29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the amendment of the Apple and Pear (Conditions of Export) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1 975 No. 5, and made under the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Act 1973, be disallowed.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate condemns the Government of North Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge for their indiscriminate attacks on the civilian populations of South Vietnam and Cambodia; that the Senate calls upon the Government of North Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge to immediately cease acts of terrorism and barbarism against innocent civilians.
-The Minister representing the Minister for Defence will recall my question of March last year relating to a proposal to establish a major defence field training base on Yampi Sound in Western Australia. I now ask: What progress has been made in planning the new base? Does the plan include the upgrading of the nearby Derby Airport to accommodate the increased military traffic? If so, what is the estimated cost of the upgrading?
– The honourable senator has asked me several times what progress has been made. Perhaps I should point out, firstly, that it is not intended to set up a base there. When and if the area is acquired, it will be used for joint training exercises. 1 mentioned previously that a joint working party had started a study of the matter. Included in the study is the question of whether Derby Airport and /or Broome Airport might be upgraded to accommodate Royal Australian Air Force aircraft which might take part in any joint exercise. As a result of the examination, the working party has visited the area. There have been discussions between the Departments concerned, including the Department of Transport and Senator Cavanagh ‘s Department, related to the possible extension of Broome Airport. Those discussions are continuing and no firm position has been taken on the matter.
In August last year I think I gave the estimated cost of any such extension, which was approximately $4m. The latest information I have is that the detailed study is continuing. The study was necessarily protracted because of the need to examine factors in addition to the specific points contained in the proposal. These factors include possible conflict between military and civil air space requirements and possible restrictions on the defence use of the area because of the issues that I have mentioned concerning Senator Cavanagh ‘s Department and the people with whom he is concerned. The completion date of the study cannot be stated precisely, but it is expected that the Minister for Defence will be able to make a firm decision on acquisition in about the middle of the year.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister seen reports that a political party has been formed in Portuguese Timor and that its aim is to seek integration of East Timor into Australia? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the Government’s attitude towards this party?
-I understand that such a political party has been formed in Timor and that some approach was made, presumably by a representative of that party, to the Australian authorities in Indonesia. The Australian Government does not support the aims of this organisation. Our policy is- as has been the case in the past- for a measured self-determination for Timor. The Australian Government most certainly would not be involving itself in the activities or the aspirations of such a political organisation.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the public concern about the financial reliability of Miss Junie Morosi and of her suitability therefore to be the private secretary to the Treasurer? Is he aware of the concern with the business practices which she and her husband together engaged in over a long period? Will the Minister confirm in particular that an amount of $2,310 has been owing by Trendsetter Tours Pty Ltd since 1973, that this company is one of the Morosi companies and is so regarded by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? Is it a fact that PostmasterGeneral’s Department accounts totalling approximately $10,000 are owed by her, her husband and the companies in which they have been involved and have been so owed for a considerable time? Will the PostmasterGeneral explain why those accounts have not been paid?
– As the honourable senator well knows, there is a question on notice which relates to the matter he has raised. In order to get a reply to that question I have sent it to the AttorneyGeneral and have asked whether it is proper for the PostmasterGeneral to answer it. It may be a question of whether in any circumstances a person who is a customer of the Post Office should have his personal affairs related and detailed in the way in which Senator Greenwood wants them detailed. My referring this matter to the AttorneyGeneral of course does not in any way recognise or identify any default to which the honourable senator refers. When I am able to obtain the Attorney General’s view on the matter I will give Senator Greenwood the information.
-May I ask a sup plementary question?
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: When did he refer these matters to the AttorneyGeneral?
-I cannot tell the honourable senator precisely but I think it was about 2 weeks ago.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he can say when work will commence on the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway.
– This is a question which people used to call a hardy annual. As everybody knows by now, the Prime Minister and Mr Dunstan signed an agreement on this project. The only reason for the delays in the survey was the wet weather during last year. The legislation has been passed by the 2 parliaments. I am advised by the Minister for Transport that the Commonwealth Railways are presently examining the question of contracts and that the first contract will be let shortly. It will be for earthworks and drainage for the first section of the railway.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. I ask: Is it a fact that this Government would be prohibiting the sale of fish with a mercury content in excess of . 5 parts per million? Has the Minister seen statements by Mr Broomhill, the South Australian Minister of Environment and Conservation, that he cannot agree with statements made by Mr Morrison, the Minister for Science, nor can he believe they were said by him? Is the Minister also aware that the matter is causing grave concern in South Australia and that Mr Broomhill has said that such statements by Mr Morrison lead him to believe that he is not being completely rational on this matter, which could affect a very important industry in South Australia?
– I was asked another question concerning that subject matter yesterday, which I have referred to the Minister for Science. I will also refer the question asked by Senator Young to the Minister for Science and let Senator Young have an answer to it.
– I draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the Gallery of a delegation from the National State Assembly of the Republic of Sri Lanka, led by the Speaker of the Assembly the Honourable Stanley Tillekeratne. On behalf of all honourable senators, I extend a most cordial welcome to all members of the delegation and trust their visit to the national capital and their travels throughout Australia will be both rewarding and enjoyable.
Honourable Senators- Hear, hear!
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. In view of the widespread interest amongst wool growers in the continuation of the floor price plan for wool beyond the current season, I ask: When will the Minister be in a position to announce the Government’s intentions in this regard? Has he received the views of the Australian Wool Corporation on the continuation of the scheme?
– I have had discussions this week with the Chairman of the Australian Wool Corporation and I have asked him to give further consideration to the alternatives available to the Government and the Corporation in the forthcoming wool season. It is true that the decision to be made will be of very great importance to the industry. The Government is quite firm in its stand that the industry must be supported so that there will not be a collapse of the wool market, as we have seen in years gone by. It is a very complex matter. I am not able to indicate to the Senate any details of the matters that were discussed. I can only indicate that I will be seeing the Chairman of the Corporation again in the third week in March- that is, the week before Easter- when I hope to have some firm proposals from the Corporation which would be announced shortly thereafter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture. It is further to a question I addressed to him on 26 February. I now ask: Is the Minister yet in a position to advise what steps are to be taken to alleviate the problems of the wine and brandy industries?
- Senator Laucke raised this matter with me earlier this week and I indicated that I hoped to be in a position to make a statement before the Parliament rose today. Unfortunately I am not in a position to do that. I have had further discussions with Dr Cairns, with whom I had discussions jointly with a delegation from the industry last week. The matters involved are not easy to resolve. I am not able to indicate precisely the Government’s position at the present time. We will be holding further discussions on this matter during the next 2 or 3 weeks. I recognise the importance of the matter that has been raised by Senator Laucke. I can assure him that the Government is giving the matter its acti ve consideration.
– I direct a question to Senator Bishop in his capacity as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. By way of preface I refer to the decision of the Minister for Labor and Immigration to extend the charter of the Borrie inquiry. It is in that context that I ask: What is the reason for the delay in the presentation of the long awaited report on the long range effects of automation on industrial pursuits and will it be taken into consideration in conjunction with the second phase of the Borrie inquiry?
– I think I answered Senator Mulvihill last week and pointed out that the Minister had said that the Borrie report would be properly considered, that this consideration would take some time, and that the Borrie committee had been asked to continue the examination in more detail and give more description of the recommendations it had made. I do not think I am able to give an answer to the second part of the question which would assist the honourable senator at this time so I will ask Mr Clyde Cameron to supply the answer.
-Can the Leader of the Government, representing the Treasurer, say whether it is a fact that Australia’s actual Budgetary deficit in the 8 months ended last month was $2, 769m? This is almost five times the amount of the estimated deficit.
– I could not be as precise as to say yes or no to the specific figure nominated by Senator Cotton. It would be true to say that the deficit currently would be in that vicinity. Therefore the answer to the remaining part of the question is yes.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General who represents the Minister for Defence. Have any studies been made, or are any in the process of being made, of the future of Woomera?
-I think the Minister for Defence said recently that the future of Woomera depends on what arises out of talks with the British. The Minister stated recently that Woomera would be placed under care and maintenance and that its possible use in the future would be properly examined. The village was to be retained. The British and Australian officials concerned met late last year and are scheduled to meet again this month. I understand that arrangment stands. I think the Minister pointed out previously that whilst Woomera could be affected as a result of these talks its future would depend on possible work loads from that quarter. The Salisbury establishment will not be affected, except for the trials section, if there is some need for a downturn in operations.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government who represents the Treasurer. In respect of the 10 per cent surcharge on tax payable on property income, the Minister told me in reply to an earlier question that it does not apply to persons whose taxable income does not exceed $5,000 per annum. Will the Minister, as soon as is practicable, inform the Senate what is to be the position of taxpayers with incomes above $5,000 per annum which are derived in part from investment of their own savings and in part from lump sum superannuation payments paid to them prior to the introduction of the new surcharge on unearned income? In replying to the question will he take note of the fact that it has been announced that weekly or monthly superannuation payments are not to be taxed as unearned income?
– It is true, as indicated in Senator Marriott’s question, that superannuation allowances as such will not be subject to the 10 per cent surcharge. However, income derived from property, no matter by what means it is financed, will, if it exceeds that $5,000 level, be subject to the 10 per cent charge up to the $5,500 limit. The essential difference is that whereas superannuation payments are not subject to the surcharge, income in excess of $5,000 derived from the application of moneys would be.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to a statement by Georgi Ermolenko that he left Australia willingly last year, that his earlier decision to stay in Australia was a mistake, that there was no deal with Soviet officials and that he and his parents were given exit visas from Russia without threat, hindrance or penalty? Does the Minister recall the censure motion moved by Senator Greenwood, supported by Senators Sim, Withers, Carrick and others, against Senator Willesee in this chamber on 1 8 September 1974? Does the Minister remember that this censure motion was lost by a tied vote in the chamber because of the fair-minded approach of Senator Steele Hall? In view of the outrageous charges made against the Government’s Foreign Minister, will the Minister discuss with the Leader of the Opposition an appropriate way for those honourable senators who sought to censure the Foreign Minister to apologise to Senator Willesee?
-We all recall the debate on the Ermolenko affair of some months ago and the very strong emotive terms in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs was attacked because of the balanced and sensible way in which he dealt with a very difficult subject. It is not for me to judge whether anyone should apologise. I would, with some reluctance, approach the Leader of the Opposition on the lines suggested by the honourable senator. I think the evidence which has come out since in relation to the freedom of Mr Ermolenko to migrate to this country, apparently free of restrictions, proves the stand which was taken by Senator Willesee and demonstrates and places on record the justification for and vindication of the approach which he took at the time.
-I refer to the recent statement made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concerning Aborigines in Alice Springs who have alcohol difficulties. Can the Minister say whether, in addition to transport and accommodation facilities to which he has referred, any arrangements have been made for social workers or similar personnel to be available? Can he indicate any steps which are being taken for rehabilitation or preventive measures?
– At the present time there is a big alcohol problem in Alice Springs. My Department has made arrangements to take over a house which is being granted to us by the Department of the Northern Territory. It will be used as an overnight shelter for alcoholics who at the present time have no home and who are around the streets or in the Todd River. My Department has made available an amount of $30,000 for the supervision of the home, for a conveyance to pick up Aborigines in the streets and for 2 officers to look after them and supervise their conduct from the time they come under the officers ‘ control.
In the home there will be no social workers and no medical teams. It is only an overnight shelter. We are in the process of discussing with the Department of the Northern Territory and the Department of Health the provision of a detoxification unit. Those who go to the overnight shelter and who can be persuaded to go to the detoxification unit will be transferred to that unit. The unit will have a social worker and medical facilities. It will operate in the same way as a drug referral centre for the purpose of trying to get some remedial action. I have some experience in drug problems. As honourable senators know I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. I am much impressed by what is being done at Kuitpo colony in South Australia. If we can repeat that experience in the Northern Territory and in other areas of Australia I think we will have many successes in rehabilitation.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. I refer to the reply given to my question on Tuesday last about Mr R. E. S. Edwards a former employee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I call to the Minister’s attention a letter sent to him by the Federal President of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association in December 1974 and to the Minister’s reply of 7 January in which the Minister advised that he had asked the Special Minister of State to inquire into this case, ls it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Public Service Board intend to oppose the proposal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association and further delay Mr Edwards’ case? ls it also a fact that the Minister is a party to the proceedings before the Public Service Arbitrator and accordingly can intervene in the proceedings? Does the Minister intend to do this, to give justice and equity to this long serving former employee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department?
