I am not able to state precisely the number of holes drilled in the last year or two. There has been some reduction but from memory it has not been a very marked reduction. In view of the nature of the question I will obtain from my colleague Mr Connor, for the information of the honourable senator, the precise position on drillings in the last year or two.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. I refer to the stated intention of the Premier of Queensland to force Japan to buy Queensland beef in exchange for Queensland coal. What would be the effects of his policy on (a) Australian mineral exports and (b) beef producers in Western Australia or any other State? Are the federal leaders of the Liberal Party and the Country Party obliged to issue a firm and public repudiation of the Queensland Premier’s incursion into Australian overseas trade policy? Have they done so?
– I am not aware of any joint statement by leaders of the Opposition parties rejecting the approach by Mr BjelkePetersen. I think a number of individual statements have been made by people in the Liberal Party and the Country Party condemning the attitude taken by the Queensland Premier. As to the effect on our beef and mineral exports, I restate the things I said yesterday in answer to a similar question. I believe that the Premier’s statement could do and has already done great damage to our long term trade prospects with Japan. This has been amply pointed out in a number of Press editorials. As I said yesterday, I hope that common sense will prevail in Queensland.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport tell me when I will get a reply to my question about the failure of his Government to present to Parliament the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines? In my view it is now 5 months overdue.
-I did not know that Senator Cotton had asked a question about the report. I will find out the position. Only yesterday I became Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Senator Cotton well knows that when he was Minister for Civil Aviation it was not unusual for reports of Qantas Airways Ltd and other bodies not to reach the Parliament when they should have. There were various good reasons for the delay. I certainly will find out the reason in this instance.
– I have a supplementary question. I would be grateful if we could follow up at a later stage the observation of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I think he would find that his statement about unconscionable delay in the presentation of reports is quite inaccurate.
– I can assure Senator Cotton that the Hansard records will indicate that my statement is true. He may well remember the arguments in the debate on the reduction in services and retrenchments by Qantas Airways Ltd. I am pretty sure that the matter was raised in that debate.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation give any indication when we might expect to receive the Toose committee report into repatriation matters? In general terms, what is the range of the Toose committee’s inquiry? Will ex-service and other affected organisations be given an opportunity to study the report when it is completed? Will their views be given full consideration?
– I think most honourable senators are aware that Mr Justice Toose of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was commissioned by the previous Government to conduct an inquiry into all aspects of the repatriation system. Several extensions of time have been granted to Mr Justice Toose in his wideranging inquiries into this matter. So far the report has not been presented. I do not have any idea what Mr Justice Toose may recommend. He has been asked to let the Govenment have the report in the near future. I assume that he will do so. I have assured both the Returned Services League and the Australian Services Council, which represents all or nearly all the veterans’ organisations other than the RSL, that they will have a full opportunity to examine and discuss any recommendations which Mr Justice Toose may make. Certainly if the Government does act on recommendations from Mr Justice Toose it would be only after it has had consultation with the ex-service organisations involved.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam requested permission of the Australian Government to set up an information office in Australia? If so, who made the request, and has the Government agreed? Finally, is the tent which has appeared this morning on the lawns outside Parliament House with pro PRG signs to be the new centre?
-The answer to the first question is no. Representatives of the North Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra called on us and we told them that there was no application before us from the PRG to set up an information service here; and until there was we very obviously could not comment on it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. The Minister would have received reports involving large scale retrenchment of staff from Crawford Productions Pty Ltd, the television production company. Has the Government been approached about the position in which the company finds itself? Is this position symptomatic of the television industry in general? What assistance does the Government plan in this connection?
– I have seen reports that Crawford Productions, the well known Australian television and film production company, has given notice to a number of its employees. I understand from Press reports that there are fears that further retrenchments may eventuate. However, because of the points system that has been introduced by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which means that certain Australian content requirements must be met by Australian television stations, I should point out that at this stage there are no signs that the symptom that is exhibiting itself at Crawford’s is an indication of a general falling off of employment in the film and television industries. Only last week my Department and the Broadcasting Control Board conducted a survey. The preliminary results of that hit my desk yesterday afternoon. I can assure the honourable senator that there are many more work opportunities in the film and television industries today than there were two or three years ago. Certainly I have been concerned for some time that these industries may have a difficult time in the near future because- let us face it- film production and television production industries are high risk industries. It was with that in mind, among other things, that the Government decided to attempt to legislate for the introduction of a film commission. The honourable senator will have noted that last week the Government reintroduced the Australian Film Commission Bill in the House of Representatives.
In the meantime I think it is fair to say that the main problem with Crawford Productions has been occasioned by the loss of sales of one of its television programs to one of the television stations. I have had discussions with Mr Crawford about the matter. As a result of those discussions I asked officers of my Department to confer with officers of the Treasury and the Australian Film Development Corporation. Only last Monday the Treasurer, Dr Cairns, and I met with Mr Crawford and executives of his company. The deputation we received put its point of view to us. It has asked us to consider making certain concessions or subsidies available to Crawford Productions. Dr Cairns and I are discussing the matter. We hope within the course of the next day or two to be able to put a submission to Cabinet on the matter. Then, of course, it will be a matter of Government determination. However, as I emphasised, there has been a very considerable increase in the available work opportunities having regard to the increased funds that have been made available by the Government to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There has been considerable investment by the Australian Film Development Corporation in the Australian feature film industry. Information given to me by the film and television packaging companies in Sydney is that employment opportunities in that city certainly have never been better. I appreciate that with Crawford Productions being one- if not the only one- of the packaging companies in Melbourne there could be difficulties in Melbourne. I assure the honourable senator that the Government is closely watching the matter.
-I refer the Minister for the Media to his answer to a question addressed to him yesterday by Senator Brown in which he substantially adopted a statement by Senator Brown suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, at a luncheon on Monday proposed 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. Has the Minister now had time to investigate the total inaccuracy of Senator Brown’s allegations? Is he now satisfied that Mr Snedden was referring in his speech only to the inefficiencies and deficiencies of the Government’s administration of the scholarship system and in no way to the matters alleged by Senator Brown? Is the Minister now prepared to apologise publicly to Mr Snedden for this gross misrepresentation to which the Minister, perhaps unwittingly, has contributed?
– I saw a report appearing in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ which is certainly not a newspaper of the same political persuasion as the present Government. The report which I saw in that newspaper was that Mr Snedden had said that he would do a number of things, included in which was one that he would give consideration to the restoration of fees for tertiary institutions. Having read that report I based my reply to Senator Brown’s question on it. If that report was inaccurate I suggest that the honourable senator or the Leader of the Opposition complain to the editor of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and not tome.
-Mr President, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– As a rule such matters are raised at the end of question time.
– I wanted to book my seat, that is all.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, follows a question asked by Senator DrakeBrockman and relates to the Australian Country Party’s demands that the Government should interfere with free enterprise in the beef industry. I ask: Is the Country Party’s present attitude a contradiction of its demands, right up to a year ago, that the Government keep out of the free market? Is the Country Party now advocating nationalisation of the beef industry?
– The question obviously refers to the matter which arose in Australia twelve or fifteen months ago when there was very great pressure on the Government to restrict the export of Australian beef at a time when the price on overseas markets was very high. It is true that the Australian Country Party took the attitude that there should be no interference with the normal market forces operating at that time. One will find that so often there is a contradiction. Those who have the loudest voices about the so-called free enterprise system are the ones who have the loudest voices when that system does not work and they want assistance from the Government. There is inconsistency. I am afraid it is reflected in the attitudes which have been expressed in relation to the beef industry. I believe that the attitude of the Government has been consistent. We recognised that at the time when prices were very high the industry should receive the benefit of those prices. Nevertheless, where the downturn which has occurred has been so dramatic the Government should be prepared to render some assistance. However, we have certainly no intention of nationalising the industry, nor have we the intention of the whole of its burdens being borne entirely by the Australian Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. It relates to old age pensioners who own their own homes. As the Minister knows, the situation is that people who are in this position are required to pay a substantial amount for rates, insurance, electricity and maintenance amounting to approximately $10 a week. That situation does not, of course, apply to people who are in rented homes. I ask therefore: Will any consideration be given to people in this position in the current economic situation in an effort to alleviate some or all of this burden?
– I take it that Senator Bessell is asking me this question in my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Naturally, the question which he asks is a question relating to policy. However, I shall refer it to the Minister for Social Security and as soon as I have a reply from him I shall let Senator Bessell know.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Has his attention been drawn to an article by David Brunton in last Monday’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ in which the writer claims that Senator Cotton, in calling for new members for the Liberal Party at Randwick racecourse last Sunday, said that if the one hundred thousandth member was a woman she could have her pick of the Liberal shadow cabinet. I ask the Minister whether advertising of this nature could be termed false and misleading advertising and therefore be a breach of the Trade Practices Act.
-My attention has indeed been drawn to this item a few moments ago by the asker of the question. Though I should hate to impute anything but the highest motives to my friend Senator Cotton, I must confess that on a cursory examination of this article there is some danger that the honourable senator may find himself in breach of the legislation mentioned by the questioner. For this reason: The implication of the question is that even the leadership of the Opposition is up for grabs, because presumably any hypothetical portfolio would include that of Leader of the Party. This is at variance with recent pronouncements by the Opposition claiming that there is no possible dispute about the leadership of the Opposition, that it is firmly in the hands of the present Leader, despite occasional little flurries suggesting that there may be another great loyalist who has his eye on the job. So I would suggest that in fact Senator Cotton should examine what he said and perhaps make a little qualification that the one hundred thousandth member, if a woman, can aspire to any job in the shadow cabinet but not the leadership, about which there is apparently no doubt whatsoever in the ranks of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and relates to statements that excessive Government expenditure is running at some 43 per cent higher than last year and has created a deficit in excess of $2,500m. I ask the Minister: Does his reply to Senator Withers this morning mean that the Government is not prepared to cut back government expenditure to reduce this great deficit?
– The question of whether it is a great deficit or not is a matter of judgment and any government is entitled to make that judgment in the light of economic conditions prevailing at the time. It is not a matter of whether the Government is going to make announcements about cutting expenditure. I thought I made the position quite clear in my reply to Senator Withers. The Government naturally is looking carefully at all additional expenditure, and this is the purpose for which the Expenditure Review Committee has been formed. That Committee will thoroughly scrutinise all fresh expenditure requested in submissions from Ministers before the submissions are considered by Cabinet. I should anticipate that this will be the continuing procedure between Budgets from here on.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that an inspection was carried out in the latter part of last year by the Bureau of Transport Economics of the wharf facilities at Port Pirie with the object of recommending what is required to upgrade these facilities? Can the Minister say whether a report has been received? If a report has not yet come to hand, will he call for it to be presented as a matter of urgency so that work can proceed on this project which has already suffered severe and costly delays?
– I knew of the investigation. As a matter of fact- as I mentioned, I think, last week- the mayor of Port Pirie was in Canberra recently interviewing all Ministers to see to what extent the Federal Government could continue its assistance. I will refer the particular matters raised by Senator Jessop to the Minister for Transport, to see whether he can supply an answer to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that the United States of America Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger, and President Ford have both confirmed that the United States Government is, if needs be, prepared to intervene militarily in the Middle East to secure access to oil in that region? Has Cabinet given consideration to the potential threat such military intervention would pose to world peace? Further, will he give consideration to making a statement to the Parliament assuring the Australian people that in the event of the United States carrying out its threat under no circumstances will Australian military forces be committed to aid or abet such intervention and /or any consequential action?
-My understanding of the talks that have taken place regarding the Middle East crisis in oil in which Dr Kissinger was very outspoken right from the beginning has never been- and I think there was a denial of this by the United States- that it was the intention of the American Government to use force in this situation. So I do not -
– There was a report on 20 January 1975.
-Senator Brown and I have a different approach to this matter. I will check whether his interpretation or mine is right. I am telling honourable senators how I feel about it at the moment. As I understand it, that was not the situation, but I will certainly check the details and find out which of us has the correct approach to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I remind the Minister that he stated on 11 December 1974 in relation to casualty services at repatriation general hospitals:
In fact, already at the Concord Repatriation General Hospital in the southern -
Your geography, Minister- suburbs of Sydney a casualty section has been provided.
Is this statement completely correct? Is it not more correct to state that the casualty section at Concord is still under construction, has not yet been used, will not be completed until at least June or July 1975, that no staffing is contemplated until at least the third term of the current hospital year, and that his statement anticipated events by some 6 to 8 months?
-Senator Baume was kind enough last night to point out that apparently I had made some geographical miscalculation regarding the position of the Concord Repatriation Hospital in relation to other parts of Sydney. I take it that he finds this important; its importance is rather lost on me. The information which was provided to me was that the Concord Repatriation Hospital was already providing emergency services. I shall check to see whether the information I was given was correct. In any event, the point which I would make and which I thought I had made was that whether in fact these services were already being provided or not, the position was that the Repatriation Commission was in the process of making available services in the repatriation general hospitals, not only at Concord but also at Greenslopes in Brisbane, for the provision of emergency services. Senator Baume has raised an interesting but I think somewhat pedantic pair of points, but as they seem to trouble him, I shall inquire into them and let him know the answer in due course.
– Has the Minister for the Media been made aware of the statement by the President of the Canberra branch of the Australia Party in which he unfairly levelled criticism against the Government for the increased charges for Hansard? Will the Minister explain to the Senate that the increased charges were made as a result of a recommendation from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Publications, the chairman of which, when the recommendation was made, was a member of the Liberal Party? Would it be reasonably accurate to indicate that the cost to the Australian government for the printing, binding and distribution of Hansard is approximately $600,000 a year?
- Senator Milliner has asked me whether I have seen a report of some political figure in Canberra complaining about the increased cost of Hansard. I have seen the report. It follows a question which was directed to me last week by Senator Missen. The decision to increase the charge for Hansard was taken by the Government after consultation with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and their officers and, as the honourable senator has said, was a result of a recommendation from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Publications that was made to the Parliament in 1 97 1 . On that committee were a number of senators. I think Senator Marriott was the Deputy Chairman of the committee at the time. Senators Bonner, Davidson, Durack, Maunsell and Young were members of the committee. Indeed Senator Withers was a member of the Joint Committee, which made that recommendation. I think Senator Georges and Senator Milliner were also involved. As the honourable senator will know, the price at which Hansard has been sold has remained unchanged since 1954- a period of 21 years. Therefore, it is quite wrong to say that there has been a 5000-odd percentage increase in price in 12 months. It has been a percentage increase over a period of 2 1 years, during the majority of which time a Liberal-Country Party government was in office.
In 1971 the Joint Committee considered the matter in great detail and made a recommendation to the Parliament that the weekly Hansard of each House be priced at a figure which corresponded with run-on production cost, postage, labour and overhead costs. Since that time the Government Printing Office, in order to keep pace with the increasing workload of Parliament and of the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, has had to install computerised equipment in Canberra. Whilst the cost of subsidising Hansard at the time the Committee reported was approximately $400,000, I would surmise that the figure of $600,000, to which Senator Milliner has referred, would be about the mark now. I am given to understand that under the new system, which will commence this year, the Australian Government Publishing Service, a section of my Department, will sell Hansard at one-third of the calculated total cost of the estimated number of issues in a year plus postage. For subscriptions to Hansard there will be a discount of 20 per cent. Two-thirds of the total cost of production will be subsidised by either the Parliament, through the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, or the Australian Government Publishing Service. The details of that arrangement have yet to be worked out by the Treasury.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: When is the vote to be taken in the United Nations to elect the next President of the United Nations General Assembly? Is it generally accepted that the next President should come from the Western European bloc of which Australia is regarded as a member? Is it a fact that due to the pro-Third World tendencies of the Whitlam Government many Western European nations are reconsidering their apparently formerly indicated support for an Australian candidate? Does the Whitlam Government now intend to nominate a candidate for the Presidency? If so, who is to be that candidate?
– Confusion still seems to exist on this question. Whether it is deliberate or otherwise I do not know. Early in this situation I was asked- accused really- by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack whether we were canvassing votes from the Third World group, etc. I pointed out then that this was quite ridiculous because the Third World group does not have votes. It would be a little like Malcolm Fraser in his bid for the leadership of the Liberal Party canvassing votes in the Labor Party. Wherever our sympathies lie, we would not have any effect on the vote. Senator Carrick has carefully twisted words in asking his question to make the situation appear a little different from what it is. He asked when the vote is to be taken. The convention is that a vote is not taken. He goes on to refer to the Western European and Others group. In recent years as the United Nations became larger it has been formed into groups. In the early days when there were only 46 members there were no groups. Now that the United Nations contains the WEO group- a name that has always amused me, but we are a part of it- it is our turn to submit to the General Assembly a name.
In the early stages no name at all had been submitted so the Government put my name into the ring. I thought it would be bad if our group appeared to be taking no interest in a job in the United Nations. Since then I have read all sorts of funny things. I still read of our canvassing the Third World or the African group or somebody else. That is so patently absurd. Some of the articles on this subject continually contradict themselves. I read an article which stated that I had told my Department that I was not interested in the Presidency because I did not feel that I could do the job.
– And because you had a State school education.
-And because I had a State school education. That statement is very biased because I had both a State school education and a convent school education in a small country town. What that has to do with my candidacy I do not quite know. I think that humility is a very great virtue. I try to achieve it, but I am quite certain that I have not achieved it to the stage where I would let my name go forward for a job and then tell people I could not do it. My humility is not quite that high. These stories continue. The situation is that we allowed my name to go forward as the first candidate. Since then the Spanish and Turkish representatives have announced that they are interested. I have read in the newspapers and I have had information from overseas that possibly candidates could be nominated from Denmark and Luxembourg. If they do nominate it is all for the good of the group. It helps the group to make up its mind. There will not be a knock-down, drag-out fight. There will not be an election such as we have in Australia. A decision will be made by the WEO group as to the name to be put forward. Under accepted procedure the decision has to be made by the third Tuesday in September. Let me assure the House that before then that will be done.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Missen in the course of his remarks relating to my question yesterday to the Minister for the Media in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Education. I categorically reject the suggestion contained in Senator Missen ‘s comments that I deliberately concocted an inaccuracy in my question to the Minister. I was relying on a report on page 3 of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Tuesday 18 February. It was entitled: ‘People want election Snedden’. It refers to the $25 a head luncheon that Mr Snedden addressed in Melbourne and, among other things, it said:
In a brief question and answer session, Mr Snedden said that a future Liberal Government would -
I emphasise the word ‘would ‘-
It then went on to say:
When one reads the words ‘would probably ‘ one is entitled to assess that as meaning that a Liberal-Country Party Government would probably abolish fee-free tertiary education. I asked the question in that form and the Minister replied accordingly that he believed that a prospective Liberal government would consider the re-introduction of these fees. Therefore I categorically reject the suggestion by Senator Missen that I deliberately concocted an inaccuracy in the form of question I asked.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation in response to remarks made about me in the House of Representatives last Thursday in a personal explanation by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair).
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
- Mr Sinclair claimed that a letter written by me and published in the ‘Financial Review’ of 13 February 1975 contained statements that were untrue. The statements in question were that there was a long history of government interference in wheat marketing and that the previous government had interfered in the Australian Wheat Board’s sales to Chile following the election of President Allende. The history of government interference in Wheat Board affairs goes back at least to 1967 when a member of the Wheat Board, Mr H. F. Smith, reported to a Farmers Union meeting in Perth that the Government had instructed a Board delegation to deliver a note to representatives of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong. The note stated that the Government would intervene and terminate Australia-China wheat trade unless China complied with certain political demands. I supplied full details of this incident to the Senate on 25 September 1974.
In August 1972 1 made a statutory declaration in Perth. It was covered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s radio program ‘A.M.’. When asked by the Australian Broadcasting Commission whether the declaration was correct, Mr Sinclair stated that he could not remember the details of the 1967 incident. In the House last Thursday he stated:
There was no Government interference with respect to any sales undertaken by the Australian Wheat Board either while I was Minister for Primary Industry or at any time while I was in the previous Ministry.
My sources of information regarding Government directives to the Wheat Board on sales to Chile after President Allende ‘s election was the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s radio program ‘Country Hour’ broadcast by an official of the Western Australian Farmers Union on 3 1 October 1973. Last Thursday Mr Sinclair denied that there had been any directive to the Board but did state:
There was a negotiation between the Wheat Board and the Government while I was Minister for Primary Industry relating to the degree to which Export Payments Insurance Corporation cover would be accorded to the wheat that the Wheat Board wished to sell to Chile.
Mr C. M. Toop, deputy manager of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, formerly called Export Payments Insurance Corporation, explicitly stated under oath in Sydney last Friday at a public hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade that neither the present nor the previous Government had any such negotiations with Export Finance Insurance Corporation or Export Payments Insurance Corporation regarding the acceptance of export finance risks, nor did or does the Government have power to negotiate.
– Earlier in the day I asked a question of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry.
– Do you wish to raise a point of order?
-No. The question related to the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia Ltd. I believe now that the Minister has some information which he is prepared to give me, with your indulgence.
– I call the Minister for Manufacturing Industry.
-When Senator Townley asked me the question earlier this morning I informed him that I had the matter under consideration. In fact I had been considering it immediately before entering the chamber. I can now inform him that I understand that Electrolytic Zinc Co. has said that it will cut production by 20 per cent and lay off 1 50 to 200 employees. I understand that the company announced yesterday that this was due to a decline in demand. The problem, as I am informed, is mainly due to a sudden loss of some major export market and a sudden fall in the demand for zinc for galvanising by John Lysaght (Aust) Ltd of Port Kembla, producer of sheet steel, which has been affected by the general downturn in sales of various products such as refrigerators and motor cars. Following representations by the Lysaght company the Special Minister of State sent a reference on sheet steel to the Temporary Advisory Authority on 14 January. The Authority’s report is being considered now by the Government and a decision will be announced shortly. It must be obvious that this decision will affect the fate of Electrolytic Zinc. The decline in export sales is partly a result of lower international prices. I can assure Senator Townley that I have arranged for a senior officer of my Department to visit the company today to discuss the situation with the company, and that the Government will request the company to defer any retrenchments until the Government has had an opportunity to consider what action it might be able to take to assist the company in avoiding or reducing retrenchments.
– May I point out that the reply did not refer to superphosphate. Will the Minister, either now or at the earliest convenient time, comment on that part of the question?
– I will undertake to do that.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers):
Pursuant to the Sessional Order agreed to on 1 1 February, 1 975, I give notice that I shall move this day the following motion relating to a matter of urgency:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency, viz.
The violence done to important conventions and well established customs by the Whitlam Government which has done and is doing violence to democracy itself. ‘
– Without commencing discussion of the motion, let me say I understand that the Government regards the passage of the Darwin Reconstruction Bill as a matter of some urgency. Therefore I invite the Manager of Government Business in the Senate to move such motion as is appropriate to give that matter priority over my motion.
– Honourable senators will recall that last Wednesday the Government introduced the Darwin Reconstruction Bill and sought to continue the debate then but by motion of the Senate it was adjourned until yesterday. Senator Withers is quite right in saying that the Government believes that the passage of the Darwin Reconstruction Bill is a matter of urgency. Therefore I ask for leave to move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable the motion of urgency proposed by Senator Withers to be moved at a later hour this day.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I move:
It would be my desire, if it is at all possible- I know it is a matter which is subject to the will of the Senate- that all that business be dealt with by 6 p.m., so that the rest of the sitting this evening, from 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m., could be devoted to the debate on Senator Withers’ motion of urgency.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the report on the operation of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended 30 June 1974, together with the Committee’s financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators I present the fourth report by the Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment entitled Land Use in Australia ‘, dated December 1 974.
-Is General Business notice of motion No. 18, standing in the name of Senator Marriott and relating to the tabling of certain papers, formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
– Not formal.
– He said formal.
– I move:
– I think there was a misunderstanding when I asked whether notice of motion No. 18 was formal or not formal. The message was not received clearly. I will put that motion again. Is General Business notice of motion No. 1 8 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
– Not formal.
– If the Government wants a debate on the matter we will have it. I thought I would get the Government through its problem as painlessly as I could. The Government will not take the opportunity, so we will debate the matter.
– There was no discussion. You could have had a discussion with us about it.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Fisheries Act 1952-1973.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
Mr President, this Bill provides for powers to deal with intrusions by Indonesian Fishermen into waters under Australian jurisdiction adjacent to our north-west coast. It also amends the principal Act with respect to certain formal matters. Since first enacted in 1952 the Fisheries Act has applied to commercial fishing only and until 1967, solely to Australian residents. It was then amended to include foreign commerical fishing within the 12-mile declared fishing zone. Honourable senators will be aware of the presence last year of significant numbers of Indonesian fishermen on our north-west coast. Since these people may not always be fishing commercially in a sense capable of proof before an Australian court, the Government has decided that the scope of the Act should be extended to enable Australia to control their operations and, should it become necessary, facilitate bringing them before Australian courts.
Following discussions between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and President Suharto in August last year, Australian and Indonesian officials met in Jakarta in November 1974 to discuss the concern of the 2 governments about the activities of Indonesian fishermen in Australian waters. An officer of the Western Australian Government was also present at these talks. In summary, the understandings reached at the Jakarta talks and proposals for their implementation mean that Indonesian fishermen will no longer be permitted to fish in waters adjacent to the Australian mainland and immediately adjacent islands, but may do so in waters under Australian jurisdiction adjacent to the off-shore islands and reefs of Ashmore, Carrier, Scott and Seringapatam reefs and Browse Island. As a gesture of friendship Australia will refrain from enforcing its fishery laws against Indonesian fishermen who comply with those limitations. Those who do not may, depending upon the circumstances, be ejected from the area,, or referred to the Indonesian authorities, or charged before Australian courts.
In addition, the Indonesian fishermen may shelter within the off shore island and reef complexes which I have named but may not go ashore, other than to obtain fresh water on the middle and east islets of Ashmore Reef. Further, they may not take turtles in any waters under Australian fishery jurisdiction nor may they take the controlled resources of the continental shelf except adjacent to the 5 named reefs and islands.The Indonesian Government acknowledges Australia’s authority to proceed against the Indonesian fishermen who act contrary to the foregoing arrangements and has undertaken to use its best endeavours to notify its fishermen of those arrangements. The 2 governments will as necessary exchange information about Indonesian fishing in the waters concerned. The moratorium on enforcing Australian laws against Indonesian fishermen operating contrary to the arrangements ends on 1 March 1975. To plan Australia’s response to intrusions occurring after that date, the Government established an interdepartmental working party including a representative of the Western Australian Government.
That is the background to the present Bill. I turn now to its various provisions. The machinery to regulate Indonesian fishing depends on clause 3 which adds a definition, ‘private purposes’, in relation to non-commercial fishing. This definition will apply generally and has the effect, subject to subsequent clauses, of extending the scope of the Act to permit regulation of all foreign fishing in the declared fishing zone, regardless of its purpose or of the nationality of the foreign boat concerned. Clause 4 extends the existing powers of officers authorising them to board and search fishing vessels, to cover all foreign fishing vessels in the declared fishing zone. As well, the existing power of officers to seize fish taken contrary to the Act or vessels and fishing gear used contrary to the Act, anywhere in waters proclaimed under the Act, has been redrafted for the sake of clarity. Clause 5 establishes the offence of fishing for noncommercial purposes in the declared fishing zone with the use of a foreign vessel. As well, in conjunction with clause 6, it revises the existing offence of being in possession or charge of a foreign fishing vessel in that zone to apply it to all foreign vessels equipped for fishing, regardless of the fishing purpose. There are 4 defences to this latter offence, set out in the proposed sub-section 13AB(2).
Clause 7 makes clear the power of courts to order the kinds of forefeiture already provided for in cases of both the existing and the new offences. When the Senate amended the Fisheries Bill 1973 the consequential redrafting overlooked 3 minor deletions. These are dealt with in clauses 8, 9 (a) and 11. Clause 9 (b) provides, with respect to non-commercial foreign fishing in the declared fishing zone, similar evidentiary provisions to those already in the Act applying to commercial fishing throughout proclaimed waters. Clause 10 repeals the authority for Australia to pay to the administrations of certain external territories fees received by those administrations for the issue of licences. Papua New Guinea now enjoys full fishery powers and does not issue Australian licences. Norfolk Island has always enjoyed the privilege of free commercial fishing. Finally, by clause 12, a number of machinery amendments are made to update the Act in respect of changes in portfolio responsibilities and the name of the Department.
The main purpose of this Bill is to give effect to an international understanding which has important implications not only for fisheries but also for quarantine, illegal entry to Australia, prevention of wilful damage to Australian automatic weather stations and perhaps Customs matters. 1 commend it to the Senate and urge its speedy passage so that it can receive assent and come into operation before 1 March 1975.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
– I have received the following message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to make provision for and in relation to the Establishment of National Parks and other Parks and Reserves and the Protection and Conservation of Wildlife’, and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has agreed to amendments Nos. 1 , 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 made by the Senate; has disagreed to amendment No. 4, but in place thereof, has made the amendment indicated by the annexed Schedule; and has made the amendment, consequential upon the amendment made by the House in place of amendment No. 4, indicated by the said Schedule.
The House of Representatives desires the reconsideration of the Bill by the Senate in respect of the amendment disagreed to and desires the concurrence of the Senate in the amendment and the consequential amendment made by the House of Representatives. (Signed) J. F.COPE
Motion (by Senator Wheeldon) agreed to:
That consideration of the message in the Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objecton, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The Governor-General dissolved the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously on 10 April 1974. Elections for both Houses were held on 18 May. The new Parliament met for the first time on 9 July. Under the Constitution the terms of service of present senators are taken to begin on 1 July preceding the day of their election, the places of half of them will become vacant at the expiration of 3 years from the beginning of their term and the election to fill their places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant. In brief, the next election for the Senate must take place at some time between July 1 975 and June 1 976. Under the Constitution, however, the House of Representatives shall continue for 3 years from the first meeting of the House, that is, the next election for that House need not take place until July 1977.
This Bill proposes to alter the Constitution to ensure that Senate elections are always held at the same time as elections for the House of Representatives. A similar Bill was introduced by the Government in November 1973 and, after it had twice failed to pass in the Senate, was submitted to referendum on 18 May 1974 in accordance with the second paragraph of section 128 of the Constitution. The proposal failed only narrowly to obtain an overall majority of yes votes. Over 3Vi million voters endorsed the proposed law and slightly less than 3% million voted no. The proposed law received a majority of yes votes in the most populous State, New South Wales, and was only narrowly lost in Victoria and South Australia. The proposal is clearly one that has great appeal to the electorate. The Government is of the view that it is of such importance and merit that it should again be put to the people.
Subject only to necessary alterations in respect of the transitional provisions, which I shall mention shortly, the Bill is identical with the Bill introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in November 1 973. It gives effect to the principle recommended by the all party Joint Parliamentary Committees on Constitutional Review in 1958 and 1959 that the terms of senators should be changed from fixed terms of 6 years, to 2 terms of the House of Representatives so that the elections for both Houses of our Parliament would take place simultaneously. That was the view of all but one member of the Joint Committees on Constitutional Review. The committees were initiated by our predecessors- in 1 956 on the motion in the House of Representatives of the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies as he then was, and reconstituted in 1958 on the motion in that House of the then Leader of the House, Mr Holt and reconstituted again in 1959 on the motion in that House of the AttorneyGeneral and now Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick.
The constitutional amendment now proposed will give senators a term of service equal to 2 terms of the House of Representatives. The principal of the rotation of senators will be preserved at each House of Representatives election; be it at the normal 3 year interval or sooner, there will be an election for half the Senate. As in the case of the previous Bill, there are 2 exceptions to the provision that Senators have terms of service equal to 2 terms of the House of Representatives. These are: Firstly; in the event of a double dissolution, the normal term of a senator can be cut short, as is the case now; secondly, the terms of existing senators will be changed to provide for short term senators, who would normally retire on 30 June 1976, to have their terms extended until the next House of Representatives election, which would normally be held in 1977, and long term senators, who would normally retire on 30 June 1979, to have their terms extended to the second House of Representatives election, which would normally be held in 1980. Thus existing senators, subject of course to there not being an earlier double dissolution or an earlier House of Representatives election, would have effective terms of approximately 3 years in the case of present short term senators and 6 years in the case of the existing long term senators. This transitional provision would thus give the senators concerned terms of service that are generally in line with those envisaged by the Constitution in section 13.
The Government would hope that on this occasion the Opposition will treat this Bill with the objectivity that marked the consideration of this difficult problem in the Joint Committees on Constitutional Review during the 1950s. The Government hopes therefore that the Opposition would not only support the Bill on this occasion, but will refrain from misleading the electors as indeed it did when it opposed the proposed law in the 1974 referendums. The Opposition claimed in 1974 that ‘this referendum will make the Senate a rubber stamp of a socialist, centralist Labor Government’ and that ‘the Government is being deceitful- the question you will vote on does not explain the real proposed law’. This could not be further from the truth. This proposal involves no derogation of the authority or responsibility of the Senate. There are however major benefits to the Parliament and the people; most importantly it will assist in reflecting in both Houses simultaneously the peoples’ will, so that the government of the day and the Parliament may get on with their job.
Before the Constitutional Review Committees recommended this reform there had only been 3 occasions on which an election had been held for one house alone- for the House of Representatives in 1929 and 1954 and for the Senate in 1953. Since the Committee’s final report there have been 9 national elections. Elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives were held simultaneously on only two of those occasions- in December 1961 and in May 1974. In between, there were 4 separate elections for the House of Representatives and three for the Senate. Australia may have had fewer governments than some other advanced countries but it certainly has had more elections than any. They have been too frequent for the good working of the Parliament, too frequent for the people, and too costly. Mr President, it has been estimated by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer that the holding of simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and half the Senate could result in savings of up to approximately 90 per cent on the cost of a Senate election held separately. Opposition support for this Bill will, therefore, assist in reducing Government expenditure and for this reason also I look to the support of the Opposition.
The intention of the men who drafted our Constitution and the expectation of those who voted for it was that every 3 years there should be an election of the House of Representatives and half the Senate. No supervening principle has emerged in favour of multiplying and separating elections for the Australian Parliament. There is only one way in which simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives can be assured at all times and that is by the constitutional amendment that is proposed in this Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wreidt) read a first time.
Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania-Leader of the
Government in the Senate) ( 12.28)- I move:
Again I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated.
– In 1900 John Quick and Robert Garran- later Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran- who were the first, and who are among the most distinguished, commentators on the Constitution, described the High Court of Australia as ‘the crown and apex, not only of the judicial system of the Commonwealth, but of the judicial systems of the States as well. ‘
It is true that, for reasons peculiar to the circumstances of the time, the Constitution did not initially and automatically close off the avenue of appeals from Australian Courts, including the High Court, to Her Majesty in Council. But the Constitution gave the plainest of indications that the High Court was expected to become the final court of appeal from all Australian courts in all Australian matters. The Constitution itself began the process. The Parliaments of the first decade of Federation continued the process. In 1968, this Parliament passed an act which was supported by the Australian Labor Party and which was described by its sponsor as an historic step towards the establishment of the High Court as the final court of appeal for Australia. Its sponsor was the then Attorney-General, the Hon. Nigel Bowen, Q.C. He is now the Chief Judge in Equity of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and from his decisions in wholly State matters an appeal still lies to the Privy Council. Those who were in the Parliament in 1968 or have since read the Hansard will discern a close resemblance between the views I express and the case presented by Mr Bowen, as he then was, in support of the Bill that he had introduced on behalf of the coalition Government.
The passage in 1968 of the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act has brought us to the following positon
Appeals from the High Court in constitutional and other federal matters have been abolished.
Appeals from the High Court involving the so-called inter se questions cannot be brought to the Privy Council without a certificate of the High Court, and no certificate has been granted since 1912.
Appeals from Territory Supreme Courts have been abolished.
Appeals from all State Courts in constitutional and federal matters have been abolished.
Appeals may still be brought to the Privy Council from State courts in wholly state matters.
Provision still exists, under legislaton of 1833, for Her Majesty to be petitioned to refer questions for the advisory opinion of the Privy Council.
Now, almost 75 years from the enactment of the Constitution, Parliament is being asked to take the 2 remaining steps needed to make the High Court of Australia the final court of appeal for Australia in Australian matters.
There are 2 Bills. One Bill-the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill- takes to its logical conclusion, in so far as appeals from the High Court are concerned, the legislation passed in 1968. The effect of the Bill is to preclude appeals from the High Court in matters of a wholly state character. Those appeals were not touched by the legislation of 1968. The Australian Labor Party endeavoured, on a motion by the late Senator Sam Cohen, Q.C., to have the 1968 Bill extended in the way that we now propose. The Government of the time did not accept the amendment- not because it did not agree with it but because, as I apprehend, it considered that there might be some litigants from some States who might want to avoid the High Court and take appeals direct to the Privy Council. I need say no more on that Bill. I believe it will have the unanimous support of all honourable senators.
I believe also that the other Bill, the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill 1975, will be given unanimous support. I want honourable senators to understand that this Bill, like the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill, is a Bill devoted to making the High Court Australia’s final court of appeal. In 1973 the
Prime Minister introduced in the House of Representatives a Bill by the same title and in substantially the same terms as the Bill under consideration. At that time, and subsequently, the Bill was wrongly represented as an anti-State Bill- as a Bill to erode the constitutions of the States. Mr President, neither the Bill of 1 973 nor the Bill I now introduce is anything of the kind. Any dispute between the Federal Government and a State government or any dispute between any of the State governments has to go to the High Court. It cannot go beyond the High Court unless it involves an inter se question and even then only with a certificate of the High Court. No such certificate has been given since 1912.
Let us be quite frank, Mr President, about the reasons for the opposition to what this Bill sets out to achieve. There are those who apparently will resort to all kinds of devices to by-pass the High Court. It is time that all this was brought into the open and that the people of Australia should no longer be misled.
The High Court of Australia is no ordinary court. From the beginning- that is to say, by force of the Constitution itself- the High Court was given jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States. The High Court was not confined, as is the Supreme Court of the United States of America, to federal or constitutional cases. Time and time again the quality of the justices of the High Court and the excellence of their legal learning have been extolled by English-speaking lawyersindeed, by members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Last year, the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham- the second Lord Hailsham of that name- made a visit to Australia for the specific purpose of attending the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Charter of Justice of New South Wales, by which the Supreme Court of that State was constituted. Lord Hailsham delivered an address in which he said:
Outside academic legal circles, I suppose I am as well qualified as anyone to judge the quality of lawyers from different parts of the common law world. I have practised in the Privy Council since before the war, and I have now sat judicially both in the House of Lords and in the Privy Council in cases in which I have had to compare and cite authorities from Britain, the United States, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean. I put Australian lawyers, as epitomised for instance in the judges of the High Court, as second to none and I mean this meed of praise in absolute terms, that is, making no allowance whatever for the relative size in the populations of the countries concerned.
Addressing the Sixteenth Australian Legal Convention in Melbourne in 1971 Lord Diplock had this to say:
Today, the High Court of Australia has a reputation as one of the great common law courts of the world and I should like, on this occasion, to pay a tribute to the leader of it who brought it to that high pinnacle of fame and who is still with us, Sir Owen Dixon. He will go down in history not only in this country, not only in England, but I think I can speak for Judge Wisdom in saying, in the United States, as one of the great illuminators of the common law of this century.
Only a few days ago Lord Wilberforce, sitting in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with Lord Kilbrandon and Lord Salmon, paid tribute to the late Sir Douglas Menzies. In the words of Lord Wilberforce:
His judgments in the High Court came to be very widely esteemed throughout the English-speaking world. Those of their lordships who were privileged to sit with him on the Privy Council were able to appreciate the depth of his learning and the charm of his personality.
Contrast these opinions, expressed by eminent British lawyers, with the criticisms and hesitations voiced by some Australian State politicians, she times, one could be forgiven for believing that they were speaking not of an Australian but of a foreign court.
Sir Henry Bolte, when Premier of Victoria, gave as his reason for wanting to retain appeals to the Privy Council that Victoria was not satisfied with the High Court. It apparently annoyed him that the High Court intervened the day before Robert Peter Tait was to be executed in 1 96 1 and granted a stay of execution and that as a consequence the Victorian Government had to commute Tait’s sentence of death to life imprisonment. The actions of the Queensland Premier in repeatedly asking the British Government to seek advisory opinions from the Privy Council indicate only too clearly his desire to avoid the High Court. Nothing more clearly underlines his lack of respect for the High Court. I find this all very strange. Thirteen of the thirtyone justices who have served on the High Court were appointed from State Supreme Courts. Four of the present justices had at one time or another served as State Supreme Court judges.
The Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill will have the effect of abolishing appeals from Australian courts, including courts of a State, other than the High Court. The Bill will also exclude approaches being made for advisory opinions of the Privy Council under legislation of the early 19th century- the Judicial Committee Act 1 833- to which certain State governments have endeavoured to have resort, as a means of bypassing the High Court, over the past three years. The Bill has a two-fold operation. It abolishes appeals from courts and references for advisory opinions directly by force of the Bill itself. It also requests and consents to the enactment of United Kingdom legislation for these purposes. It will be open to any State to challenge the validity of the
Bill in the High Court. If the self-operating provisions are upheld that will be the end of the matter. If not, the United Kingdom Government will be asked to introduce legislation in the terms of the Westminster Bill scheduled to our Bill. I expect that it would do so.
It is necessary to get rid of the procedures for obtaining advisory opinions from the Privy Council because of the way in which certain States have endeavoured to use those procedures in order to by-pass, or to embarrass, the High Court. The procedures are contained in a United Kingdom Act of 1833. Since 1900 no attempt had ever been made to resort to them until 1 972 when there was an informal approach by officials from Tasmania and Victoria seeking to know whether there was a possibility of the Government led by Mr McMahon joining with Tasmania in petitioning the Queen to refer to the Privy Council for its advisory opinion certain questions relating to rights to the seabed. Now, these were questions that were certain to come before the High Court- and in fact are presently awaiting determination by the High Court. Moreover, they were inter se questions on which no appeal could be made to the Privy Council from the High Court without the High Court’s approval.
An advisory opinion from the Privy Council could not have precluded litigation before the High Court. Any advisory opinion from the Privy Council which might have been at variance with the decision of the High Court one assumes could not have prevailed against the decision, the judgment of the High Court. This was not a question where governments alone would be concerned because matters concerning rights to the seabed so far have come to the High Court for decisiondecisions have been given- not at the instance of the Federal Government or of any State government, but at the instance of private citizens. Even if governments had agreed to request the British Government to recommend to the Queen of Britain that she seek an advisory opinion from the British Privy Council, it would not have precluded litigation before the High Court and an advisory opinion from the Privy Council would not have prevailed against a judgment of the High Court. The right honourable gentleman perceived immediately that the Tasmanian proposal involved the by-passing of the High Court and he indicated the proposal had no support from his Government.
Nevertheless, in 1973 Tasmania and Queensland petitioned Her Majesty to refer the seabed questions for the Privy Council’s advisory opinion. The Prime Minister advised Her
Majesty not to accede to the request. United Kingdom ministers gave the same advice and, as the Queen announced when opening Parliament on 28 February last year, she decided not to refer the questions to the Privy Council. The appropriate tribunal to determine those questions was the High Court of Australia. Last year, Queensland again endeavoured to obtain an advisory opinion from the Privy Council- this time in connection with questions concerning Her Majesty’s Royal style and titles- the proposal that Her Majesty should be known as Queen of the United Kingdom, of Australia, of Queensland and so on. The Australian Government has challenged the validity of the proposed reference in the High Court. Her Majesty has been advised by the Australian Government not to accede to Queensland’s request. There must not be 2 streams of authority. The High Court must not be by-passed.
Mr President, it has been suggested that we have not consulted the States about this legislation. Let me give the Senate the facts. The Prime Minister first introduced the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill on 31 May 1973. He had a discussion with the Premiers on 29 June 1973. As a result of that discussion he wrote to the Premiers on 23 July and said that if all the States were to agree that appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished he would be prepared to proceed by means of a joint approach by all the Australian governments to the United Kingdom Government asking it to enact legislation abolishing appeals. The Prime Minister said that he made this proposal in the belief that the States were concerned with the method and not with the result. The replies from most States were disappointing and, even now, New South Wales has not replied at all. The Queensland Premier simply referred to the passage of legislation by the Queensland Parliament designed to make still further provision for appeals and references to the Privy Council. This legislation had been introduced, without prior notice, after the Prime Minister had written to Mr Bjelke-Petersen and at a time when, as he believed, he was in consultation with him and the other Premiers. In the event, the Australian Parliament was prorogued before debate had been resumed in the House of Representatives on the Government’s Bill. The Prime Minister has since had discussions with the United Kingdom Prime Minister and it has been decided that the best course to resolve these issues is to reintroduce the Bill, and to give every opportunity for questions as to its validity to be raised in the High Court of Australia, in accordance with proper constitutional processes.
Mr President, I have spent some time in describing the events of the past 3 years because I believe it is important that all honourable senators should be aware of the devices that have been resorted to by some States to avoid the High Court-in 1972, in 1973, in 1974-and of the distortions of the Australian Government’s proposals. Our concern is that this Parliament should do everything in its power to complete the process of making the High Court of Australia Australia’s final court of appeal from all Australian courts. I commend both Bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill was explained in the second reading speech of the previous Bill. In the circumstances, I do not propose to speak to the motion that this Bill be read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 18 February.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Acting General Manager’ means a person appointed under section 33; approved bank’ means the Reserve Bank of Australia or any other bank for the time being approved by the Treasurer;
Building’ includes a structure;
Chairman’ means the Chairman of the Commission;
Commission’ means the Commission established by this Act;
Construction ‘ includes reconstruction:
Darwin Area’ means that part of the Territory within a distance of 60 kilometres from the building known as the Darwin Post Office as existing at the commencement of this Act, and includes the land on which that building is erected;
Deputy Chairman’ means the Deputy Chairman of the Commission;
General Manager’ means the General Manager of the Commission; member’ means a member of the Commission, and includes an Acting General Manager; part-time member’ means a member appointed as a parttime member; prescribed period’ means the period commencing on the date of commencement of this Act and ending on the date on which sub-section 4(1) becomes applicable to the performance ofthe functions of the Commission; public authority’ means an authority established under the laws of Australia or of an internal Territory; the Territory’ means the Northern Territory, and includes the territorial waters appertaining to that Territory.
– I think everyone has received the list of amendments that have been circulated by the Opposition. The first two of those amendments relate to clause 3. In addition I circulated a further list of amendments this morning. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has received it and I think it has been distributed to all senators.
The amendment which I propose to move to clause 3 relates to the definition of the Darwin area which is defined in the Bill as meaning ‘that part of the Territory within a distance of 60 kilometres from the building known as the Darwin Post Office’. Our amendment is designed to reduce that distance from 60 kilometres to 40 kilometres. In my second reading speech yesterday I indicated why the Opposition proposes to move this amendment. Briefly they are that even a distance of 40 kilometres is still well beyond the limits of the City of Darwin and beyond the foreseeable limits of Darwin in the lifetime of the Reconstruction Commission. The radius of 60 kilometres extends to a place known as Manton River which is far beyond any reasonable area that is required for the reconstruction of Darwin. I move:
– It will not be an important amendment if the Senate restricts the operations of the Reconstruction Commission to a distance of 40 kilometres from the Darwin Post Office. But those people who know Darwin will see the need for the selection of 60 kilometres. That figure is based on town planning advice to take into the powers of the Commission all those matters that are necessary to develop a properly planned city. It is in accord with what the Australian Government, with its knowledge of town planning and urban development, thinks is essential. The selection of 60 kilometres in the planning of the reconstruction of Darwin involves the need for the Reconstruction Commission to have control over the land in areas as far away as Cox Peninsula, Darwin River Dam and the Adelaide River to give as much flexibility as possible in determining the sites of public utility areas such as airports, buffer zones and water conservation areas, which may arise during the program of reconstruction, and to allow for expansion. This planning is based on the experience of the Cities Commission throughout Australia.
This does not mean that of necessity there will be large scale acquisition of land, freehold or leasehold, but it leaves the Commission with power to deal with any specific area, should the need arise, without further amendments to the proposed Act. It is essential to place under the control of the Reconstruction Commission an area which is sufficiently large to discourage development which would be contrary to the policies of the Reconstruction Commission, and is sufficiently close to Darwin as not to threaten the success of the Commission’s planning of development policies. A restriction to 40 kilometres would delete such areas as the Darwin River Dam and the semi-rural area of Humpty Doo from the control of the Commission and would prevent the development by the Commission of regional recreation areas near the Darwin River Dam and semi-rural areas near Humpty Doo. If the Senate is of the belief that the Reconstruction Commission should not be involved in proper planning and development of the recreation areas which are outside the 40 kilometres, we can certainly build the city within the 40 kilometres. In order to provide proper facilities for recreation and for the servicing of the facilities we ask the Senate to defeat the amendment which has been proposed by Senator Durack.
– I will deal with one or two of the points that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has made. The existing water conservation facilities for Darwin are quite adequate until the end of the century. There will be no requirement for the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to do anything about those facilities. I am advised that there are ample recreational areas within the proposed radius of 40 kilometres. It is the opinion of the Opposition that the replanning of areas on the outskirts of Darwin should properly be considered by the local people, in particular the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and should not be the subject of a decision by the Reconstruction Commission, which is concerned with the reconstruction of the city of Darwin itself and not with any broad replanning outside the existing area.
- Senator Durack has correctly said that there is a sufficiently large area in Darwin for the Commission to operate and to replan. But the replanning of the city of Darwin should be undertaken with a regard to the future. I suppose that there is sufficient area to occupy the Commission and to keep it engaged, but there are established recreation areas outside the proposed 40 kilometre radius. With regard to the replanning of the city, the Opposition wishes to deny the Commission the opportunity to look into those areas which are now used as recreation areas. The Opposition wishes to confine the Commission simply to the rebuilding of the city of Darwin and if there are areas beyond 40 kilometres but inside the 60 kilometres radius which can be improved for the people of Darwin, the Opposition wishes to deny the residents of Darwin that improvement which the Commission could carry out under this Bill. It is not just a question of the efficient planning of Darwin. It is a question of restricting the Commission which has a duty to act for the benefit of the citizens of Darwin.
That the figure proposed to be left out (Senator Durack’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is:
That the figure proposed to be inserted be inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
-I seek leave to make a brief statement in relation to the pair arrangements for today.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I wish to state that in the vote just taken and in future votes at today’s sitting of the Senate, Senator Lawrie has and will be paired with the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Murphy.
The term Minister appears extensively throughout the Bill. As I have indicated already in my speech at the second reading stage of the Bill, the Opposition believes it is important that the Minister who is given such extensive powers under this Bill should be clearly identified, and that the Minister should be the Minister for the Northern Territory. There are a number of other possible contenders for this role in a Bill of this nature. We have already heard of several other departments which are involved and certainly will be involved in the operation of this legislation. We believe it is important at this stage for the Minister who has responsibility under this Bill to be clearly identified and to remain the Minister responsible throughout the whole of the period of this reconstruction program. The present Minister in charge is the Minister for the Northern Territory. We believe he is the appropriate Minister. This amendment simply seeks to clarify the situation and make sure that that position remains.
– The amendment to the Bill is totally unnecessary. The Government does not accept the amendment because of the difficulty which would be caused if a particular portfolio were specified and there was a change in the name of that portfolio. There could be a change in the Ministry and there would not be a Minister for the Northern Territory. We would then have to ask the House to change the Act to make it operable. This question is well provided for by the Acts Interpretation Act which provides that the Minister referred to in legislation is the Minister for the time being administering the Act. It has been announced that the Minister for the Northern Territory will be administering this Act as determined by the administrative arrangements under which a Minister has been allocated the portfolio of Minister for the Northern Territory. If the amendment is agreed to and the name of the portfolio changes at any time the Parliament will have to amend the Act. There is no suggestion that any injustice or any wrong will be done; it is just that the Opposition is seeking to put the Government to inconvenience. It is well known that the Acts Interpretation Act provides for the situation contemplated in the Opposition’s amendment. We therefore oppose the amendment.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 6a.
– I move:
Insert the following new clause: 6a. ( 1 ) a town plan or a determination affecting the use of land the subject of any decision or advice under this section-
shall not be acted upon or enforced until the provisions of this section have been complied with; and
shall be exhibited in a place open to the public during the ordinary hours of business for a period of one month.
Where a town plan or determination has been exhibited in accordance with this section, a person who may be affected by the town plan or determination may lodge an objection thereto at any time during which the town plan or determination is exhibited in accordance with this section.
On receipt of an objection under this section, the Commission may, after giving the objector the opportunity to support his objection by appearing before the Commission in person, confirm, quash or vary the town plan or determination.’.
This proposed new clause will follow the clause which sets out the functions of the Commission; that is, clause 6. I do not propose to read the functions fully but they do give the most extensive powers to this Commission, the nature of which I dealt with in my speech yesterday. In particular they give to the Commission and to the Minister extensive town planning roles and powers. Clause 6 (b) states:
To carry out planning in relation to development, construction and land use in the Darwin area . . .
The Opposition attaches very great importance to this amendment which is designed to ensure that any planning determinations, any new town plan or any determination affecting the use of land within these very wide powers should at least be made available for public inspection and public consideration and that anybody who is affected by that plan should have the opportunity of objecting to it and having his objections heard by the Commission. The Commission, being the planning authority, is the body which will in the end have to make the decision but this opportunity for any citizen of any community who is affected by a planning decision, such as the way in which he may be able to use his own land, is of the utmost importance and is absolutely fundamental to any town planning legislation.
As I indicated yesterday, the Opposition normally would require very much more adequate provision than is in this amendment; that is, that the citizens should have a month in which to make those objections. In ordinary town planning legislation this whole process probably would take many months before the town plan could be reconsidered and perhaps re-drafted, but in view of the urgency of the situation in Darwin we have limited this period to 1 month. We have done so because we are assuming that that would be the minimum time necessary. If the Government upon advice was able to concede a longer period of time the Opposition would be very happy for it to do so. It may be that in many cases a longer period of time would be possible but at this stage of the reconstruction program we are concerned to provide a period no longer than 1 month because we are fully aware of the urgency of getting on with the job. The principle of this amendment we regard as very important and we strongly press it. It is certainly one for which there is a great demand in Darwin.
– The Government does not accept the amendment. It accepts the need to see that justice is done and that there is no decision of the Commission that is above scrutiny or criticism, but the amendment is not a solution. The amendment is badly drafted, would delay the work of the Commission and brings forward a number of issues which are already provided for in the Bill. The amendment refers to ‘a town plan or determination’ and neither term is referred to or denned in the Bill. What they are intended to mean is not known. There are no determinations to be made under clause 6 at all. Proposed new clause 6a seeks to set up a system whereby the town plan will be exhibited. It has already been made clear that all planning schemes will be made public and already the Interim Commission has made public initial planning advice given to it by the Cities Commission. In its report entitled ‘Planning Operations for the Future of Darwin’ which has been tabled in the Senate and widely circulated, it seeks public comment.
Paragraph (2) of the proposed new clause is primitive in its wording. There appears to be no limitation on who can object to any action and any person in Australia affected by the town plan could object. Lord knows whence we would get objections. They could come from any quarter. As I said last evening, the proposed new clause overlooks the fact that clause 61 (1) (e) of the Bill provides for appeals and it is the intention of the Government to set up an appeals process under this legislation. If the form of objection devised by this proposed new clause were to be accepted, that is, that all objectors had to be given the opportunity to appear in person before the Commissionand this is important- we would have a situation where the Commission would without doubt be totally tied up in the time consuming task of hearing thousands of objections. It would no doubt delay the period of reconstruction of Darwin by many years and there would be very little done in the 5-year term of the Bill. If there is any validity in the Opposition’s intention to streamline the Bill to get it through it is not shown by this amendment. This is just a delaying tactic.
The principle of appeals- the provisions for it are there, as I stated last night- has been accepted. The Government and the Commission by their actions have indicated their clear intention to seek and consider comments made upon the displayed planning schemes. Even although unnecessary, the Government will give consideration to incorporating an appropriate provision in the Bill along these lines. The principle of exhibiting planning schemes and providing an opportunity for public comment on them is accepted and has been demonstrated already by the Interim Commission. There is no desire to hide what is intended or to deny anyone the right of appeal under this legislation, but the fact is that we could clutter up the work of the Commission with the objections that will come in and which will have to be given a hearing. It would be unworkable and the amendment to insert proposed new clause 6a in the Bill cannot be accepted.
– This is a tremendously important amendment and the reply of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) does not give adequate regard to the issues which are contained in the amendment. What is involved is the reconstruction of a city and the way in which the city is reconstructed is of tremendous importance to the people who are going to live there, the people who own land there and the people whose use of their land is to be controlled. Surely one of the important considerations is that people should have some say in the use of the land which they own. All this amendment does is require that in the reconstruction program a plan shall be exhibited and that people will have the opportunity to see what is proposed, will have the opportunity of objecting and will have the opportunity of having their objections determined. We are attempting to write that into the legislation. I think it is a provision with great value. I think it is unfair of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to say that to intrude or to put that sort of provision into legislation is to engage in some form of culpable delay or unmeritorious delay. It is nothing of the kind. We are attempting to provide a right which people should have.
As I understand what the Minister said, he has given 2 substantive answers. The first is that the Commission, in its procedures, as already indicated, will follow this pattern. If that be correct, what is the objection to putting it in the statute? Unless it is put in the statute the Commission could depart from these procedures on a particular occasion which to the Commission seems to be a fair thing but is not a fair thing to the people involved. The second argument raised, as I understood the Minister, is that there is provision in the regulation-making power for appeals to be provided. I do not think that that is altogether satisfactory. If regulations are made in which appeals can be contained but you do not like some of the provisions you are faced with the position that if you are ever going to disallow the regulations you disallow the lot or you take the lot. There is no opportunity for amendment. That is the vice in regard to regulations. I think appeals are so important a matter, and the right to have your voice heard and your objection considered is so important in these town planning considerations, that I urge the Minister to reconsider the matter and accept this amendment.
– I hope I understand the concept of a town plan but I am not sure of what ‘a determination affecting the use of land’ could mean under this amendment and how small an event ‘a determination affecting the use of land ‘ could be and how frequently such determinations should be given. I assume it is a good principle that people should have the right to object, as previous speakers from this side of the chamber have said, and that they should have the right for their objection to be heard. At least the final power rests with the Commission to decide whether or not there is worth and merit in that objection. I would not like to approve something which could be a continual hazard to the Commission in performing the duties expected of it. I would like some explanation, if possible, as to what the proponents or objectors to this amendment see in the words ‘or a determination’. Can that be a continuing number of isolated decisions quite outside the general concept of a town plan which could raise hazards in the progress of the Commission? I would like an answer if possible.
– I want to repeat what I said last night. We are dealing with an emergency situation and that emergency situation in Darwin will continue for quite some time. One must accept that there was almost complete devastation of Darwin. It would be most unsatisfactory to the people of Darwinin fact it would be most unjust- if we inhibited the Commission in any way. I suggest that it is necessary to take some risks in this legislation in order to reconstruct Darwin speedily I think that the amendment would oblige the Commission to go through a procedure which would delay decisions for at least 3 months, perhaps 6 months and perhaps even a year. This legislation must be considered in the light of an emergency. There is provision in a variety of ways for citizens to assert their rights. What has been announced to date indicates that the rights of the citizens of Darwin to their property and their land will not be prejudiced except where a dangerous situation exists. The city of Darwin is in an emergency condition and will continue to be so. The amendment proposed by the Opposition is one which we could expect if the situation in Darwin were a normal one. Perhaps such a provision ought to be considered after the Commission has been in operation for 12 months but it ought not be considered now because it will impede the work of the Commission. The Commission is to take over from the few people who at present have emergency powers in Darwin. That has been considered right. No one has objected to those emergency powers being held by 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. By this legislation those emergency powers will be passed to the Commission. We hope that the powers we give to the Commission might not be necessary after 12 months but we think they are necessary now. This amendment will inhibit the Commission and delay the work. In fact the end result will be that we will not be able to build homes as quickly or as effectively as we intend under the present legislation.
– I think the arguments of the Minister in reply to my amendment were dealt with adequately by Senator Greenwood but I would like to add this: We of the Opposition have put forward an amendment to insert into the Bill a principle which the Minister said the Commission would observe. We are not wedded to any particular wording for this amendment. If anyone with greater facility in parliamentary drafting than we have been able to engage is able to come up with a better form of words we certainly would be prepared to accept it. But that is not what the Minister did. He engaged in a series of debating points about the drafting of our amendment. That is a typical reaction which one might expect from people trying to defend every word in this Bill. We are not wedded to the wording of our amendment. If any honourable senator can come up with better wording we will be very willing to look at it. If there is any real problem about gumming up the Commission with objections we are willing to consider recasting that provision. Perhaps it would be sufficient if the objections were to be made in writing and if only people appearing on behalf of a large number of people similarly affected were heard. I do not want to get into the position of trying to defend every word and every comma of our amendment as the Minister seem;, to be doing with this Bill.
As far as Senator Hall’s question is concerned, the reason for the phrase ‘a determination affecting the use of land’ is that in the first place, and for some time, there may not be anything in the nature of a town plan. I do not know how the Commission is going to work but it will have power to carry out planning in relation to land use in the Darwin area in accordance with any determination by the Australian Government. The Commission may determine the desirable extent, nature and purpose of the use and development of land. There is the likelihood that determinations will be made by both the Government and the Commission which will affect the right of people to rebuild or reconstruct on their present property. We considered this matter in the debate last night. Obviously it is likely that some people will not be allowed to rebuild on their properties and some people with properties at present used for business premises may be prevented from rebuilding business premises because the Commission may decide to put that piece of land to some other use.
The Opposition has another amendment dealing with the question of compensation in these matters and we will be debating it later. At this stage it seems elementary that if decisions are made whereby a particular person will not be permitted to rebuild his house, his shop or other premises on the piece of land he owns and where he has lived and worked and carried on business for years, and if there could be considerable loss as well as inconvenience if that person is not allowed to rebuild, that person should have a right of objecting to the decision. That is why we used the words ‘a determination affecting the use of land’ and broadened the idea from a simple town plan. There may well be only determinations of this kind in the first place. There may not be town plans as much in the early stages of the Commission ‘s work.
– I wish to add a little weight to the argument that the amendment should be accepted. It is a most important one. The whole thrust of the Bill is to take powers away from the administration in Darwin, to invest them in this huge Darwin Reconstruction Commission and to ignore to a large extent the wishes of the people of Darwin. I wish to point out that the amendment has been worked out in conjunction with elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory and in consultation with the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator
Cavanagh) said that provision for an appeal is made under clause 6 (e). I have read that subclause. I see no provision for an appeal. He feels that the hearing of thousands of objections would delay the activities of the Commission. If there were to be thousands of objections he apparently wants the Commission to be able to go ahead in the face of all those objections. I think this amendment is a most important one. I hope it will be accepted.
– I do not think members of the Opposition have fully understood what I said last night about this plan and the urgencies associated with the rebuilding of Darwin. That is where the Government differs from the Opposition and the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. We promised to rebuild Darwin hurriedly. The most essential thing today is to get families back in Darwin. We see reports today of people squatting in houses. They do not own the houses. They will not vacate the houses. They are crying out for accommodation. Houses must be rebuilt. Therefore, the urgency is the rebuilding. This Government promised to rebuild. The Cities Commission or the people of Darwin did not promise to rebuild. This Government gave an undertaking to the people of Darwin that it would re-plan and rebuild Darwin. We ask the Senate to give us the machinery to put that promise into operation.
As I said last evening, if one searched the legislation one could find many weaknesses. The Government is honest in its intention to formulate the machinery to overcome those injustices and grievances which could arise. It does not want to be the big dictator of Darwin. It wants to build a pleasing city for the future residents of Darwin who today are in other parts of Australia. The essential thing for family life and for the reconstruction of Darwin is to get on with the job. We have seen nothing but delays. While one may point to irregularities, inaccuracies or the mis-use of words in the drafting of this hurried legislation, we shall make every effort to rectify the glaring faults. At least give us the skeleton to do something.
I believe that Senator Durack answered Senator Hall’s question about what ‘determination’ meant. Senator Durack will not be the interpreting authority on the definition of ‘determination’. The interpretation may be the subject of a legal challenge. Its ordinary dictionary meaning is a determination by anyone. According to the amendment, any determination of the Commission may be objected to by anyone in
Australia. It may be a question of a series of road opening or closing proposals. It need not be in respect of land. It could be the re-shaping of recreation areas, the location of recreation areas, the re-shaping of areas under the Corporation of the City of Darwin or the planning of areas which may involve conservation and other questions. There are 1001 determinations to be made. The amendment seeks to leave open to any person in Australia the right to object to a determination, whether they have a vested interest or a peculiar interest such as conservation or environment. An environment committee in Melbourne could object to a determination of the Commission.
– Why do you say that any person in Australia could object? That is unreal.
-The amendment states that where a town plan or determination is exhibited in accordance with this section a person who may be affected by the town plan or determination may lodge an objection thereto. The relevant words are ‘any person who may be affected ‘. The person affected could be a resident of one of the southern cities who has some right in Darwin. The person affected could well be someone interested in conservation.