– When I answered Senator Guilfoyle ‘s question on this matter last Tuesday- honourable senators will appreciate that it was put to me without notice- I said that my recollection was that representations had been made to me by my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory. After leaving the Senate chamber on Tuesday I checked the record. I found that not only did my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory make representations to me last November, but in December the President of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association, Mr Wynne, wrote to me about the matter. If I overlooked those representations, I apologise to the honourable senator and through her to the ABC Staff Association. The simple fact of the matter is that when those representations were received in my office one of my officers, Mr Rigby, rang Mr Wynne personally and told him that the matter did not come within my ministerial responsibility and was more a matter for the Special Minister of State. Mr Wynne then suggested that there was no need for me to reply in writing to the representations that he had made. However, I did reply formally on 7 January and tell Mr Wynne that I would discuss the matter with my colleague the Special Minister of State.
The facts as they have been explained to me by the ABC are that Mr Edwards transferred from the Postmaster-General’s Department to the ABC in 1962 in the belief that his entitlements in the Commission would not be different from what they would have been had he remained in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I was told that representations had been made on 2 occasions by the Commission to the Public Service Board, which administers the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act, in the hope that Mr Edwards could receive furlough at the increased rate of pay which operated in the Commission from the day after his retirement. I understand that this would have given Mr Edwards an additional amount of about $550. Mr Edwards also wrote to the Public Service Board direct and to a former Prime Minister. All these representations were given careful consideration and were rejected on legal grounds. The ABC Staff Association also represented Mr Edwards’s case to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission then asked the Treasury to consider making an ex gratia payment. That request was refused by the Treasury.
The ABC Staff Association now has before the Public Service Arbitrator a claim seeking a determination for payment of the additional amount in respect of furlough. Before responding formally to this claim the Commission consulted the Public Service Board and as a result of those consultations lodged a response with the Public Service Arbitrator as a respondent to the determination. Naturally I, as the Minister answerable to the Parliament for the ABC, am a nominal respondent to those arbitral proceedings. The matter is set down for a statutory conference on 7 March before the Deputy Public Service Arbitrator. If Mr Booth accepts the view set out that he has no power to make the determination sought by the ABC Staff Association, there still remains one possible further cause for the Association to follow and that is to ask the PublicService Arbitrator to change the date of his determination retrospectively for only Mr Edwards’s position. I understand that there is some disputation as to whether that suggestion has been made by the ABC or the the ABC Staff Association. However 1 am advised by the ABC that this suggestion has been discussed already with the ABC Staff Association, but so far the Association has not seen fit to adopt it or change its present application which the ABC believes is almost certain to be rejected by the Deputy Public Service Arbitrator on the ground of his inability to make a determination in the manner sought by the Association.
I have been in touch with the office of my colleague Mr Lionel Bowen again and have been advised that there is no change in the attitude of the Public Service Board. Apparently a statutory conference is to be held tomorrow before the Deputy Public Service Arbitrator to consider the matter. If it will help 1 want to tell the honourable senator and the ABC Staff Association, which obviously has approached her, that in view of all the circumstances, quite frankly, I feel terribly sorry for Mr Edwards. I will do whatever I can for him within the limits of my ministerial responsibility and I hope that eventually some justice will be done, but whether it be through the arbitral proceedings or in some other way 1 do not know. However, it is not within my ability, and that I regret.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and follows a question previously asked by Senator Young. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in yesterday’s Adelaide Advertiser’ which reports that the Minister for Science, Mr Morrison, said that the Trade Practices Act would be used to prohibit the sale of any fish with a mercury content higher than .5 parts per million? Is there any evidence that any person in Australia has had any ill effects from eating fish bought from fish shops? Will the Minister ask his colleagues to consider compensation payments to those fishermen who will lose their livelihood if the regulation is enforced?
– There is currently lengthy debate concerning the level of mercury in fish. The question asked earlier by Senator Young was directed to Senator James McClelland who has undertaken to get a detailed reply from the Minister for Science. Therefore I do not intend to involve myself in that area of responsibility. It is true that many fishermen around Australia would be concerned about the imposition of certain aspects of the Trade Practices Act. In order to clarify the position I initiated, in conjunction with the Minister for Science and the AttorneyGeneral, discussions with State officials which were held 2 days ago. No firm decision has been made.
There is no evidence of which I am aware that there have been any detrimental health effects from mercury which may be found in fish in Australian waters. It should be borne in mind that although the World Health Organisation has made a definitive judgment on this question, in Australia fish does not form a very significant part of our diet. To that extent I suppose we are protected. However, I can assure the honourable senator that no decision will be taken until such time as these matters have been fully discussed with the relevant State authorities. It should be pointed out, of course, that South Australia is the only State which currently accepts a mercury content level above .5 parts per million. Naturally one can understand the concern of the South Australian fishing industry, but let me assure the Senate that no decision will be taken on the application of the Trade Practices Act until such time as the matter has been fully canvassed by the States concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. It refers to the disclosure yesterday that the Government is considering making available visas for a visit by members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I ask the Minister whether this organisation has as its basicpledge the destruction and annihilation of Israel; secondly, whether it is this organisation that organised the massacre of some 13 Jewish athletes in Munich in 1972? Will the Minister agree that those who are seeking to arrange this visit to Australia are doing it simply as a propaganda exercise to prejudice the possible success of the efforts of Dr Kissinger or the United Nations to bring peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict?
– I gave an answer to a question concerning a renewed application by the Palestine Liberation Organisation to send a delegation to Australia and the Prime Minister himself has made a definitive statement about the matter. I do not propose to elaborate on it other than to say that the Australian Government’s position remains as it has always been. We adopt an even-handed attitude in the Middle East. We do not support terrorist activities by either side- I repeat, by either side. I think the Prime Minister stated again yesterday that if the PLO wishes to make a further application for admission of a delegation to this country it will receive the consideration of the Government.
-Mr President, I ask you to give me permission to represent to the Minister those parts of the question that he has not answered. This is the first time in my experience that I have made such a request. I remind you -
– Order! If you wish to ask a supplementary question it can only be for the purpose of elucidation. If you frame your question in that way you are entitled to ask a supplementary question.
– That is the nature of what I wish to ask. Is the basic plank of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s constitution the complete annihilation and destruction of Israel? Is the PLO the organisation which arranged the massacre of 13 Jewish athletes at Munich in 1972?
-Mr President, I would not know the specific answers to the question. I suggest that it be placed on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is it true that much of the identification jingle material used by commercial radio stations is imported? Is it also true that there are Australian musicians who are equipped to produce this material? What moves, if any, are under way to give those musicians an opportunity to perform this type of work and thus encourage and maintain an Australian sentiment which will enhance the standard of broadcasting in this country?
– I know that the honourable senator, on behalf of the Musicians Union, has been making representations to me on matters of this nature for some time. About last October the Australian Broadcasting Control Board sought the co-operation of stations in providing information relevant to a survey of the use of station identification jingles and advertising music by the stations. The Board discussed the results of the survey with the Federation of Commercial Broadcasters. I understand that as a result of those discussions the Broadcasting Control Board has decided that there is now sufficient expertise among Australian composers, arrangers and musicians to meet the relatively small demands of identification jingle production required for the stations. Consequently, I am pleased to be able to tell the honourable senator that the Broadcasting Control Board now believes that in the interests of further strengthening the Australian nature of broadcasting all station identification jingles should be wholly produced in this country and the Board has directed that generally speaking from 1 July of this year no station or program identification jingle which is imported may be broadcast. There are some qualifications, but I am now speaking in the generality. The honourable senator will know that the Musicians Union of Australia has been pressing for this for some time. It represents a great deal of work opportunities for Australian musicians, arrangers and composers and I am pleased to give the honourable senator that information.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that the International Air Transport Association and the ACTU Leisure Club, in association with the ACTU New World Travel agency, have to connive in order to breach the instructions of the Federal Department of Transport to all travel agents that they must not advertise, quote or sell international air tickets for less than the cost approved by the Australian Government? Will the Minister investigate why the mostly foreign controlled International Air Transport Association and the ACTU travel agency are able to break Government decisions and all other travel agencies are compelled to comply with the Government’s instructions?
– I think that the honourable senator should put the question on notice. I will then get the information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is it true that the commercial television station at Darwin, NTD8, was severely damaged in the recent cyclone disaster? Is it also true that more than 2 months after the cyclone the station, which is an integral pan of the Darwin community, is still out of operation? Can the Minister advise the Parliament when the station is likely to recommence a service to the 23 000 people who were reported recently to be living in the city?
– It is true that the commercial television station in Darwin was very heavily damaged by cyclone Tracy, and it is also true that it is still out of operation. When I was in Darwin with a number of my colleagues 2 days after the cyclone struck, I had discussions with Mr Lewis, the general manager of the television station, about the extent of the damage, the extent of insurance cover and other matters of that nature. I advised Mr Lewis to contact the officers of my Department. This he has now done. They have met with Mr Lewis. He has been asked to submit a full report on the station’s position, with projections of anticipated revenue and ongoing expenditure.
Naturally, because of the reduced and changed nature of the audience in Darwin, it can be anticipated that the operating costs of the station will exceed advertising revenue for at least the next year or so. However, my colleague Senator Wheeldon, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, has told me that the commercial television station, and indeed also the Australian
Broadcasting Commission station, will be entitled, as business undertakings, to compensation under the compensation Bill which is to be introduced into the Senate. Certainly I will also be conferring with the Minister for the Northern Territory to ascertain ways in which any other assistance might be provided to the station.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, relates to the question that I asked the Minister last Tuesday regarding the Government’s proposal to allow 2 Japanese automotive manufacturers, Nissan and Toyota, to manufacture vehicles in Australia, and specifically to the main aspects of my question which the Minister did not answer. I ask: Will not the introduction of 2 new manufacturers, in addition to the 4 existing manufacturers, create instability, seriously uneconomic short runs on production lines, the prospective failure of some manufacturers, unemployment and higher car prices? Alternatively, is the Government asserting- particularly to the employees of Ford, General Motors-Holden’s, Chrysler and Leyland- that 6 automotive industries will be viable and efficient? Does the Government make such an assertion?
– It is curious to find such a staunch advocate of the virtues of competition as Senator Carrick bewailing the fact that a policy of this Government might increase competition in the motor car industry. However, the short answer to his question is that the Government has not yet taken any decision at all about the manufacture of Japanese cars in Australia, and I do not feel disposed to discuss the matter until a decision has been taken.
– Again my question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the amount spent with his Department by organisations advertising events associated with International Women’s Year? Has the Department paid for or otherwise funded any advertising program for women’s organisations in Australia in connection with Internationa] Woman’s Year? If the answer is in the affirmative, what amount has been expended to date?
– I think this matter comes more within the ambit of the Prime Minister. I think an amount of approximately $2m has been set aside by the Government for the promotion of International Women’s Year in Australia. So far as advertising is concerned, my Department makes arrangements only for the placing of the advertising that is engaged in. The actual figures are not immediately available to me, but I will try to obtain them for the honourable senator and give him the information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement which was made recently by the Prime Minister in Tasmania regarding the takeover by the Commonwealth of the Tasmanian State Railways. I refer also to the statements made by Senator Cavanagh, as the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, to the relevant Senate Estimates committee on 22 October last year. He said:
The policy of the Government is to delete subsidies to railways … I think there may be further directions to the Commonwealth Railways to meet their own budget in the future.
I now ask whether that policy will be applied to the Tasmanian Railways if taken over by the Commonwealth. If so, has any estimate been made of the extent to which Tasmanian railway freight rates will be increased to convert the existing $ 10.5m operating loss into a profit?
– I am not able to answer a question of that detail. I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper and I will obtain a reply from the Prime Minister.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Science aware of the widespread and growing objections by individuals, consumers and businesses to the continued implementation of the metric conversion program and of the allegations of increasing costs, waste, confusion and inflationary effects of the present program? Is the Government prepared to suspend conversion so that its costs and benefits may be reassessed, as advocated by the now Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, in May of last year, or to appoint an independent investigation to assess the comparative costs and benefits of limiting or suspending the further implementation of the program or continuing with it on the present basis?