– It could be someone interested in tourism.
– It could well be a tourist. Hundreds of determinations will be made. While there may be some isolated opposition by individuals, on the whole it is not important. Many of the determinations will not be important. We have said that the urgency relates to the proposals to rebuild. The plan is to be exhibited for one month. Nothing can be done for one month. The Opposition and the Legislative Assembly in Darwin are saying sincerely that they want to rebuild Darwin. They want it hurried up. The amendment is a deliberate delaying tactic which will delay proceedings one month. After one month a person has the right to object. The Commission, which made the determination, is the appellate court to which he objects. What is the value of it? He says to the Commission: ‘I do not like that. I do not agree with it’. It will decide whether to alter its decision. This is not a right of appeal. The same group is deciding the issues. The Commission must hear in person someone who appeals.
The Opposition is stifling the operation of rebuilding Darwin. That is the effect of the amendment, whatever its purpose is. I think that purpose is purely political. The Government says that it is not opposed to exhibiting any town plans; it will be done. The Government is not opposed to the right of appeal, not from Caesar to Caesar but to some other authority. We have said that there will be provisions in the regulations for the making of an appeal. We introduced the Bill to get something done. We did so before we had arranged the details of appeal. As Senator Greenwood said, there is a right of acceptance or rejection. We can feel confident if we establish a right of appeal. If we did so I think everyone in Darwin would be happy. We give that undertaking. It will be established. What more does the Opposition want the Government to do to show the good faith of the Government? I do not know. To insist on amendments which cause delays and which desire to make political propaganda is out of reality with the Opposition having sympathy for the people of Darwin.
– I wish to direct myself to an insistent argument of the Government that urgency is the absolute determinant in all these values. Urgency is important. The absolute is that when we rebuild Darwin as speedily as possible justice shall be done, and the desires and needs of the people shall be fulfilled. If under the alibi of absolute urgency the Government seeks to railroad the people’s rights, justice will not be done. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) said that there will be a plan, it will be exhibited, there will be a right of appeal, but we will do that by regulation. How can he object to this amendment or some minor modification of it which states that there will be a plan, it will be exhibited and there will be an appeal? He is now going to do it in regulations, but it would take him 5 minutes to do it here. If he wants to argue that a month is too long and that a fortnight is all right, let him put that argument, but the simple fact is that in a tirade of words he attacked what we are doing but then said what we are proposing is what the Government is going to do. He admitted that every principle in the amendment is basically right. Of course some loose words can be tied up.
I simply want to say that there has been no delay by the Opposition. The real test within the next 48 hours is whether this Parliament has given a good Bill and a good Act to the people of Darwin. If it is a good Bill and a good Act, then the four or five days it has taken will be worthwhile. If it is a bad Bill passed under the guise of urgency, then this Government and the Senate will have to live with it for a very long time. So let us not hear any more about this delay. The Minister stated that we proposed the insertion of a new clause 6A to cause a delay, but then he said that the principles contained in this proposed new clause are principles with which the Government agrees. I therefore call upon the Government to accept the amendment in the spirit in which the Opposition has moved it.
– I believe that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) raised a very proper point when he pointed out the width of possible objections that may be lodged by a person who may be affected by a combination of a town plan or a determination if the clause refers to ‘a town plan or a determination’. It seems to me that it is much wider than one would want it to be as a basis for possible objection by someone affected. I therefore believe that there ought to be a limitation of one or the other. I would be happy to accept ‘town plan’ or ‘determination’ if the people who are affected are limited. I think one or the other has to remain, but the two together support the Minister’s objection. Possibly the fairest way- I have discussed this possibility with Senator Durack- is to limit the scope of the people who could be affected by the appeals mechanism. I suggest that the Opposition might very well take out of sub-clause (2) the words ‘a person who may’ and insert the words ‘any person who has an interest in any land’. The subclause would then read:
Where a town plan or determination has been exhibited in accordance with this section, any person who has an interest in any land affected by the town plan or determination may lodge -
I would imagine that the word ‘interest’ would cover not only financial interest and ownership but also previous or present residential interest. It would overcome the difficulty and very markedly restrict the possible appeals that would be lodged. I think it would also meet the Minister’s objection and still provide a very fair hearing for those who object to the way their life has been altered by the Commission’s decisions.
– I want to clear up one matter. Senator Carrick said we are attacking the Opposition because it is causing a delay. We are not attacking the Opposition’s right to insert in the Bill provisions relating to an appeal. We are saying that the wording of the Opposition’s proposed new clause is entirely unacceptable and has no effect other than to delay. It is that delay that we are attacking. We have given assurances which I thought would have resulted in more beneficial provisions than would be the case if we agreed to the amendment. I have talked to my advisers, and we will accept the proposal of Senator Steele Hall that a plan must be exhibited and that people have the right of objection to the plan if we leave out of the clause the multiplicity of determinations by the Commission to which anyone can object. I personally am concerned about this question of exhibiting a plan for a month before anything can be done. If a proposal providing for the exhibition of a plan and giving the right of appeal against a town plan is acceptable to all, we are prepared to go to that extent.
– I am prepared to agree to the suggested amendment by Senator Hall so that sub-clause (2) of proposed new clause 6a would read:
Where a town plan or determination has been exhibited in accordance with this section, any person who has an interest in any land affected by the town plan-
We agree to the deletion of the words ‘a person who may be’ and the insertion of the words ‘any person who has an interest in any land ‘. I seek leave to amend the amendment to that extent.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not know whether the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) intends to press his point, but I believe that the period of one month is far too long when we are considering a city of the size of Darwin, affected as it has been affected, with the people’s interest awakened to the needs for reconstruction. Perhaps if that period could be shortened it would facilitate procedures. I therefore appeal to the Minister not to concede on that point and to allow paragraph (b) in sub-clause 1 to remain as it is. Perhaps the Opposition might consider further amending its amendment by reducing that period of a month to a fortnight.
– As I suggested earlier in my remarks, any reduction in the period of one month would be beneficial to the people of Darwin. I think the Opposition might consider that. It is now reported to me, even accepting the proposals relating to the town plan and exhibition, that the amendment will have to be reworded as it is not complete. In view of the fact that we will try to meet the Opposition in that respect and in view of the fact that my advisers tell me that by the time we have completed the Committee stage of this Bill they can have a reworded draft which they will present to Senator Durack, I therefore ask for the adjournment of this clause until a later hour this day.
Consideration of proposed new clause 6a postponed.
Proposed new clause 6b.
– I move:
In a way proposed new clause 6b is complementary to proposed new clause 6a. Here again it is a question of suitable drafting. I am not by any means wedded to the actual wording of this draft, but the purpose of proposed new clause 6b is to ensure that if a town plan or any determination affects the use of land in Darwin, despite objections that may be raised by those affected, and if for good reason the Commission decides that it will not redevelop certain areas of Darwin or certain blocks of land in Darwin or will not permit them to be redeveloped as they were before, the person who has thereby suffered any loss or damage will be given compensation. This proposed new clause is probably a little wider in its coverage and does not cover only those who are owners of land.
We understand that probably something like $40m worth of building contracts are in existence in Darwin and the building contractors also are likely to be affected by any decisions of the Commission. They may have entered into contracts, they may have partly performed their duties under the contract, buildings may have been partly completed and so on and the Commission says: ‘No, you cannot continue with that work’. So a large number of people could suffer considerable loss as a result of these decisions.
In putting forward this amendment I am fortified by some statements which were made in the debate last night by both Senator Gietzelt and Senator Cavanagh. As a matter of fact, it was Senator Gietzelt who first indicated the desirability of an amendment of this kind. In seeking to answer some of my arguments made during the second reading debate about the problem which would be created by this wide exercise of power by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission in regard to the use of land, at page 225 of Hansard Senator Gietzelt is reported as stating:
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?
I am not saying that we are at all. The whole object of these amendments is to leave it to the Commission. Senator Gietzelt went on:
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?
Putting aside such gratuitous comments as the last statement, the fact of the matter is that Senator Gietzelt is saying quite clearly- I fully agree with him- that if in its wisdom the Commission decides that it will resettle people in a better environment in Darwin, that is its prerogative. Senator Gietzelt says that that is all right if people suffer no monetary loss. The Opposition agrees entirely with the very sensible approach which Senator Gietzelt has indicated in that portion of his speech. Senator Cavanagh came back to the point in his final speech at the second reading stage when he said:
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.
This is rather amusing, really. The Government comes forward with the Bill which it says is of great urgency. It is many weeks after the disaster and apparently Cabinet had not, up to last night, made any decision on this very fundamental point. I hope that by now or by the time we finish this debate Cabinet will have made a decision because it is obviously one matter which should be exercising the Government’s mind and on which a decision should be made. Senator Cavanagh goes on to refer to a question which was asked of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) yesterday. Senator Cavanagh states:
That is a reference to the questioner in the usual polite way in which the Opposition is treated in this chamber by the Government. Senator Cavanagh stated:
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. … 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.
But the fact of the matter is that the Government, as well as Senator Gietzelt, has obviously brought its mind to the same problem as we have. I do not know why we should be berated for having given this consideration and for having come to the same conclusion as the Government. This is obviously a problem which has to be faced and solved. I believe that the legislation should embody the principle that compensation will be paid if people are not allowed to resettle on their own piece of land. That is a principle which is obviously accepted by both sides in this chamber. All we are seeking by this amendment is to have that principle enshrined in the legislation. I fully agree that there might be many problems of detail which would still have to be worked out. At least I believe that this principle should be included in this legislation. That is the reason why this amendment has been moved.
– In the main I agree with Senator Durack. The Government agrees with what was said last night. If someone suffers a monetary loss as a result of a decision of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, within reasonable limitations there should be compensation. Perhaps I misunderstood and misinformed the Senate when I said that Cabinet was discussing this question. Cabinet has been discussing the question of compensation for Darwin. As I said, Senator Wheeldon is the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. In discussion with Senator Wheeldon today I have found that the proposals for coverage relate to those who suffered a loss as a result of cyclone Tracy. Of course this amendment relates to those who suffer a loss as a result of some determination of the Minister or of the Commission. So this is not the proposal which Cabinet is looking into.
I have taken this matter up with the departmental officers from the appropriate departments. They are agreeable to ‘he payment of some compensation where there is a loss. In fact, to get a decision so that I could put a clause before the Senate, during the lunch hour I had officers from the Attorney-General’s Department trying to find a solution to this matter. An officer concerned said that it was impossible to draw up a clause this afternoon. The matter of compensation, who should be covered and who should not be covered would have to be a government decision. This is something which cannot be done while this Bill is before the Senate. The officer pointed out very pertinently that the Government could never agree to this proposed amendment. There are so many ramifications with reference to loss or damagenot of necessity monetary loss- that there is a wide meaning.
Does the payment of compensation relate to the land or use of the land or the performance of any contract entered into before the cyclone or before the commencement of this legislation? The amendment does not say how far back we should go. One could dig up a contract whereby someone intended to build shops in an area but because of a decision of the Commission he cannot now build shops; he has to build residences and so the return of rental is reduced. Is this the type of thing which should be compensated? These are all big problems which must be taken into consideration. We simply do not have a clause which states that we will compensate everyone for everything which may arise as a result of the action of the Commission. This has to be worked out in accordance with government policy. We are hoping for an early discussion.
We hope that early provision will be made for compensation. The Government will not accept the amendment. We give an assurance that some alternative scheme will be introduced at a very early date before anyone is affected by the Commission’s decision. The other matter raised related to making an application to the court. The court is defined as being the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. It is desirable to extend this provision to other courts. A claim might be made by someone with property in Darwin who lives in Melbourne or some other area. These are all problems which are now occupying the attention of departmental officers and officers from the Attorney-General’s Department. I hope that we can find a suitable solution which will be accepted by the Opposition.
– I am very glad to have the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) indicate his acceptance in broad terms of the principle which the Opposition is seeking by this amendment to have incorporated in the Darwin Reconstruction Bill. However, I do not think it is reasonable for this Senate and this Parliament simply to leave the matter in the air and pass the Bill on some general undertaking that the Government will bring back some other form of legislation. I think that the Government has plenty of time before this Bill is finally disposed of to come up with some alternative wording to this clause. Perhaps the Government is now suffering from some of the difficulties that the Opposition has had in regard to this Bill. We were supposed to have been able to get our amendments out in the space of a few hours, and perhaps the Government now has a little sympathy for us in the difficulties that we faced.
But the fact of the matter is that there has already been an amendment to this Bill; there may be others. The Bill will then have to be reconsidered in another place and come back here and, with the time that is taken up in doing that, it will probably be some time tomorrow before the Bill is finalised. It would seem to me that there is ample time for the Government, with all its drafting and other resources, to come up with an alternative to the amendment that the Opposition is proposing. I suggest therefore that the Senate pass this amendment on the understanding that counter proposals to it will be submitted or, alternatively, the Minister may like to do what he did in relation to the other amendment and postpone it until later in the Committee stages. I believe that it is important for the Senate to vote on and resolve clearly this important principle.
– I should also like to express my pleasure at the Minister’s recognition of the need to look more closely at this question of compensation. Senator Durack mentioned earlier that 40 building contracts in Darwin will be affected.
– I said $40m.
– I beg your pardon; $40m, yes; but because of that a lot of building material will need to be transported, and I think of all the road hauliers who are suffering as a result of the disaster.
– Your amendment does not cover that.
– I just want to draw that to your attention at this stage. I hope that the Government will remember this when it expands its compensation arrangements for that area. A lot of people will be suffering as a result of the disaster and I ask the Government to bear that in mind.
– I am willing to vote for Senator Durack ‘s amendment on the basis that he last proposed it, that is, that some better wording and closer definitions are drafted in the interim period. I do point out that assess and award compensation for any loss or damage’ is obviously too wide and I would support the Minister in his objection to that. In voting for the amendment I want to make it quite clear that I do so on the basis of the latter part of Senator Durack ‘s statement.
– I want to add my views in support of what Senator Durack has last said- that this is a matter which is of vital importance to the operation of this legislation from the moment it is passed, and I think the Government can make some provision for compensation before this Bill actually becomes law. I do not think it is sufficient- and in an area such as this I think Parliament should be very cautious before it does think it is sufficient- to let a law be enacted with no compensation provisions whatsoever in it on the assurance that at some stage in the future a compensation provision will be provided. I notice that the Minister said that some compensation would be provided, and my thinking was that he was fairly careful in his use of the limiting expression. I think it would be the worst of all worlds to have a Bill such as this enacted with no compensation provision and at a later date to have an inadequate provision put before Parliament as separate legislation. An Opposition concerned to ensure that it was adequate would be faced with this alternative: ‘Unless you agree to our Bill you will not have any Bill at all ‘, and that would mean that there would not be any compensation.
I do feel that it is important that from the time this Bill comes into operation there be a provision whereby persons who suffer loss or damage- and I accept the general restriction that it should be monetary loss or damage- ought to be able to get compensation. I have been approached, as I imagine others have been, by the Master Builders Federation, which says that in Darwin the Department of Works and Housing has indicated that a number of contracts to which the Government is currently bound are going to be cancelled. I am told that the Government has, with the approval of the Interim Commission, already decided to cancel some 89 building contracts worth $4 1.49m in total, and another 18 contracts worth $ 16.83m have been suspended awaiting decision. If the Government were to cancel those contracts, then in the ordinary course it would be liable to pay to the contractor whose contract had been cancelled damages, compensation for any loss which the contractor had suffered. That is the ordinary law.
– That would be part of the contract, would it not?
– It is the ordinary result of breaking a contract. The provisions of the contract will provide for what sum is to be paid in those circumstances or, if they do not provide for what sum is to be paid, then the law has a ready means of assessing what the compensation is.
– What if the contract had an escape clause to protect the person who is undertaking the contract?
– If there were an escape clause, that is what the parties have agreed to and they are bound by what they have agreed and the consequences are as they have agreed. But here, I understand, the Government is not proposing to cancel these contracts in Darwin until this Bill has become law. When one looks at clause 14 one finds that there is a provision under which the Government will be absolved from paying any compensation, Clause 14 is a provision of enormous impact because it states that after a date which is to be proclaimed no person shall commence, continue or complete any building work on land, and that would mean that a builder would not be allowed to continue with his building contract. It would mean in a more particular way that a prospective home owner could not compel his builder to build his home as the builder had contracted to do. In those circumstances the law says that where parties to a contract find that the further fulfilment of their contract is impossible because some event has happened which they did not contemplate, then the contract comes to an end immediately. The parties to the contract are discharged from further performance and the law says that the contract has been frustrated. One way in which such frustration is known to occur is where as a result of a change in the law performance of the contract becomes illegal; and that is what would happen if clause 14 were operative. If the Government were to rely upon that clause and to say that compensation is not to be paid to those builders whose contracts have been frustrated then I think it would be unjust, and one does not have to elaborate on the plain stark injustice that it would be.
That is not the only area under this Bill where there is a need for some provision for compensation to be acknowledged. There are powers, which will be dealt with later, whereby the Commission can authorise people to go on to other people’s land and demolish the buildings that are there. If there were a real loss suffered then I think that people should be able to recover that loss, and there is no provision in the Bill for this loss to be recognised and for compensation to be paid. People could be ordered out of their homes and in those circumstances they could suffer some loss as a result They may have to find, in the obvious way, alternative accommodation and it might not be so easy to find the compensation for it in the same way as a generous Australian people provided compensation in the immediate wake of the cyclone. In a matter of three or six or twelve months, if these powers were exercised, people would say: ‘What are our rights in the matter?’ I urge the Minister to recognise that this is a Bill which will be important for 5 years in the reconstruction of Darwin. A provision for compensation ought to be included in the Bill for people who suffer loss or damage as a result of activities of this super authority.
– I must admit now that what Senator Greenwood has said has caused me some concern, namely, that a person in Darwin who may have suffered financial damage to his property or to a variety of properties and who had let a contract to further extend these properties which have now been wiped out by the emergency is faced with the position that he may have to pay compensation to the contractor. I would have thought that the emergency, the cyclone itself, this unexpected act of God if you like to call it that- the term ‘Act of God ‘ appears in various insurance company documents, etc.- would have absolved the persons who had undertaken the contracts from any further payments under them. I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) whether Senator Greenwood is suggesting that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission should pay compensation to a contractor of this sort if that contract is made between a private contractor and a private individual. Is that what the honourable senator is suggesting- that he should be paid compensation?
– Only where the act of the Commission itself or of the Minister in relation to land or in relation to contracts has caused loss or damage.
-Surely that would be an area that would be covered by the compensation which would be paid, overall details of which have not been announced. I indicate the difficulty of having to make such decisions. It seems to me that the reason we have not had an announcement in relation to compensation to date concerns the complication of whether people have been fully insured, partly insured or have not been insured. The position becomes even more complex when we listen to some of the legal arguments that have been advanced in the Senate today. I would have thought that compensation of this sort would be covered by the general compensation paid to the people who have suffered loss and damage in Darwin. What worries me also about this business of compensation is what Senator Jessop had to say and the extent to which he wishes to extend the responsibility of the Government or the Commission in paying compensation. It seems to me -
– To hauliers.
– A lot of those hauliers are going broke because of this and I think that we have some responsibility in this.
-There could have been 6 months rain half way down the track which would have sent them broke. That is one of the liabilities of the type of business in which they are engaged. But the honourable senator is even suggesting this in relation to a person who had a substantial business in Darwin firms. For example, a wholesaler in the city of Sydney or Brisbane may suffer loss because of the disaster -
– There ought to be some loan available or something like that.
-That is a different story altogether. In the economic recovery of Darwin if the Government decides that it should make lower interest finance available or make available some other provisions such as taxation allowance provisions, that is another area. But it seems to me that the amendment which the Opposition has moved will further delay and make even more complex the act of assisting Darwin.
– How will thu compensation delay it? It does not stop anybody from getting on with the job.
-It does in that injunctions could be imposed which could impede the work of the Commission.
– There are no injunctions here. This is simply straight money compensation.
-I suggest that in the circumstances it would be wise to accept what the Minister has suggested, that is, that further legislation should be drawn up, especially legislation that could be drawn up in view of what other compensation is to be paid. We still do not know what other compensation is to be paid to those who have been displaced in Darwin. Until that information is produced it is very difficult to make any provision for other compensation. I think that it would be unwise to put such a clause in the legislation at this stage. We ought to accept what the Minister has said. He has given a firm undertaking, lt is recorded that the Government will bring down, in the light of what the Opposition has said, legislation to cover compensation which may be payable in this situation.
– I enter this debate only because, having listened to the contributions made in relation to this statement, I feel an obligation to point out 2 dangers that I consider the Senate would be taking upon itself if it passed the amendment in the form in which it has been submitted by Senator Durack.
- Senator, did you hear me say -
– Yes, I know. But the point is that the Opposition has said that it is now going to seek a vote on proposed clause 6b. I feel that since I believe I can see 2 grave dangers I ought to point them out to the Senate before that vote is taken in the hope that it will induce the Opposition to accept the undertaking that has been given by the Minister with regard, in effect, to separate legislation.
The first danger that I see is in clause 6B. ( 1 ) which gives a definite statutory right to a person who suffers loss or damage to seek compensation and to get it. I imagine that there is a very wide range of insurance policies covering a multiplicity of risks that would be involved in such cases. As members of the Opposition are aware, the true principle is that an insurer is subrogated to the rights of his insured. It would seem to me that there is a danger that paragraph 1 would let insurance companies off the hook. By virtue of the doctrine of subrogation an insurer could say in appropriate cases- I do not say that they would all be appropriate, but where it was appropriate- to his insured: ‘You have a statutory right to seek compensation for your loss or damage. As your insurer we are subrogated to that right’. The big danger I see is that with the amendment in this form insurance companies can be relieved of their liabilities on a very large and gross scale.
– Surely the clause could be qualified to prevent that.
-Of course it could be, but to pass it in this form as the Opposition is inviting the Senate by its vote in a few minutes so to do, in my submission would not be responsible for that reason. The second danger that I see is that it would be most unfair to the court to give it the power and to impose on it the duty, in the words of this amendment, to determine by whom any compensation so awarded shall be paid. No guidelines whatsoever are laid down. Would a rather irascible Supreme Court one hot afternoon decide that Mr Bjelke-Petersen or someone else should pay the damages?
– They are tolerant judges in the Northern Territory. They are never irascible.
– I think that the heat sometimes makes anyone irascible. I submit that really this is not proper legislation. That clause would make anyone liable for compensation, even Senator Greenwood. I submit quite seriously that this Senate ought not to pass, even in anticipation of having the clause recommitted for something proferred by the Government at a later stage in the debate, such legislation for those 2 reasons. I advance those suggestions with some experience of legislation of a similar kind following the bush fires in Tasmania in 1967. It would be far better if the question of compensation were dealt with fully and properly by a separate statute. I suggest that the issues are really separate. It would be convenient if the whole thing could be dealt with now and got over. But the Minister has said that the Government has not finalised the whole question of its attitude to compensation. When we are considering a case in which there could be tens of thousands of claims, I suggest that it behoves the Senate to ensure that the legislation is watertight. This amendment is full of holes. That is not said critically. In view of the recorded undertaking of the Minister and in view of the fact that it would be desirable, since final decisions have not been made, for this question to be the subject of a special Bill at a later stage, I urge the Senate not to incur the dangers to which I have adverted but to oppose this amendment without in any way suggesting that one is opposed to the principle of compensation.
– I thank Senator Everett for his explanation of the dangers that he sees in the amendment. I think it cannot be argued that there are dangers in it. I support Senator Everett’s attitude that there should be special legislation to deal with the question. With regard to other points that have been raised during the debate, I agree that it would have been proper and desirable to have incorporated in this Bill provisions for compensation. As I have told the Senate, the desire to get on with the job and to discuss such questions after the commencement of rebuilding are the reasons that this is a hurried piece of legislation and the provisions are not contained in it. It is impossible at this stage to draft a Bill to cover all the possibilities of compensation.
Senator Jessop brought up the question of what he termed a huge loss in the road haulage industry which is going broke. That is a question which Cabinet must decide. At first I thought that Senator Jessop ‘s contribution to the debate indicated that he does not support the amendment because it makes no provision for that section of industry about which he is concerned, but we have been debating loss only as a result of a decision with regard to land. As Senator Jessop has raised this matter and has suggested that the road haulage industry has suffered a huge loss and is going broke, the question is whether the Government should compensate the road haulage industry and whether the Government is prepared to do so. As our advisers have told us, these decisions must be made by the Government. So there is no possibility during what we hope will be a speedy passage of this Bill of drafting legislation on this question. We give the assurance that we will bring down a Bill providing compensation. That will be the time to question whether we have gone far enough and whether we have made suitable safeguards. As Senator Everett said, we should discuss separately the question of what is fair and reasonable compensation.
With regard to the question of cancellation of contracts, in the first meeting of the Cabinet after cyclone Tracy we had to consider not only the Government’s contracts with builders, but also proposed buildings which were being considered by the Joint Committee on Public Works. Of course, if 3 schools are planned in Darwin and the school population drops by two-thirds, one must reconsider whether now is the time to build additional schools. I believe another consideration was the question of whether there were sufficient hospitals for the population of Darwin before the cyclone. It may well be that there are sufficient beds now to cater for the present population. These were questions that the Cabinet had to consider and each Minister had the responsibility of looking at contracts that had been entered into to see whether they should be cancelled, delayed or proceeded with. As a result of that survey I believe some contracts were cancelled, and that others will be delayed or will be cancelled. The terms of Government contracts entitle a building contractor to compensation for loss as a result of the cancellation of the contract. That is a condition in a government contract, and there would be very few building contractors in Darwin before cyclone Tracy who were not employed on government work. Contractors were building homes under contracts from the Department of Housing and Construction. So very few building contractors in Darwin would not be covered by a provision for compensation and some have been paid as a result.
– I can only say that the master builders are very concerned. That is why they saw me and other senators. So they must feel that there is an inadequacy in government contacts.
– The builders agreed to the cancellation provisions in the contracts that they entered into. From my previous experience as Minister for Works I know that if we cancelled a contract we had to compensate the builder. If we cancelled the contract after commencement of building we had to compensate the builder for all expenditure involved under the contract. I recall that we paid considerable compensation during my time as Minister for Works in relation to the tower on Black Mountain because of the inability of the contractors to proceed at the contract date. These are some of the obligations that had to be met under a government contract. I think one will find that a building contractor would be covered by his former contract.
I would not visualise that a proposed compensation Bill would include those past contracts unless there was no other coverage. I know from a long association with building contractors that they are not a happy crowd; they like to grizzle a lot. I do not think that in the foreseeable future of Darwin the contractors have much to worry about with regard to loss of income. In view of the criticism that has been made, which I think has been generally accepted, that there are weaknesses in the amendment and in view of the undertaking that I have given that a compensation Bill will be brought down in the Senate at the earliest opportunity, I ask the Senate to defeat the proposed amendment.
That the proposed new clause (Senator Durack’s amendment) be inserted:
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
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.
Leave out the clause, insert the following new clause: 9. ( 1 ) The Commission shall keep the Minister informed of the decisions of the Commission with respect to matters of policy in relation to the performance of its functions.
In the event of a difference of opinion between the Minister and the Commission as to the policy which should be followed by the Commission in relation to any matter, the Minister and the Commission shall endeavour to reach agreement.
If the Minister and the Commission are unable to reach agreement, the Governor-General may, by order, determine the policy to be adopted by the Commission in relation to the matter.
The Commission shall thereupon give effect to the policy determined by the order and shall, if the order so requires, continue to give effect to that policy while the order remains in operation.
Clause 9 gives the widest conceivable powers to the Minister under the Bill. The clause reads:
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.
The Opposition has conceded that the Minister and the Government have a major role in the whole problem of the reconstruction of Darwin. It is obviously not simply a question of an independent corporation being able to operate alone, because there are so many political decisions and so many questions of finance which must be provided by the Government and which will have to be decided by the Government.
We have just passed several clauses which give a prominent role to the Minister in the carrying out of this reconstruction program. This clause enables the Minister to intrude into everything the Commission does. The clause makes one really wonder why the Government has decided to have a commission at all- certainly a commission which purports to be something far more than just an advisory body. If this clause were to remain in the Bill it would seem that the commission could only really be held to be an advisory body. Therefore we feel that the clause should be deleted. However, the Opposition is mindful at all times that there must be a proper role for government in this whole exercise, and that it may well be that certain directions from time to time will have to be given to the Commission. We believe that in the circumstances the best way of resolving this problem is to insert a new clause in place of clause 9.
The new clause provides that the Commission will keep the Minister informed of its decisions and the way it is carrying out its work and that the Minister and Commission will as far as possible try to reach agreement in these matters, but if agreement cannot be reached between the Minister and the Commission the GovernorGeneral will have to resolve it. That, of course, means the Cabinet. Therefore any disagreements between the Minister and the Commission will have to be resolved by Cabinet. In that way we think there is a proper brake on the unbridled power of the Minister as contained in clause 9. It would have been preferable perhaps if the area of the Minister’s role, vis-a-vis the Commission’s role, could have been spelt out in more detail, but it is not for the Opposition to say how that could be done. We think the best solution we can offer to this problem, apart altogether from simply deleting clause 9, is to insert in its place a clause along the lines of the proposed new clause.
– It is hard to understand what the amendment seeks to achieve. Clause 9 does not give complete power to the Minister. The Commission will operate as a commission independent of the Minister, but the Commission shall comply with any directions of the Minister. If the Minister gives some direction to the Commission to do something, of course it has to do it. But the Minister will not be standing over the day-to-day operations of the
Commission. The amendment proposes that the Commission shall continually keep the Minister informed. It visualises differences of opinion and acknowledges the right of differences of opinion. As I have said from the start, the Australian Government has an obligation to rebuild Darwin. Hundreds of millions of dollars belonging to taxpayers throughout Australia are going into Darwin. The Minister is the one responsible to taxpayers, not the Commission in Darwin. He has an obligation to ensure a proper spending of the taxpayers’ money.
The whole Bill is designed to give the Commission power for rebuilding only. The Minister has powers to curtail the activities of the Commission and to hand them over to local government or local control as fast as possible. The life of the Commission is 5 years or such shorter period as the Minister determines. And for the tapering off of the activities the Minister must at all times have responsibility. While we say we have an obligation, the ability of the Government to spend in one particular area to the neglect of all other areas must be the responsibility of the Minister, and while we have such tremendous government expenditure in the Darwin area the Minister must keep this responsibility. It is one of the important clauses in this Bill and is in accordance with the Government’s undertaking to the people of Darwin. We have given the right to the local people to have representation through their Legislative Assembly and town council on the Commission. The Commission works independently until such time as the Minister as custodian of the expenditure steps in and gives it certain directions.
This Government is the only Australian Government with a knowledge of urban development through a department. It has set up good guidelines which have received the support of other governments. The Albury-Wodonga project has the support of the governments of Victoria and New South Wales for its operation. The Monarto project in South Australia has the support of the South Australian Government and the Orange project has the support of the New South Wales Government. In all these projects there is an overriding power with the Minister because he is the one directing government policy. It is a government plan. It is a government obligation, a government project, and the Commission is to get the operation working in this area. I do not know how under the amendment we would establish a normal operation. The Commission may decide or be required to hang on unnecessarily for the full 5 years when its life could be shortened very much and it could hand over its responsibilities. This is one of the key points of the Bill. It is a government undertaking and what the Opposition is seeking to do is remove from the Government the responsibility of rebuilding Darwin and handing it over to another body. We have a responsibility to the people of Darwin in accordance with our promise and we will not accept the proposed amendment.
– The last remarks of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) show a complete misunderstanding of the situation. Incidentally, he said that his Government is the only government that has had experience with urban building and urban renewal.
– I said it was the only Australian government.
– The only Australian government. The Minister must know that the proposed wording of this clause is taken from the National Capital Development Commission Act. The NCDC was in existence for years under previous governments. Previous governments have had very detailed and very specialised knowledge of how to plan urban areas and if this kind of situation has been workable, and must be on the Government’s own admission because it has not sought to alter it in Canberra, why not embody similar provisions in this Bill? Why should an arrangement which works so well in the Australian Capital Territory not work well in Darwin? My recollection, which may be faulty, is that there were not 9 arbitrary conditions in the other growth centre agreements and that there is much more independent day to day control in those authorities than is contemplated here. The commissioner for the Albury-Wodonga project and the commissioners for other growth centres and their commissions have very wide daytoday authority. What is sought here is not in any way to deny the Minister’s authority. After all, the test here is that in the end the authority reposes in the Minister. Under the National Capital Development Commission Act when there is a difference of opinion the Cabinet through the Governor-General, instead of the Minister has the final say. So the essential argument of the Minister in this chamber is wrong. There is no intention at all to take away from the Minister the final authority. The spending of money is government spending.