– I am aware that in certain quarters there is an objection, amounting almost to a campaign, against the implementation of metric conversion. I must confess that I, having such difficulty as I have in converting to the metric measures, sometimes wonder whether it will not make life a little too difficult, especially for people in my age bracket. Its cost effects, especially in a period such as the present, also merit some examination. I see some merit in the suggestions that have been put by the honourable senator. I will convey them to the Minister for Science and in due course let the honourable senator have a reply.
– Can the Minister for the Media say whether the Australian Film Institute is planning a presentation of major awards this month? If so. is the Australian Government involved in this venture? Can the Minister say in what way the Government is involved?
-The Australian Film Institute, which I understand is a corporate voluntary organisation, has it headquarters in Melbourne. The aims and objects of the Institute are to promote film in Australia. Its annual awards event is to take place, I think, on 2 1 March of this year. The Australian Government is involved, in that the Australian Film Development Corporation, which is a statutory body funded by the Australian Government, will be making available a cash prize of $5,000 to the award winning producer of a story film of 65 minutes or longer duration which is produced for cinema exhibition. The Department of the Media will be giving $ 1 ,000 plus a trophy for the most imaginative use of film technique depicting Australian life or endeavour. I understand that a number of commercial people are also involved. The Film Development Corporation is involved to the extent of $5,000 and my Department to the extent of $1,000.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Will the Minister provide to the Senate the following details on unemployment as at the end of February: 1. Current monthly cost of the Regional Employment Development scheme; 2. Current monthly cost of the National Employment and Training scheme; 3. Current monthly cost of the income averaging plan; and -
– Order! This question should be put on notice. It would be impossible for the Minister to have those figures at his disposal.
-The other item, Mr President, is other current costs associated with unemployment benefits.
- Senator Bishop, do you wish to answer the question?
– 1 can answer only one part of the question on the information before me. I suggest that the remainder of the question which seeks detailed information be put on notice. The information I have from Mr Clyde Cameron is that the total amount which has been provided under the Regional Employment Development scheme is $77,31 1,000, of which the Commonwealth Government has provided $60,662,000. 1 ask Senator Bessell to put the remainder of the question on notice.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, relates to treatment at repatriation hospitals of people not entitled to repatriation benefits. Noting the intention of the Minister to make available facilities in the proposed emergencyaccident centre at the Repatriation General Hospital at Concord to road accident and other emergency cases from a ‘source area to be delineated by the Health Commission of New South Wales’- they are the Minister’s words- I ask: Has the Minister’s discussion with the Health Commission included determination for the sharing of financial responsibility between Federal, State and private sectors responsible for health care? Will the Minister advise the Senate what these arrangements are? Is the Department of Repatriation and Compensation to undertake regular care for non-entitled emergency or accident cases entirely at Commonwealth expense? If so, under what appropriation item is such expenditure authorised?
– I think-I am not sure- that I answered a question several days ago about the appropriation for this expenditure. The cost would be included in the general appropriations for the Repatriation Commission. The practice, as I understand it- it is largely administered by the Commission itself rather than by me directly as Minister- has been that although a growing number of facilities are made available to people other than those who are entitled to benefits under the Repatriation Act the cost has been met by the Repatriation Commission itself through its budget and no reimbursement has been sought from some other source. I can, however, see the difficulty that could be involved in the growing use of repatriation hospitals by persons other than people who are entitled to those benefits. I would agree that a rather distorted financial picture would be presented if the percentage of patients being treated in repatriation hospitals were to grow very substantially, whether they were special patients who were brought in, as is the case in a number of repatriation hospitals, because of some special facilities available, or people who were being treated in emergency circumstances such as is the case in the Repatriation General Hospital at Concord.
I think that the best thing I can do is to ask my officers to discuss this matter with me and possibly at some later time make a rather more detailed statement of the general policy line which we are adopting on this question. I think Senator Baume would agree that it can be very wasteful to have repatriation hospitals, some of which have very wide ranges of equipment being used solely by repatriation beneficiaries, who are tending to become an older group of people, particularly if those facilities are not available for emergencies, which was the case until fairly recently. But at the same time I take his point that there can be budgetary problems involved in providing services which perhaps more rationally should be provided by some other hospital service. After I have consulted with my officers I shall make a statement as to what our future policy will be with regard to budgeting for the provision of these services by my Department.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that a major telephone installation was effected at the Florida Hotel, Terrigal, and in nearby motels and guest houses prior to the recent Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party? What was the cost of the equipment and labour? Did the Australian Labor Party foot the bill? Was the new equipment removed after the Conference?
– I do not have with me the information sought by Senator Maunsell but it is contained in an answer given, I think yesterday, to a question asked by Mr Killen in the House of Representatives. I do not know whether there is any other information that the honourable senator wants. He will find in that answer information about how the costs were shared. If the honourable senator wants any further information I will get it for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the Defence Services are called upon to provide a wide range of emergency relief equipment from their own stores in times of natural disasters? Can the Minister say whether those stores are so used and, if so, how they are replenished and whether the cost is met from the defence vote or a special appropriation?
-I think that the substance of Senator Sheil ‘s question can be answered only by referring to the experience gained from the recent cyclone in Darwin. The answer is yes. Previously the Services had to provide such supplies but I think that it would be clear from their participation recently in the provision of relief following such disasters as floods, fires, and the more recent cyclone in Darwin, that they would be specially funded. I will have to get a precise answer for the honourable senator. I will send it to him during the week.
– I direct a question to Senator Wheeldon in his capacity as the representative in this chamber of Dr Cass, the Minister for Environment and Conservation. I ask: Is the Minister in a position to indicate the Government’s reponse to the concern expressed in some quarters about the proliferation of weeds which can jeopardise the Murray-Darling river system?
-Yes. A number of groups in the Murray River area have raised this matter with the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. The principal problem there appears to be the water hyacinth. I must say that I am rather sad that a plant with such a romantic name should be subject to such calumny by the citizens who live around the area in which it grows. The Bureau of Environmental Studies, which is a division of the Department of the Environment and Conservation, is trying to obtain the services of an overseas authority on the subject of the water hyacinth with the intention of carrying out an urgent study of the problem in order to develop some means whereby the growth of the water hyacinth can be controlled. There is general concern in the area about water hyacinth in not only the Murray River but also other river systems. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which Senator James McClelland could speak on with much more authority than I can, is investigating techniques for the biological control of the weed. It is possible that he will like to add something to what I have said on the subject. I also understand that the New South Wales Department of Agriculture has made available to the Boomi Shire Council, which is responsible for noxious weeds control in the infested area, the sum of $50,000 for immediate spraying of the infestation with environmentally acceptable weedicides. I note that Senator Wriedt, the Minister for Agriculture, with his knowledge of dried fruits, has some interest in this matter. Spraying has commenced. The Australian Agricultural Council has referred the general question of aquatic weeds to the Australian Water Resources Council of which Dr Cass is Chairman.
-I undertook to obtain further details in answer to the latter part of a question from Senator Greenwood in the Senate on 4 March about whether the Government, as an elementary exercise in protecting an Australian’s human rights, would refuse to hold the projected talks with the Pathet Lao Minister for the Economy, who is about to visit Australia, until the Pathet Lao have given satisfactory assurances about the welfare and future of Mr Sharman. I have been provided the following further details about this question.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has himself recently written to the Lao Foreign Minister expressing the Australian Government ‘s concern at the lack of confirmation by the Lao Patriotic Front that it is holding Mr Sharman, and seeking either his release or consular access to him. The Lao Foreign Minister has undertaken to ask the Lao Patriotic Front’s headquarters for a further examination of all the evidence relating to Mr Sharman ‘s whereabouts. The proposed visit of a Lao economic mission, scheduled for midJanuary, was postponed at the request of the Lao authorities. No date has since been fixed for the mission to come here.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the second report by the Royal Commission on Petroleum, entitled: ‘Proposals for New Refineries in New South Wales’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a statement by the Minister for Minerals and Energy on uranium exploration in the Northern Territory.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Director-General of Natural Disasters Organisation on the Darwin relief operations 25
December 1974 - 3 January 1975. Due to the limited number available at this time I have arranged for reference copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper. 1 ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 I present five agreements made under that Act relating to Queensland and Tasmania.
– I bring up the report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on proposals for variations to the plan and layout of the City of Canberra and its environs, the 56th and 57th series.
Order that the report be printed.
– I ask leave to move a motion for the Senate to take note of the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
This report tabled on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory is the first report on variations of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs since November 1973. This was the date on which the report on the 55th series was tabled. The present 2 series involve 50 items. The reason for the substantial number of variations is because 15 months have elapsed since the previous series was reported upon. Many of the proposals covered in the 56th and 57th series are works for which money has been voted in the present financial year. Therefore, the Committee deemed it imperative to consider and report upon these proposals as early as possible.
The majority of the proposals are, in fact, routine changes. These comprise drafting amendments to the plan for works yet to be undertaken, or exercises in regularisation, which restore to the plan existing roads which through error were omitted. Some proposals did draw objection from the public. Accompanied by officers of the National Capital Development Commission and the Committee secretariat, I and in some instances Committee members inspected the site of those proposals. There are, however, 5 items to which I focus attention. These involved: A new medium density government housing development; the placing of appropriate warning road signs; the development of an area for secretariats of national institutions; the degazettal of a section of the reservation for the future extention of Yarra Glen; and the possibility of problems of air pollution which could arise following the approval of a proposed variaton in the Jerrabomberra industrial area.
The first item concerns a medium density government residential development in Melba. Presently, the plans do not allow for a small shopping facility. The attention of the NCDC was directed to this and its representatives indicated they would look seriously at this in the later stages of construction. The Committee forcefully advocated the establishment of such a shopping facility. Two further items involve the problem of cul-de-sac roads. Notwithstanding the paucity of such street signs, the Committee has expressed the opinion that there should be erected at the entrance to each cul-de-sac a ‘No Through Traffic’ sign to minimise vehicular traffic. The construction of secretariat buildings for national institutions at section 37, Deakin, will place some additional pressure on surrounding roads. The Committee requested the NCDC to make representations to the appropriate authority to closely observe the additional traffic generated by the development and if appropriate and necessary traffic amendment measures be instituted.
The de-gazettal of a secton of the reservation for Yarra Glen south of the Yarra Glen, Melrose Drive, Yamba Drive round-about will effectively preclude future development of this thoroughfare as a direct route to and from the Woden Valley and certain areas of Tuggeranong. The Committee feels this will impose problems at the intersection of Hindmarsh Drive and the Tuggeranong Parkway which is presently controlled by traffic control signals. The Committee has recommended, in order to avoid traffic problems, that an overpass be constructed at that intersection as soon as it is practicable to do so. The final item I comment upon on behalf of the Committee concerns proposed developments of an access road in the Jerrabomberra industrial area. The proposed variation is itself minor. However, the attending problems of air polution resulting from development involving construction of the road were drawn to the Committee’s attention. The Committee has, therefore, recommended that before any industrial undertakings began operation, the proposed Clean Air Ordinance be enacted to provide an appropriate and efficient means of regulating industrial pollution. The Committee is still actively considering the 58th series of variations which concern the construction of the Molonglo Arterial. The Committee will be holding further hearings with parties interested in this proposal, but it is hoped to report to the Parliament in the near future. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Is General Business notice of motion No. 16, standing in the name of Senator McAuliffe and relating to the appointment of a standing committee, formal or not formal?
– Not formal. Mr President, I am calling ‘not formal’.
– An objection has been lodged and noted.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered, Government Business take precedence of General Business after 3 p.m. this day.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 8 April 1975, at half-past two p.m., unless sooner called together by the President, or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
– I move:
The subject matter of my motion is determinations by the Remuneration Tribunal tabled in the Senate 2 days ago. Those determinations determine substantial salary increases for members of Parliament, including Ministers in their capacity as members, and also public servants and holders of statutory offices. I seek to persuade the Senate to disapprove those determinations. I start with a very great advantage in that this chamber as recently as July last acceded to that proposition. Far from the interim period providing circumstances which would justify an acceptance of the determinations today, the interim period has provided circumstances that show that our economy has become critically worse. Paragraph 16 of the review states:
In terms of broader movements, it is to be noted that from the March quarter 1973 to the December quarter 1974 (latest available) average weekly earnings per employed male unit (seasonally adjusted) increased by 44.0 per cent. The increase to the March quarter 1975 gould well be over 50 per cent. From end-March 1973 to end-November 1974, weighted average minimum weekly wage rates for adult males increased by 49. 1 per cent. The Consumer Price Index increased by 28.9 per cent between the March quarter 1973 and the December quarter 1974. The increase to the March quarter 1 975 might be expected to be over 33.0 per cent.
The increase in the consumer price index of which the Tribunal is conscious may rise to over 33 per cent by this month of March. I had obtained those figures from the Statistician on Monday when I saw from the Press on Sunday that somebody was rustling up this Tribunal’s report again. There is one other figure which I obtained and to which the Tribunal does not advert. In the period from March 1973 to the end of September 1974, which is the latest period for which figures were available to me, the net return for gross farm products was $929m in March 1973 and $870m in September 1974; that is to say, a fall of 6.4 per cent in the industry which still supplies 50 per cent of our export income. Of course, with this preoccupation that Canberra has, its myrmidons, including those tribunals that are prepared to act as satellites of government here, do not even advert to the wide ranging circumstances of economic downturn and the reduction of production in primary industry of 6.9 per cent when only 1 8 months ago the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) was prophesying a bonanza.
To me it is an insult for a tribunal in those circumstances to re-present a report which this chamber has disallowed, different only in insignificant details from the determinations that we disallowed as recently as last July. I cannot understand the reasoning by which a responsible tribunal can set out those figures in paragraph 16 and in the face of them advocate acrosstheboard increases for members of this chamber of 37 per cent and huge increases for public servants and members of this chamber being entirely within the authority of this chamber for the purpose of this determination as to the appropriate remuneration that should be permitted in the public interest.
The next thing that I find most disquietening with regard to the operation of this tribunal is that it cannot be said even on its own assertions in its report that any proper inquiry has been conducted preceding this so-called determination ‘so-called’ because in a court of law there would probably be a case for certiorari to quash it. The determination of last July having been disallowed simply to be re-presented with a few insignificant detail changes is not a genuine determination. But the Act under which this tribunal proceeds requires the Tribunal before every determination to inquire. Certainly the statute says that the manner of inquiry shall be the tribunal’s own determination but that at least requires genuine, purposeful and, in procedure, appropriate inquiry by the Tribunal. It is a travesty of the very term ‘inquiry ‘ in association with a tribunal to consider the hole-and-corner conversations that this tribunal has had- casually with some and cunningly with others- with those who have places of high influence and whose nod is to be followed. It is a travesty of the term to call the processes engaged in by this tribunal an inquiry.
When I was notified last year that there would be an inquiry for the first time since I have been in this Parliament, I thought it my duty, in the view of the absolutely menacing circumstances in the economy, to submit a deliberate proposition to the Tribunal. To my horror, on presenting myself at the place appointed I found the 3 members of the Tribunal ensconced in a room that did not permit the attendance of the public simply on its physical dimensions. The Tribunal was without recording apparatus to ensure that for my protection what I said would be faithfully recorded and that for its protection I would not misunderstand and misinterpret what the Tribunal said. To me it was a wholly vulnerable situation from every point of view, both inside and outside the Tribunal, that it did not equip itself with the ordinary protection that every other tribunal operating within the Commonwealth agencies equips itself with, that is to say, a faithful record of proceedings.
On this occasion even that poor acceptance of proper procedures has been dispensed with. When I was alerted to the fact that the Tribunal was reactivating the report that we had destroyed last July, I rang the Secretary the next morning and asked had the Tribunal circulated invitations for submissions. I was told no. I asked whether it was going to do so. I was told no. I asked what was the stage of the Tribunal ‘s deliberations. I was told that it was considering determinations. On Monday morning of this week there was no indication that the report had been completed and was either in the hands of the Ministers or about to be handed to the Ministers. In view of this lack of inquiry, which the Parliament has stipulated is a necessary prerequisite, I have no respect that is proper to be expressed to the Tribunal. The submission that I made to the Tribunal last year was in writing and I also spoke to it before the Tribunal. The submission began:
The national need to resist intiation is an outstanding requirement at this time. Inflation has been fostered by annual increases in wages and particularly in unjustified high salaries. 1 went on to state: lt is, in my submission, grossly unfair and wrong to give a litter on $5,000 an increase of 10 percent, equal to $500, and to give a public officer on $25,000 the same 10 per cent, equal to $2,500. The increment is not justifiable in either case except to adjust increases in cost of living relative to the recipient ‘s circumstances.
I went on, and this has got to be thought through by the public interests of this country:
Repetitive percentage increases over a period of 10 years will exaggerate differences in income in different classes beyond tolerance. 1 presented that view to the Tribunal, and I referred to the year 1789. If members of Parliament every 10 years continue to increase by 10 per cent the salary of people on $25,000 a year and increase by only 10 per cent the salary of a fitter on $5000 a year, there will not be tolerance. I think that the people who have the responsibility, and the advantage of higher emoluments, should take very serious stock of the situation; yet the Tribunal takes the opposite point of view.
After considering the impact of the progressive rate schedules of income tax and the philosophies for wage redistribution, the Tribunal said that redistribution under it may have to become a preoccupation of the Tribunal. I cannot find the exact terms in the Tribunal’s findings, but I state the substance of them. In my written submission to the Tribunal I went on to state:
It is essential to commence the duties of the Tribunal by looking behind the curtain a little. Ministers increases in 1 973 were inordinately high. Junior Ministers were increased from $24,000 to $34,000.
That was the dimension of the increase in the salaries of junior Ministers 4 months after the
Labor Government came into office. When Labor came into office the emoluments of junior Ministers stood at $23,750 a year. In April 1973 they were advanced to $33,975. If this determination stands, the emoluments of those Ministers will be increased to $39,475, plus all the perks of the position- not forgetting the travelling allowance of, I think $48 a day. In addition to the emolument of $39,000, an amount of $4,875 is to be given as a special allowance because of the exigencies of ministerial office. In my submission to the Tribunal I went on to state:
So many people gain advantage by increases and their overflows, that it does not pay to resist pockets of injustice.
I then said:
No increases should be granted to any Ministers, lt should be borne in mind that in addition to statutory allowancesnothing taxable- the amounts received for travel allowances are considerable and yield, in most cases, profit.
In my submission I added- I re-present it with increased validity today:
Although the present salaries of senators and members are moderate, relatively, to some Public Service salaries and commercial executive salaries, the increases last year, though delayed, were considerable.
That is to say, the increase in the salaries of senators and members from $9,500 to $14,500 a year was quite considerable relatively, even though I still accept the proposition that relative to Public Service salaries and high executive salaries it was a modest remuneration. In my submission I stated further:
It is imperative that representatives, whose national duty is to govern and control inflation, should not foster it, for their own advantage, unless the denial of increase would cause hardship.
I emphasise the word ‘hardship’. I continued:
In no case is it possible to assert this. Parliament has the responsibility of governing to control inflation. If members do not restrain their own demands it cannot be wondered at that the subordinate agencies, the Public Service Board and the Arbitration Commission, are ineffective. Parliamentary Members’ salaries are exceptional in their significance in the national anti-inflationary interest-
In their amount they are minimal, but in their nature, as indicating the level of responsibility and the urgency of containing inflation and resisting wage increases which are the chief ingredient of the critical inflation today, salaries of members are of the utmost significance. I omit other parts of my submission and concentrate on those that I think are very relevant today. In paragraph 7 1 said:
In making comparisons between Parliamentary or Public Service salaries on the one hand, with private incomes on the other, it is unjust to forget that retirement superannuation is provided largely at the public expense, as an incident of service.
Anybody in this chamber who would deny the almost unique advantage, from the point of view of security and the inexpensive contribution that is required to maintain it, and the exceptional benefit of parliamentary retirement superannuation, does not understand what is going on in the world outside. A superannuation benefit, which after 8 years of service is equivalent to half current salary and which increases with every year of service by annual increments to, I think, 70 per cent or 75 per cent of current value after 20 years, is an insurance of the utmost importance to parliamentarians. It is beyond price from the point of view of the security it gives as an incident of this occupation. In paragraph 8 I said:
It is important not to overlook Parliamentary allowances, e.g. Committee and sessional allowances. Canberra allowances are now $22 a day- this may yield a considerable surplus over expenditure where bed and breakfast accommodation is available at $10 a day.
I said that in relation to the allowance of $22 a day, but in this report it is proposed that the Canberra allowance be increased to $37 a day, which is one-third of the ordinary workman’s weekly wage. This allowance is a purely fortuitous or accidental adjunct to the ordinary parliamentary allowance. It has been retained from a time when parliamentary allowances were exceedingly insignificant and were added to in order to meet expenses. As with so many other things that get into the pool of emoluments for public figures, the allowance continues.
I need not trouble with committee allowances. They were then being charged in respect of days on which Parliament sat. Some people were drawing 2 committee allowances a day. I think the Tribunal displays an unfortunate lack of knowledge with regard to the proper remuneration for committees. It has abolished all committee allowances and has given chairmen of committees $500 a year, which I submit just shows how hopelessly inadequate this Tribunal is in understanding parliamentary work. A proper daily fee should be allowed on all days other than days on which the member is sitting on a committee and at the same time attending Parliament, as a proper recognition of the special call that committee work makes upon the member. I do not make that important subject in my submission today. In my submission I refer to other matters, but I restrain myself from further quotation.
My submission at that time was overridden to a large extent by the report that came into the Senate in July 1974. It was a proud occasion for me when, without canvassing support and on my own judgment, I took the course of submitting a notice of motion to this chamber and it attracted such support within the chamber that it became effective before midnight. The chamber then agreed by a majority to disapprove the Tribunal’s recommendations. In the meantime what was the situation? The day before that determination was submitted to us the then Treasurer had spoken to the Parliament and said:
I say without exaggeration that the Australian economy now faces a highly dangerous situation. Let me focus on 2 key elements. First, costs are now rising very fast. In 1 973-74 average weekly earnings rose by 16 per cent. They are now rising at over 20 per cent. But such figures have nothing to do with the real purchasing power of those wages.
A dangerous situation was indicated by a rise of 20 per cent in average weekly earnings. Between April 1973 and December 1974 the increase in average weekly earnings was 44 per cent and the Tribunal expects that by this month it will be over 50 per cent. The then Treasurer continued:
I do not prolong the point. We have a wages explosion which is damaging everyone, and wage-earners as well.
He illustrated the point. He said: . . in the last 12 months inflation has ripped off well over $ 1,000m from the real value of savings bank depositsdeposits owned for the most part by the little people, the ordinary people of this country. That hidden and insidious tax, which of course falls also on all other savings through financial assets, goes largely unremarked. It is not the stuff of headlines.
It took a long time for that point of view of Mr Crean to gain acceptance within his Government. It was resisted by Dr Cairns who was adjusting his trumpet to the various winds and once a month trumpeting different theoretical economic nonsense. As he admitted on ‘Monday Conference’ 10 days ago he found that none of the factual considerations of government lined up with his economic theories and he admitted that he was in an atmosphere of defeatism. I shall quote a recent report of the utterances of the Prime Minister in Adelaide to the Young Labor Association on 26 January this year. It appears that the Prime Minister has half convinced his present Treasurer. The report states:
Mr Whitlam has now completely admitted the situation. Excessive union wage demands had caused Australia’s unemployment and inflation crisis, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said at the weekend in Adelaide. He said that inflation today was indubitably, primarily and almost solely due to wage claims and increases. ‘The cause of unemployment is, frankly, the excessive wage demands’, Mr Whitlam told the Young Labor Association’s conference. ‘You cannot blame Vietnam for the inflation in the Western world still. You cannot blame the oil crisis for the inflation in Australia. You cannot blame the take-overs and the currency rates for inflation in Australia now. You have to place the blame on wage claims ‘.
That proposition has been asserted by leaders of the Opposition for many months. It is now asserted by the Prime Minister of this country. Mr Crean said that we were facing a dangerous economic situation when the increase of average weekly earnings was then 16 per cent and expected to go to 20 per cent. It is now 44 per cent and is expected to go up to 50 per cent. The consumer price index increase was then much lower. It is now expected by this Tribunal to be more than 30 per cent.