What is proposed is that there should be a means of consultation between the Commission and the Minister and a resolution of a problem by inviting the Cabinet and not just one Minister to resolve it when the Commission and the Minister are in disagreement. That leaves the Government with total sovereignty. It does not take away from the argument that the Minister put up that the Government should have final sovereignty. It has the eminent respectability of having been proved workable in the past and the Opposition commends the amendment as such.
– It is obvious that the Opposition refuses to accept the emergency situation which exists in Darwin and the amendments it proposes show it. The Opposition cannot use as an example the National Capital Development Commission which has had a program laid out for it in the past for quite a number of years into the future. Nor can the Opposition compare the Darwin situation with the Albury-Wodonga situation or for that matter with the Snowy River Engineering Corporation because there was a particular task to do in an ordinary situation. What the Opposition is proposing to do in effect is in some way to water down the position of the Minister. In the long term what it is proposing is possibly what we are proposing but it will cause delays.
– Is justice done by delays?
– Let me say to Senator Carrick that Darwin is an emergency situation. A state of emergency exists in Darwin and this is the point we have been trying to get across to the Opposition. For the time being and perhaps for at least 12 months there will continue to be an emergency situation in which the lives of people will be affected.
– Is it right to do things in a hurry?
– A state of emergency is declared in a hurry. We have had evidence of states of emergency being declared in Queensland where the crisis has been lesser. We have had states of emergency for a variety of reasons. But now we have a whole city devastated and what we are doing is bringing down emergency provisions to give emergency powers.
– For 5 years.
-The power that we are giving to the Minister will facilitate the shortening of that period because the Minister in his position of authority under the Bill, a position which the Opposition does not give him, can bring this Commission to an end and pass across its authority to the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. I think we all accept that eventually it is the Legislative Assembly that ought to have the responsibility, having been provided with money, to build the future of Darwin after the emergency situation has passed. The Minister will be in a position to quickly wind up the Commission but under the Opposition’s proposal there will be a conflict between the Minister and the Commission, a running fight, and we have seen these running fights between authorities and Ministers before. It will delay the reconstruction of Darwin and the passing over of powers from the Commission to authorities or a corporate institution in Darwin which will have to bear the full burden. Again I say to the Opposition that we ought not to do anything that delays the reconstruction of Darwin. We have already delayed it for two and a half months. I am not talking about 5 days. The Parliament had to meet and it has taken some time.
– The Parliament could have met a fortnight or 3 weeks earlier. That matter was in the Government’s hands.
– Yes, but it did not and perhaps you may be able to lay some blame on the Government. Nevertheless Vh months have gone by and we are going to take another 2 days. We are taking 2 or 3 days to get this legislation through. It will go back to the other place and it is possible that it will take 5 or 6 days to get it through. This time should be added to the Vh months which have passed already. The Opposition now is proposing to move this sort of situation into the Northern Territory and to impede the ability of the Minister and the Commission to carry out the emergency work. This is an emergency situation. The disaster which hit Darwin was a disaster that could hit a city only in time of war. Even in time of war the disaster would not be as complete as the disaster that hit Darwin. It is a completely devastated area. In fact we really should have a state of emergency there. The Government did not declare a state of emergency but by means of legislation it is seeking emergency powers to enable a Commission to do this work. The Commission has been set up and is already operating in a preparatory role. We want to give that Commission power to start work. We want to make certain that the provisions in the enabling Act are such that they do not delay the work of the Commission but we still want to leave power there for the Minister and the Government to do what is necessary to correct any error of which the Commission may be guilty.
To my mind it is important to appreciate the emergency and in doing so we ought not at this stage to be imposing provisions which will delay the operation. If I become heated it is because, as I remind honourable senators opposite, there are many people living in conditions of psychological pressure in the various States of Australia and the situation is becoming worse for them. I think all honourable senators would accept that point of view. It is necessary to enact emergency legislation of this sort and to take some risks in order to correct the situation. I think that the situation in Darwin could justify the continuation of emergency provisions which make one man virtually the controller of Darwin. That illustrates how bad the situation is. But, rightly, the Government now is moving away from that situation and transferring power to the Commission. Upon that Commission will be represented some of the most able people in Darwin. They will be supported by an advisory council which will be further assisted by that special type of person that seems to have developed in Darwin, the person with initiative and enterprise who, given this sort of legislation, can immediately set about building homes and re-establishing families in Darwin.
– I think Senator Georges put the case for my amendment very effectively because he emphasised the nature of the emergency. It is precisely that situation that we understand the Commission is designed to handle. He said there was a case for having a one-man dictatorship in Darwin, apparently for the next few years, to cope with the emergency. The Opposition is fully aware of the fact that there is an emergency and we understood that the Commission was to be the body to cope with it. We understood that it was to have powers to cope with it but what did we find when the Government brought down this Bill? It is not the Commission that is to have the power to cope with the emergency because the Minister will be breathing down the neck of the Commission at all times. What more totally unsatisfactory way of dealing with an emergency is there than to set up a so-called independent commission and then say that the Minister can have power to give it directions about everything it does? That is a very fertile field for all the delays and controversies about which Senator Georges is worried.
The object of this amendment is to prevent that from happening. Presumably, if the Minister has strong objections to what the Commission is doing he can take the matter to Cabinet and Cabinet will then resolve the conflict between the Minister and the Commission. That is the object of this amendment. It will enable the Commission to get on with the job as quickly as possible and not be interfered with at every point of its work by the Minister.
– I have just a few remarks. According to the notes I have, the National Capital Development Commission was formed 1 8 years ago and it has been in operation ever since. The Opposition seeks to follow that example with this amendment.
– Does that period of time make it wrong?
-No. The difference is that this is an emergency operation. The decisions will have to be made much faster and the work carried out much faster than is the case when building a national capital. That is why the Government seeks this power for the Minister. I point out again that the Commission will act independently but that it will be obliged under clause 9 to comply with directions given by the Minister. Honourable senators opposite may say what they like but the important thing is that there will be ministerial responsibility in relation to Government money. The Minister is responsible to the electors and to the Cabinet. He will not give away that responsibility when hundreds of millions of” dollars of the taxpayers’ money is being paid out to rebuild Darwin. The Minister considers this to be one of his chief responsibilities. He properly will be responsible for the expenditure of this money. There could be a direction by the Minister that something be done but there is an obligation resting on him to look after the operations of the Australian Government. If he acts improperly or if he acts in a manner contrary to public interest he is responsible to the Cabinet, to the Government and to the public. The Minister will be answerable in this place or in another place for his every action but the Opposition wants to take the matter outside and put it in the hands of another organisation that is not responsible in that way.
Senator Durack concluded his remarks by saying that the Opposition wanted to get on with the job. This is an area in which the Minister can give a direction. The Opposition, by this amendment, seeks to preserve the right of the Minister unless there is a disagreement, in which case there will be discussion. If the matter of disagreement cannot be resolved the Opposition then wants to refer such disagreement to the GovernorGeneral. The Governor-General would have to await a meeting of Cabinet in order to get instructions on the matter. He would be advised on the whole question.
All this represents delay. The Opposition is prepared to accept any method to delay this operation. There are hundreds of pieces of legislation in which authorities must accept the direction of the Minister. When the Opposition parties were in Government they never worried about this sort of legislation. Now, when we are anxious to rebuild Darwin, members of the Opposition are anxious to prop up a political organisation that exists in that city. All the effort behind the other amendments is aimed at controlling the Commission and to get it to spend the taxpayers money according to the whim and decision of certain people in Darwin. The Opposition wants it to be under their direction and control. It is not going to happen.
– I rise to speak briefly because of the intemperate words of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). The Bill says that when the Commission and the Minister disagree the Minister must always be right and the Commission always wrong.
-The Bill does not say that.
– What I said is precisely so. If the Commission reaches a particular opinion or judgment and the Minister disagrees the Minister must always prevail. The simple situation is that if this Bill is left as it is the Commission, knowing that the Minister always will be able to stand over it, will have no independence of thought. It will simply be the tool of the Minister. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs talked to us about delays but we are discussing a very essential principle of Cabinet Government. A Commission is being established and in the Government’s view it will be a very important body. Therefore it ought to be capable of reaching very important and correct judgments most of the time, if not all of the time. If such a body, such an authoritative and important body, reaches a point of view on something quite important about which it disagrees with the Minister, is it not important that there be a delay of a day or two so that Cabinet can consider the matter? The Government is talking of a delay of a day or two in terms of a situation in which members of this body, which the Government says is so important that it can plan the lives of the people of Darwin for decades ahead, hold differing opinions and therefore must feel very strongly about something. In this Bill, the Government is saying that the principle which should prevail is that each time the Minister disagrees with the Commission the Minister is judged right and the Commission is judged wrong. We say that is a very bad principle.
– I wish to reply because I feel I have been misrepresented. I did not say what Senator Carrick said I did. I said that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission will act as an independent body, and its decisions will be final. The only time that the Minister for the Northern Territory intervenes is if he gives a direction. He might direct the Commission to develop the Nightcliff area or the Bagot area. Honourable senators can see the importance of this. Government policy is wrapped up in a promise to give land rights to Aborigines at Bagot. Cabinet has decided that tribal land should be returned to Aborigines at Nabarlek. The Opposition wants the Commission to be able to make decisions about the land. The Cabinet is responsible for Government policy in relation to land in Darwin. It has a hold over the Minister. It will see that he carries out Cabinet decisions. The Opposition wants to give that authority to somebody else not in Darwin. The whole idea is wrong and should not be tolerated in any legislation. I do not know the alternatives. The Minister will have to look at them.
– I did not think it would be necessary for me to say anything on this amendment. I think that in the light of the remarks of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) I should. I intend to support the amendment. I do not support it believing that it will accomplish the organisation which the Minister has described. It seems to me a very fair compromise between the powers which we on this side of the chamber think the Darwin Reconstruction Commission ought to have and the powers which the Government thinks it ought to have. The amendment clearly sets out that if there is a difference in policy between the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Commission, Cabinet shall decide. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has agreed. He talked of Cabinet’s responsibility extending to the money which would be spent in the Government’s name. The amendment seems to me an excellent compromise. I vote for it knowing that in the event of controversy the Government’s will will prevail. That is not taking from the Government any final matters of decision on policy. The Minister has said that the issue would be raised only on a matter of controversy on matters of major policy. The amendment places the control in the hands of Cabinet.
– We would not want to be running our departments like that.
– We are talking about Darwin and its reconstruction. The Commission is a special body. Otherwise we would not need this legislation. I speak not to widen the debate but to put into words what I am voting for.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Durack’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is:
That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 12- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Territory that is the property of Australia and is not comprised in a lease granted to any person.
– I move:
This amendment is designed to restrict the operation of clause 13 of the Bill which provides that the Minister may 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. It is true that this power is confined only to unoccupied Crown land. It is not possible to affect anybody’s rights under a lease he has been granted. Nevertheless the clause gives very wide power to place land in the Territory under the control of the Commission. We would have thought that the only necessity would have been to be able to place land in the Darwin area under the control of the Commission. The Darwin area, as defined in the Bill, is a fairly large area.
We appreciate that the Commission will probably require land for stores and so forth. Nevertheless it would appear that there is ample room for those purposes in the definition of ‘Darwin Area’. We cannot understand why it would be necessary for the Commission to be able to have land in any part of the Territory for the purpose of carrying out its function. Because we believe that it is important that a Bill like this and the powers contained in it should not be wider than necessary we are moving to restrict the power under this clause to the Darwin area rather than to the whole of the Territory.
– I think I replied to this matter yesterday. We do not make an issue of it. It just shows the hypocrisy of the Opposition. The power to place in the hands of the Commission land anywhere in the Northern Territory relates to Government land, not land under private lease or any other lease. Land outside Darwin placed in the hands of the Commission will not be used for the purpose of reconstructing Darwin other than in the sense that it will be used for holding stores. In all probability the Government will want to establish a store at Katherine for the purpose of holding building materials that have been sent to the Territory so that they are ready for use at any time. The Opposition seeks to deny us the right to give to the Commission land for a store which will hold the building material. As we own the land, we will be compelled to take action to develop the store outside the powers granted to the Commission.
This is all hampering the work of reconstruction. If the Opposition wants to go on with its tactics, we will not divide on this amendment. We will accept the amendment. It is unimportant. But we want it recorded that it is part of the Opposition’s policy simply to delay the reconstruction of Darwin. It is determined to delay the reconstruction of Darwin until it is placed in the hands of incompetents in Darwin. We will accept the amendment. I also announce that the Government accepts the two proposed amendments to clause 16. If they are formally moved, we will let them go through without debate.
– Once again the Opposition has completely misinterpreted this legislation. Senator Carrick yesterday claimed that through this Bill the Government was endeavouring to acquire land anywhere in the Northern Territory. Later on, during my speech yesterday evening, he interjected and said:
Read out clause 13- ‘any land in the Territory’.
Earlier in the day he said:
No Bill ought to give to a commission the right of land acquisition anywhere in the Territory outside the 40 or 60 kilometres.
Senator Georges, by way of interjection, said:
Senator Carrick then said:
Yes, it does, anywhere in the Territory.
There is no mention of acquisition in clause 13. All it mentions is giving the Commission control of the land. Senator Carrick misinterpreted the Bill. He did it deliberately. He did it twice. He did it in his speech at the second reading stage and then did it again by way of interjection when I was making a contribution to the second reading debate. As has been pointed out by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), we see running right through the debate on this legislation a deliberate attempt to misinterpret the whole meaning of the legislation to undermine the confidence of the very people whom the Government is trying to assist by introducing this legislation. I think it should be put on record that we find these things happening. I rose to put on record that Senator Carrick made a deliberate attempt to suggest that clause 13 related to the acquisition of land when in fact it does not.
– Yesterday the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) won me in his explanation of why he did not want this amendment passed.
– Yes, but you are not loyal; that is your trouble.
– I do not know to whom one’s loyalties should go in this Bill. I know where I put mine. I give my loyalty to the needs of the people of Darwin as I see them and as they are to be ministered to by this Commission. I am not concerned with the precepts of the Australian Labor Party or the Liberal Party in my deliberations on this Bill. If that satisfies the Minister, I can now tell him that if he does not want the Opposition’s amendment to proceed I will support him. If that puts him in some difficulty in view of his previous remarks, it is not my fault. This is the first occasion I have been able to speak on this amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Penalty: $ 1 , 000 or imprisonment for 3 months, or both.
-We have notification from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) that he agrees to amendments Nos. 6 and 7 on the sheet which is before honourable senators and which relate to clause 1 6. If it is the wish of the Committee I suggest to Senator Durack that he moves those 2 amendments together. We will take the vote on them together.
– I move:
In sub-clause (1) leave out ‘by oral direction’, insert ‘by direction in writing specifying the reasons therefor’.
In sub-clause (I) leave out ‘, in the opinion of the Commission or of the authorized person, as the case may be. ‘.
I am very happy that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has accepted these amendments but I am not surprised because I know of his attitude towards this type of provision from when we both served on the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. It is very pleasing to note that the Minister is having regard to the rights of individuals who could be seriously affected by such overweening powers as would be contained in these clauses if they were not amended in accordance with my motion.
– I rise to thank Senator Durack for his recognition of my loyalty to an opinion. This has been evident not only from the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances but also from Senate Hansards which are full of my opposition to punishment when someone does anything which, in the opinion of someone, is wrong. In years past my fighting for this principle was against a government of a different political persuasion. Now that members of that Government are in Opposition I hope that they will remember the attitude which they have taken if ever they become the government again.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
1 ) The Commission shall consist of 7 members, namely-
– I suggest that the Committee might agree to debate in a cognate fashion suggested amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10 which relate to sub-clause ( 1 ). If the Committee so desires we could also debate amendments Nos. 1 1 and 12. 1 think perhaps the easiest course might be to take amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10 and then have the questions put separately.
– We suggest amendments Nos. 8,9, 10 and 11.
– The Opposition will be happy to adopt that course. The questions could be put separately. They are all interlocking.
-Is there any objection to that course being followed? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Opposition regards this clause and our suggested amendments as fundamental to the principle of the establishment of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. The Government has said, and the Opposition agrees, that the Commission should be a firstclass body capable of strong, vigorous, quick and experienced action. It should be comprised of people who not only have experience in their task but also, above all, reflect the needs and the desires of the people of Darwin. If the Commission is to function its constitution must enable it to function. The Government has stated publicly that it has selected as its chairman a very distinguished Australian, Sir Leslie Thiess. The Opposition applauds that selection. Sir Leslie Thiess has given great service to Australia. In his specific field of building and other construction he is a man of unsurpassed knowledge and experience. If he is to be the chairman he must be given a commission which will be responsive to his chairmanship and which will enable’ him, through his great talents and through the services of those on the Commission, to discharge the functions and the trust which the people of Australia now place in him.
If Sir Leslie is to do that the first thing that he must have is a general manager who is responsive to his Commission. If the chairman is to chair and to control the Commission fundamentally the administrative officer must be appointed by the Commission. He must be responsible to the Commission and he must work hand in hand with the chairman. Equally, if the Commission is to reflect the viewpoint of the people of Darwin an adequate cross-section of people from Darwin must be involved. If one looks at the Commission as it is at the moment and takes into account other clauses of the Bill one finds that this is not a commission with any authority. In fact, the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory at all stages- we have modified this by previous amendments- has absolute overriding authority. The Minister and not the Commission is to appoint the general manager who is responsible to the Minister, not to the
Commission, for every detail, including asking when he can go on leave.
The construction of the Commission is such that the general manager, the deputy chairman and 2 other members, which makes 4 members out of seven, are directly appointed by the Minister. Therefore there is a ministerial majority on the Commission. So the Minister, having absolute authority over the general manager and having a majority of people of his own appointment, has total control of the Commission as it is now constructed. Of course that gives the lie to any suggestion that this is a commission which might have any independence or freedom of viewpoint, and certainly any reflection of the viewpoint of the people of Darwin. If we understand that the 2 other members on the Commission are to be officers of departments we will recognise that we are therefore looking at a construction which is virtually a Public Service body which the Minister supervises. The Opposition has put forward a number of amendments. We say that if the Government really wants to reflect the viewpoint of the people of Darwin it must do better than have 2 people out of seven being citizens of Darwin.
– But it is not limited to 2 members, is it?
-It is possible that other members will be people from Darwin but the simple fact of the matter is that at the moment on the Interim Commission departmental officers who are resident in Darwin are appointed. At this moment only two of the 7 positions are guaranteed to be filled by people from Darwin. If the Government wishes to provide the opportunity for the people of Darwin to have a say it will support the Opposition’s amendments. We propose that the Darwin Citizens’ Council of not more than 20 people, which is to be set up to express the viewpoint of a wide cross-section of the people of Darwin, should nominate a member. It is to give its views to the commission, to the Minister and to others. Therefore the Government can scarcely escape the proposition that we put, that a person from that Citizens’ Council should be a member of this commission. We say also that because of the enormous importance of the Legislative Assembly and its growing responsibilities in the coming years there ought to be not one member but two members of that council on this body. We say that in the true relationship of a general manager to a commission and to a chairman, the general manager should be the servant of the commission and not a voting member of the commission.
So we envisage a commission of eight; we envisage a commission on which there would be 2 members from the Legislative Assembly, one from the Darwin Citizens’ Council and one from the Council of the Corporation of Darwin, making four local people out of eight. We envisage that the general manager should not be a member of the commission, and in another series of amendments we will move that the general manager should be appointed by the commission and not by the Minister. Now, these are eminently reasonable proposals. The Government has said that it sees the development of the Legislative Assembly in Darwin over the coming years as being of vital importance; it will grow, its responsibilities will develop, it will expand and take on many more duties. If this is true, then it is imperative that on a commission which represents a significant majority of the total number of residents of the Territory there ought to be more than one member of the Legislative Assembly.
I do not wish to speak at length, but the proposition briefly is this: If the Government is sincere in wanting its chairman to be able to exercise his undoubted qualities, if the Government is sincere in wanting the local people to have real representation, then the series of amendments that the Opposition puts forward will express those principles in very simple ways, effective ways, and we commend them.
– I found it very difficult to help the Minister today in a previous experience in this House about another amendment, but I shall try again and say that I do not agree entirely with what has been put by Senator Carrick, although I recognise the principle involved in the move; that is, to make sure that the thoughts and aspirations of Darwin citizens are not lost in a commission which is dominated, in theory perhaps, by members chosen from outside that city. I do believe that to increase the number of members on the Commission is to increase its unwieldiness. An additional member would lend something to the weight of numbers and the effect that has on the committee structure. I should imagine that a chairman of the calibre of Sir Leslie Thiess is obviously someone who would be above a play on local politics or overweighted representation of the Government’s interests and could be set above those interests. Therefore there ought to be a balance beneath his chairmanship, and that balance should be ideally, as far as Darwin residents are concerned, no worse than three to three. I should be very happy to support a proposition which established a balance in that way, but I believe that the chairman should not be counted as one of the balance, and I think that is one of the failures of the Opposition’s proposal in using a four to four comparison.
I should therefore like to help the Minister to some degree, if he will accept the help this time, by suggesting that the Commission should remain at seven, but I agree in principle- an important principle, I believe- with the Opposition’s proposal that the manager should be a working manager, subject to the decisions and disciplines and encouragements of the commission, and should not be a member of it. That is a principle well founded in other statutory or semi-statutory bodies and one which should be promoted here. I therefore propose, if the Minister would like to follow this, that the Senate oppose amendment No. 8, which increases the size of the Commission and leave the number at seven; to support amendment No. 9, which removes the general manager as a member of the commission and places in his stead a member of the Darwin Citizens’ Council- the council which was formally set up and approved under this legislation; to oppose amendment No. 10, which sets out to increase the representation of the House of Assembly; and to support clause 1 1 , which is consequential on the removal of the chairman as a member of the Commission.
– You mean the manager, not the chairman?
– Yes, the manager. The Minister will see from that that by setting the chairman undoubtedly above any considerations of local interests or far-flung interests, one would find under his chairmanship the possibility, let me say the certainty, of three local Darwinian representatives on the Commission.
– At least three.
-That is at least, and that is all that they could expect, no doubt, in looking at legislation which leaves the other members unnamed and unpositioned. But at least Darwin residents have the certainty of an equal representation under the chairman. That would leave two other members to be appointed at the discretion of the Governor-General, and the appointment of the deputy chairman, also at the Governor-General’s behest. I can see no fairer way of altering this than that. I do believe, and I fully agree with Senator Carrick, that as it stands now it could be construed by Darwin residents as being loaded against their interests, and that is not a good way to start a commission which must deal essentially with goodwill, hopefully with goodwill, rather than with a heavy disciplinarian hand resting on this legislation. I commend to the Minister what I think is a very sensible middle course, and I hope that the Opposition will accept the middle course, which I think achieves the Opposition’s aim without real loss, an aim which I support and with which I am not at variance except in important detail. I should like to think that the Opposition will not press, for instance, for the enlargement of the Commission, which I think tends to alter the balances. One cannot then neatly refer to balances, and the enlargement of the Commission would bring the chairman into a position of balance where he ought not to be placed, even in thinking about the matter. He is undoubtedly above any thoughts of balance. I hope that this time the Minister will accept the middle course help that I offer to him.
– It seems to be my unlucky day. On the occasions when I can get Senator Steele Hall to support me I cave in and on the occasion when he is so desirous of winning my appreciation I find myself unable to support him, which puts me in difficulty. He has expressed opposition to the amendment because he cannot agree to the increase in numbers. I cannot agree with him, and of course I cannot agree with the replacement of the general manager for reasons I shall state. As I develop those reasons Senator Steele Hall will see that I am going a long way towards a compromise in that I can assure him that on the Darwin Reconstruction Commission of seven there will be 3 Darwin residents. Let me say firstly that Sir Leslie Thiess is an outstanding Australian and a well respected Australian. I think that his appointment to the Commission has been made because of his building capabilities. In that respect, he is outstanding. Perhaps a less well known Australian would be chairman of this Commission if he had greater building capabilities. But he cannot do the job alone. We are seeking to surround him with all the skills and the experts in the building industry. That is the reason for the composition of the Commission. To take away from Sir Leslie those skills which are assisting him at the present time and to load up the Commission for the purpose of giving local representation cannot be justified. Such a move could be justified if we had ignored local representation on the Commission. But I say that we have not. The general manager will be a full-time executive member. Because of the level at which he will be required to operate, the need to attract a person of sufficient status and the need for constant liaison between the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and its executive, he should clearly be a member of the board with full voting rights. This need for him to be on the board was made more urgent by the fact that the general manager will be based in Darwin whereas the chairman probably will not be, thereby limiting time for liaison and contact between the chairman and his chief executive. That is the first Darwin resident that the Government has appointed to the board.
The other amendments moved by the Opposition supposedly propose more local representation. The present clause already provides for local interest to be directly represented on the Commission by way of members nominated by the Legislative Assembly and the Corporation of the City of Darwin. Any attempt by the Opposition to increase this formal representation may, in effect, be interpreted as indicating doubts that these members of the Commission are fully representative of the people of Darwin. If such a provision were inserted in the legislation, the Opposition would be casting doubts upon those representatives. Further, in clauses 44 and 45 of the Bill we established a Darwin Citizens’ Council. We have no opposition to someone like the mayor or some such person being a member of the Citizens’ Council which is to keep up liaison. In addition, the Minister may, at the request of the Commission, establish further committees as he thinks fit for the purpose of giving advice to the Commission on request. Honourable senators will find this provision contained in clause 5 1 of the Bill. So I submit that there is plenty of opportunity for local participation. The elected chairman of the Darwin Citizens’ Council has been accorded the right to attend meetings of the Commission and will have access to all information of a non-confidential nature, except, for example, tender documents etc. Again, this indicates the intention of the Government to disseminate and receive information and opinions from throughout the community, as evidenced already by the publications and discussions of the Citizens ‘Council.
Of the other 3 members on the Interim Reconstruction Council, it is intended that they be representatives of the 3 government departments with the responsibilities and the professional skills in their particular areas necessary for the rebuilding of this city. This will be a temporary measure for the rebuilding of the city. We have to get on with the job of rebuilding. The Opposition seeks today to deprive Sir Leslie Thiess of the assistance on the Commission of such men as
Mr Alan Reiher who would be one of the outstanding -
– That is simply not true. He can be one of the 2 members.
-He is one of the 2 members.
– He can be, too.
– Wait on. The Opposition also wants to deprive the Commission of the assistance of Mr Lansdown from the Department of Urban and Regional Development and Mr O’Brien who is the chief executive officer of the Department of the Northern Territory. All of those 3 gentlemen cannot be the 2 representatives as proposed by the Opposition. This is a Commission composed of skills for the purpose of rebuilding. The Opposition wants to delete one of those representatives for the purpose of controlling the Commission. Of course, we can see through this whole question the proposition that if we want to get Darwin re-erected, we must get the skills that can do it. The Opposition wants to replace the representatives we propose with representatives made up of local residents. If the Opposition is truly interpreting their opinion it would appear that one-third of the people who claim to be citizens of Darwin are not anxious for rapid progress to be made in the rebuilding of Darwin. Their whole activity through their representative bodies- the Legislative Assembly and the Citizens’ Council- is to put impediments in the way of progressing with the building of Darwin.
I say in reply to Senator Hall that we have a leader of the majority group in the Legislative Assembly representing the Darwin citizens. We have the mayor of Darwin representing the Darwin citizens. We have Mr Alan O’Brien who has been a resident of Darwin for a long time representing the Department of the Northern Territory. We now tell honourable senators that the manager will be a resident of the Northern Territory for 5 years as at the time of his appointment. We give the Opposition 4 residents of the Northern Territory on the Commission. Do not let honourable senators opposite tell me that those men are not concerned with the development of Darwin. There is an overwhelming majority of such people. But there is a little group that the Australian Country Party, through the Legislative Assembly, has set up as a protest body to stop this rapid expansion. The Opposition is acting in support of it. We are doing the most we can to get this development. But we are faced with all the setbacks in the world in doing so. On no account could we agree to the proposal with which the Opposition has come forward of stacking the Commission, or having another representative on it from the Legislative Assembly, another hand-picked representative from the Citizens’ Commission to defeat the aims of this Government to rebuild the city.
– I rise to correct some of the statements of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) because they are not in accordance with the facts. For the Minister to use the word stacking’ is like Satan rebuking sin. Under this Bill as it stands at the moment we have a ministerially stacked Darwin Reconstruction Commission. It is stacked with a majority of people who have to do precisely what the Minister says. So let us not have talk of stacking, Mr Minister. Those honourable senators who sit on this Opposition side of the chamber have much opportunity of observing such habits, particularly when Caucus is in operation.
Having said that, I state that when the Minister says that the general manager will be someone who lives in Darwin, and that Mr Alan O’Brien lives in Darwin, he conveniently overlooks the fundamental objection of the Opposition. The fundamental objection is this: Those people, under this Bill, are responsible totally to the Minister and not to the people of Darwin. This is the fundamental objection. What is sought by this amendment is to put a sufficiency of people of independent viewpoint and of great experience from Darwin on the Commission so that they can quite authentically speak the views of the people of Darwin. It is utterly wrong for the Minister to say that if they want to appoint Mr Alan Reiher, Mr Bob Lansdown or Mr Alan O’Brien, they cannot do so. Under the circumstances of this amendment, they can do so.
– You want to alter it.
-No, we do not. We are not altering the 2 other members at all. It is freely said that the 2 other members would be Mr Reiher and Mr Lansdown. We accept that the Government may do this. We are not privy to what the Government proposes to do about the deputy chairman. Undoubtedly, he will be a ministerial appointment under the terms of the Bill. But let us get this quite straight: In the first place, our real charge at this moment is that this is a stacked Commission. It is ministerially stacked to be responsible to the Minister. We accept the fact that the gentlemen concerned are men of considerable quality. We do not argue that. We are not challenging their qualities or their right to be there. But we say that they are bound because they are responsible directly to the Minister.
This Commission needs an additional number of people from Darwin representing the people of Darwin and of independent mind. That position can be achieved with our amendments.
If the Minister would agree it seems to me that amendment 8 might well be taken after amendments 9, 10 and 1 1 because amendment 8 relates to the number of people on the Commission. I suggest, with the approval of the Committee, that I move firstly amendment 9, then 10, then 1 1 and then go back to 8.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Carrick’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted by Senator Carrick’s amendment be inserted.
Honourable senators, I draw your attention to the fact that under the new sessional orders the bells will ring for one minute.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Carrick’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (d), leave out ‘1 member’, insert ‘2 members’.
The amendment, in effect, gives the Legislative Assembly a membership on the Commission of 2 members instead of 1 member.
– The Opposition proposes- it is likely to succeed because of the numbers- having 2 members of the Legislative Assembly on the Commission. If Opposition senators were sincere in their purpose they would perhaps have provided for membership on the Commission of a member of the Opposition of the Legislative Assembly. I know that the numbers in the Legislative Assembly are such that there is virtually no opposition, but there happen to be 2 independent members.
– We would have no objection to that.
– Why does the honourable senator not move it? He has been insisting all afternoon on reading out his amendments line by line.
– If you would like to so move we will consider it.
– I am suggesting -
– If you would like to so move we will consider your amendment.
– I am prepared to make it clear that I think the Legislative Assembly, the Darwin City Corporation and the citizens of Darwin are well represented without increasing the numbers on the Commission. It is the Opposition which is seeking to increase the numbers. If the Opposition was sincere it would at least spell out what it intends doing if it does have its way. The representation from the Legislative Assembly should reflect the Legislative Assembly. If my suggestion were adopted one member would come from the majority party and one from the minority party.
– You move it.
– I suggest that the honourable senator moves it.
– You are making the suggestion.
– All I am saying is that the Opposition should express its sincerity by -
– You express yours.
– I am against the increase. I have told the honourable senator that it is not necessary to’ have the increase. It appears that the Opposition will have its way because it has the numbers at the moment- at least I think it has the numbers.
– You are up a wattle.
– We are done, are we? I have been told by the independent -
– Not an independent; you are up a wattle again.
– We should have given Senator Steele Hall leave to make a statement to declare exactly where he stands. Is the honourable senator an independent, a Liberal or what?
– We are dealing with the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
– I was diverted by the interjection. It was suggested that I was up a wattle, that Senator Hall had a saw and he was about to cut down the tree. Let me get to the point. This amendment will increase the numbers on the Commission without making provision for the minority group in the Legislative Assembly and highlights the insincerity of the approach of members of the Opposition. It merely points out that the Opposition wants to introduce into this Commission the political conflicts which we are seeking to avoid. The responsibility will be the Opposition’s if the reconstruction of Darwin is delayed.