I am deeply dismayed and disappointed that we are confronted in this chamber today with the re-presentation of determinations which we disapproved last July. I did not think it possible that anyone, in view of the calamitous deterioration that has taken place in the economy since, could contemplate the acceptance of that which was rejected last July. One has only to read the newspapers of yesterday and today to wonder whether it was by accident or whether it was contrived by communication that immediately the federal machine went in to magnify parliamentary increases Mr Hamer presented a proposal, I would have thought, of inordinate dimension. This morning Mr Lewis presented more modest proposals; nevertheless, in relation to the period they may be highly excessive. The 3 increases are combined. What has been going on under the surface to prompt the Australian Government’s independent tribunal to spring into action at the same time as the same spirit moves Melbourne and Sydney? Independence is a word which deserves a more respectable application. Whether it will be said that we are entitled by relativity and wage justice to these increases depends upon one ‘s point of view.
My old classical master used to teach me the words of one Greek philosopher, which were: The true access to happiness is not to satisfy your desires but to moderate them’. I think that that might be pondered on. The headline in the Australian’ this morning is ‘Pilots want 23 per cent more’. These are Qantas pilots. The newspaper calls them the fat cats of the Australian airline industry. Their pay rose 27.6 per cent late last year after, of course, bitter opposition by Mr Clyde Cameron and Dr Cairns whose attitude I supported completely. After their salaries rose that much the pilots are in the bid again for 23 per cent. Anyone who cannot see the significance of springing this increase of 37 per cent for members of Parliament into the economy today has to look only at what it has already engendered in the State field and in this important field of Qantas pilots. I ask honourable senators to consider what a resurgence of unbridled, unjustified wage demands will come forward in the next 6 months.
It is purely on this ground as a matter of public duty that I consider the Senate is bound in its judgment to disapprove these recommendations. Specifically I refer to the increase for junior Ministers. On 1 April 1973 their annual salaries were increased by $10,000 by reason of an Act of Parliament and by this determination they will be increased by another $5,500. Their rise, from $23,750 to $39,475, is excessive. In the present inflationary circumstances it is highly irresponsible. A 37 per cent increase for ordinary backbenchers of this Parliament from $14,500 to $20,000 in the same circumstances is excessive. When I was questioned on this matter last July it was put to me that I would grant no increase. I said that if it were left to me my judgment would be an increase of $ 1 ,000 or $ 1 ,500. Today I think the appropriate figure might be justified at $2,500 to $3,000, but certainly not $5,500. To anybody who says that I am cutting it fine I say that my assessment is that an increase of more than half of what the Tribunal has recommended could not be justified in any circumstances and that in the present circumstances there can be no excuse for granting the increase recommended by the Tribunal.
There is one important matter by way of subsidiary detail with which I wish to deal. Things work here on the ratchet principle. That phrase is not to be confused with the rackets principle, but the 2 work in complete co-operation. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) communicated a letter to the Party rooms on Tuesday that, as a result of his grace and understanding, the Government was going to offer members of Parliament extra staff assistance at a maximum remuneration of $7,500 for the discharging of the duties of research or secretarial work. It was emphasised in that letter that under no circumstances would pooling be permitted. In last year’s report the Tribunal said that it thought it would be appropriate to give consideration to the provision of extra research assistance. In this year’s report the Tribunal having referred to Mr Daly’s letter, said at paragraph 23:
This scheme does not accord with the Tribunal’s recommendations in its 1974 Review and is not the best usage or additional staff in the interests of the efficient working of the Parliament. We recommend strongly that the funds to be made available in accordance with the above letter of 27 February 1975 be allocated for the provision of research assistance rather than additional secretarial assistance. To provide effective research facilities, the pooling of individual allocations should be encouraged rather than, as in the initial broad outline of the scheme, specifically prohibited.
So I pose the question: Will those who approve of this determination carry it through and alter Mr Daly’s proposition with regard to the provision of additional staff assistance? I say that we should indicate the inconsistency between the Government’s announcement earlier in the week and the report, excerpts from which I have read. The last matter of detail to which 1 have referred in my motion has already been touched on by me in my speech, that is, the daily travelling allowance, which I suggest is quite excessive. The payment of $37 a day for travelling expenses only encourages high hotel and motel expenses to be incurred. We should be able to accommodate ourselves on a much more modest scale.
Among the telegrams I have received on this matter is one from Mr Bull, who I think is the communist Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation in Melbourne. He has urged me to desist from this cause as wage restraint is contrary to the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Another telegram, which I have just selected for reference, was received from one of the branches of the Liberal Party of Australia. It applauds the move that I am making in the interests of the economy. To find that contrariety of opinion- one from a communist secretary and the other from a Liberal Party branch- fortifies my confidence that the course I am taking is proper and in the public interest. I ask the Senate to consider this proposition very seriously in the interests of this Parliament, as the keystone of this nation, and in the light of the highly dangerous inflationary situation in which we find ourselves today, as was acknowledged by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) this morning when he said that the Commonwealth Budget is today running at a deficit of over $2,700m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Deputy President. I listened with very great interest to the address which Senator Wright gave to this House. This is, of course, a subject which naturally brings about protests when decisions like this are made. I feel that the matter that Senator Wright has put before the chamber is of very deep and great concern to those of us who truly think on a national basis. Upon reading this morning’s newspapers, which Senator Wright quoted today- not that I am influenced by what journalists write in this regard- what impressed me was the fact that this proposed increase has influenced a number of organisations and unions to say that now is the time to trigger off another round of inflationary wage increase applications. This is, as Senator Wright has put forward, a very serious time in the economy of this country. I believe that we have reached a national crisis stage. Therefore it is up to those of us who feel some responsibility to show that responsibility in relation to this matter.
As Senator Wright pointed out, we decided last July not to accept the then recommended increases. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) spoke on that matter at the time. Eventually the majority of the senators agreed not to accept the increases. What disappointed me was that to my knowledge the Prime Minister never referred to and used the example set by the parliamentarians in trying to impress upon others that they should not push the wage rises that they were then seeking. I think that he failed miserably in not using that as an example to the people. I felt that we may have made a mistake and that on this occasion we should accept the recommended increases because of the fact that no usage was made of that example. But on thinking this matter over, particularly after listening to the seriousness of the situation as put forward by Senator Wright in his very fine argument, I feel that from the point of view of national conscience we should not go ahead and accept these increases at this moment. I have therefore taken this opportunity to say in a short speech that I was impressed by the arguments put forward by Senator Wright and that it was under those circumstances that I seconded the motion.
– I believe that we have just listened to a couple of speeches which are notable for 2 things, that is, their transparency and their insincerity.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I think the use of the word insincerity’ casts a reflection upon me. If there is one quality that I have been known to have throughout my life it is that of sincerity. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to withdraw that remark because he has no authority for saying or evidence to prove that I am not sincere.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Senator Wriedt, I think that what you have said is a reflection on the two earlier speakers. I uphold Senator Wood’s point of order and ask that you withdraw the remark.
– If you require me to withdraw the offending words I certainly will do so. It is a matter of regret that in a debate in this chamber concerning remuneration of members of Parliament we hear an attack on an increase recommended by a duly appointed tribunal; an attack by probably two of the wealthiest men in this Parliament. Is it not a fact that the 2 honourable senators concerned, namely Senator Wright and Senator Wood, are members of this Parliament who have been in receipt of incomes outside their parliamentary allowances for many, many years? Is it not a fact that Senator Wright has been a prominent member of the legal profession for many years in his home State of Tasmania? I would have thought that we might have heard some comment from him as to what his income is outside this Parliament. The same might apply to Senator Wood. I did not intend to make those sorts of comments and I do not like making them but until such time as they are proved to be otherwise I believe them to be true. It is for that reason, Mr Deputy President, that perhaps I did err in making the comments I made when I rose to speak.
– You have sunk to a level without precedent to which I will reply.
-I did not interrupt you, Senator Wright, I could have chopped into you many times while you spoke. I ask you to show me the same respect. I believe that Senator Wright’s basic proposition really stemmed from a defence of what might be called a prices and incomes policy. He seemed to deplore the fact that people on high incomes were people who should not in fact receive more proportionately than people on low incomes. He quoted from the submission he put before the Tribunal last year as though those were original thoughts on his part. I can remember the debates in this Senate when he was a Minister and receiving all the privileges and perks that he talked about and which he now accuses other people of receiving while in the position of Ministers. When the inequities of the distribution of income in this country were being debated I do not remember Senator Wright getting to his feet and defending the fitter and turner. There were members of the Opposition who did but he remained silent in his seat. Now it is convenient for him to put on some sort of a holier than thou attitude for the purposes of consumption in the electorate. He did this last year and it did not impress the electors of his home State anyway. His own vote plummeted at the last election. I suggest that the wool is not going to be pulled over the eyes of the electors this time.
This Government has tried, by its support for the indexation principle, at least in part to overcome the problems of increasing disparity of incomes. The proposals which the Minister for
Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, is supporting in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are designed to lift people on the lower incomes. We have had some success in this direction. But more importantly than that, was it not Senator Wright, and I would say Senator Wood also, who also opposed this Government’s proposals on income powers in 1973? Did we not as a government recognise then the need to exercise wage restraint and that this could be done only at the Federal level? It would not matter, Mr Deputy President, with respect, whether a Labor or a Liberal government were in office because if we are going to be effective we would need those powers at the Federal level. In this case I am not extending my criticism to the Opposition because I understand that other members of the Opposition at least are being consistent. But I object to the inconsistencies obviously displayed by both Senator Wright and Senator Wood. We have adopted the principle of trying to take increases in parliamentary salaries out of the Parliament itself. We, supported by the Parliament, appointed a Tribunal so why should we not accept its recommendations? I am surprised that these aspersions should be cast on the Tribunal. I refer Senator Wright to page 103 of the Tribunal’s report. There he will find, in Appendix D, the list of individuals or organisations who made written submissions or who were interviewed by the Tribunal since the 1974 review. He will find a lot of prominent names on the following 3 pages. It is quite evident that in view of the short time which had transpired from the time of gathering that vast amount of evidence which the Tribunal took in the 1974 determination that it was unnecessary to repeat the whole process. Obviously the Tribunal, in its judgment, in fact did consult, read and consider the submissions of a vast number of people before this determination was finalised. I believe it is a disgrace to the Senate that any honourable senator should stand up and question the integrity of that Tribunal. That is exactly what Senator Wright did. Because the Tribunal has brought down a report which is not consistent with his particular point of view he has decided that the best thing to do is to cast a reflection on its integrity. If in fact there had been a deeper investigation by the Tribunal we might have found that the proposal put by it to the Parliament would have required bigger increases in parliamentary salaries and allowances.
Senator Wright also referred to the fact that salaries of parliamentarians are of the utmost significant in the context that if we show an example the rest of the community will follow. This argument was canvassed thoroughly last year. I think there were honourable senators on both sides of the chamber who accepted that there was some validity in that argument but what has been the result? We have seen, as I have said already, the most significant increases in incomes over the past 12 months during the very time when parliamentary salaries were frozen. That freezing made not one iota of impact on other wage claims in the community. It is an absurdity to select any section of the community and say that it cannot have the increases but everybody else can. What a disaster it would be, for example, if the law determined that lawyers cannot have increases in incomes but everybody else can. I wonder if Senator Wright would support that proposition. In fact what we are looking at is an overall problem of incomes in the community. Although that is not specifically the subject matter of this motion I concede it is related. It is a matter that the Government and the Parliament as a whole have to be prepared to look at seriously in the immediate future.
I oppose the motion on the ground that it is a selective attack. I cannot use the words I have used before and I will not do so; nevertheless it concerns and disappoints me that issues of this nature can be used for purely political purposes. The arguments are not sound in concept and I believe that we as a Parliament are entitled to make a judgment after the Tribunal has thoroughly canvassed the issues involved. I suppose it is easy to be some sort of martyr and to portray oneself as some great virtuous figure wrapped up in concern for other people. It is our business to be concerned with other people but it is our business to be concerned with them in a proper and practical way, not in a stage acting way in order to get some sort of publicity out of it.
We are considering a report based on the findings of this Tribunal. I do not believe that the average Australian is greatly concerned any more about this matter. He was concerned, justifiably, when arbitrary decisions were taken in the past on increases in parliamentary salaries. The average Australian now, like everybody else in the community, accepts the principle of wage determination by various wage fixing tribunals. Parliamentarians now come into that category and I believe the average Australian accepts that situation. For those reasons I oppose the motion.
Senator WOOD (Queensland)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
- Senator Wriedt spoke of myself as being one of the wealthiest men in Parliament. He then went on to say that these things were done for political approval or publicity. I say to Senator Wriedt that the value of a person ‘s wealth depends upon what that person does with it. If Senator Wriedt followed my example this country might be better off. I have already given several hundred thousand dollars worth of land to a council for a garden. When my assets are realised- I am doing this now- the money will be given to worthy causes such as those building homes for old people and to organisations such as Meals on Wheels and the Blue Nurses. Is there any reason for Senator Wriedt to cast aspersions in this chamber on any assets which I might have?
– I indicate that the Opposition parties will not be supporting the motion. I think this is well understood, as it was presented in the other place yesterday. However, I shall make a couple of comments in relation to some of the remarks made by Senator Wright concerning the Remuneration Tribunal. One ought to remember that the Tribunal reported and that the Senate disapproved its determinations. But in fairness it ought to be remembered that last November the Senate without dissent as a result of initiatives taken by my colleague Senator Marriott, and which I was prepared to second, asked the Tribunal to report again. It was said in the open. It was done openly in the Senate. The fact that the media never got on to this is not my fault or the fault of anybody else.
I understand that the resolution of the Senate was communicated to the Chairman of the Tribunal. I think that ought to be said in fairness to the Tribunal and as a matter of accuracy. The Opposition’s stance last July ought to be understood and put quite squarely. The original stance, the one with which we would have preferred to stay, was that in no circumstances should the Parliament interfere with the remuneration of public servants, statutory officers or judges and that if anyone were to be an example it should be the members of Parliament. That was our original Party room decision. I remind both Senator Wright and Senator Wood that the decision was for a deferment of 6 months. We all know that certain things intervened after that decision and the ultimate decision was the disallowance and disapproval of all recommendations. I personally regretted that decision at the time.
The fact of the matter was that the Opposition Parties’ basic decision was for a deferment of 6 months in relation to members of Parliament only. I shall conclude quickly so that we can get a vote before the suspension of the sitting for lunch. The stance of the Opposition Parties was correct. When the 6 months had almost run there was nothing wrong or improper in my colleague Senator Marriott putting down a motion which was an amendment to a Bill introduced by my colleague Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. The motion asked the Tribunal to report again. I think it has been more than 6 months since the disapproval. I just put down those facts in relation to the stance of the Opposition Parties. I think, in fairness to the Tribunal, they should be placed on the record.
– I do not intend to support the motion, but I must say that I have some sympathy with the people who moved it. I believe that last year the Senate was right in taking the decision to try to give an example to the rest of Australia. It was an example which, unfortunately, was ignored by State Parliaments. I think subsequent to the deferral of the acceptance of the recommendation of the Remuneration Tribunal members of the Parliaments of Western Australia and Queensland voted themselves very handsome increases in salary. Mr President, if you read this morning’s newspapers you will find it reported that the Premier of New South Wales will receive a higher salary than the Prime Minister of Australia even after the acceptance of this most recent determination. If that is the case it means that State Parliaments are the pace-setters now in salary increases for parliamentarians in Australia. There are far more State parliamentarians than there are Federal parliamentarians. Therefore the example given by the Senate has been overwhelmingly ignored by State parliaments. It does no purpose at all not to accept this determination and to create an even widening disparity between what ought to be the emolument of Federal members of Parliament and what they are actually getting. Rejection could create a most difficult time in the future when adjustment would have to be made for severe and very real economic reasons. I would like to have seen a deferral for 12 months but I cannot support the move now because of the reasons given.
I must say I am rather interested in Senator Withers’ description of how the determination was presented again. All week I have been wondering why it was presented now. I know that last year I studied the notice paper pretty diligently. Yet the Senate was able to pass the request to the Tribunal to report again without my knowledge. I know that I am the only one in my Party here. I assure Senator Withers that I look at the notice paper quickly. Certainly he, or whoever was responsible for the request, was pretty smart about it, not only in hiding it from the media of Australia but also from at least one politician in this chamber. With some regret that the deferral is not for 12 months I must say that I substantially agree with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) and with Senator Withers in this matter.
-in reply- I regret that on this occasion the expressions in my principal speech have intensified beyond expression because of the despicable depths to which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) has descended in a personal vilification of myself.
– Order! I will not allow the expression that the Leader of the Government in the Senate went to despicable depths. Senator Wright, I ask you to withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw, Mr President. I say that the Minister stooped to the lowest form of debate and personal vilification which is unworthy of any honourable, senator and which ill becomes the Leader of the Government.
– Order! The expression unworthy of any honourable senator’ is also unparliamentary and I ask you withdraw.
- Mr President, I submit that it is not. I ask you to reconsider. I suggest that it has been used before.
- Senator Wright, I ask you, if you will, to withdraw that term.
- Mr President, at your direction, I withdraw.
- Senator Wright, you will proceed now.
-I say that the attack of the Leader of the Government in the Senate was the lowest form of political debate that we have heard in this chamber from any honourable senator and certainly from any Leader of the Government here. Since this debate began elsewhere this week in another quarter it has been suggested that perhaps I have an income which enables me to be independent of my salary. So I possessed myself of my actual figures. My average taxable income for the last 3 years, as presented to the Taxation Office, is $ 1 5,242. There is no depreciation or such other odd deductions claimed against gross income. So much for my being a person of great wealth. It has been said that as a Minister I drew emoluments without protest. It is proper to say that when the McMahon Government proceeded to put forward proposals for increases in 1971I offered my resignation in writing rather than, as a member of the Government, being committed to such an increase in a year when we had asked all other sections to exercise restraint. I was requested by my Leader to defer the presentation of that resignation to the GovernorGeneral only because the terms on which the Labor Party would agree to the proposals were unacceptable. I deferred it. As you know, Mr President, the proposals were not proceeded with. It was not necessary for me to justify my action because it was never challenged until now.
Finally, I refer with increased sorrow and no sympathy to what fell from my Leader in the Senate (Senator Withers) with regard to Party room discussions. I am bound to reply that the first decision of the Party was to defer the increases. We were pressed by the Labor Party and by Senator Steele Hall during that day to reach a decision. It will be remembered that we temporised until about 4.30 p.m. I was on my feet in the Senate arguing the matter when the Party met again in the Party room. I am not sure what was decided then, but that evening the Party decided completely and forthwith to reject the determination. So I regret that in a difficult situation men who ordinarily have a high level of debate have stooped to referring to my personal wealth, my integrity as a Minister and my participation in confidential Party room debates. I have answered all three of those points. Out of that independence which the richness of an income of $15,000 a year gives to me, I maintain that my attitude in this matter is not actuated in the slightest degree by political votes, of which throughout my whole career I have been just as independent as I have been of Ministers and party leaders. As if political votes afford any advantage to me at my stage of parliamentary experience! God, how simple and depraved such a proposition is.
That the determinations be disapproved.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Remuneration Tribunal’s recommendations for increases in the remuneration and travelling allowances payable to judges and persons having the status of judges. These recommendations were contained in the Tribunal’s 1975 Review which has been tabled in the Senate. The Bill provides for the increases to apply from 1 March, as recommended by the Tribunal.
Legislation is necessary to give effect to the Tribunal’s findings because the Tribunal has power only to report on judges’ remuneration. For constitutional reasons, the Tribunal could not be given the power of determination in this case. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition wishes this Bill a speedy passage. It is part of the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal and we support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos 1 to 9) 1975
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Sales Tax Bills (Nos I to 9) being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole, and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every order for the reading of the Bills.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
These Bills will give formal effect to the Government’s decision announced on 28 January 1975 to reduce the rates of sales tax on passenger motor cars and commercial motor vehicles for a limited period of time. Nine Bills are necessary because the sales tax is imposed by nine separate Acts to meet the requirements of section 55 of the Constitution that laws imposing taxation shall deal with one subject of taxation only. As the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) explained when the Government’s decision was announced, the reductions are part of a package of measures aimed at stimulating sales of motor vehicles with a view to avoiding retrenchments in the motor industry. Other proposals involve the repeal of the provisions imposing tax on the net standby value to employees of the use of company cars and the imposition of import quotas on passenger and light commercial vehicles during the next 12 months.
Following a statement by General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd in December that it would retrench 5000 of its employees in mid-January, negotiations were held with that company and with the Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Australia Limited. In response to a package proposed by the Government for the industry, General Motors-Holden’s said that it would hold retrenchment action and review its position at the end of 90 days. Ford, which intended to retrench 1650 workers and Chrysler, which intended to retrench 1000 workers agreed not to take any action to retrench workers for at least 30 days when they would review their positions. The Government believes that in view of the very generous assistance it is providing to the industry it is entirely reasonable to expect the vehicle companies to defer any retrenchments for 90 days. During this time the Government, the companies and the unions will continuously review the position and examine how best to adjust to the circumstances prevailing at the end of the 90 day period. Under the provisions of these sales tax Bills the rate of tax on passenger motor cars will be reduced from 2716 per cent to 15 per cent and the rate of tax on motor vehicles of a kind ordinarily used for commercial purposes will be reduced from 15 per cent to 5 per cent. The reductions are to be effective from 29 January 1975. On 1 May 1975 the rate of tax on passenger motor cars will be increased to 17 1/2 per cent and that on commercial motor vehicles to 7 per cent. Thereafter the rates will increase at monthly intervals by 2% per cent and 2 per cent respectively until the rates of 21¥i per cent for passenger motor cars and 15 per cent for commercial motor vehicles are restored on 1 September 1975.
The passenger motor cars to which the reduction applies- mainly sedans and station wagons -are specified in the fifth schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. The commercial motor vehicles are to be specified in a new fourth schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. Provision for this Schedule is being made by a complementary Bill, the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1975 which I shall be introducing shortly. The reductions will not apply to motor cycles. The rate on these will remain unchanged at 15 per cent. More detailed explanations of the proposed amendments are set out in an explanatory memorandum circulated for the information of honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Bill is complementary to the Sales Tax Bills which I have just introduced. It will amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act by adding a new fourth schedule which will specify the commercial motor vehicles that are to be subject to a reduction in rate of sales tax from 15 per cent to 5 per cent with effect from 29 January 1975. The motor vehicles affected are those of a kind ordinarily used for commercial purposes, including prime movers and semitrailers for attachment to prime movers. Motor cycles, auto cycles and motor scooters are specifically excluded from the scope of the fourth schedule and these remain taxable at 15 per cent. Motor vehicles covered by the fifth schedule are also specifically excluded- these are the passenger motor cars which are to be reduced in rate from 21 Vi per cent to 15 per cent. Detailed explanations of these amendments are also contained in the explanatory memorandum which is being circulated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 March on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Greenwood had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add ‘but the Senate is concerned at the dangers to Australia ‘s security ‘.
– When the Senate adjourned last evening it had under consideration the matter of whether Senator Greenwood’s amendment was in order. As I understand it, the Act Deputy President, Senator Milliner, stated before the amendment was moved that on the second reading the debate should be confined to the subject matter of the Bill. I agree. The question now to be decided is whether Senator Greenwood’s amendment is in order. It is the practice of the Senate to allow the addition of words to the motion for the second reading expressing relevant opinion or criticism. I have some reservations about Senator Greenwood’s amendment, particularly as there were opportunities for a wide ranging debate on the first reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 3). However, I am reluctant to take a course which may limit the Senate’s powers. I therefore allow the amendment if Senator Greenwood wishes to persist with it.
- Mr President, I am indebted to you for the ruling. Because it would appear to be the most convenient means by which the issues I desire to have considered by the Senate can be raised, I am appreciative that the amendment that has been moved is in order. I was addressing myself last night to the issues which I think are of concern to this country and which ought to be publicised. The publicising of these matters ought to raise for the consideration of the Government concern as to the action which the Government takes. The Government, in respect of the Appropriation Bills which are before the chamber at the present time and the expenditure of the moneys which are sought, ought to comprehend the issues which I have raised.