– I feel that the Minister has been a very bad influence on some parts of the legislation and his influence is now extending to members of his own Party. Senator Georges has no right to assume that he knows how this amendment -
– Why do you not indicate your stance.
– I tried to stand up and the honourable senator stood up before me. That is his right, but if the honourable senator decides to use his prior right and assumes how I am going to vote, that is his business. I thought I might be able to say how I am going to vote instead of the honourable senator telling me how I will vote. I outlined quite clearly to the Committee how I proposed to vote on the 4 amendments before the House. I indicated that I would vote against the amendment which would increase the membership of the Commission from the Legislative Assembly from 1 to 2. 1 indicated that membership of the Commission should stay at the same number as originally intended, that is 7 members. This would provide a balance underneath the Chairman- which would not include the Chairman- of, theoretically, 3 members from the Government side and 3 members with local interest. Therefore Senator Georges remarks are not only out of order but also are distinctly wrong. Still pursuing the general principle that Senator Carrick has moved to create a balance I oppose this amendment which would increase the membership of the Commission to 8 and achieve a balance. I believe a balance would be achieved more effectively with a total number of 7 members.
– I think I cannot allow the attack on the Opposition by Senator Georges to go without retort by me. I have in my hand a copy of a statement which has been issued today by Mr Ron Withnall, the independent member for Port Darwin in the Legislative Assembly. The statement reads:
The independent member for Port Darwin in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Mr Ron Withnall, who is a Darwin lawyer, said today he fully supported the Opposition amendments to the Darwin Reconstruction Bill. Mr Withnall said in Canberra that it had been alleged in the Senate debate on the Bill that amendments were a move designed to embarrass the Federal Government. This allegation had been made by Senators McLaren and Cavanagh as well as Senator Gietzelt. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth. My support as an independent member for the amendments could not be described as inspired by political enmity. They are based on a genuine desire to improve the Bill in areas where I think it is personally defective. I know that my attitude has the full support of my electorate and in Darwin as a whole.’
– The question is:
That the words proposed to be left out be left out.
Question resolved in the negative.
– In order to save delay I propose- I hope with the concurrence of Government senatorsthat where the intention of honourable senators is clear, as then, we will not seek a division. Of course it is competent for either the Government or the Opposition so to do. A whole host of consequential amendments will be considered soon. We would be prepared to let the question be decided on the voices to save time, assuming that the Government was willing so to do. I paid Senator Hall the courtesy of asking him whether he would prefer a division. He indicated not, and that is the reason why we let the question be decided on the voices. We will be quite prepared to keep that working arrangement with the Government if the Government so desires.
– We will deal now with the next amendment.
– I move:
In the light of the fact that paragraph ( 1 ) (c) of a previous clause has been deleted this amendment is consequential. In the amendment now before us the person referred to in 1 (c) is the one member nominated by the Darwin Citizens’ Council. He is not the General Manager.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Since other amendments have reduced the number to 8 we need not proceed with this amendment and I seek leave to withdraw it.
Amendment- by leave- withdrawn.
– I move:
The Committee has before it clause 18 (3). The amendment aims to delete the words shown.
– I would not agree with this amendment because, unconnected with the composition of the Commission, there is an important question of when the Commission will be able to function. It is important to the Government that the Commission starts to function and it is clear from the attitude that the Opposition has taken that it is very important to the Opposition that it stops the Commission from functioning. Its amendment to clause 18 (3) states that the Commission may commence to perform its functions and exercise its powers when the Chairman, the General Manager and or an Acting General Manager, and 2 other members have been appointed. The Commission is not affected by reason only of there being a vacancy in the membership of the Commission. What the amendment seeks to do is not to permit the Commission to function. I state it again:
Commission may commence to perform its functions and exercise its powers when the Chairman, the General Manager or an Acting General Manager, and 2 other members have been appointed . . . ‘
The purpose of clause 18 (3) is merely to allow the Commission to start operation as quickly as possible. To accept the amendment would defeat this purpose because the Commission does not come into being until all of its members are appointed. Moreover, it should be pointed out that the part of clause 18 (3) which the Opposition wishes to retain relates only to a situation where a vacancy occurs after an appointment has been made. Before the Commission can function there has to be a full Commission. Therefore if the amendment were to be accepted no action could be taken by the Commission until the appointment of a General Manager, which position by reason of its vital nature and the need to secure the best available person might not be finally filled for some weeks. The Government would not want the Commission to be incapable of working while this and other appointments were being made. Obviously it does not accept the amendment. But honourable senators can see the importance attached to it by the Opposition. It would mean that it would be several weeks more that the Commission would be delayed. How we are looking after the citizens of Darwin!
– It seems to me that this part of clause 18 ought to be tidied up as a consequence of the amendments made to the constitution of the Commission earlier in the clause. That would then remove any intention which was stated by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) and would leave the Commission with the ability to commence to perform its functions without any inhibition caused by the alteration that had been made. That could be done by simply removing the reference to the General Manager- that is consequential without his being taken out of the earlier stages of the amendment- and increasing the number of other members from 2 to 3. I have not been through the clause with the finest of combs but it would then read:
The Commission may commence to perform its functions and exercise its powers when the Chairman, the Acting General Manager and 3 other members have been appointed . . .
We would have no impasse at all then and the Commission would not be held up for one iota of time. I suggest that that is the best way of doing it. It is a consequential amendment which leaves the same number of appointees as the Minister had to begin with.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) may like to suggest a compromise on this amendment. There is no intention on the Opposition’s part to delay the Commission. In point of fact it is competent now for the Commission to get one member from the Legislative Assembly and, very quickly, a member from the Citizens’ Advisory Council. The Minister has indicated that Mr Lansdown and Mr Reiher are likely appointments straight away. Unless I misheard him he implied that there was a general manager in mind and said that he was a Darwin resident of at least 5 years residence.
– It was for 5 years.
– I am sorry, I misunderstood. The Minister meant after he had been there 5 years. I thought he was referring to a prospective appointment, and I apologise for that. If the Minister could put forward a proposal we would be interested to hear it.
– If Senator Carrick would be prepared to withdraw his amendment I would suggest another.
– I am prepared to facilitate proceedings and with the leave of the Senate withdraw my amendment.
– I move:
– You would not want to retain the word ‘Acting’? That was only where he was an acting member of the Commission.
-Senator Everett is correct. I hope that Senator Carrick is following this better than I am. I alter my amendment so that it reads:
Delete the words ‘the General Manager or an Acting General Manager’ and substitute ‘3 ‘ for ‘2’.
– I take it that the Opposition is accepting the amendment. I do not think that Senator Hall is so naive that he is unaware that he has done the very thing that the Opposition has been trying to do all day, the thing that it sent a delegation from Darwin to do. It has published reports in the newspapers that the Commission should be delayed a month and all we have seen so far is the Opposition’s determination to delay it for a month. Now we have the position where the Commission can start as soon as we get these members appointed to the board but this relies on the appointment by the Legislative Assembly and by the Citizen’s Advisory Council. The Opposition has been fighting like the devil to delay the Commission and now it has achieved everything. It has left where he is every Darwin citizen who wants to get back to Darwin. This has come out of the amendment moved by Senator Hall. The Opposition would deny its intention to delay the Commission but that has obviously been its attitude. We have only to look at the reports of the mayor and of Dr Letts in the newspapers saying that the Commission should be delayed for a month. They have all worked to this end. This Commission was desirable but now we have moved an amendment which means that the Commission cannot function until the Citizen ‘s Advisory Council desires to make its appointment and until the Legislative Assembly decides to make its appointment. Good God! How stupid can we be? How can we get victories in this place if we let that happen? But it will have been achieved if this amendment is carried and obviously it will be.
– The simple fact is that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) could not be more wrong. The amendment proposed by Senator Hall, which the Opposition accepts, says that the Commission can get going as soon as it has a Chairman and 3 others. Do we not know the two others? It has been indicated that they are likely to be Mr Reiher and Mr Lansdown. Is it not within the competence of the Minister at this moment to name the deputy chairman if he so desires? Why then does he have to wait? Does he really believe that the Legislative Assembly in Darwin will deliberately wait and delay?
– I do.
-I would like the people of Darwin to know that it is on record that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs believes that their properly elected body, which overwhelmingly voted these people into power, is going to delay. The simple fact of the matter is that that is arrant nonsense. The Minister can, within his own power, tomorrow nominate these three others if he wants to do so. He can set up his Commission tomorrow without any delay. It is shameful that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs should suggest that the Legislative Assembly would so delay this matter. 1 only hope that those who speak for the Legislative Assembly make known to the people of Darwin just what that implication is because I would reject it totally.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) is descending to the same level of argument as he reached during the debate on another Bill relating to the Commonwealth-State roads agreement that he piloted through this chamber. On that occasion he roared out of this place saying that the Bill would fall rather than that the Government would accept amendments, but later on, under advise from his colleagues, he came back and accepted amendments. Therefore his words in this chamber are not to be taken too seriously but are simply evidence of the fact that he is very cross with the Senate because he has not got his own way about this Bill. He resorts to misconceptions and misleading advice to the Committee. It is within his Government’s province to appoint the 3 members as well as the chairman who must be appointed to the Commission. They can be the deputy chairman and two others. If any honourable senator in this place is in any doubt as to who the representative from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will be he obviously has been hiding because it is well known. There is no problem about that matter. In any case, there can be no hasty appointments, because they are made by the Governor-General. Therefore the time-table of appointment and the operation of this Commission lie within the ministerial and governmental area, not outside it.
– When can it start work?
-The Minister must admit that the numbers required to be members of the Commission to allow it to operate are unaltered. He must admit that point. They were to be the chairman, the alternative of general manager or acting general manager, and two others. I ask the Minister how many there are to be under this amendment? There will be the chairman and three others, still a total of four. The Minister was talking nonsense when he said that there was some impediment put in the way of the Commission’s operations. There were to be 4 members for which the Government was responsible and there still are. No impediment whatsoever has been put in regard to the time-table for the operation of the Commission, any more than was placed in this Bill by the Minister who authorised it.
– I am a little disturbed by the comments made by Senator Carrick. He said that if this amendment were carried the Minister could have this Commission operating tomorrow. Perhaps he unintentionally misled the Senate. He well knows that this Bill will not become law until it goes back to the other place. Then we will be faced with the proposition of whether the amendments made here will be carried there. If some amendments are not accepted the Bill has to come back to this chamber. In effect the Minister has no power to do anything under this Bill until this chamber decides whether it will accept what takes place in the other chamber. In no way do I think that the Minister can do anything tomorrow under this legislation.
– In the light of the rather vicious attack made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) on members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly I want to say that that attack has been building up all through this Committee debate. It has been building up against both the Assembly and the Opposition. We are getting rather tired of being constantly attacked by the Minister and a few of his supporters on the Government side simply because we are putting forward amendments to this Bill. What is upsetting the Minister is that most of the amendments are being carried.
– It is the purpose of the amendments that concern me.
– It is absolute rubbish to say that amendments are being put forward for some purpose of delay. The Bill is being disposed of in the Senate today. The amendments made to it can be considered later today, or tomorrow, by the House of Representatives and the Bill can be disposed of tomorrow. It is absolute rubbish to talk about the amendments being put forward for purpose of delay. As for the allegations against the members of the Legislative Assembly, I point out that on the Interim Commission set up by the Government under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Thiess there are nominees from the Legislative Assembly and the Darwin City Council in the persons of Dr Letts and Mr Brennan. They already have been appointed to the Commission.
– No, they have not. They have been appointed to the Interim Commission.
-They have been appointed to the Interim Commission. It is obvious that they are going to be appointed to the Permanent Commission. As far as the attitude of the Assembly is concerned, on 2 January this year, within a few days of the cyclone, the Assembly met and passed a motion commending the Government for its prompt action following the cyclone and, furthermore, it introduced and passed an emergency powers Bill at the request of the Government. So these people who are being berated constantly by the Government in this chamber today have been co-operating with the Government and in fact commending it right from the beginning of this disaster. I think it is about time that the Minister stopped his constant attacks on the Legislative Assembly. We in the Opposition could not care less if he continued attacking us because his attacks are so hollow that they will carry no weight with anybody listening to this debate or anybody who ever reads it. The attack on the Legislative Assembly is quite improper in the light of the history of the attitude of the Assembly and its members in relation to this problem in Darwin. It should be widely known that on 2 January the Legislative Assembly met and gave emergency powers to the Government. The Legislative Assembly has shown every degree of co-operation with the Government and is still doing so. The efforts being made in this place by the Opposition are aimed at giving the Legislative Assembly adequate voice and representation on this Commission.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Honourable senators, you may like to dispose of this particular amendment.
– I would like to dispose of it but surely we cannot get through the rest of these amendments in 5 minutes. I point out that in spite of what Senator Durack said the record shows that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and its members have taken an anti-Australian Government attitude from the very early days.
– Why did they give the Government emergency powers?
– That was on 2 January when everyone was concerned, but on 3 January they changed.
– I want to make this point because honourable senators on the Government side have been accused of being stirred to anger and of making insulting remarks about the Legislative Assembly. Perhaps we have been stirred to adopt this attitude by overactivity on the part of the Legislative Assemby One does not mind a lobby in this place but it gets a little bit irritating to see pieces of paper being passed from the visitors’ gallery into the body of this place, admittedly through the attendants. Honourable senators can see the reaction.
– Do you object to that? Do you take objection when your colleagues do it quite regularly?
-There is a difference between colleagues and people from another place. Let us examine the initiative taken by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It has been an attitude of anti-Australian Government. Let us go back to the time of the Committee which was set up to control the moneys collected. There was the first sign of an anti-Australian Government attitude. People opposed to the Government, especially members of the Country Party and the National Party, automatically take that attitude.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order ! If the honourable senator would bear with me, I did indicate at the outset of the discussion on this Bill that I intended to keep the debate firmly to the amendments before the Chair. Will you please attempt to connect your remarks with the amendment before the Committee.
-Mr Chairman, with respect to your excellent chairmanship, I would say that if you permitted, unwittingly, someone on the other side to make certain remarks it is quite unfair to limit my opportunity to reply to those remarks, lt could have started an hour or so ago. Nevertheless, I need some small opportunity to indicate that it does not do members of the Legislative Assembly any good to take the attitude that they will be dispossessed in any legislation or in this legislation. It would be far better for them to appreciate the co-operation which the Australian Government extends. I wanted to give an example. When the Citizens’ Council was set up in Darwin to handle the funds there were some utterances from Darwin which seemed to indicate that the Australian Government would take over in Darwin and that the citizens would be excluded. Yet the Council which was set up in Darwin by the Minister for the Northern Territory at the time to handle these funds had on it certain citizens, including a representative from the Legislative Assembly. Provision was made for a representative from the Corporation of the City of Darwin. Yet both bodies have taken an anti-Australian attitude and have refused to appoint people to the Commission. All I am saying is that it has not assisted us to see this petty party political attitude on the part of the Legislative Assembly. It does not do any good.
– The honourable senator is straying far from the Bill and the amendment. I rule that he must return to the point of the amendment.
– I will do so. I must admit that I have made my point.
– You must admit that the Assembly does not have any more members on the Commission, according to the amendment.
– It does not.
– That is the point. The honourable senator should direct his attention to the amendment.
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may have somewhat misconstrued what is intended by the amendment. The establishment of the Commission will not be delayed. It will take some time. I think the Minister’s fear was that the Commission might have to wait for the nomination from the Darwin Citizens’ Council. It might be 1, 2 or 3 months before that person was nominated. That is not the case. I think that is where we first disagreed. I was stirred into making this speech by remarks which Senator Durack made. They needed to be cleared up.
– I see the amendment as a delaying tactic. I am still of that belief. While we could make a hurried appointment to get the Darwin Reconstruction Commission into operation, it needs more than a hurried selection. It needs a more mature consideration. I accept that the Commission could commence operation on immediate action of the Minister for the Northern Territory. Whether my condemnation of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory is hollow or not it will be repeated. It is not so much my attack but the actions of the Opposition which are coming through. Honourable senators opposite cannot camouflage that by saying that members of the Legislative Assembly were elected by the people of the Northern Territory. It may be answerable to a lot more people if the full number of residents return. While there is only one third of the population there the Assembly’s task must be somewhat easier. Mr Chairman, to get this vote over, if your declaration is in favour of the Opposition we will not call for a division.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that I put the question that the Committee agree with the amendment? That is Senator Steele Hall’s amendment. There being no objection, I put the question:
That the Committee agree with the amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When this Committee dealt with and amended clause 18, which deals with the constitution of the Commission, it made a fundamental amendment to sub-clause (l)(c) by deleting General Manager’ and inserting ‘Chairman of the Darwin Citizens Council’. The next 4 proposed amendments are consequential on that. The first one I move relates to clause 19, which states:
A member referred to in paragraph 18 ( 1) (a), (b), (d) or (e)-
That is for the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman, the member on the Legislative Assembly and the member from the Corporation of the City of Darwin- shall be appointed for a period not exceeding 3 years, but is eligible for re-appointment.
The amendment proposes that the representative from the Darwin Citizens’ Council be also included. I move:
– We agree with what Senator Carrick has said, but as we opposed the amendment to clause 18 we feel that we must oppose the amendment to this clause. I point out to Senator Carrick that clause 18 (1) (c) now refers to the representative of the Darwin Citizens’ Council. If during the life of the Commission the Darwin Citizens’ Council changes its mind, there is no opportunity to replace its representative. The appointment having been made, he stays there, whatever the future views of the Council are. The Government having opposed the amendment to clause 19, will oppose this amendment. We will oppose the 4 consequential amendments to which Senator Carrick referred, but we will not ask for a division on them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Clause 2 1 agreed to.
– I move:
We move that this sub-clause be deleted because it relates to the General Manager attending a Commission meeting and contains a provision about an Acting General Manager. The fact is that the amendment to the clause relating to the membership of the Commission envisages that the General Manager shall not be a member of the Commission. Therefore this sub-clause is not relevant.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23 agreed to.
If a member referred to in paragraph 18 ( 1 ) (a), (b), (d),(e)or(f)-
– The Opposition proposes a similar amendment to this clause. It is consequential to the amendment to clause 18. Clause 24 relates to the power of the Governor-General to terminate the appointment of a part-time member. The Opposition proposes that ‘ (c) ‘ be inserted in subclause ( 1 ) so that the representative of the Darwin Citizens Council will also be included. I move:
– There are 2 amendments.
– Yes, there are 2 amendments. With the Minister’s agreement and with the leave of the Senate I move:
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 25 and 26- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
After sub-clause (3 ), insert the following new sub-clause: (3A) Meetings shall be called by reasonable notice to all members of the Commission.
-The Government will accept this amendment. I do not think there is any need for a debate on it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move:
These 2 amendments, together with the next 13 proposed amendments, stem from the provisions in clause 28 of the Bill, which in sub-clause ( 1 ) reads:
There shall be a General Manager of the Commission who shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
As we have already indicated and as the first amendment to clause 28 is designed to achieve, the Opposition believes that the General Manager of the Commission ought to be appointed by the Commission. The Committee has already agreed to one amendment whereby the General Manager is removed from the membership of the Commission itself. The first amendment to this clause deals with what is really the other aspect of the same objection which we have made to the status of the General Manager as provided in the Bill. Even though the General Manager is not a member of the Commission, he could still of course be appointed by the Governor-General unless sub-clause ( 1 ) is amended. Nevertheless, the reason why we have already objected to the General Manager’s being a member of the Commission as such is that we take the view that he ought to be appointed by the Commission. Yesterday I expressed the reason for that view in my speech during the second reading debate of this Bill. If the Commission is to be an independent body of the status which the Government has indicated it wishes the Commission to have and which we of the Opposition certainly believe and desire it to have, in those circumstances it seems that the chief executive officer should be the Commission’s principal responsibilty. I believe it is very difficult to conceive of a commission of proper independent status which has foisted upon it as its chief executive officer a person who is selected by an outside body albeit that body be the Governor-General or, of course, the Cabinet as it would be.
The role of the General Manager vis-a-vis the Commission would be a very difficult one. The Commission would not have any proper control over its own executive officer. On the other hand the executive officer would be in a very difficult role having a responsibility to 2 completely different masters. That is why we have put forward this amendment. It makes it quite clear that the General Manager is to be appointed by the Commission and, thereby, will be a servant of the Commission. We are fortified in this amendment by the fact, as I think I mentioned yesterday, that other notable statutory corporations which have been created by this Parliament- in particular the Australian National Airlines Commission and the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission- have their executive officer appointed by the Commission.
I know there has been a tendency by this Government to provide that executive officers of statutory authorities should be appointed by the Governor-General and be members of the authority. I have in mind the well-known Petroleum and Minerals Authority. But in many cases these are authorities which are clearly carrying out policies of the Government. There may well be a distinction between them. In any event, whatever has been done by this Government in regard to other statutory authorities, it is our view that this Commission should have the same sort of independence as the National Airlines Commission, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and a number of other commissions which have been established by this Parliament. In order to give the Commission complete and independent control over its staff it certainly should have the right and obligation to select its own executive officer. For those reasons the Opposition is moving this amendment. As I have said, I think all the other amendments down to No. 32 are simply consequential on this amendment.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Webster)Senator Durack, before you resume your seat could you make clear to the Committee exactly what you propose? In the first instance we took it that you were dealing with amendments Nos 18 to 26. The Chair considers that it may be possible to deal with amendments Nos 18 to 29. Amendment No. 30 has a consequential amendment involved in it. If it were the will of the Committee I would take together amendments Nos 18 to 29 which involve the acceptance of clauses 28 to 34. Is there any objection to that suggestion?
– I am trying to follow the matter up. The first amendment relates to the appointment by the Commission. I think that whether we agree with the appointment of the General Manager by the Commission or by the Governor-General has to be decided first. We have decided that the General
Manager is not a member of the Commission but now the first question relates to his appointment. The Government opposes the appointment by the Commission. As we oppose amendment No. 18 it is policy that, as the other amendments follow on, we will do as we are doing in relation to amendment No. 18.
-It being the wish of the Committee that we take only clause 28 which relates to the appointment of the General Manager, that course will be followed.
– I want to speak to the amendments which have been proposed by Senator Durack. There must be strong opposition to these amendments. I trust that Senator Hall who said that I was up a wattle tree last time will accept that I am not up the same tree this time. Surely strong opposition should be offered because if we are to attract as General Manager a person of considerable ability and standing in his profession to carry out the enormous task which he will have to do he must be assured of some independence of position, especially since the Commission has developed into a political committee. By way of amendment it has developed into a committee which reflects the political attitude of a variety of people and organisations in Darwin.
– It is not a political committee, surely.
– Surely it is.
– How does the Senate operate in a non-political manner?
– I am not arguing that it should not be. All I am arguing is the character of the Commission. The 7 members upon whom we have decided would be of a political persuasion which might, from time to time, be divisive. Therefore we have a general manager who is at the mercy of the majority or even the minority of the Commission. To a certain extent the General Manager needs to be independent and assured of some continuity of employment. I would say that there is nothing objectionable about the Commission recommending who the General Manager should be. I imagine that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) would state that the Commission would recommend the appointment of the General Manager to the Governor-General. Surely that is the way the appointment would take place.
If, on the other hand, the General Manager is not fulfilling his duties as the Commission thinks he ought, then the recommendation to the Governor-General would be that he should be removed from his position. But he must have some surety of position and the feeling that he is in some way not completely dependent upon the Commission for the continuity of his employment. So providing that the Commission has the power, duty or responsibility to recommend surely there is nothing wrong with the clause as it appears in the Bill. I suggest to the Opposition that its amendment would not improve the situation. In fact, it would lessen the effectiveness of the Commission and of the General Manager.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Durack’s amendments) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
– The question now is that clause 28 as amended be agreed to.
– I wish to address myself to the Chair. It has been drawn to my attention that sub-clause (2) of clause 28 states that the General Manager shall be the executive member of the commission. This really requires a consequential amendment to alter the word ‘member’ to read officer’, as a result of the Committee having passed the amendments to clause 28. 1 move:
In sub-clause (2) leave out ‘member’, insert ‘officer’.
– It would then read: ‘The General Manager shall be the executive officer . . .’? The amendment is to add the words ‘executive officer’?
Senatur DURACK- The amendment is to leave out the word ‘member’ and substitute the word ‘officer’.
– We have a consequential amendment to clause 28 that the word ‘member’ be left out and the word ‘officer’ be inserted.
- Mr Chairman, this is very difficult. We have previously decided with the amendment to clause 1 8 that there would be no reference to General Manager. Now under clause 28 as amended there will be a General Manager appointed by the commission. We are now deciding that he will be an executive officer. In this context, I do not really know what an executive officer is. How do we differentiate between an executive officer and any other officer who is appointed? He is somewhat higher; he is an executive officer. Having permitted the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to make that appointment, I wonder why it is necessary to make the other references. Is it not implied that the Commission would decide the salary, wages and everything else? Why is it necessary? There is no definition in the Bill of the position of executive officer. Is the general manager the only executive officer? Can the Commission appoint another executive officer? What are his functions and duties? The position becomes more involved as time passes. Perhaps Senator Durack, who seems to be the author of this new term, can throw some light on it. However, whatever his interpretation of it may be, it should be remembered that it will be of no real benefit because it will be only his interpretation. What is the need for the words ‘executive officer’? I wonder why there is a need for that expression and now, in the way that we have amended the Bill, a need for sub-clause 2 at all.
– As this is covered the subsequent amendment, quite frankly I cannot see that this proposed change of wording is consequential. The definition of member is:
Member’ means a member of the Commission, and includes an Acting General Manager;
If we take out the word ‘member’ in the clause and substitute the word ‘officer’, we have no definition whatsover of the word ‘officer’. I cannot see that it is a consequential alteration. I think that it is a fairly substantial alteration in view of the fact that there is no definition of the word officer’.
– I suggest to the Opposition that the amendment now proposed is not really an apt amendment. What the Opposition is attempting to do is to remedy the consequence of the general manager having been removed from the membership of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. Would it not be much better to delete all the words ‘shall be the executive member of the Commission and ‘, so that the clause would read:
The General Manager shall, in accordance with the directions of the Commission, conduct the affairs of the Commission.
I ask honourable senators seriously whether that would not be much better. I do not think it is right to describe the general manager as the executive officer of the Commission. It may well be that there is a secretary of the Commission as well. It seems to me that the suggestion that I have made would meet the Opposition’s point and would get over the difficulty of having to describe the general manager by words that I do not think are really apt to describe him.
– I agree that the suggestion made by Senator Everett is a very good one. The only reason for raising this question was to try to tidy up the Bill in a spirit of co-operation which, of course, has been lacking very notably on the part of honourable senators opposite in relation to the deliberations of this Committee. It is very refreshing to find one honourable senator opposite who is prepared to make a positive contribution in the spirit of getting on with the job. I am prepared to accept the suggestion of Senator Everett. I will withdraw my amendment. If he likes to move that amendment we will certainly support it. If he does not, I will move it myself.
-Is leave granted for an amendment to be moved? I call Senator Cavanagh.
– If the previous amendment is to be withdrawn, it would surprise me if Senator Everett were to move an amendment in relation to something that the Government is opposing. Senator Everett is trying to help out in view of the incapability and sloppy draftsmanship of the Opposition senator.
-Perhaps to short-circuit our debate the mover of the original amendment could amend his amendment. Then we would have the elimination of the words ‘shall be the executive member of the Commission and’.
-With due respect, Mr Chairman, I am still on my feet and there is quite some more that I want to say.
– With due respect, Mr Minister, I am trying to help you get through the Bill.
– Yes, to emasculate the Bill. Senator Milliner has just brought out another anomaly. How long can we go on with these sloppy amendments? As Senator Milliner points out, there is a definition of a member. If the Minister appoints an acting director-general of a department, he becomes a member of the Board. So we simply do not change the amendment in relation to clause 3 1 or clause 34 unless we go back and change the whole of the Bill. Lord knows how many more provisions in the Bill we will find impossible of interpretation. This legislation would be a lawyer’s paradise if it were ever taken to court to find out what it means. The Opposition has annihilated the Bill and brought in amendments without any knowledge of what it is doing.
-Senator Durack, is it your wish to have your original amendment amended to eliminate those words?
- Mr Chairman, I rise to take a point of order.
-Senator Georges, could I clear up this matter first?
– This point of order bears on what you are saying at the present time.
– Very well, Senator Georges. You may state your point of order.
– For the guidance of honourable senators as to what is going on at the present time, I ask: Where does this matter appear on the list of circulated amendments handed out to honourable senators? Is there another piece of paper floating around which we have not had the benefit of seeing?
– The Chair has before it an amendment which is an amendment consequential to those which you have before you and which it is proposed to be accepted by leave of the Committee. I ask Senator Durack, so that we may clear up the matter, whether he agrees with the proposed amendment to his amendment.
– I have already indicated, despite the determined efforts that are being made by senators opposite to make this Bill far more difficult to manage than it is, that instead of the amendment which I originally proposed I shall move in its place:
In clause 28, sub-clause (2) delete the words ‘shall be the executive member of the Commission and ‘.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 29 agreed to.
– This amendment is described as -
– I think someone ought to move the amendment.
-Would he move it in accordance with the way that you, Mr Chairman, wish it to be moved because what is confusing to us is that in the circulated document the Opposition describes the amendment as clause 30( 1 ), line 20. We have not done it that way. That is why when looking at the amendments as the Opposition has circulated them and after listening to you putting the question your way, even greater confusion is created than the Opposition has managed to achieve to date.
– I am sure the honourable senator would be anxious for me to draw his attention to the figure 20 in the right hand of the column.
– I generally look to the left.
– Line 20 is noted and the amendment as circulated is to leave out the words ‘is prescribed ‘ on line 20.
– As I have been endeavouring to point out, if honourable senators opposite would bring their mind to bear on this simple problem we might get along a lot quicker.
– You will need to move the amendment.
Amendment by Senator Durack agreed to.
In sub-clause (1), leave out ‘is prescribed’, insert ‘determined by the Commission’.
– There seems to be some conflict here. We have removed the words ‘is prescribed’ and replaced them by the words ‘determined by the Commission’ in clause 30(1) on line 20. Then clause 30(2) reads:
This section has effect subject to the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1974.
I may be wrong again- I am prepared to risk that- but is the Remuneration Tribunal responsible for determining the amount that shall be paid to the General Manager? If that is the case, why did we decide early in the piece to give that power to the Commission? Is someone prepared to move an amendment to insert that provision? I thought that under the Remuneration Tribunals Act the Tribunal came down with a recommendation as to what salary should be paid to these people and many others, including parliamentarians. The recommendation lies in the Parliament for 14 days and if there is no objection we pay the amount that has been determined. How then can the Commission determine the amount? This means that there is a conflict in that clause that needs to be resolved here before we go any further.
-I feel bound to point out that unless the Opposition pays some attention to the consequences of what it is doing it will find itself in more of a mess than Darwin was in. As a result of the Opposition’s amendment Clause 28 (3) now reads:
The General Manager holds office on such terms and conditions (if any), in respect of matters not provided for by this Act as are determined by the Commission.
That is clear enough. One comes then to the question of his allowances and they, contradictory to clause 28 (3), are to be ‘as prescribed’. Just what is the Opposition doing? Can it not be consistent in this matter? Is the GovernorGeneral to prescribe certain allowances under clause 30 (2)?
– The Opposition seeks to amend that.
– It has amended that.
-The Opposition does not seek to amend clause 30 (2). So the Commission has the power to determine the terms and conditions of the appointment of the General Manager, which must include the question of allowances, and then the Opposition permits that to be determined by the Governor-General. There could be a great fight between the Governor-General and the Commission over this matter. Cannot the Opposition really seek to amend this legislation in a coherent way instead of creating complete confusion under the influence of cyclone Durack?
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 31 (Leave of absence of General Manager).
– The question now is:
That clause 3 1 stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The General Manager may resign his office by writing signed by him and delivered to the Governor-General.
– If we possibly can I should like to move a number of further amendments all of which are consequential on the amendment we made originally to make the Commission instead of the Governor-General the body that appoints the General Manager.
– We will agree to that.
-That is what I hoped we could do. At the Minister’s invitation I intend moving my amendments to clauses 32 to 34.
-Does the Committee grant leave to take clauses 32 to 34 together?
There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– I should like to deal separately with the amendment which concerns clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c).
Amendments (by Senator Durack) agreed to.
In clause 32, leave out ‘Governor-General’, insert ‘Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (4), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission ‘.
In clause 34, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert ‘Commission’.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out Minister’, insert ‘Commission’
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (b), leave out Minister’, insert ‘Commission’.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), leave out the paragraph.
In my view this amendment is consequential on an amendment which we have already agreed to and which provides that the Commission and not the Minister shall appoint the General Manager. Clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), states that the Governor-General may terminate the appointment of the General Manager if the General Manager is absent except on leave granted by the Minister. This amendment is also consequential on our amendment which provides that the General Manager has to be a member of the Commission. That is the only purpose of this amendment. It is purely consequential on earlier amendments.