– I take a point of order, Mr President. I understand that you have ruled that the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood last night is in order and that he would be able to proceed with it if he indicated that he intended so to do. I now seek an indication from Senator Greenwood of whether he intends to pursue his amendment.
– I thought that in the words I had used I had so indicated. If it requires express indication, I do indicate it.
– I want it quite plain.
– I was indicating the way in which there had been an infiltration of the Australian Labor Party by certain Trotskyist organisations and I had referred specifically to the Socialist Workers League and the Socialist Youth Alliance. I had indicated that the source of the information which was available to me was a young man who had been in these organisations at the same time as he had been an employee of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and who had made available to me information connected with these matters. I had also indicated that what Mr Wechsler had told me was not the sole source of information as to the infiltration which had taken place in the Labor Party. There was a pamphlet written by 2 members of the Labor Party in New South Wales, Mr John Russell and Mr John McCarthy. I do not know the extent of the publicity which had been given to this pamphlet, but those men had a concern on the very same matters, and I was referring to that document. They had stated:
But Labor Party youth organisation - and I presume they were referring to the organisation in New South Wales- is now in the hands of those who have little sympathy with Labor aims or objectives. And the threat cannot be shrugged off. One of the oldest and greatest Labor Parties in the world, the West German Social Democrats, has been seriously disrupted by infiltration from a super-militant youth group. In their extremist aims and brutal tactics they are strikingly similar to many of the elements that have usurped control of Labor youth in Australia.
I continue with what they said:
But the Socialist Youth Alliance has already enjoyed an incredible success in Young Labor circles. At the New South Wales Young Labor Conference its members managed to get motion after motion carried and one of their most active members, Franc Timmerman, was elected to the Young Labor Executive. In Tasmania and Victoria Socialist Youth Alliance is very influential in Young Labor circles and in
South Australia an influx of Socialist Youth Alliance members managed to virtually take over the Young Labor organisation. From all this a few facts are certain.
I emphasise that these are the views of 2 members of the New South Wales Labor Party. They said:
The Labor Party is threatened by a far-Left faction. If successful this element would destroy the ALP as an effective political party. They cannot be dismissed as unimportant. A similar group is doing immense damage to one of the oldest and greatest Labor parties in the world.
They pose the question:
What then is to be done?
Airing matters like this is one of the things that can be done, and hoping that the impact of what is said will have influence in the appropriate circles and that action will be taken is one of the hopes one can have. But what ought to be a matter of concern is the method used by the Socialist Workers League and the Socialist Youth Alliance to be re-admitted to the Australian Labor Party. As I indicated yesterday, they were expelled from the Young Labor Association in Victoria in 1973 but they organised petitions and enlisted support and, according to Mr Wechsler, the support of Dr Cairns, Dr Cass and Mr Enderby was forthcoming. Why? Do they disbelieve the allegations of those in the Young Labor Association who had expelled these people or do they feel that there is a place for members of the Socialist Workers League and the Socialist Youth Alliance in the Australian Labor Party?
Mr Wechsler also relates a meeting of the national committee of the Socialist Workers League which was. held at Ocean Grove in January 1975. He attended the meeting as one of the executive of the organisation in Victoria. He referred to 2 documents, each of which was given to ASIO for the purpose of reproduction. One document, since destroyed by decision of the meeting because of its importance, detailed the finances of these bodies. Mr Wechsler said that it was a very strong organisation financially, deriving its funds from members in sums of $20 and $40 a week each, from rich donors in the United States of America in the Socialist Workers Party of that country, from functions and from the Australian Union of Students. The other document was retained by Wechsler, it being a report of the organisation’s activities in the preceding year. It is interesting to note that in claiming a membership of 90 in the Socialist Workers League- and I assume that is throughout Australianevertheless they have the finance to have 12 people on full time work nationally, and a regular fortnightly newspaper, ‘Direct Action’, is published with a claimed 23 editions in 1974. Mr Wechsler stated that the cost of publishing each issue is about $700, a total cost for this journal alone of at least $16,000 for the year. I quote 2 passages from this report. It states:
The objective possibility exists more now than for a long time past to expose Labor’s treacherous role and to seek to win its disillusioned supporters to socialism. A better opportunity exists to win individuals who are looking for a way out of the impasse of uncritical support to Labor. In the past year we have given overwhelming emphasis in our Press to this approach, counterposing our own revolutionary programme to all the major actions of the Labor Government.
– Order! I would ask Senator Greenwood to connect his remarks with the Bill and the amendment. It is necessary for them to be relevant to the actual words of his amendment. It would be doing the best thing for the debate and for the Senate for Senator Greenwood to keep as closely to the amendment as he can.
- Mr President, I assure you that what I am saying is connected to the purposes of the amendment and to the words of the amendment. Necessarily I am quoting from a document which, taken in toto, is a most alarming document viewed from Australia ‘s security situation, and this aspect may be the connecting words you are looking for. I quote again:
We know that our Press is taken seriously in the Labor movement as an important Left critic, although not of course yet as an alternative to the Labor Party.
The fundamental thrust of our work in the coming period should be to expand this activity of counterposing our revolutionary program for fighting the capitalist system and for preventing the workers paying the price of the economic crisis to the class collaborationist, capitalist policies of the Labor fakers. We must seek to step up this work, professionalise and popularise it and find new arenas for its expression.
The document then indicates how candidates could be run against the Labor Party, a decision in fact said by Max Wechsler to have been taken by the conference. I quote the first item of the report on the past year’s activity, again from this document which was circulated at the Socialist Workers’ League Conference in Ocean Grove in January. It states:
The last year has been one of the most hectic years yet for our tendency. We participated in and helped to lead and organised a wider range of activities than any year since the Socialist Youth Alliance was founded in 1970. Our range of activity included the following:
1 ) A campaign in the Young Labor Association in Victoria, supported by activity in other States, to win readmission after being expelled bureaucratically by the Right-wing executive. This campaign made our activities known to hundreds of YLA and ALP members and our success in winning reinstatement gained us prestige and respect as a serious and determined tendency.
Ought not the public to know that the group which fought so well to be readmitted is, within months of readmission, planning to contest seats against the Australian Labor Party at any election which is held in 1975? One wonders how such a body of people could have been readmitted to Australian Labor Party. Mr Wechsler says that in the records of the Socialist Workers League are letters from ALP members and ALP identities- to use his words- giving the Socialist Workers League a hand.
Mr Weschler said to me: ‘You know, if you get a group- a Trotskyist group- who are joining the ALP and you know about it but you do nothing about it, how can you be concerned about it’. It is in every constitution that a member of another organisation cannot join the ALP. Now we were Trotskyist members of the SWL and we had people joining the Australian Labor Party and the Young Labor Association. The Altona Branch of the Young Labor Association is a Socialist Youth Alliance branch too, you know, and there are documents, a very lot of them, which you will be shocked if you read’. I am assured that hosts of documents have been given to ASIO. Mr Weschler believed that the Government was not concerned- as from the action it took with response to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the demonstration against the Shah or Iran, he saw that the Government was concerned about those matters. It was not concerned about other matters. Mr Weschler knows and states various organisations where the SWL and the Socialist Youth Alliance have formed or in which they have influence. The Victorian Secondary Students Union, and the fermenting of the long drawn out trouble at the Werribee High School in Victoria, were the product of the Socialist Workers League. The union is an organisation designed to attract high school students who have problems and, through it, to entice them to join the Socialist Workers League or the Socialist Youth Alliance.
There is another organisation called the Women’s Abortion Action Coalition. This is a Socialist Workers League front. One women is the organiser of the Socialist Youth Alliance and uses the Women’s Abortion Action Coalition as a front to attract women into the Socialist Youth Alliance and the Socialist Workers League. It is an organisation which asked for $20,000 for International Women’s Year, as Mr Weschler said, so we can have 6 full-timers’. I do not know whether that organisation has received the money. The name of the organisation does not appear in the last list at which I looked, so I can only assume that the matter is still under consideration. The purpose for which this organisation is seeking a grant of money ought to be known. It is so that the organisation can have ‘6 full-timers’.
The Women’s Abortion Action Coalition is an innocent women’s group but it is also a manipulated Socialist Workers League and Socialist Youth Alliance front organisation. It has organised large public meetings and the International Women’s Day march, and it is selling Pathfinder books for the Pathfinder Press which is the Trotskyist publishing house in the United States of America. The Socialist Workers League regarded itself as editing the ‘National U ‘ which is the newspaper of the Australian Union of Students, with some 200 000 copies distributed each week. The Socialist Workers League regarded itself as doing this in 1974. Mr Frans Timmerman was the editor of the newspaper. He was a member of the Socialist Workers League and a founder of the Socialist Youth Alliance. Mr Andrew Jamieson was a worker for the newspaper, he was on the executive of the Young Labor Association, he was a delegate to the Australian Labor Party State Conference, and he was on the executive of the Socialist Workers League.
Mr Weschler stressed that Dr Cairns particularly was a constant source of assistance to the Socialist Workers League. Mr Weschler said: When we were expelled or something bad happened to us we always phoned to Dr Cairns office’. Mr Weschler identified in particular Dr Cairns, Dr Moss Cass and Mr Enderby as persons with whom contact was kept and from whom help was obtained when it was needed. Members of the Australian Labor Party may have whatever associates they please; they may assist whom they please. That is their right. But when the support and association is with members of a Trotskyist revolutionary group, it ought to be a matter of public knowledge. Mr Weschler reported to me that the Socialist Workers League had been active in promoting disturbances and building up issues, particularly in demonstrations. Even now some of the Socialist Workers League members are desperate people who join the Socialist Workers League believing that they will be able to overthrow the Government. In the thinking of the members of the organisation, this is more a longer term objective. During demonstrations some will carry weapons, such as a piece of wood or a chain under a jacket.
Contacts have been made in Australia with terrorists from terrorist groups- with representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Their books have been on sale with instructions on how terrorist acts can be committed. Mr Weschler informed ASIO months before the news become public of the decision made by Bill Hartley and the Palestine Australia Solidarity Committee to arrange for the visit of a PLO delegation to Australia. The Socialist Workers League and the Socialist Youth Alliance have been, or claim to be, the main organisers of demonstrations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, for the last two or three years. They have organised demonstrations protesting against oppression in Chile. They have organised Black Power demonstrations. They have organised demonstrations urging support for the Irish Republican Army, for the PLO against the regime in Spain, and for Malaysian students. They have formed the Chile Defence Committee from among the Chilean communists coming to this country. Mr Weschler mentioned to me instances of misappropriation and theft of papers, typewriters, paint, telephones, etc., from the Monash University. This is coupled with an ability, backed by ample finances whenever an issue arises, to flood university campuses with thousands of letters and leaflets.
- Senator, 1 wonder whether you would permit me to ask you: What did you say in relation to the PLO?
– I said that the PLO has been supported in demonstrations in this country which have been organised by the Socialist Workers League and the Socialist Youth Alliance. What I have said in the course of this debate comes from a person who infiltrated a revolutionary organisation whose members are working towards the objective of overthrowing government and seizing power by force of arms. Having regard to the number of countries in which this pattern of power-taking has occurred, it ought not to be surprising that there are persons, programs and parties working to this end. The greatest safeguard which a democracy has against attacks of this character is an awareness of what is occurring and a willingness, particularly by democratic means, to withstand the challenge which such forces represent.
Our security organisation had regarded the work of Mr Weschler as being warranted. Of course, the work of any field operative in a security organisation must be evaluated- and this, I am quite confident, ASIO was doing. ASIO would always undertake that evaluation because it is part of the function of an efficient intelligence organisation, and my experience of ASIO was that it was an efficient organisation. But Mr Weschler terminated his work because he was concerned- concerned about government inaction. I do not know what the Government has done or what it may be proposing. There are possible offences against the Crimes Act which ought to be examined. There is a public exposure which could be, and ought to be, undertaken by a concerned government. There is the opportunity for ministerial statements to be made, which was a practice adopted from time to time by the previous Government. But there is also the forum of the Australian Labor Party in which these infiltrators could be identified, challenged and expelled because of what they have been doing and what they are striving to achieve. The role of Dr Cairns, Dr Cass and Mr Enderby requires explanation- an explanation which clarifies how a group of people, having been expelled from an organisation because they were Trotskyites acting inimically to the welfare of the Australian Labor Party, could be readmitted.