-Is this amendment not more than consequential? If my interpretation of the amendment is correct the honourable senator wishes to delete clause 34 sub-clause (2) paragraph (a) which states that the Governor-General may terminate the appointment of the General Manager if the General Manager engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office without the approval of the Minister. Does the honourable senator wish to delete that paragraph?
– No, we want to leave that but delete paragraph (c).
Amendment agreed to.
– This amendment was conditional on my previous amendment being rejected.
I wish to withdraw my amendment which has been circulated and which stated:
In clause 34, sub-clause (2) paragraph (c), leave out ‘Minister’, insert ‘Commission’.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Amendment (by Senator Durack) agreed to.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral’, insert ‘Commission’.
Clauses as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 43- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The functions of the Council are-
– I move:
Pan VII of the Bill deals with the setting up of the Darwin Citizens’ Council and advisory committees. In essence what the Bill seeks to do is to set up a council of Darwin citizens of not more than 20 members with the Minister determining the number of persons on the council and the Minister, in the end, making the selection of those who are on the council. Clauses 44 and 45 deal with this matter. This is an important matter because the Darwin Citizens’ Council purports to be a council which will authentically reflect the viewpoint of the people of Darwin and, as such, speak for the people of Darwin. Some of the functions are set out in this clause and it therefore ought to be an authentic council. The Opposition takes the view that if it is to be such it should not be a council nominated by the Minister. Any council nominated by the Minister is subject to the criticism, however wrong the criticism may be, that the Minister could stack it so that it contains a group of people of his own viewpoint. He could do this quite easily because under the system that is spelt out in clause 45, although nominations are called for and people may nominate others, it would be easy to arrange for persons similar in viewpoint to the Minister to be nominated. In the end the Minister makes the selection.
So the amendments which the Opposition proposes to move to clause 44, and there are several, suggest that instead of the Minister making the determination of the number of people and subsequently the method of selection, the local people through their local Administrator of the Northern Territory, acting with the advice of the Administrator’s Council, the people’s body in the Northern Territory, should do so. So in the first instance I have moved an amendment which seeks to delete the word ‘Minister’ and insert the words Administrator of the North Territory acting with the advice of the Administrator’s Council ‘. This gives that person and that body, if this amendment persists, the determination of the size of the Council which shall not be more than twenty. Mr Chairman, the Committee may wish to deal with that amendment individually.
– I thought we could have dealt with amendments 33, 36, 37 and 38 together because they all bear on this question. My notes refer to the whole lot and show clearly the plot that is envisaged. It is such a nice sounding phrase that Senator Carrick uses when he wants to give this power to the Administrator ‘s Council. In what the Government wanted the Minister has the determination. What Senator Carrick seeks is to amend clause 44.( 1 ) which states:
During the prescribed period, there shall be a Council, to be known as the Darwin Citizen’s Council, which shall consist of such number, not exceeding 20, of members as the Minister determines.
Senator Carrick wants to leave out ‘Minister’ and insert ‘Administrator determines acting on the advice of the Administrator’s Council ‘. He leaves very little determination for the Administrator. It has been drawn to my attention that today is the anniversary of the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942. 1 think that the calamity on that day was no more severe than the treatment being dealt out to Darwin here tonight. The Administrator’s Council consists of the Administrator and 5 members of the Legislative Assembly, all members of the Liberal and Country parties. The effect of these amendments would be to place responsibility for the numerical composition of the Darwin Citizens’ Council entirely with the Legislative Assembly which right throughout the passage of this legislation has shown a desire to obstruct, and, having achieved that, the power of appointment of members of the Council would rest in the Administrator. This is a most curious suggestion when one considers that the Assembly wishes the executive functions of the office of Administrator to be abolished and the Administrator’s Council to be replaced by an executive body consisting of the Assembly itself.
Honourable senators will appreciate that it is appropriate that the Bill checks and balances the organisation for the reconstruction of Darwin. The authority of the Commission to get on with the job is complemented by the responsibility of the Darwin Citizens’ Council to advise. It is a wide ranging responsibility, as set out in the Bill. Given that this is the aim, the one thing we must avoid is building into the Bill the potential for conflict. We do not want conflict between the Commission and the Citizens’ Council. We want to get on with the task of reconstruction. The provisions in the Bill for nomination to the Citizens’ Council to be sought by the Reconstruction Commission with a recommendation being made to the Minister administering the Act and for appointments to be made by him is, in the opinion of the Government, an appropriate balance. I remind honourable senators of the local Darwin representation on the Commission, to which I have referred, by the elected members. Nominations are made by the people of Darwin and considered by the Commission. To involve the Administrator and the Administrator’s Council is nothing more than duplication and could result in the whole operation being hamstrung.
It is another clear example of the current members of the Legislative Assembly showing through devious means a determination to control this whole outfit in Darwin. From the point where we started the time to organise was not sufficient but as we go on with amendments the pattern becomes clear. It shows the desire to adjourn this matter for a month; a desire to put everything into this Bill which would hamstring the whole operation; a desire to increase the membership so that there could be another Country Party member from the Legislative Assembly on the Citizens’ Council, which, with the assistance of Senator Hall, has been achieved. Now we have another proposal that the Citizens’ Council be comprised of members appointed on the recommendation of the Administrator’s Council which comprises 5 Country Party members. So one can see the whole plot that is to be imposed on the one-third of Darwin’s population that is in Darwin today with no attempt being made to get the other two-thirds back to Darwin. Because of its obligations, this Government would not and cannot accept the amendment.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) sees a great deal of sinister plotting involved in the desire of Darwin residents to have as much say as they legitimately can have in the rebuilding of their city.
– Some Darwin residents.
– I hope that most Darwin residents will take an interest in the rebuilding of their city and I have no doubt that the legislation, the way it is framed, would encourage them to do so. I believe that the amendments have also been framed to encourage them to do so. I think that the local residents have done very well by the amendments which have been carried so far. Local representation has beengreatly enhanced by the amendments moved by Senator Durack and Senator Carrick today. Quite opposite to the accusation that the Minister made about my part in helping to carry the amendments, I am proud to help carry them, and I do so acknowledging no plot or sinister motives behind their movement in the Senate by their movers.
Again the Minister is being difficult to help but I intended to help him with this amendment and, despite his attitude, I will. I think there is a great deal in what the Minister says about not wishing to duplicate the representations which are involved on this Commission. If this Citizens’ Council is being appointed in essence by the Assembly I think that the Minister has a legitimate point when he says that it could be in some ways a replica of the Assembly itself. That would not be a desirable thing. It should limit the width of proper representation of the views that could come to the Commission. If there is some median line with some people appointing some members and other people appointing others we will get to a complicated situation. I do not believe that the Committee is in a condition to divide the amendment and to divide the responsibility of appointing the 20 members of the advisory committee. I do not feel disposed to support the amendment. I think there is some substance in the Minister’s objection that it could lead to duplication. In any case I think we must also show some confidence in the Minister. There needs to be confidence in all who are involved in this matter. I am willing to show confidence in the Minister, certainly on this occasion.
– I must come to the defence of the Minister. I want to assure Senator Hall that by nature I am not a suspicious person. What caused the Minister to suspect that there may be some untidy motive was what happened in the first few days. In the first few days after the cyclone the Administrator of the Northern Territory and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) appointed a council to supervise the fund. I am not wandering away from the point, Mr Chairman. It is important now that the matter has been raised that it be cleared. The people appointed to that committee were highly respected citizens of Darwin representing a variety of bodies. Mr John McDonnell was chairman of that committee. On it also were a Captain Alan Walker from the Salvation Army, Frank Trainor from the Red Cross, Reverend Graham Bence from the United Churches, Bernard Valadian from the Aboriginal Foundation, Ted Robertson from the Regional Welfare Council, a representative from the Darwin Corporation and a representative from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. What happened? The Legislative Assembly objected strongly to that committee because it did not agree with its complexion. Yet these people were leading citizens. The impression given at that time was that the Australian Government was endeavouring to take unto itself authority and responsibilities which should have been those of the Darwin citizens. The Australian Government appointed these people through the Administrator and the Minister for the Northern Territory.
Honourable senators can see why we are suspicious when the Legislative Assembly objected to these worthy citizens being in control of that fund. The Legislative Assembly subsequently came to some agreement with them. If it objected to those worthy citizens of Darwin being on that committee honourable senators can see why we are prejudiced against allowing the Legislative Assembly to determine who shall be appointed to the Darwin Citizens’ Council. Those organisations and others representing Darwin citizens will be able to nominate people. The provisions of clause 44 ought to be considered together with the provisions of clause 45. Nothing could be more democratic in its approach and of more advantage to the Darwin citizens than clauses 44 and 45. They allow for the nomination of people from a variety of community organisations and even individuals. The clauses only give to the Minister the power to determine the number and the right to determine that the character of this organisation should spread further than the character or composition of the original Commission. For that reason I think that Senator Hall showed good sense in opposing the amendment.
-Mr Chairman, I will be brief. This discussion has woven around the point whether the Labor Minister or the local body, effectively the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, would be more objective and more knowledgeable in making a decision in choosing 20 people. The Opposition argues that the people closest to the area obviously are the elected representatives of the people of Darwin and of the Northern Territory.
– They are not.
– Let us be quite clear on that point. Those people are more likely to know the individual people of Darwin and how representative they are. Above everything else there is a sanction upon them to pick fairly and objectively and to make a representative choice because they will be subject to re-election. The Minister is unaffected by the ballot boxes in Darwin. Therefore the fundamental fairness of this situation lies in the suggestion we made. I am sorry that the Minister referred to the fact that today is 19 February and sought to introduce some whimsy to this matter.
– We are not as ruthless as you are.
– The Minister has made quite outrageous statements all day, statements which were utterly intemperate and utterly wrong. I think no honourable senator in this chamber had more cause than I to know -
– Oh, do not tell us about your service again. You blow your own trumpet all the time.
– I have never referred in this chamber to any incident as such. I merely say that I had cause to know of 19 February 1942 and the consequences to the people of Darwin because I was within the area at the time and saw the results.
– Oh, you saw nothing.
- Mr Chairman, as the remark was made, let me say that I was one of 3 people who sent the signal to Darwin warning of the approach of the aircraft that ultimately bombed Darwin. That may interest the honourable senator. The situation simply is -
– You are an old flag waver.
-Well, Mr Chairman, I do not wave Vietcong flags as do the honourable senators of the Government.
- Mr Chairman, I rise to take a point of order. The honourable senator referred to all people.
-What is the point of order?
– The honourable senator referred to people as being Vietcong flag wavers. Unless he individualises and names people that must apply to all honourable senators on this side of the chamber. I ask him to withdraw the remark as far as I am concerned.
– I heard remarks as objectionable coming from your side of the chamber and I took no action. If you seek withdrawal of the remark that there are flag wavers for the Vietcong on your side of the chamber I will seek its withdrawal.
– I am not a flag waver for the Vietcong on this side of the chamber.
– I do not think you were named as a flag waver.
– No, but the honourable senator generalised and said ‘all honourable senators opposite ‘. That includes everybody.
– I think you would agree that you made remarks about the honourable senator who was speaking to which he could well have taken objection.
– I directed my remarks to him individually.
– A senator has taken objection to the words that there are members on the Government side who are Vietcong flag wavers.
– I take the objection that he included me in that category and I say that I am not.
– All the others are.
– They can speak for themselves.
– Order! If you disagree with the words I use you had better write down the words to which you take objection. As I understand it Senator Carrick referred to senators on the Government side. If you wish to be excluded from that 1 will ask for the remark to be withdrawn.
– I wish to be excluded and I ask that you ask the senator to withdraw.
– If we have it recorded thai you are excluded from the remark, would that be satisfactory?
– My point of order is that Senator Carrick should withdraw the reference to me.
– My remark, as I think Hansard would have recorded it, was that there are some honourable senators on the Government side who are flag wavers for the Vietcong. If Senator McAuliffe says that he is not such a person I accept his statement and I exclude him from the remark.
– Thank you. The remark is withdrawn.
– I have listened to a lot of this debate. I wish to refer to the clause before the Committee at the moment because I think the record should be put straight at this late hour. To my mind, there has been far too much bitter and unfounded criticism of individual members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory and of that house of Parliament as a corporate body. Because this debate is being broadcast I think it should be clearly understood that the Government now in power set up the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory to inquire into and report to Parliament on a possible form of selfgovernment for that Territory.
– I rise on a point of order.
– What is your point of order?
- Mr Chairman, it follows your earlier reference to the relevancy of debate during the Committee stage.
– I wish to speak to the point of order.
-I did not accept that you were speaking to the point of order upon which I had ruled in relation to Senator Carrick. I thought you had risen on another matter. Do you wish to speak to the point of order?
– I wish to speak to the point of order.
– If you are speaking to the point of order, I think the Minister has a right to interrupt on a point of order.
– If it is to the point of order I have no objection, but I thought Senator Marriott was making a speech.
-Senator Marriott is speaking to a point of order
– I do not want to delay this debate. My purpose in speaking to the point of order is that the amendment refers to the Administration of the Northern Territory acting with the advice of the Administrator’s Council, which is the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. I want to make the record clear as to how that Assembly came into being and why it should be used as the voice of the people in respect of the clause.
– I desire to speak to the same point of order
– Which point of order?
- Senator Marriott said that he was speaking to a point of order. I want to reply to some of the accusations which he has made against members on this side who are supposed to have made remarks about a certain Parliament.
-Senator McLaren, the Government is anxious to get this Bill passed. The points that are being made are irrelevant to the clause. The argument arose out of comments made on either side. You would assist me if you did not continue unless you wanted to make some point relating to the amendment. I would hope that you agree. Let us proceed with the amendment. If we do not we will spend more time on this Bill than we would wish. Would you allow us to proceed?
– I will use the clause to couch my remarks in other terms. We are debating clause 44. I agree with Senator Hall’s statement about wanting to come to the defence of the Minister for the Northern Territory. He agreed that the Minister should have certain responsibilities. All through this debate honourable senators opposite have been trying to strip a lot of the authority from the Minister. One can see that in all the amendments. One can see it in this amendment. They are trying to strip authority from the Minister and give it to another body. That has been explained by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who is in charge of the Bill in this chamber. I want to comment also on the remarks made by Senator Carrick about the intemperate manner in which the Minister has been behaving today. If the Minister is behaving in an intemperate manner it is probably brought about by the episode which we witnessed here last night of the shadow Minister for the Northern Territory coming into the chamber and making threatening remarks to a member of the Government who had been engaged in this debate.
– I take a point of order. An apology for a certain incident has been unanimously accepted. Surely the decencies of behaviour make it unparliamentary for a senator to refer to that matter in a debate. With great respect to you, Mr Chairman, Senator McLaren should not have the call. A point of order was taken while I was speaking, not while he was speaking.
-I think Senator McLaren is straying a long way from the Bill. His Minister called my attention to the irrelevancy of the matter with which we were dealing. I think it would be appreciated by the Committee if Senator McLaren reverted to clause 44. If he gives his attention to that clause I will not need to call him to order.
– I think I have said all that I intended to say on that clause. I did refer to it when I rose.
-Mr Chairman, I believe that your remarks indicated that I was in order. I want to say why I am keen on supporting clauses that allow representation and advice being received from the Administrator’s Council. It is because the Government set up a committee of inquiry. The Government wanted self-government for the Northern Territory. It quite rightly read the public evidence given at those proceedings. It decided to call an election for 19 seats at a time before the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory could finish its hearing and present a report. It well knew that. The report was in the hands of the Government last year. In the reconstruction of Darwin after the disaster the elected people of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly should have a big voice in all the decisions and in the appeals relating to the rebuilding of the northern city. If one bit of evidence came out as clear as crystal before the Committee- it was the unanimous recommendation of the Committeeit was that there was far too much delay in getting decisions on matters which affected Darwin in the good days when they had to rely on control from Canberra. In these dark days that delay and that control will be more harmful than it was in the good days before the disaster. I cannot understand why democratic Australian Labor Party members of Parliament want the Public Service ministerial control from Canberra in a place where immediate and on the spot decisions must be made.
I make one other point. I do not want to delay this Bill. I want to see it become law. We are not legislating for a Minister, Dr Patterson, to make decisions. We are legislating for the Minister who will be making decisions in the next 5 years. I have no time for people on my side or the other side who legislate thinking it is all right to put it in these words: ‘It is all right while we are in power’. The Government should be legislating in case the wrong person got into power. Having set out to give the Territory self-government, having beaten the gun by deciding how many electorates there would be and then suffering a mighty defeat at the election, this Government is now using the Bill in an effort to criticise and to detract from the ability, sincerity and effectiveness of present members of the Assembly.
- Senator Marriott has drifted far away from the amendment and has brought politics deeply into the question. He might like to explain to the Committee why he voted against the right of persons in the Northern Territory to elect senators. That might very well finish the argument. I suggest that would be sufficient cause for him to withdraw from the argument he has put about a very narrow matter in this Bill. The Minister for the Northern Territory has been stripped of much of the power that the Government intended to give him. This amendment is quite another matter. It is quite misleading to extend the argument on this amendment over all the Bill. I remind Senator Marriott that if he had followed the debate carefully he would have found that this clause was one of the few clauses in which the Minister retains power. It would be well for him to study it clearly and see that. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has said, the clause prevents duplication in the selection of those involved in the vast community effort of rebuilding Darwin.
– I think the further we go on the further the Opposition gets confused. Although 2 shadow Ministers are trying to keep up with the proceedings, they cannot grasp what is the intention of the Bill. Of course, what Senator Carrick said about whether it should be the Minister or the Administrator’s Council which selects the members of the Darwin Citizens’ Council led Senator Marriott astray. Senator Marriott, having a retentive memory, remembered something that was said years ago by witnesses appearing before a select committee. He aligned it with this Bill, saying that a certain course of action should be taken with respect to this Bill. What was said by the witnesses several years ago was said before cyclone Tracy, and I would be surprised if they anticipated the destruction of Darwin. Therefore their words would not be valid in this argument.
Where Senator Carrick went wrong was in not realising that it is not a question of whether the Minister or someone else selects the members of the Council. It is only a question of whether the Minister decides on the numbers or whether the Australian Country Party in the Legislative Assembly decides on the numbers. All those who are advocating local representation will see that clause 45 (3) states:
A nomination may be made by a community, church, business, trade union, sporting or other organisation of Darwin citizens or by not less than 2 persons entitled to vote at elections for the Legislative Assembly -
The purpose of the whole of Part VII of the Bill is to give local bodies and not the Administrator’s Council the right to make nominations. It is not the Minister who makes the nominations. It is his job to decide only on the numbers. If the Country Party in the Legislative Assembly were to be given the job of deciding the number it could well reduce it to 10 to exclude nominations made by trade unions, or it could reduce it to 8 because perhaps the Salvation Army, which does not support the Country Party, has made a nomination. This may be the reason behind all the questions that have been raised by the Opposition. The Minister decides the numbers, but the local active operating organisations in Darwin make the appointments.
– I move:
Clause 44 (2) relates to the proposed functions of the Darwin Citizens’ Council. Paragraph (a) states:
Where the Council thinks it desirable to do so, to give advice to the Commission in relation to any matter that is likely to affect the interests of persons who are or become resident in the Darwin Area and in relation to which the Commission may exercise its powers or perform its functions;
The amendment seeks to change the opening phrase so that it reads:
The functions of the Council are-
where the Council thinks it is desirable to do so, or at the request of the Commission-
In other words it gives to the Commission a power to make a request of the Council. In fact, it gives the Council more significance and more status. This ought to commend itself to the Government, because if this is to be a citizens’ council the Commission from time to time ought to desire to make requests of the Council.
– The Government accepts the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
In sub-clause (2), after paragraph (b), insert the following new paragraph:
to 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.’.
This amendment also relates to clause 44. Paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2) states:
To give advice to the Commission on any matter -
We propose that there should be added a paragraph (c) which would read:
To 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.
The Opposition regards this as a very important amendment and it hopes that the Government will support it. The Council, if it is to do its job, must be responsive to the needs of the people of Darwin. Dozens and dozens- a multitude- of problems will arise, and people will need virtually an ombudsman to look at their problems and to speak for them. Many people are inarticulate. Many people do not know the rights they have. It is thought that one of the great strengths of the Darwin Citizens’ Council would be its role as an investigating body which may be approached by any citizen of Darwin. That in fact is the intention of the amendment, and we commend it to the Government.
– The Government is not so co-operative on this amendment as it was on the previous amendment. It is an unrealistic proposal that the Darwin Citizens’ Council should play the role of an ombudsman. It should not be the function of the Council to investigate complaints and report on them to the Commission. It is not acceptable to the Government that the Council should have the function of investigating and reporting on complaints in relation to the administration of this legislation. It is not thought- and it is never done- that any legislation should be the subject of investigation and report by a local jury. An ombudsman would have the right to inquire into complaints. It is inconsistent with accepted practice for a citizens’ committee to investigate complaints about such a complex piece of legislation.
As we have said before, it is intended to give the right of appeal in the Regulations. The activities of the Commission will come within the purview of the ombudsman legislation which is to come before this House, and we do not want a duplication. I would also hope that it will come under the administrative tribunal legislation which also will come before the Senate.
If an investigatory role were placed on the Council it would limit the persons who could be chosen to be members of the Council. As the clause stands, persons would be chosen on their capabilities of advising, but the Opposition now wants on the Council persons with the dual capabilities of advising and reporting on investigations into complaints. It may well be that few people have those dual capabilities. Therefore, by insisting on the dual capabilities, we are limiting the number of persons who can be appointed to the Council. I would not like a council that is appointed for the purpose of advising the Commission to become a complaints department. The Council, having advised the Commission on certain matters which it had put into operation, should not have to go back to the Commission and say that its advice was not acceptable to the people. I hope that the amendment is defeated.
– It seems to me that sub-clause (2) (a) does give the Darwin Citizens’ Council the capacity, where it thinks desirable to do so, to give advice to the Commission in relation to any matter that is likely to affect the interests of persons who are or become resident in the Darwin area. To me that does not seem to have any limitation. I know that it does not spell out an ombudsman’s role, but if that is to be spelt out in other legislation, why do it here? There just does not seem to be any limitation. I wonder how the honourable senators who have proposed the amendment would answer what I read into paragraph (a) of subclause (2).
– I will speak very briefly. I believe that Senator Steele Hall has properly drawn attention to the fact that it could be construed that clause (2) (a) gives to the Council that power. What the Opposition has sought to do is to give clear and particular relief to the many people in Darwin who will seek to find somewhere that they can go to talk about their problems and to get some advice on them. The Opposition believes it would be valuable to be specific in terms of the generality- as the honourable senator points out- of the earlier sub-clauses.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– With the approval of the Committee I suggest that we take amendments Nos 36, 37 and 38 together. I move:
All these amendments have been argued. They seek to give the Administrator of the Northern Territory, instead of the Minister, the right of appointment or nomination. The Committee has debated this matter. In fact, these are consequential amendments. Mr Chairman, I suggest that as the debate has taken place you might put the question.
-Will the Committee give leave for that to be done?
– These are consequential amendments to amendment No. 33, which was an amendment to clause 44. Had amendment No. 33 been carried we could not have opposed these amendments as they are consequential to amendment No. 33. But amendment No. 33 was not carried.
– I accept that.
– The honourable senator does not insist on going on with these amendments?
– I simply pointed out that these amendments were consistent with the debate which we had before and that the Committee had decided on the matter. I made that point.
-Will the Committee accept those 3 amendments which have been put together? There being no objection it is so ordered.
In sub-clause (6), leave out all words after ‘General Manager’.
Amendment No. 39 is again a consequential amendment. It seeks to delete the need for notifying the Minister of the resignation of a member of the Council. The debate has occurred so I suggest, Mr Chairman, that you put the question.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 46 to 52- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
This amendment relates to sub-clause (2) of clause 53 which provides for a method of valuation of land in the Darwin area. In effect, the clause provides for the values as they existed on 23 December 1 974 so that people will not suffer as a result of any fall in value of land because of the effects of the cyclone. Certainly, we have no objection to that. It is a very proper provision. I congratulate the Government for having included it. But sub-clause (2) of that clause provides:
Subject to sub-section ( I ), the regulations may provide for modifying the operation of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1973 in relation to the acquisition of land in the Darwin Area during the prescribed period.
Of course that period is for the life of this Commission, which could be for a period of 5 years. This is a completely dragnet provision for the modification of the Lands Acquisition Act. It permits modification to be done by regulation. It does not specify what provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act may be the subject of such modification or what the provisions of the Act may be. This is the Act which provides for compensation to be paid on just terms to people whose land is resumed by the Commission. It provides for proper procedures to be laid down and the tribunal to which the claim may be made.
The Opposition cannot agree to any of these very important individual rights being taken away by regulation. Furthermore, there seems to be no reason whatsoever why any such power should be given under this Act. The modification of the Lands Acquisition Act which is quite clearly necessary is made under sub-clause ( 1 ). It preserves the valuations prior to the cyclone. But it would be most dangerous for this Parliament to give a power of regulation to modify the operations of such an important Act as this. As I have said, it is one which is so important as far as the protection of individual rights is concerned.
– The Government cannot accept the proposed amendment which is to leave out sub-clause (2) of clause 53. One would think that the inclusion of sub-clause 2 is beneficial to someone in Darwin who may have his land acquired under the Lands Acquisition Act. The Government has the power to acquire land for a post office or for any Commonwealth purpose. The land has a value now and there is compulsion under the Lands Acquisition Act to pay a reasonable value. The land would now have a value possibly much lower than it had prior to the cyclone. The purpose of this provision is to provide for modification in operating the Lands Acquisition Act in relation to the acquisition of land in the Darwin area during the prescribed period. The provision was put in to give flexibility should it become necessary to acquire land in unusual circumstances. In view of the very positive move contained in the variation of the compensation provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act set out in clause 53(1) which is to give any effective Darwin property owner the benefit of the precyclone market value of the land, it is essential that the Government provide in the Bill a mechanism to deal urgently with any unforeseen matters involving compensation by regulation which may arise after the passage of this Bill. The main objective of the Government, as has been expressed in this chamber, is to deal sympathetically with the Darwin situation. The use of this provision will accelerate action to deal with any provision which may arise from any other subsequent legislation; that is, any legislation proposed by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. The use of this provision is essential and if it is not used in line with the intentions I have just expressed the regulation made could be disallowed in either House. The purpose of the regulation is beneficial to those who may have the land acquired. I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition in seeking to amend it and, under its obligations to the citizens of Darwin, the Government cannot accept the deletion of sub-clause (2).
– In answer to the Minister, I think he has really misunderstood the nature of sub-clause (2). It is sub-clause ( 1 ) which preserves the value of the land pre-cyclone and fixes it at the 23 December value. Sub-clause (2) does not do that. The Opposition is fully in agreement with sub-clause (1), as I said when I moved my amendment. It may be necessary to make some further modifications to the Lands Acquisition Act in giving full effect to sub-clause ( 1 ), and, in that event, sub-clause (2) would require to be drawn differently. It may be that if that is what the Government means by this sub-clause it would have the support of the Opposition, but the sub-clause would have to be reworded. As the sub-clause stands now, it can certainly take away or lessen people ‘s rights existing under the Lands Acquisition Act, subject always, of course, to the provisions of sub-clause (1). For argument’s sake, it could provide that the determination of compensation for the land that is acquired should be determined by the Minister or by some officer of the Department or something of that sort. There would be many other rights that exist under the Lands Acquisition Act which could be taken away if sub-clause (2 ) is carried. If the only purpose of sub-clause (2) is to give effect to subclause ( 1 ) we should be very happy to agree to some provision of that kind but, as I have said, it will have to be redrafted and looked at again. As it stands at the moment, the Opposition certainly could not agree to sub-clause (2) because it could operate to take away existing rights other than the right that is guaranteed by sub-clause ( 1 ).
– I may not have made myself completely clear. I am advised that, owing to the unusual circumstances in Darwin, the Parliamentary Draftsman was of the belief that there should be some flexibility to meet unusual situations that may arise. It is true that sub-clause ( 1 ) makes provision for the value of the land which will apply and sub-clause (2) provides that regulations may be made whereby the Government can modify the operation of the Lands Acquisition Act. My notes point out that it can speed up payment greatly, and there may be a need for that. It could increase payment; I would doubt very much whether it could reduce payments because sub-clause (2) is subject to sub-clause ( 1 ). Sub-clause ( 1 ) is the overriding section and, as long as we comply with subclause ( 1 ) we can make regulations for the purpose of speeding up action under sub-clause ( 1 ), but we do not interfere. Sub-clause (2) is subject to what is provided in sub-clause ( 1 ), and if it is found necessary to make a regulation and that regulation is not considered beneficial to the citizens or to a particular individual, then of course it suffers the fate of all regulations. It is laid before the Senate and any senator has the power to move to disallow the regulation. But there could be harmful effects or there could be undesirable effects to someone who wants to dispose of his land and get out, if we have got to go through the machinery of the Lands Acquisition Act, which has not got the flexibility that we seek. While observing the Lands Acquisition Act, we seek this flexibility under sub-clause (2). The Government therefore asks for the rejection of the amendment.
– I do not see any inconsistency at all in clause 53. It appears to me, and somebody will surely correct me if I am wrong, that clause 53 ( 1) guarantees to a person who had land at that particular date, 23 December 1974, that the value of that land shall not be less than the value of the land at that date. That appears to me to preserve the right and the position of a land owner at that date. Sub-clause (2) of clause 53 1 suggest provides an opportunity for some additional benefit to a land owner should some circumstance arise which was not foreseen or is not foreseen at the present time but which may well enhance the value of his property. I put it to the Committee that in fact there is no suggestion of taking away any right that lies with a person at the present time. The clause merely seeks to confer a benefit on some person in the event of some circumstance which may arise in regard to the assessment of the value of the land. If we remove sub-clause (2) then I suggest that what we are doing is taking away something, some opportunity or some right to benefit, from a person who holds land in Darwin, and I think that the Government would be very reluctant indeed to do that. I suggest that the clause is a completely proper one and I strongly suggest that the Committee should agree to it.
– Am I to understand from the Minister that on every occasion that a regulation is put forward it would be put forward only to activate or to ensure the operation of sub-clause ( 1 )? Is that the basis of his remark? Is it as isolated as that?
– Sub-clause ( 1 ) must apply, and then if a person can get a benefit outside sub-clause ( 1 ) a regulation would be issued.
-Additional to subclause ( 1 )?
-The Minister uses the word ‘benefit’, and of course the Opposition is concerned that something may harm a citizen ‘s rights. That is its concern. In the midst of those 2 arguments, far, far away from the seat of all that has happened, it is very difficult to form an opinion on that which might be worthwhile.
– I am advised that the machinery for giving the benefits in sub-clause ( 1 ) is in sub-clause (2).
– What the Minister is saying may very well mean that without subclause (2) people may not be able to get the benefits in sub-clause ( 1 ).
– Yes, they would get them under the Lands Acquisition Act, but we may be able to speed them up under this Bill.
– I should think that perhaps the Opposition ought to view it in the light of the fact that it will have the same numbers as it has now and vote for the disallowance of a regulation that is objectionable to it. If certain things come to pass it may have even more, but its position should not diminish from its present numbers to act against an objectionable regulation.
– They might increase.
– I just said under certain circumstances. Certainly its shadow will not grow less. I must say that, as a member of this Committee, I am genuinely in doubt as to whether we are depriving some citizen in Darwin of some benefit of earlier payment or some short cut under the present Act which may benefit him. I should be very loath to oppose a provision the basis of which I understand is to safeguard citizens. It would not be the first time, of course, where over-anxious protection has harmed people.
– We have been trying to tell you that all day.
– Well, you are wrong. Senator Georges has been wrong previously, Mr Chairman, but I will not go into that.
I suggest that it would not be breaking faith with the Darwin people to extend the decision on this until the regulation is seen, and that is about what a failure to support this amendment would be. I suspect that it is a bit of one and a bit of the other and, unless there is some other argument which is more pertinent, I think I must support the Minister.
– Extremely briefly, Mr Chairman, I think it is important that the attention of the Senate be directed to the fact that sub-clause (2) gives a power to modify only the operation of the Lands Acquisition Act. As such, surely it would be interpreted as going only to procedural matters. We are all aware that the provisions of lands acquisitions statutes throughout the Commonwealth are notoriously tortuous. They provide for lengthy periods for notices and for lengthy periods between the various steps because they are statutes which relate to matters which are not of an emergency character. This matter is of an emergency character. It would be inconceivable that any government would submit for the signature of the Governor-General regulations which in any way fall more harshly than the existing law on the citizens of Darwin. If a government did so it would attract a condign attitude of the Senate by the disallowance of the regulations. I would have thought that the Senate would trust the Government and what the Minister has said as to the policy of the Government because this is a Government measure to benefit the people of Darwin. Mistrust, if constantly read into the Bill by the Opposition, will not breed the most beneficial administration of this legislation that the people of Darwin deserve. I suggest to the Opposition that in this almost penultimate vote on this Bill it should demonstrate a little faith in the Government which has put this Bill forward with commendable speed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 54 (Application of Public Works Committee Act).
– I draw attention to this clause because quite often when we read such a clause it is perhaps misinterpreted. I read clause 54 to the Committee:
The Governor-General may, during the prescribed period, by order, declare that sub-section 18 (8) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974 is not to apply to a specified work in the Darwin Area.
This Bill gives quite extraordinary powers to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission in the reconstruction of the Darwin area. Quite properly, the Commission should have extraordinary powers. But I suggest that the GovernorGeneral, through the Government, should not interpret this ‘may’ to mean ‘will’. I can see some advantage in the Public Works Committee examining certain projects that may be associated with the reconstruction of Darwin. For example, the gaol at Darwin has been demolished. This has been the subject of public controversy in that area for a number of years. The people want a new gaol to be built. I think that is a major undertaking which ought to come under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee.
Ironically enough, just prior to the disaster at Darwin, the Public Works Committee had referred to it 3 important projects. They were a high school, a laboratory complex and a housing subdivision. That, of course, was rendered unnecessary. But I would like to think that even in relation to a housing subdivision the Public Works Committee which is, in effect, the mediator between the bureaucracy or the Government and the public interest ought to be able to have a look at the propositions as put forward by this Commission with respect to the type of housing or the design of houses that are contemplated for building in that area. I can see tremendous merit in giving the opportunity to the public to come before the Committee to give their views as to the design of the homes and their structural capacity to resist future cyclones. There could be over the next 5 years major works that properly should be brought before the notice of the Public Works Committee. So I ask the Minister to observe that point and not to interpret ‘may’ as meaning will’.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 55 to 60- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters that are required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed or are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for the carrying out or giving effect to this Act, or facilitating the performance by the Commission of its functions, and in particular-
– I move this amendment on behalf of the Opposition to clause 6 1 :
In sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (b), leave out the paragraph.
This clause gives the Governor-General power to make regulations for suspending, modifying or adapting for the purposes of this proposed Act the operation of a law of the Northern Territory dealing with a matter to which the functions or powers of the Commission relate. We believe that this is another one of these very wide dragnet powers, albeit one which can be exercised by regulation and albeit a fact that that regulation can be disallowed by Parliament. But the fact of the matter is that it is wrong in principle to permit laws to be suspended or modified by regulation. If those laws are to be altered they ought to be altered in the proper parliamentary method, that is, by Bills in Parliament or in the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. It is quite a wrong method in principle to allow laws to be suspended by regulations.
In this case, a good many of these laws would be laws that are appropriate for the power of the Legislative Assembly and not for this Parliament. We have already heard a good deal about the developing self-government of the Northern Territory which has been encouraged by this Government. It would be most unfortunate for this self-government to be unnecessarily arrested simply because of the setting up of this Commission. It would be unfortunate if the only way in which any change in laws which are within the jurisdiction and powers of that Assembly could be brought about was by disallowance of regulations here in this Parliament. The Commission appears to have the most ample powers to make decisions in regard to the replanning and reconstruction of Darwin. Its decisions will undoubtedly affect a good many of the existing laws by virtue of the powers that are given anyway under this Bill. We find it very difficult to see why any additional power should be given to it, to the Minister or the Governor-General to make regulations in any way further suspending or modifying the laws applying in the Northern Territory. It is for those reasons that we have moved for the deletion of this provision.
– It seems to me that this regulation-making power falls in a very similar category to the matter we considered in relation to altering the law concerning acquisition. There could be many instances- rather than be extravagant, I should say that there may be some or even a few instanceswhere this will be necessary to do something quickly, for reasons of convenience or to carry out some activity which may not be really at variance with the Legislative Assembly itself but is a matter related to the emergency of the redevelopment. I would suggest that the Senate could extend this decision, which it is doing, by relying on the regulation making power or by refusing to sustain a regulation. This involves nothing more than putting off the decision and particularising it. The value of a regulation making power is that it enables a plan such as this to be formulated in a particular way. Instead of giving a blanket refusal, I suggest that the Senate could give a selective refusal and would know what it is talking about, whereas at the moment we simply do not know. I think it is reasonable to extend the decision to another day when it will be warranted. I would believe and hope that the decision will not need to be taken in a negative fashion, but if it is necessary, and if the Senate sees itself as a safeguard for the developing Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory, it can take that action. I again say that it would be selective and particular and therefore more useful and would not do the harm, unknown at this moment, that almost inevitably would be done in one corner of this administration in denying the ability to make regulations according to this demand.
– In view of what Senator Steele Hall has said, there is possibly no need to say anything further other than that the Government will not accept the amendments. I hope that the regulations will be used sparingly. We have no plans to use them, but one can envisage that in a drastic operation of reconstruction within a 5-year period the Commission cannot be held up if the Parliament thinks it is permissible and reasonable to give it powers over some local regulation which would hold it up. Not knowing the Northern Territory Act, I cannot think of anything that would hold up the Commission but one could imagine that a local regulation may well require a notification so many days before pouring concrete or pitching a roof, which is possibly an essential requirement for a building inspector to inspect. When a commission comprising building inspectors is operating a code which is possibly more severe than the local code- this code will be more severe for cyclone damage- we can utilise a regulation.
One matter that does concern the Commission is that there will be a need for discussions with the port authorities. There could be regulations under the Ports Ordinance in Darwin for the speedy turn around of ships and the discharge of cargo which will be necessary in huge quanities. That is the sort of situation that we visualise could be brought about by this amendment. If there is any opposition at the time to the regulations, that is the time to disagree with the regulations. I therefore suggest that the Senate should disagree with the amendments.
– I rise only because I know the attitude that will be adopted by the Senate in the light of what Senator Hall and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) have said. I think it is a sorry day for parliamentary democracy when we give to the Executive the power to disallow Acts of Parliament. This is a power which was criticised in the days of King Henry VIII. For us to reassert it in the late twentieth century I think is to invite all the criticisms of some four centuries ago. Parliament should be supreme and to give to the Executive the power to disallow Acts of Parliament is a power which democracy gives away at its peril. I can only regret that Senator Hall and the Government have decided to take this attitude.
– I support this action because I believe there is an emergency situation. I have spent only a day and a half in Darwin. I needed to spend only an hour and a half to formulate the general conclusion that a lot of shortcuts will have to be made if the people’s convenience is to be met. Of course, the very fact that so many people have so quickly returned to Darwin means that a lot of shortcuts have been made. I consider Senator Greenwood’s position on the same basis as I mentioned to one of his back benchers. Senator Greenwood voted to deny direct Senate representation for the Northern Territory, and he did so vehemently. Yesterday one of his colleagues still continued his opposition to the full national representation of the Northern Territory. It is a pretty shallow base and it is humbug for Senator Greenwood to prate about parliamentary democracy when he has voted, and led his Party to vote, against the inclusion of representatives of the Northern Territory in this chamber. If he had his way, right throughout the future, or for a very long time to come, there would be no senators from the Northern Territory. I am pleased to say that the Parliament was able to circumvent that attitude by a Joint Sitting.
This is not an ordinary situation, and anyone who has been to Darwin will tell you that it is not an ordinary situation. There is another side to this matter of parliamentary democracy. If the alterations are to be made, they will be made in this place. I sincerely hope that that side of parliamentary democracy- the use of regulation making power- which will receive scrutiny in this place, and the safeguards of disallowance, if necessary, will be scrutinised by Northern Territory senators in this place. Senator Greenwood has done nothing but impede their impending presence here.
– It would be surprising if I did not say that there can be no doubt what this power does. It gives to the Executive a power to override any and every law which operates in the Northern Territory. It does not help the argument for Senator Steele Hall, in defence of his position, supporting that authoritarian decision, to engage in personal abuse. The real argument is the argument on the merits. I have simply said that parliamentary democracy gives this power to the Executive at its peril. I know- I can see from the smiles on the faces of a few Government senators that they can remember too- that this was the sort of argument upon which, when they were in Opposition, Government senators waxed eloquent. What a different story it is when they are in government.
– I think it is disgraceful that Senator Greenwood should approach this subject on the basis of what we may have done in Opposition. The fact remains that there is a national tragedy on our hands today and that the people of Darwin must have some remedy to overcome their difficulties. The Government does not wish to override city councils, legislative assemblies or parliaments. The Government has pledged itself to rebuild Darwin as speedily as possible. If Senator Greenwood read the Bill he would find numerous instances of protection by numerous committees for the people of Darwin. I reject entirely the suggestion by Senator Greenwood that this has been an attack on him. He started this business and he has now been told where he is wrong. I submit to you, Mr Chairman, and honourable senators, that this is an emergency, that the Government must have this power and that it can be relied upon that the powers will not be abused.
- Senator Greenwood is not accurate in his statement. Everyone knows the dangers- no one knows them more than I do- of giving power to the Executive. This provision does not give power as such to the Executive; it gives regulating powers to the Executive that makes the regulation. The regulation is subject, first of all, to perusal by a Committee of the Senate that will examine it to see whether there are any harmful features in it and will report back to the Senate. Whether the Committee reports or not, any senator has the opportunity to disallow the regulations.
– Or any member of the House of Representatives.
– Or any member of the House of Representatives. Therefore this provision does not involve giving power to the Executive but involves parliamentary scrutiny. I have opposed the back door method of legislation by regulation rather than by statute. But in times of emergency this sort of situation will occur. The honourable senator should not regard it as Executive power, because the Parliament has as much perusal over regulations as it has over any Bill that is brought before the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed Proposed New Clause 6a
– The Government has circulated an alternative amendment to my proposed amendment. I am satisfied with the Government’s proposed amendment being inserted in place of my own. I shall be pleased to withdraw my amendment to enable the Government to move its amendment. I am slightly amused by the fact that the Government seems to have now accepted within its amendment a good deal of the matters contained in my amendment to which it seemed to have violent objection during the debate. For instance, it was alleged that by our insistence on a period of one month for inspection of proposals by the public we were holding up proceedings. This has been bandied about a good deal during this debate. Now it appears that the Government, having taken advice and having considered our amendment, considers one month a reasonable time. I had even suggested that perhaps a shorter period may be considered, but the Government has now adopted our period of one month. Also the Government amendment adopts our suggestions in regard to objections, the consideration of objections and so forth. I am pleased to find that these matters have all been accepted by the Government. I am quite prepared, as I have said, to withdraw my amendment in favour of the amendment proposed by the Government. I seek leave to withdraw my amendment.
-Does the Committee grant leave for the proposed amendment to be withdrawn? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
Proposed New Clause 7a
– I move:
Insert the following new clause:- 1 7a. ( 1 ) The Commission may, from time to time, prepare proposals with respect to general planning and development schemes in relation to development and construction in the Darwin Area and shall cause those proposals to be made available for inspection by the public at all reasonable times in the Darwin Area, and in such other places as the Commission determines, for a period of one month.
At any time during the period during which any proposals are made available for public inspection under subsection ( 1 ), a person who has an interest in land in the Darwin Area that is affected by those proposals may object to the proposals.
An objection under sub-section (2) shall be in writing, shall set out the reasons for the objection and shall be delivered or sent by post to the Commission.
Where an objection is made under sub-section (2), the Commission may, by notice in writing sent to the person making the objection, afford that person an opportunity to make submissions to the Commission, either orally or in writing, in connexion with the objection, within such period as is specified by the Commission.
After the expiration of the period within which a person may make submissions under sub-section (4) in connexion with an objection, the Commission may alter the proposals that are the subject of the objection in such manner as it thinks fit, and may recommend to the Minister that those proposals as so altered, be adopted ‘.
As Senator Durack will notice we are subject to the honesty and commonsense principle plus the persuasion with which he has so eloquently convinced us of our errors.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Consequential amendment to Clause 8.
– I move:
In sub-clause ( 1 ) leave out ‘recommendations of the Commission’, insert ‘any recommendations of the Commission under 7 a’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
-I should like to refer to one other matter before the Chairman reports the Bill. The Committee will remember that when we were considering clause 30 and the amendment that I had moved to sub-clause (1) Senator Everett raised a question in relation to sub-clause (2) of the clause and suggested that there really ought to be a consequential amendment to sub-clause (2) as well as to sub-clause ( 1 ) following the acceptance of the amendment that the appointment of the General Manager should be by the Commission and not by the Governor-General. Sub-clause (2) of clause 30 reads:
The General Manager shall be paid such allowances as are prescribed.
That wording is really more appropriate to an appointment by the Governor-General than by the Commission. I now seek to move recommittal of clause 30 to enable me to propose a further consequential amendment to sub-clause (2) in line with the suggestion made by Senator Everett. I move:
– Is it the wish of the Committee that clause 30 be recommitted? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– I move:
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Durack’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the words proposed to be inserted beinserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a third time.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
– Due to the lateness of the hour I ask leave of the Senate to withdraw that motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
Debate resumed from 1 8 February on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The opening remarks of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) when he made his second reading speech on this Bill were that this was another part of Labor’s electoral reform legislation. I think it was a great pity that in the second reading speech the word ‘reform’ was not shown in inverted commas because whatever else might be said about the electoral Bills put forward by this Government since it came to power on 2 December 1972, none of its legislation has been reform legislation. There has been but one objective which the Government has been attempting to pursue and it certainly has not been electoral reform. What it has been attempting to do is so to amend the electoral Acts as to entrench itself in office- it is as simple as that- be it by way of the original Bill which, as a result of the joint sitting, reduced the variance in the quota from 20 per cent to 10 per cent or be it by way of any of the other attempts which this Government has made.
This Bill is said to deal with 2 things. It deals, firstly, with limiting electoral expenditure and, secondly, it deals with disclosure of party funds. We in the Opposition believe that this is but another example of this Government’s attempt to encroach upon the rights and liberties of individuals, organisations and political parties. This Bill, of course, provides in a slightly different form but with basically the same method as did the previous Electoral Acts (Amendment) Bill for the registration of political parties. In the whole history of Australian politics I imagine that goes back to the middle of the last century, possibly since the formation of the Legislative Council in New South Wales in, I think, the 1830s- no political party has had to be registered as a political party. Political parties have been registered under either Companies Acts or Associations Acts to give them a corporate entity but for that reason and no other, the same as one would incorporate a football club, a cricket club, a social club or anything else. They were incorporated to give themselves a corporate entity and not for the purpose of registration. One of the problems of bringing about the registration of political parties- we have seen this happen in many countries- is that what tends to happen is that eventually only two or maybe three parties are allowed to register. Then eventually only two are permitted and ultimately only one, as we have seen happen quite tragically in so many of the newly emerging nations since the last war. They have ended up as one-party States.
– Particularly in the socialist homelands.
-The honourable senator is quite right to remind me of that point. An attempt is being made these days to turn Australia into another socialist homeland. It is rather interesting to note that the registration of political parties and limitations on the rights of individuals to play an active part in politics always arise under socialist governments. I turn to the first part of the Bill which deals mainly with the limitation of electoral expenditure. As I recall the various Acts around Australia only in New South Wales has there not been for many many years, if ever, any limitation on the amount which candidates can spend on electoral expenses. I do not know that that has necessarily advantaged one side or the other in politics in New South Wales. As I recall the situation, for a period of some 24 years the Labor Party was in office in that State. The fact that its opponents had no limitation on the amount they could expend did not seem to affect its chances. Admittedly interesting gerrymanders helped the Labor Party. I do not think anybody can show or prove that politics in New South Wales has been any better or worse than in any other State because of the fact that it has never had a limitation, so far as I have been able to discover, on what candidates can spend.
One of the things which always happens when people start to impose limits on electoral expenditure is that other people attempt to find a way around the law. If the Commonwealth Electoral Office is so naive as to believe that people would not spend most of their time attempting to get around the limit, it is not facing reality. This Parliament spends a great deal of its time amending various revenue laws and the more they are amended the more loopholes tend to be exposed. That is one of the defects of all legislation. I put it to the Government that that has been the experience in the United States of America. There has been at least one amendment to the United States laws on this matter and there may well have been others. Candidates for political office certainly will attempt to find methods of either evading or avioding the consequences of the law.
Another point is that in these days of high inflation- the highest since the Rum Rebellionthis Government has imposed on Australia, it is quite ridiculous to adopt this artificial limit. It might be valid in the judgment of the Government to impose limits of X cents a head per member of the House of Representatives and Y cents per head for a senator in February 1975 but the way inflation is galloping in this country those figures could be quite unreal by June 1975.
If the Government puts on limitations it will be constantly amending the legislation.
Another argument I have heard used is that there should be a limit on campaign funds because this helps to stop the waste of economic resources. To those who propound that argument I say that this certainly does not apply in Australia where the total amount spent by all political parties on radio and television over the last 10 years has been infinitesimal in relation to the gross national product. One of the other things that ought to be said is that any limits on campaign funding must be seen as arbitrary and therefore open to criticism. If honourable senators look at proposed new section 147 relating to the fines to be imposed where breaches of the Act occur, and to the limits to be set for expedition in respect of parties for the Senate or House of Representatives elections or for referenda, these can be seen only as being arbitrary. One of the great dangers in this regard which the Government does not seem to have realised is that limits on campaign funding could have the effect of encouraging extremist groups. Whilst these groups cannot raise funds easily the popular parties which can raise funds will be brought down to the extremist resource level. I do not think the Government has taken this matter into account. It is all very well for honourable senators on the Government side to snigger but the ridiculous situation will arise of people putting up dummy candidates just to be able to fund the operation in an election. Instead of running two or three candidates for the House of Representatives there could well be an excuse for running 15 or 20 candidates.
– They ran 73 candidates last time for the Senate.
-That is right and you will run 573 candidates if you come at this sort of nonsense.
– That justifies the reform.
-No, it does not. It is quite obvious that the honourable senator does not know what is in the Bill so he should not expose his ignorance. This is one of the problems. If the Government imagines that by putting up the deposits required or the percentage of votes required is going to overcome this problem it has another think coming because it will not achieve what it attempts to do. Another point is that limits are unfair on the major national parties because they in fact need far greater funds than do the minor parties. Minor parties attempting to establish themselves in power do not have to spend the same amount of money. One of the other problems is that limitations could encourage minor parties to concentrate efforts on gaining balances of power where their political weight would be far greater than their true electoral support. These are some of the dangers which could come about. There is no method of really limiting these things to bring about this socalled equity.
One of the problems which we must face is this matter of equity. Incumbent members of Parliament always have advantages over candidates who oppose them. Members of this Parliament have a large number of facilities provided for them by the taxpayers in order to carry out their parliamentary duties and I do not believe anybody in this place is naive enough to believe that the resources put at our disposal are used for purely parliamentary purposes. Of course, they are used for election purposes and for electioneering expenses. Any sitting member in this Parliament, no matter in which House he is, is campaigning from the day he is elected until the day his election comes again and that gives him an enormous advantage. He has access to travel, he has access to public forums at which to present a point of view and he has access to telephones at public expense. If honourable senators tell me that that does not give the incumbent member an enormous advantage over his challenger I do not know what it does do.
– That is not the case when you spend most of your time in Canberra. That is what is happening under our system now, is it not?
-No, it is not. I would be very much surprised if honourable senators on both sides of the chamber and members of Parliament in the other House are not continually keeping in touch with their party organisations and their branch supporters, receiving representations and doing various other things, often for party political reasons and not for purely parliamentary reasons. Of course, under the present Government, which is not averse to using patronage to further its electoral prospects, incumbents get enormous advantages. I do not believe that having been a member of Parliament ought to be a disqualification for public office but under this Government the fact that one is a defeated member of Parliament appears in so many cases to be the sole qualification for receiving a public appointment.
– You are not convincing.
-Well, I would like to know where a lot of these gentlemen operate. Does the ex-member for Wide Bay who is now on the public payroll spend none of his time attempting to wm back that seat?
– Or the exmember for Riverina.
-Or the ex-member for Riverina, the former member for Sturt or the former member for Forrest, all of whom are on the Government payroll. Does the honourable senator tell me that they have all wiped us?
– What about Freeth?
-He happened to be in Japan. It would be a bit hard to campaign for the seat of Forrest while located in Japan. Let us be careful. This is one of the Government’s problems. The incumbent Government has a greater capacity than does the challenging Opposition. Governments have the resources of government. I am not complaining about this fact. Ministers have far greater staffs than Opposition challengers have. They have public relations officers. I am not complaining about that fact because I have one. They have the total resources of government. Nobody in this place is naive enough to believe that a government does not campaign from the date of its election to the date of the next election. That is what politics is all about. If we talk about equality and equity between incumbents and challengers, surely if we are to be fair the moment an election is over and a challenger announces himself he should be given the same salary, rights and privileges as the incumbent so he can challenge the incumbent at the next election. There are an enormous amount of spin-off benefits which incumbents get, whether they are members, senators or governments.
The other part of the Bill deals with disclosure. I say quite bluntly that through this Bill the Government is seeking to take away the right of an individual to remain anonymous when donating to the Party of his or her choice. We have seen this in the one-Party states. Next the Government will be wanting to take away the right of individuals to vote in secrecy.
– That is a laugh.
-The honourable senator laughs. We have seen the antics of members of his Party in the trade union movement. We are not altogether bemused by the whole operation. Do honourable senators opposite think we have any faith in the way in which this Government operates? The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has torn up every convention, tradition and decent parliamentary practice in the book. If honourable senators opposite expect us to put any faith in what they might term electoral reform, they have another think coming.
– Who conducted the ballot the last time Mr Malcolm Fraser challenged Mr Snedden for the leadership of your Party?
-I ignore Senator Keeffe because he is not worth answering.
– That is because you do not have .an answer.
-I think we might get along a lot better if the honourable senator went back to Queensland and attempted to look after his affairs there. He campaigned almost continuously in the Senate against Mr Bjelke-Petersen. If his Party did not take a bath I do not know any Party that did. I think Senator Keeffe would help the Labor Party immensely if he remained silent for the remainder of the time that he is in the Senate tonight. I have talked about how the incumbents get benefits. The other thing when one talks about this whole proposition of trying to get equity- this is what disclosure is supposed to be about- is: How does one measure the contribution given in kind by volunteers? How does one measure that as a contribution to a campaign fund? How does one measure what is often vulgarity termed the booth fodder? How does one measure in monetary terms the fact that a party organisation can call in aid- most parties can- an enormous number of volunteers who not only hand out how-to-vote cards but who distribute pamphlets and who canvass for candidates? How does one measure that in money terms? This Government seems to be mesmerised by the belief that a party campaigns only on the radio and television and in newspapers. My party- I am quite certain this applies also to the Country Party- does not campaign by that method alone. There are an enormous number of other methods of campaigning.
Whether the Government likes it or not, once it brings in all these odd sorts of situations it must expand the Electoral Office to handle the scheme. The Government is not averse to trying to soak up the greatest number of unemployed in this country since the depression by expanding the Public Service. I believe that is a waste of public resources which ought to be put to far better use. One of the breakdowns in the whole situation- both the limitation of expenditure and the disclosure of funding- is that if any sanction is to be imposed it can’ be imposed only after the event. That is the greatest weakness in the scheme. Otherwise the Electoral Office basically must monitor the expenditure of each candidate day by day. One might say that the penalty for breach of the law might be either a very heavy fine or even the expulsion or the unseating of the candidate. The experience of the Electoral Office has been that in spite of the fact that there have been penalties for not putting in after an election electoral returns as to one’s expenses the Electoral Office has not prosecuted either a successful or unsuccessful candidate for not putting in that return. I do not think that provision has been enforced by any government in living memory. I doubt whether the Electoral Office could give an instance of its prosecuting a candidate in 75 years. Politics being what they are, my educated guess would be that the party which won the election would make quite certain that its members who breached the law were not prosecuted. The situation would eventually be reached where this would become a sort of convention, as it is at the moment with all candidates ignoring it.
– Liberal Premiers break conventions.
-That is what the Minister does not understand. I have just spoken about his Prime Minister, the man who has broken more conventions than any other man in Parliament. I will give the Minister a very simple example. As I understand the pecking order in Cabinet Senator James McClelland is senior to Senator Cavanagh. It has been a convention in this place that Ministers sit in order of seniority. Senator Cavanagh ought to sit in Senator James McClelland ‘s seat, and Senator James McClelland ought to sit in Senator Cavanagh ‘s seat. The Ministers are the great conventioneers, yet they break that convention. Who broke the convention in relation to pairs in this place? Was it us? Most honourable senators opposite were a party to it except some of the new senators. I know that many who were are ashamed of it. I admire them for it. For honourable senators opposite to attempt to talk about somebody else who is not in the Senate breaking convention and to accuse me of breaking conventions is wrong. I have not broken any convention.
– I have not accused you of breaking any.
-Why accuse somebody else? Let us talk about our activities in our chamber. Let us be judges of our conduct. Let us not go outside in attempting to raise situations to get people out of their own difficulties. Let us talk about the practice in our chamber. Mr President, I wish to finish before you put the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. No matter how the Government dresses up this matter, no matter how much it likes to call it reform, it has but one purpose and one purpose only. It is to entrench this Government in office. I remember Mr Daly, after he returned from one of his trips, to Canada, I think it was, saying on television that he had found a lot of good tricks in Canada which would give the Country Party heart attacks. I think that is the phrase he used.
– We are still suffering.
-I do not think so. That is typical of the Minister. He is quite honest and open.
– He wants to make the electoral prodecures more democratic.
-As I recall the position, last May your Government put a referendum which was quite dishonestly entitled a referendum for democratic elections. In spite of all the hoohah that the Government went on with, the referendum was rejected decisively in each State. I put it to the Senate that Australian electors are not very enthusiastic about the ALP’s so-called electoral reforms. This is the third Bill alleging electoral reform. Today I took the adjournment on another Bill which contained a referendum proposal. It was in relation to simultaneous elections. Last year a similar referendum was defeated. The referendum on democratic elections was defeated. I know the Prime Minister has referendum mania, but the simple fact is that if the Australian elector is given the chance to vote on referenda proposals he does not trust this socialist Government. For that reason and for the other reasons which I have outlined we will vote against this Bill. We hope that it will be defeated.
– You are voting against your own interest.
-The honourable senator would not even begin to understand that there could be people in this Parliament with a few higher motives than naked self-interest. That is why he does not understand what politics is all about. I advise that when the motion for the second reading of the Bill is put, the Opposition will vote against it.
-Mr President -
Prime Minister’s Visit to Russia- Incident in the Senate Chamber- Aboriginal Loans Commission.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under sessional orders, I propose the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I rise on the adjournment to raise a matter of grave concern with which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), in his evasive way, has avoided dealing. I think that members of the Senate will recall that in the middle of January this year we were intrigued to receive reports of what had happened to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and members of his touring party when they had visited Russia. I asked a number of questions on this subject last . week. I do not think it is because of any inadequacy in the questions I asked, but I finished the week no better informed than when I had commenced the week.
I assure the Senate that I would like to know more about what was allegedin the newspapers. I read the Melbourne ‘Sun’ and the Melbourne Age’, and a number of other papers subsequently, and in those newspapers there were allegations that the Prime Minister’s touring party had been subjected to surveillance of a most undesirable character when they visited Moscow. I shall read an article from the Courier-Mail’ because it is an extract which most conveniently indicates the account I wish to give to the Senate. It was written by Mr Laurie Oakes, who was with the Prime Minister in Europe, and it appeared in the newspaper on 18 January 1975. It was a story written from Bonn and it reads:
Microphones were found in the airconditioning, and 2-way mirrors and secret doors in hotel rooms allocated to members of the party visiting Russia with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). One member of the group woke one night to find 2 Russians in his room. They fled through a swinging panel when he challenged them. The baggage of some delegation members was searched in their rooms.
Mr Oakes states:
There was no shortage of evidence that the sort of picture painted in the U.S.S.R. by the authors of espionage thrillers is not far from the truth.
– It sounds like James Bond to me.
– It sounds like it to me. I have just finished reading about the KGB in a most illuminating book which indicates the sort of activity which Russian secret agents get up to around the world. Apparently, if the newspaper writer is to be believed, not even members of the Prime Minister’s touring party are exempt from this sort of thing. I read on a little. These are Mr Oakes’ words:
During our stay in Russia, it was established that several of the hotel rooms occupied by members of Mr Whitlam ‘s party were equipped with 2-way mirrors. Hidden microphones were discovered in telephones and air conditioners . . Australian officials knew, from their own sources and from information supplied by the Americans, that they were bugged.
The article continues:
Mr Whitlam and those who stayed with him had to watch their tongues the whole time they were there, and act on the assumption that everything they said and did was being recorded.
One discovery made by members of the party about Russian hotel rooms was that many of them have concealed doors.
A member of the Prime Minister’s party woke one night to find 2 Russians in his room. When he challenged them they fled through one of these concealed doors- a swinging panel set in the main door which allowed the KGB (secret police) to enter and leave without tampering with the main lock.
– You raided a little old a lady’s house on Christmas Day.
– I hear Senator Poyser talking about little old ladies on Christman Day. I suppose this is the way in which he treats allegations of this character. After all there are many people throughout the world, many national leaders, who doubtless were subjected to the same sort of explanation as Senator Poyser gives. These people subsequently learned that it was not all myth and that in fact spies did exist. As we know has happened in West Germany, the No. 3 public servant, I think it was, to the Chancellor of West Germany was discovered to have been a Soviet spy for some 20 years.
– And they have sliding bottoms in ballot boxes in the trade unions in New South Wales.
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has a long memory. I seem to recall that even that sort of thing happened in Victoria many years ago until the Victorian electors decided that it was about time they got rid of the types of governments which had tolerated that sort of thing happening in Victoria and they elected Liberal governments. All I say about Senator Poyser ‘s interjection is that he should have gone on the trip. I think it would have been about the first time his words would have been given any credence because it is only in Russia- on the views he has expressed here- that his words would be listened to.
I mention these things merely to establish the basis upon which I ask questions. I emphasise that the allegations were made in newspapers throughout Australia. The articles which I read which had an author’s name to them were written by a journalist who is well known I think to all honourable senators. Other articles which appeared did not have any journalist’s authorisation to them. But the journalist -
– He accompanied the Prime Minister’s party.
-This journalist accompanied the Prime Minister. He is a journalist whom the newspapers which employ him regard as experienced and sufficiently responsible to be nominated as the journalist to accompany the Prime Minister on his tour. As I said, we know him. Whilst we may- I certainly do- question from time to time his objectivity, as I do that of other journalists, he does not write stories without some basis of fact to them. Whilst one could object to- and I do object- I do not make any excuses about the slanted stories because there is always a basis to these stories. I cannot accept that this journalist has fabricated an account which is so completely untrue that it ranks as an espionage fiction thriller. It is a matter which received front page publicity in newspapers in Australia. I waited until I had an opportunity to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs what was the attitude of the Government to this conduct which was alleged in the newspapers to have occurred with respect to the Prime Minister’s touring party. I asked 3 questions, one on each of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. It is quite remarkable how little information the Foreign Minister was prepared to give. On Tuesday I set out essentially the facts which I have already related and I asked whether any protest had been made. I asked whether if no protest had been made because the Minister did not accept the stories, he had apologised or Australia had apologised to the Russian Government for these allegations made about the Russian Government’s hospitality to our Prime Minister. What did the Foreign Minister say? I quote from Hansard. He said:
I know nothing of these highly colourful things about which Senator Greenwood talks.
Then he went on to say that he did not think he could be expected to apologise for the Press because he would be doing it all the time, which is a ridiculing, with respect to the way he used his words, of the Press story. It is equally interesting to know and recall that he said:
I know nothing of these highly colourful stories -
The following day I asked him a further question in the light of the fact that he said he knew nothing about these reports. I asked him to elaborate. I asked him: Did he say that these incidents never occurred and that the Press stories are completely fiction or did he say that he took no interest in the reports and made no inquiry into them? It would be an incredible situation if the Foreign Minister of Australia ignored allegations of that character. I invite the Senate to think of what the Foreign Minister of this country would say if this had happened to the Prime Minister or members of his touring party when visiting the United States of America or if they happened to be visiting Great Britain. The newspapers would be full of the account. The day before I asked that question the Foreign Minister said that he knew nothing of those highly colourful things. I asked him to elaborate. What did he say? I quote him again. He stated:
I have had no complaints and nothing has been referred to me about the alleged incidents. Evidently, from what Senator Greenwood says, there has been some Press speculation. There is Press speculation about all sorts of things.
I managed to interject:
There were Press reports.
Senator Willesee replied:
Press reports? I do not know the difference between reports or speculation. All I can tell the honourable senator-
I emphasise those words- -is that I, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, know nothing of the matter. I accept his word that the Press reported these things. I seem to remember something about this at the time, but certainly nothing has been brought to me by my Department or by anybody who was on the trip about these allegations.
That is the answer by the Foreign Minister which indicates ignorance and a lack of concern about the substance of these matters. It also indicates a disinterest by the Minister in what was alleged on the basis that he had no complaints offered to him and on a ridiculing, denigrating basis of the fact that the questions were being asked of him.
– That is because you are so vociferous.
– On Thursday I asked the Minister whether he would explain why he did not know these things had happened and why his Department had not explained them. I am interested in the interjection by Senator Poyser. I am sure the Minister will be grateful to Senator Poyser for his explanation of the reason behind the stories and of the best answer which the Minister can give. It seems that Senator Poyser has a ready made answer. If he does not have a ready made answer then I suggest that he might say nothing. I asked the Minister whether he would elaborate to the people of Australia whether these things occurred and, if they occurred, whether a protest was made to the Russian Government. If no protest was made, why not? Then Senator Willesee became forthcoming for the first time that week. He said that I had based my third question on a false premise.
He said that he had never said that he was not aware of the newspaper articles. Indeed, we might all have misunderstood if we assumed that that was the impact of his earlier answers. He stated:
In fact, I said that I remembered seeing them.
His exact words were:
I seem to remember something about this at the time____
But that was in the context that he accepted my words about what had been said. That is a curious expression to use on the third time of asking, to say that he remembered seeing them. He went on:
What I did say was that no complaint had been made to me by anybody on the trip that these things took place. Then the honourable senator asked a hypothetical question namely: If these things happened, are they not of serious concern? I reply: Yes, they would be of serious concern if they happened, but that is a hypothetical question.
I welcome the Minister’s assurance that if these things happened they were a serious matter. But why does he say that this is a hypothetical question. He goes on:
I said in my answer to his question either yesterday or the day before that I had seen the articles. But I also pointed out that generally I do not act on newspaper articles unless they are followed up or unless they are so serious that I think they should be followed up. The situation is that the honourable senator is basing his question on a false premise. I had read those articles. I repeat that I have had no complaints made to me. The other thing that he asked me was whether I would apologise to the various governments if these things were true.
Has your Department not given you any briefing on it?
No, my Department has not given me any briefing on it because I have not asked it to do so and because there have been no complaints from the people involved.
That is the Minister’s account. It is a totally unsatisfactory account. It is an evasive account. On the one hand he conceded that if these things happened they were serious but on the other he said that he knows nothing about them. Apparently he has not inquired because he knows nothing. Apparently his Department- I would have thought that if it be true his Department is at fault- has given him no information on these matters and he is unable to say whether what appeared as front page stories in the newspapers is true or false.
Why have I raised this matter? The first reason is that the facts warrant an explanation. If these things occurred, why did they occur? Was any explanation sought? Was a protest made if these things occurred and, if not, why not? If no protest was made and these things did occur, should the Prime Minister of this country and his party be subjected to these indignities? Is it a case of our being prepared to be so servile and so sycophantic to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that we will accept the most blatant intimidation when we visit Russia? As I have said, if this had happened in the United States of America I would lay odds to anybody that there would be a most outraged indignation emanating from members of the Australian Government. But I believe that it is encumbent upon the Minister to give a better explanation than he has given as to whether these things occurred.
I say quite specifically: If the Minister says that Mr Oakes, the author of these articles, is stating things which are untrue then he ought to say so publicly so that the public will know that Mr Oakes is a fiction writer under the guise of a man who reports facts. If the Minister is not saying that, he owes it to this Parliament to give the facts. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, as I have said, has been evasive, condescending, completely uninformative and non-communicative. I could go into a number of areas, but I have raised this matter in this adjournment debate in the light of the answers I have been given to inivite the Minister to be more forthcoming. There is ample experience in this chamber of Ministers who have refused to give information. That is a matter for further disclosure at some stage in the future because it is embarrassing to find so many unanswered questions on the notice paper. All I say to the Minister for Foreign Affairs is that he will not be able to find the refuge of another former Minister who did not answer questions; he is not qualified to go to the High Court of Australia.
- Senator Greenwood has taken nearly 20 minutes to talk about some allegations that appeared in a newspaper. I say to him that these things were just mentioned in the newspaper. I repeat that there has been no complaint made to me. Today we live in a world in which telephone tapping and that sort of thing is technically possible. Senator Greenwood seems to think or is alleging that there is only one country in the world which does that, and of course, that is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He seems to be very outraged about that. But he was not outraged, as I remember, during the whole of the Watergate scandal, which did happen in another country. We now find that Mr Oakes, whom we all know, has suddenly been elevated to being a great journalist. I am sure that if in another few weeks Mr Oakes writes something with which Senator
Greenwood does not agree Mr Oakes will drop from his ascendancy very quickly.
Senator Greenwood seems to have been saying that I ridiculed the Press, as if it would be something strange about the place if I were to do so. But I did not do that. If Senator Greenwood is upset about a government doing something he ought to protest to that government. I do not quite see what it has done to us. We did not bug the journalists who went overseas with us. We did not do that sort of thing. There have been stories in the newspapers which Senator Greenwood seems to have accepted as being factual. He wants me to say whether they are true and, if they are, to go and apologise to somebody. Is this not all getting a bit ridiculous? Then Senator Greenwood says he read a book in which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is accused of phone tapping and all the rest of it. If he extended his readings a bit wider he would find that these allegations are made against all sorts of countries in the world. He mentioned that there have been some things going on in trade unions. I do not know whether I am supposed to do something about that or not. The fact is that, as I have said, no complaints have been made to me by any of the people on the trip. If I am going to chase up every newspaper report on this or anything else then I repeat that I am not going to be doing very much else.
If Senator Greenwood were consistent he would say that we should do something about every newspaper report that we get about members of Parliament; we should go to the Government or go to the relevant authority. There was a newspaper allegation recently- I repeat allegationthat there was a theft in one of the capital cities of Australia from a member of the staff of one of our senior Ministers and it is alleged that that was organised by Mr Wentworth and Senator Greenwood. Do you expect that I have got to do something about that or that some other Minister should do something about it? Does Senator Greenwood say that that is fact? How ridiculous can all this be! Of course everybody knows that it is technically possible to tap phones in every part of the world. Quite frankly, if any experienced person today does not watch where he says things and what he does in overseas countries, or indeed in this country, then he is living in a very naive world. Because I believe it is a part of my job to be tremendously discreet, anything I want to talk about I talk about in my own Embassy in whatever country of the world I am in.
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria)-I rise to make a personal explanation, Mr President. I have been misrepresented. Senator Willesee in the course of his speech said that it was alleged that I was guilty of a criminal act.
– I did not say that at all.
-You said that certain allegations had been made about Mr Wentworth and myself. It was a very embarrassing period, trying to track down the source of these completely untrue allegations during the vacation. I denied them constantly through all media when I was given a chance to deny them.
– But who would believe you?
– I am interested to hear what Senator Poyser says. It emphasises why I rise on this occasion. I state again that those allegations- and I heard rumours of the source of those allegations and I do not repeat them- are completely untrue. There was absolutely no basis to them.
– No basis at all?
-No basis whatsoever. And I simply say that if the allegations are repeated here then I will rise every time just to put the opposite statement that there is no truth to them whatsoever and it is pernicious and vicious that these things should be attempted to be pursued in this way.
-Mr President, I want to make only a brief contribution to what has turned out to be a rather lengthy adjournment debate. I want to refer to the Katter incident which took place last night in this chamber. I rise to speak now only because the opportunity was not available to two or three of us who wanted to speak in the adjournment debate last evening. I know that an apology has been accepted by the Senate, but I think that there are certain aspects of the matter that must be clarified for the benefit of the public at large in view of the fact that some sections of the Press and radio have reported the matter. I want to quote verbatim the letter that was written to you, Mr President, by Mr Katter, M.P. The letter states:
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.
The letter was signed by Mr Katter. That is not quite true, Mr President, because it was a shouted threat from this section of the chamber and the words that were used- and I am positive of the correctness of this- were ‘Come outside, Keeffe’. In Keeffe country that has always been an invitation to a knuckle-up on the grass.
Whether it is down on the riverbank, out behind the pub, down beside the camel pad or wherever it might be, it is that sort of an invitation, and if the honourable member from the other place has not got scars to show for some knuckle-ups, I have got a few because I did not win them all.
How did I offend the honourable gentleman? Because of his emotional state and the temper that he displayed in this chamber, it is obvious that I offended him in some way. I have looked through Hansard and I can find only 2 points that I raised which related to him. One concerned the honourable gentleman’s membership of certain political parties. What I said was the truth. If people say something about me that is truthful, it might hurt my dignity a bit if it is something of which I am not very proud, but I am certainly not going to do my thing over it, and I am not going to do it publicly. The other point probably concerned the car episode. That was published in at least 2 newspapers and I am not aware that any writ for defamation was issued about it. It also has been quoted in other places. Because of the wide public coverage of the episode, I can assume that it was true. I was not happy about it, and I think that I was entitled to raise it in a relevant debate, and I did so. Unfortunately it seems to be completely in character with the honourable gentleman who has a tendency to flare up over these sorts of things.
On 16 May I can recall meeting the honourable gentleman in what is known as the ‘Top Pub’ or the Federal Hotel at Richmond in Queensland. Just before I walked into the hotel the honourable member for Kennedy had shouted for the bar. I missed out; he did not buy me a drink. I shouted for the bar- that was not canvassing votes, so they tell me in western countryand the honourable member was able to partake of the refreshments provided by me on that occasion. When I asked him whether he would share a platform with me it almost led to a flare up in the bar.
– You could not blame him for that.
– That is right. Probably he would have been done over, so one could not really blame him for not sharing a platform with me. On another occasion there was a radio broadcast concerning some of the appalling conditions under which Aborigines have been forced to live for almost 150 years in the electorate of Kennedy. On that occasion the honourable member got very upset about it and said: ‘Keeffe ought to stay out of my area and leave my blacks alone’. They were starving and living in absolutely terrible conditions. So this is not the first occasion on which an incident similar to the one last night has occurred.
I understand that the honourable member has been seen in the vicinity of this chamber two or three times tonight. I hope that he does not want to go down as the ghost who wanders the Senate chamber. It would not be a very good point in history. The honourable member is welcome in this chamber whenever he wants to come here, but he must conduct himself with dignity in the same way as members of this chamber conduct themselves when they visit the other place. Votes are not won by petty displays of fisticuffs; they are won on policy and in the ballot box. People retain their dignity and the respect of honourable senators in this place provided they do not want to get out and indulge in petty displays of fisticuffs, whether they be in the parliamentary corridors, down behind the rose gardens or beside Lake Burley Griffin. I wanted to put these things on record because I believe that the people are entitled to know the truth about the matter. I do not believe what was said in the letter that was forwarded to this chamber by the honourable member for Kennedy last night.
- Mr President, I desire to speak on the same subject as has been raised by Senator Keeffe. I, too, was disturbed by the letter which Mr Katter sent to you last evening and the terms used in it, which have been quoted by Senator Keeffe. I shall quote the first paragraph of that letter again. 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.
As I was sitting in my place here I was very close to this happening last evening. During Senator Keeffe ‘s remarks, Mr Katter was sitting over there in that seat in the corner of the public gallery. He shouted out in quite a loud voice: ‘Say that outside, Keeffe’. I wrote that down at the time and I showed it to you, Mr President, later in the evening. I put the time there- approximately 8.15 p.m. Mr Katter then came over to a position immediately behind me, leant over and said in a threatening manner to Senator Keeffe- this is where he did it, right here- ‘Step outside, Keeffe ‘. Mr President, I will swear on my honour that these are the exact words that that man said. Yet he writes a letter to the President saying that he said it in a quiet voice.
What disturbs me greatlyisacommentmade by Senator Marriott in the Senate today during a debate which was somewhat heated and in which I was speaking. The honourable senator made some comments and said that Mr Katter ‘s letter was accepted unanimously by the Senate. I dispute that because I did not accept it yesterday and I rose to my feet immediately, but because of some confusion in relation to the adjournment of the Senate I did not receive the call. I then attempted to speak to the motion that the Senate adjourn. The adjournment question was put and I missed out on receiving the call then. I would have raised the matter at the very time last evening and stated to the Senate what I have said tonight, that is, the exact words that Mr Katter used. I am of the opinion that Mr Katter has not only misled you, Mr President but also has misled the Senate in the words that he has used in that letter and which have been accepted by the Senate.
– The Senate did not accept it. The President said that he would take it no further.
– It has not been accepted. It was never put to the Senate on a vote.
– Those were the words of Senator Marriott and they appear in the Hansard record. He said that the Senate accepted unanimously the letter written by Mr Katter.’
- Senator Marriott is never right. Why should he be right this time?
– It is on the record now that at least Senator Keeffe and I are not accepting as accurate the words which Mr Katter used in his letter.
– I am sorry that 1 have to take up a little of the Senate ‘s time this evening. I do so because something has been brought to my attention which causes me some concern as it will have farreaching implications in the Aboriginal community. On 14 November 1974 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) inroduced a Bill into the Senate entitled Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill 1974. We on this side of the Senate assisted to give this Bill a very speedy passage through the Senate. We had discussed this matter in our party room and we believed that it was a matter that was very important to the Aboriginal community. It was a Bill that would be giving Aborigines the opportunity which they would not otherwise have to borrow money to purchase homes, furniture and many other things. Naturally, we on this side of the Senate were very anxious to give that Bill a speedy passage through the chamber. As a matter of fact, there was only one speaker on the Bill from this side. That was the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Rae, who spoke for only 7 minutes. That shows how anxious we were to have that Bill passed through the Senate.
Last week I received the document that I hold in my hand. I am quite prepared to table it after I have finished speaking. It is entitled: ‘Newsletter No. 1, February 1975- Aboriginal Loans Commission’. There are a number of points that are raised by the Commission. The first one is: ‘Are you or your partner Aboriginal or partAboriginal?’ In the first place, the last part of that question referring to Aborigines as partAborigines is an insult to the entire race of Aboriginal people. No other race is categorised in this chamber as part-this, part-that or partsomething else. We do that with animals. We talk about part-Shetland ponies, part-Hereford bullocks or something like that. But we do not use that term in relation to human beings. It seems strange to me that no one has any problem in identifying an Aborigine if he happens to be on a road paralytic drunk or doing something that is wrong. He is not regarded as a part Aborigine; he is regarded as an Aborigine. When there are some benefits to be derived by Aboriginal people, we start categorising; we start saying: Oh, he is not an Aborigine. He is only a part Aborigine’. But, if that person happens to be drunk, he is an Aborigine. I strongly object to the words of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It is the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, not the Department of Part Aboriginal Affairs. Senator Cavanagh is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, not the Minister for Part Aboriginal Affairs. So much for the first question. The next question reads:
Do you have a genuine desire to own your own home?
Good God! That question comes from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Aboriginal Loans Commission and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I repeat it:
Do you have a genuine desire to own your own home?
What Australian, whether he be an Aborigine or otherwise, does not have a genuine desire to own his own home? The next question is:
Is your income less than $ 1 54 a week?
Last Tuesday, I asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether a means test was to be applied to this scheme. He assured me that there would be no means test. But here, in the words of this document which comes from the Aboriginal Loans Commission in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the question is asked:
Is your income less than $ 1 54 a week?
If that is not putting a means test on Aborigines to determine whether they are entitled to borrow from this Loans Commission, as I have said once before I must be a Dutchman. I come to the next question. It is:
Do you have a credit rating?
No means test was to be applied. But the question that is asked is:
Do you have a credit rating?
The question that follows is:
Do you have any assets which could be used as equity?
Mr President, I ask you. If an Aborigine can answer those last 2 questions in the affirmative, he does not need the services of a Loans Commission; he can go to a bank, a building society or a lending agency. He can go anywhere! What is the point- what is the hypocrisy- in setting up an Aboriginal Loans Commission from which Aborigines can borrow money which, in the words of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, they otherwise would not have the opportunity to do? If an Aborigine can answer those 2 questions ‘Do you have a credit rating?’ and ‘Do you have any assets which could be used as equity?’ in the affirmative, he does not need the assistance of the Loans Commission. The next statement is the real clanger. This document continues:
If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions you may-
I emphasise the word ‘may ‘- be able to get a loan from the Aboriginal Loans Commission.
The word used is not ‘can’ or ‘will’; it is ‘may’, and only ‘may’. I am concerned at what this newsletter states because I know that these questions will turn away 95 per cent of the Aboriginal people who could benefit from the operation of the Aboriginal Loans Commission if it is put into operation as the Minister assured us in his second reading speech it would be. Let me quote some of his words when introducing the relevant legislation. The Minister said:
Few Aboriginal householders are able to obtain loans for the purchase of items such as household furniture and refrigerators because they cannot establish to the satisfaction of the usual lending institutions that they are an acceptable credit risk.
Unless an Aborigine can answer these questions to the satisfaction of the Commission, again he or she is not an acceptable credit risk. As I said, I am concerned because many Aborigines- I would say as many as 95 per cent of those who are genuinely in need- will be turned away. Once they see those questions, they will not even go any further. They will read those questions, as many of them have, and they will be turned away because affirmative answers to the questions asked would automatically make them ineligible for a loan. In this day and age $ 1 54 a week can be earned by an Aborigine. That might sound rather funny to honourable senators opposite but we are talking about human beings and we are talking about Aboriginal people who are suffering. These laughing hyenas opposite are supposed to be the champions of the Aborigines. Yet when I am talking about a serious matter that could affect the lives of thousands of Aborigines all they can do is laugh. I would like to hear an explanation by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, not the Minister for PartAboriginal Affairs, in relation to the matters that I have raised.
-The Minister for Aboriginal. Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) may reply to Senator Bonner. I am anxious to refer to a matter that was raised earlier in the debate this evening. Mr President, would you wish the Minister to reply before I speak?
– I am prepared to wait.
– I wish to take only a minute to refer to the matter that was raised by Senator Keeffe and Senator McLaren concerning a stranger making a comment to Senator Keeffe, who then appealed to you, Mr President, which resulted in Mr Katter M.P. sending an apology for his actions to the Senate and demonstrating the gentleman that he is. It was quite proper that he should apologise. Mr President, I remind you that at that stage you did not hear the comment that was made, but it was necessary for a tell-tale in this place, Senator Keeffe, to report what had been said over his shoulder. I will recall the facts that prompted the matter and we will see who is a gentleman and who is not a gentleman. During Senator Keeffe ‘s speech, if that is what it could be construed to be, on the Darwin Reconstruction Bill, he used these words- as reported at page 212 of Senate Hansard of18 February 1975:
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.
That was a complete untruth. I believe that that comment was known to be untrue by Senator Keeffe when he spoke the words, and he did not apologise either to Mr Katter or to the Senate for the untrue statement. The fact was later discoveredit was obvious- that it was impossible to contact Darwin from any office outside so that any type of limousine could be made available. In fact the shadow Minister for the Northern
Territory and the Leader of the Opposition travelled into Darwin on the back of a truck. Senator Keeffe knows that quite well. However, we find on page 2 14 of Hansard a statement by Senator Keeffe which could be construed as some sort of an apology for the attack that he made on Mr Katter. He said:
Mr President, it is obvious that I offended Mr Katter.
Mr President, the Standing Orders in this place provide that if a senator offends a member of another place he should apologise if he has the intestinal fortitude so to do.
-! did not intend to speak tonight on the adjournment debate, but we have seen a precedent set tonight by Senator Webster who has spoken on an adjournment debate without advising either the President or any other person that he intended to speak. This is a precedent. Senator Webster is the Chairman of Committees. He made one false statement. He lied to the Senate when he said that Senator Keeffe was a tell-tale. I was the person who rose to his feet and raised a point of order because a stranger leaned across from the gallery and expressed threatening words to a senator in this House. It was not Senator Keeffe who did that. Senator Webster holds a position of responsibility in this House. He continually prostitutes the position he holds.
– You would know a lot about that anyway.
-I know. He is the Chairman of Committees of this House and he sits in the chair.
– Order! I cannot allow a reflection on the Chair.
-I will certainly withdraw the word ‘prostitution’. The Chairman of Committees is supposed to control this House in your absence, Mr President, and when this House is in Committee. Yet this Chairman of Committees, when he is seated as a normal member of this House, incessantly interjects. I also do so but at least I had the decency to resign as a Temporary Chairman of Committees when I realised that my behaviour was inconsistent with that office. That is something that Senator Webster cannot learn. The precedent established by all other Chairmen of Committees in this House, in my time at least, has been that they practised what they preached and they did not incessantly interject on all persons during question time or in debate because they had a principle to uphold when they were in the chair.
Tonight Senator Webster made a statement that was completely untrue because he did not know the facts. He accused Senator Keeffe of an action which he did not take. In fact I was the person who raised the point of order. This brilliant Chairman of Committees would be aware of that if he had at least taken the opportunity to read Hansard to find out what happened during the proceedings of this House. Any normal, decent Chairman of Committees would have done that. I say that his intervention in this debate tonight is something that could cause him to reconsider his position as Chairman of Committees because I believe that he does not carry out the job in the manner in which it should be carried out, in the traditions of his predecessors, Senator Prowse and Senator Bull. Senator Webster does not observe the Standing Orders of this House.
- Mr President, I rise’ on a point of order. I apologise to Senator Keeffe for having said that he was the tell-tale. Senator Poyser is correct; it was he who was the tell-tale.
– Let me correct Senator Webster a little further. He stated that Mr Katter had no means of making any communication with the south. Let me inform him that I made arrangements with Trans-Australia Airlines that 4 people only would travel on from Mount Isa to Darwin on Boxing Day. One of those 4 people was Mr Katter. Another was a Mr Lloyd Wilson, who was to be in charge of natural disasters. He was baptised in that role quite early. Nevertheless there were 4 people moving on from Mount Isa. Some of the passengers who left the plane at Mount Isa made representations to me to see whether they too could travel from Mount Isa to Darwin. I contacted the south, in fairness to them, and after some considerable discussion the permission was given providing that I was prepared to take the responsibility for taking extra people into Darwin. I would not accept that responsibility.
Mr Katter made several telephone calls from Mount Isa. I am not certain whether one of those calls was to make arrangements for some facilities in Darwin. Perhaps he was not aware of the situation in Darwin. It is said that it was from Mount Isa that Mr Katter tried to make the necessary arrangements through his secretary for transport facilities in Darwin. Be that as it may, the plane taxied off to go towards Darwin and was called back so that Mr Katter could be informed that if he was prepared to accept the responsibility of taking passengers further on from Mount Isa in response to representations made by him, he could do so. He accepted that responsibility and a few more people went on to that plane.
I am only saying to Senator Webster that Mr Katter made several phone calls from Mount Isa. The reports are that whilst he may have been foolish, one of those phone calls was in the expectation that there would be some facilities in Darwin. He was soon disillusioned. When he got to Darwin the situation was bad. Anyone who considered that there might be facilities for sleep or travel in Darwin was quickly disillusioned. Let us make the point clear. The statement that Senator Keeffe made was well based and was possibly close to the truth of the matter on which Senator Keeffe received information. It is not fair for Senator Webster to say that Senator Keeffe was not telling the truth.
– I hope we have finished with that matter. The subject of Aboriginal affairs is more pleasant. We get along without threatening each other with the invitation to come outside. There is no violence in Aboriginal affairs and we all get along a lot better. I think it is unfortunate that Senator Bonner acted as he did today. In respect of the Aborigines I think in some respects he has a grievance which could have been overcome by an approach to me. Perhaps he uses this approach to make these things public and to be able to say that he has raised them in this place. If it is a question of rectifying a wrong, as in this case, I think he should approach me. I think on the question of Aborigines Senator Bonner and I should have something in common- the betterment of the Aboriginal people.
I appreciated the Opposition passing the Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill 1974. Senator Rae in his speech on the second reading stage of the Bill said:
As my colleague, Senator Bonner, has said to me there are many Aborigines in Australia who would very much like to be able to nave the opportunity to obtain a loan upon reasonable terms to improve their houses, their furnishings and their opportunity for some of the material benefits of life, but who do not want to have a hand-out and be simply getting something for nothing. They rather wish to have access to loan funds so that they are able to purchase items for themselves as do many other members of our society.
Of course Senator Bonner has a deep interest in Aborigines and an appreciation that the loan fund is being established. I said in my second reading speech on the Bill that we were establishing a Loans Commission for the purpose of extending the provisions of the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act. I said that the Loans Commission would operate under the control of the Commissioners and that we would make money available to the extent of $5m for the purpose. I stated that the funds would be controlled by the Loans Commission itself.
Senator Bonner stated that he asked me whether there would be a means test and I replied: ‘No, that is not correct’. The question, among others, was asked on 1 1 February 1 975 and is reported at page 16 of the Senate Hansard. In reply I told rum how the Loans Commission would operate. I said that it had had 2 meetings and was drawing up conditions of loans and principles for the purpose of making loans available. I then said, in relation to the means test, that the conditions of the loans obviously would be for the Loans Commission to decide. I said that the Act itself was broad enough, and 1 was personally hoping that there would not be a means test. It was my wish that there would not be a means test. The Aboriginal Loans Commission has control of loans. If it imposes a means test, under the Act it has the right to do so. That was legislation that Senator Bonner voted for and whose passage the Opposition assisted through this House. Senator Bonner has indicated that he has a document. Senator Georges and I, by way of interjection, asked him where the document came from and who sent it out. We received no reply. During the course of his remarks Senator Bonner said that the document came from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, from the Minister and from the Aboriginal Loans Commission. I can say definitely that it did not come from me as Minister and it did not come from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. We certainly never sent it out. The first question contained in the document to which Senator Bonner referred states:
Are you or your partner Aboriginal or part-Aboriginal?
This question which asks: ‘Are you an Aboriginal or part-Aboriginal’ is offensive to me. I shall take action to see that those words are removed. I do not think the difference between an Aboriginal and a part-Aboriginal should be raised. It is a serious question. An honourable senator desired to raise this matter during the adjournment debate tomorrow night but I think I have talked him out of raising this question. We accept the definition of a ‘Aboriginal’ as someone of Aboriginal descent who accepts and recognises himself as an Aboriginal and is accepted by the Aboriginal community in which he lives. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to ask the question: ‘Are you an Aboriginal’ because it is an Aboriginal loan. The definition of an Aboriginal should be shown. For that reason, I find the document which has been sent out offensive. I will use what influence I have to ensure that these offensive words are not used again. The second question states:
Do you have a genuine desire to own your own home?
I can see nothing wrong with this question. I think everyone answering that question would reply ‘yes ‘, whether or not they want to own their own home. If someone indicates that he does not want to own his own home- on many occasions a deposit is required- but wants a rental home only for the time being because he may be moving to Rockhampton or somewhere else, that is a justification for the loan not being granted. There is nothing wrong with that question. The third question states:
Are your wages in excess of $ 1 54 a week?
The Aboriginal Loans Commission has imposed a means test.
– You say nothing about this in your Bill. You say nothing about it in your speech. You say nothing about it whatever. Today $ 154 a week is not an excessive wage.
-Let me say this. I said nothing about it in the Bill. The Bill is a document for interpretation. The Bill was introduced to set up the Aboriginal Loans Commission which would administer a loan fund for Aborigines. I think Senator Bonner should retract his statement that I said nothing about this in my second reading speech because in that speech I said that I was asking that the Commission would charge a minimum rate of 5 per cent interest on loans.
– You used the words: ‘I propose initially to direct the Commission’.
-If I used the word ‘direct’ it was an unfortunate use of the word. With your legal knowledge, Senator Rae, you would know that the Bill did not make provisions for direction. And in respect of what we fought over all afternoon you did not give me the ministerial right of direction. The establishment of a fund from which to make loans direct to individual Aboriginals to assist them to obtain housing is intended to encourage aboriginals to become home owners. Few aboriginals are able to find homes. These homes would, until the loans are repaid, be subject to mortgage to the Commission. Only a minority of Aboriginal householders are able to afford home ownership even under the favourable terms of the scheme but the need for such a scheme is desperate. In my second reading speech on 16 October 1974 I said that personal loans would be available and that the purchase of motor vehicles would also be financed from the fund where the Aboriginal breadwinner’s employment opportunities would be enhanced. I continued:
I propose initially to direct ): Commission to apply a general rate of 5 per cent per annum when assessing applications for loans for enterprise and for personal loans. This rate could fluctuate from an administrative rate of Vi per cent up to bank interest rate which is around 9 per cent. The rate of interest payable on housing loans would not exceed the rate, as provided from time to time in the housing agreement with the States in relation to home builders account moneys.
– When did you say that? I have your second reading speech on this Bill here and it contains nothing like what you are saying.
-Senator, let me help you.
– I wish you would.
– It is in Hansard on 16 October 1974 at page 1747. 1 said then:
The current rate is 5% per cent per annum.
I can assure the honourable senator that I did not reprint that copy of Hansard or alter it for my own benefit.
– Clearly there was a difference between your circulated speech and the speech you actually made. That is the explanation for what Senator Bonner has just said.
– It may be the explanation but I am referring to the Hansard report. What Senator Rae said surprises me but if it is so that is the explanation. The Commission has the right to decide rates. I believe that the interest rate is now the subject of debate. They have access to $5m immediately. Those who can qualify will eat up the $5m and there will be need for some restrictions. The plea of Senator Bonner, as repeated by Senator Rae, is in respect of the need for Aborigines to have a credit rating, assets and equity. Surely, if there is anyone so deprived he is not someone earning in excess of $ 1 54 a week, some $8,000 a year. I know that Senator Bonner has been talking to a group of people in my Department who are concerned that Aborigines cannot get this loan if they are in constant government employment because they have an income far in excess of $8,000 a year.
– You must be one of these Russian spies. You follow me around to see who I talk to.
– I got Senator Greenwood’s security service to watch you, Senator. An income of $ 1 54 a week is in fact 1 1 0 per cent of the average male earning rate of $140 a week. The figure will be updated each quarter. The figure of $154 a week can be increased by $5 a week for each dependant in excess of two. The means test is very generous when compared with that applicable to loans granted by terminating building societies. Loans cut out for people with average weekly earnings of over $85 a week. The terminating building societies charge 5½ to 5¾ per cent interest.
The enterprise cannot meet all of the needs for home loans and therefore it is reasonable that it should restrict home loans until it has sufficient funds to meet the needs. One of the Aborigines who protested earns a salary between $14,300 and $14,800 a year. He drives a motor car with a V8 engine and is reported to have a holiday home on the New South Wales south coast. He owns a speedboat and has an investment home in Adelaide. Another person has 5 properties. Should we lend money to anyone who owns that sort of property? With the shortage of loan money available to the organisation, should a loan be made to Senator Bonner when impoverished Aborigines cannot receive a loan? 1 am not saying that Senator Bonner would want a loan, but I am just pointing out the need that exists. Therefore there is no condemnation on my part because there is a means test.
The organisation is being run as a commercial enterprise. Therefore a good credit rating and assets to be used as equity in the property would assist the applicant to obtain a loan, but there is nothing to an applicant’s discredit if he does not have such qualifications. These are questions which are asked by the normal lending bodies. The enterprise points out that if applicants answer its questions in the affirmative they may receive a loan. It does not say that the applicant will receive a loan. Other considerations can come into it.
I think on the whole that a fuller explanation is needed. The document to which Senator Bonner referred may have that explanation. However, I have not seen it. I agree with Senator Bonner that the question about being an Aboriginal or a part Aboriginal is objectionable. 1 do not condone it. The matter could have been raised in a conversation with me and then brought up in the Senate if I failed to rectify the injustice he said was occurring.
- Mr President, I seek your indulgence and guidance because of the difficulty in which I find myself. It is impossible for me to rely on standing order 364 to move that Senator Bonner table the document that has been questioned by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. However, with the leave of the Senate I would just briefly make this point: I believe that Senator Bonner indicated in the concluding part of his contribution to the Senate that he would in fact table that document.
- Senator Bonner, do you seek leave to table the document?
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-The hour is late and I do not wish to pursue this matter to any great extent. But I think that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) did not fully reply to the point raised. It is a matter of genuine concern. The Minister has offered to discuss this matter with Opposition members who are concerned about it. I propose to accept his offer to discuss it further. I simply make the point that the matters raised by Senator Bonner have not been answered. Maybe at some time the Minister can make a statement which will clarify the matter for the benefit of both the Senate and the people of Australia who may be able to take advantage of the legislation which was passed last year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.9 a.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750219_senate_29_s63/>.