But other matters warrant the exposure which Mr Weschler has attempted. He has shown that within the universities there is a well financed, well organised campaign directed by dedicated operations. Things which appear spontaneous and impromptu are in fact not. A campaign is going on under our noses, and we ought to be aware of it. What is tremendously important is that the members of the society know of the existence of clandestine activities and know that groups are plotting to achieve socialism by armed revolution, armed struggle and fighting. People who are concerned and who have the knowledge ought not to remain silent. Public exposure is often the only step that is needed to prevent the activities developing. On other occasions prosecution in accordance with the law is necessary. We ought not to consider that in Australia we shall always be immune from the conduct which has ravaged other countries. Therefore, in supporting this Appropriation Bill I also commend to the Senate the sentiments behind the amendment.
– In supporting the Bill I suppose I must agree with Senator Greenwood ‘s remarks in the sense that all of us are concerned about Australia’s security. I wish to make one reference in this regard. I looked up the word ‘security’ and I found that it has several meanings. One of them is that it is the quality or state of being secure. It is also freedom from anxiety and care. One of the problems in Australia today is the uncertainty which Senator Greenwood ‘s own political Leader is causing in this community. Under the heading of Senator Greenwood’s amendment I would like to develop briefly the theme of the tremendous uncertainty which lies over Australia and which of course is a threat to its security in another direction.
In recent days and weeks there have been so many conflicting statements from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) concerning the future conduct of politics in Australia that Australians are finding some revulsion at the activities in the national Parliament because they can see no real attempt to govern Australia. As many newspaper leader writers have put it, they see simply an attempt by the Opposition to use its power at the proper and judicious time which will give it ascent to government in Australia rather than providing the leadership that this country desires. Under the heading of Senator Greenwood’s amendment I want to refer particularly to the recent statements on Medibank and the proposals which have been put forward and then denied concerning a possible election upon the issue. In recent times Mr Anthony has proposed that, if the Government should include in a general Supply Bill an appropriation of money for the Medibank scheme, it is inevitable that the Senate will reject that Bill. This has led to very strong conjecture that we will have an election possibly in June and certainly no later than July. The Leader of the Opposition has been questioned very directly about this proposition, which was put forward by the Leader of the Country Party, as to where his Party stands in relation to a statement that was made apparently on the general behalf of the Opposition.
Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition conducted a Press conference at which he was questioned very deeply about this matter as to whether his party would automatically proceed along the lines recommended by Mr Anthony in recent days. Because of Senator Greenwood’s concern for security, he ought to read the transcript of statements made by his Leader yesterday to the Press of Australia, and therefore to the public of Australia, on one of the greatest matters affecting its security. Mr Snedden started by saying:
Everyone ready. … All bets placed. . . . Pull up the ladder. . . . Everyone set. . . .
He then launched into an attack on the Medibank scheme, much of which I would agree with as an assessment of that scheme. Of course, that is not the point that I make in this debate. I do not wish to reopen the question of Medibank. I wish to take further the question of Australia ‘s security regarding any guarantee of continuity of government. Mr Snedden was asked:
Over the weekend, Mr Anthony said there would be an earlier Federal election over Medibank. He said there was no way in the world that the Opposition Senators would not reject Bills appropriating money to the scheme.
Mr Snedden said:
I think you ought to get your terms right. Mr Anthony did not say that, as I have been informed. Mr Anthony said that the senators had a very great opposition to the national health scheme. He then went on to talk about if supply for Medibank was included in the Supply Bills, that the Senators were more likely to vote against it. Now, that is certainly the fact. The Opposition parties are determined to fight national health scheme for the reasons I have just given.
He was asked:
He said there was no way in the world, quote unquote, that the Federal Opposition was going to pass a Bill that would finance the program. If the financing arrangements for the Medibank is the Supply Bill in May will the Opposition . . .
At this point Mr Snedden said:
When we see the Supply Bill we will make our decision about it.
He was then asked:
When Mr Anthony was speaking over the weekend he committed the Opposition Party to reject Supply, if those Bills contained the funds for Medibank. Mr Anthony said Once they have fought the appropriation in Parliament there is no way in the world that the Opposition is going to allow that to go through and then you will compel the Government to take the issue to the people. Now do you agree that this commitment made by . . .
At that point Mr Snedden broke in and said:
It was not a commitment made by Mr Anthony. The matter has not been considered by the Party in the sense that it must be considered, and that is when it is before it, a Supply Bill before it.
He was then asked:
There is no difference between you and Mr Anthony on this point?
What I am saying is that Mr Anthony is making an assumption that we will continue to oppose Medibank, and National Health Scheme and we will, he was absolutely correct in that. He was casting his mind ahead to a point where there will be a Supply Bill in the Parliament which would contain an appropriation, supply for next year for the National Health Scheme, and he was making an assumption of the fate of it. What I am saying is that the assumption is reasonably based but no decision will be taken until the Supply Bill is before the Parliament.
The next question was:
Would you say that it is a speculative assumption at this stage?
The questioner said:
A speculation on Mr Anthony ‘s part, pure speculation.
Mr Snedden replied:
Well, you can apply whatever term you like to it. I have stated what the position is. You can apply as you will your interpretation.
Another question was put:
Would you say, Mr Snedden, that you agree with Mr Anthony’s assumption?
After a long meandering reply, Mr Snedden ended the reply with this:
Mr Anthony knowing that because it is a decision of both parties, then carried the matter further as to what would happen in the event of the Supply Bill coming before the Parties. Now I have told you that we will take the decision on the Supply Bill when it arrives.
The next question was:
Does that mean that you agree with Mr Anthony?
The answer was:
I have told you what I have stated.
There is another page or so of this most ambiguous, unintelligible garbage. Then Mr Snedden was asked:
When do you think the election will be?
When do you think so?
Here is the person who holds himself out as the responsible, alternative Prime Minister of Australia answering in that fashion when his coleader in the Opposition coalition is going around the country and saying that there is no way in the world that the Senate will accept a Supply Bill which contains funds for Medibank. His answer is:
When do you think so?
Another question was:
Do you think it was wise of Mr Anthony to make this statement in anticipation of your Party’s . . .
The answer was:
Mr Anthony has made a statement. I have explained to you the background of the statement and Mr Anthony has made it. Now it doesn’t help in any way for a question like that . . .
Mr Snedden said:
I had long discussions with Mr Anthony and with other shadow Ministers -
Very shadowy, I would say - . . and last week there was at least a couple of discussions. Mr Anthony did not consult me in any detail about what he was going to say over the weekend.
– Give him leave to incorporate it.
– I know that it embarrasses honourable senators on this side, just as it embarrasses me. I join with Senator Greenwood in expressing concern for Australia’s security under this type of pseudo leadership.
– Are you not helping Labor by this sort of attack?
-Senator Greenwood can decide who is helping Labor. I will have my say. There is more of this transcript. I suppose members of the Opposition in this chamber are right to show that they do not want to hear it. I do not like it. It only repeats itself page after page. It has been made public and public comment has been made on it. I will come to the public comment in a minute. Mr Snedden was then asked:
Given the state of the economy and the state of the Government why do you think the Opposition popularity rating has fallen 7 per cent and why do you think your own popularity rating as a leader has fallen 4 or S per cent?
His answer was:
I have good thoughts about it but I don’t think it will help. The fact is that the Labor Party were at the very bottom of the trough.
He goes on along that line. All the thoughts and ramblings of the alternative Prime Minister of Australia are there. Every citizen of this country is faced with this conundrum: Will there be an election by July? No one knows. Apparently Mr Snedden does not know. He will not say to the Australian community: ‘We are definitely going to vote out the appropriation in this House’. He will not say to the Australian community: ‘We will not vote out the appropriation in this House ‘. He has said to the Australian community that the terms of office for a government go from 6 months to 6 months. That is the security he has given Australia and that is the security which apparently Senator Greenwood supports. But it is not a matter which members of the Australian public like. Much comment has been made. It is coming to a head in a very realistic fashion when the advice has been given to the Liberal Party to shut up or put up. They are some of the things that are being said. The heading in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ is: ‘Snedden in Wake of Anthony as Medibank Issue Clouds Further’. I have just given the reason why the issue is clouded. The article is written by a prominent reporter on the basis of Mr Snedden ‘s remarks yesterday, to which I have just referred, and Mr Anthony’s remarks prior to Mr Snedden ‘s remarks. The issue for Australians is that they do not know what health scheme they will have, they do not know whether they will have an election and they do not know who will lead the Liberal Party to any supposed election.
One of the great questions across Australia is how long Mr Snedden will retain his job. Everyone knows he is pushing for an election to save it. Everyone knows that Mr Anthony is pushing for an election to put off a redistribution of boundaries in the Australian scene. That is common knowledge. The editorial in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ ends with these words:
But it has been clear since last May that the non-Labor parties have devoted all their attention to gauging when to use their tactical position in the Senate to force the Governmen to the polls. Such an attitude will inevitably reap a bitter harvest for the non-Labor ranks in the future.
That is an illustration of why the Opposition has been so lax in policy matters. I refer in passing to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which was dealt with by the Senate a few days ago. Members of the Opposition said 4 months ago when the Bill was first introduced that they did not have time to produce a policy and so they defeated the Bill. Four months later- a few days ago- they did the same thing. They had a 4- months’ intervening period to produce a policy. They have not produced one. They have devoted all their energy, as the editorial very correctly interpreted, to gauging when they should use their upper House power. This ambiguity and this search for use of upper House power has led to a ridiculous situation. The Opposition is so ambiguous that it starts to defend itself and its misstatements. It is not only confusing to the public but also it is confusing to itself and so it is now beginning to spend so much valuable Opposition time in defending itself.
I notice today that Mr Anthony had a letter placed in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ saying that he had not threatened an election. The letter is headed ‘Medibank denial’. Mr Anthony wrote:
Your article headed ‘Doug Anthony and Medibank’ is based on a misunderstanding of what I have said on this subject. … No words attributed to me in that report in any way support your claim that lam trying to precipitate an early election over Medibank, or I am threatening people over this issue.
He goes on in that vein and writes:
My point is that if the Government adopted this ruse in an effort to secure funds for Medibank, it would do so knowing that it was embarking on a course which almost inevitably would lead to the rejection of Supply.
He is not threatening an election; he is just saying that if the Medibank funds are included in the Bill it will be rejected. But he is not threatening an election; not at all. The fact is that the Opposition parties forced an election which created the ensuing Joint Sitting which gave the Australian Labor Party the full endorsement of its health plans. The Opposition then denied the Government the right to fund the scheme through a taxation levy and now it is saying that it will not get funds through the Supply Bill. So the Opposition denies the result of the election and the Joint Sitting it created and takes to the absurd scene and length this denial of funds.
– How much will it cost?
-Senator Townley ought to know better than to try to distract from the central theme of an argument. If the honourable senator wants to examine his own position I suggest he reads his words later. The point is that the Opposition is threatening in words through Mr Anthony to precipitate an election on the Australian people which the public does not want about a scheme which the Opposition does not then want to make the central theme of the election. The Opposition has already said that Medibank, whilst it would be a major part of the election, would not be the central theme.
– That sounds sensible.
– It might sound sensible to Senator Townley and it might illustrate why I did not continue replying to his earlier interjection. He has made his own reasons for his own causes. I am saying that Mr Anthony definitely is threatening the Australian people with an election. Mr Snedden desperately is trying not to agree with him, at the same time leaving his options open in the event that he can persuade his colleagues and members in this House to deny Supply. This position is providing for Australia one of the most worrying times in relation to its Government that it has seen for very many years.
This country has no stability of government, not only because Labor is in government and has many things in its policies with which I do not agree, but also because no continuity of government is lying before it. As I have said before, it is up to the Opposition to clarify the procedure and stop threatening and stop dividing itself in the process. The Government will not be any stronger because of the weakness of the Opposition. One of the rules of parliamentary conduct is that a weak Opposition brings about a weak Government, and we certainly have one of the weakest Oppositions that we have had for many years in the Federal scene. This conduct which I refer to today is only taking to an absurd length the weaknesses of our side of politics. I ask honourable senators to go back to their Party and to tell their Leader to make himself quite clear in his statements to the Australian people, to stop using the absurd phrases that he used yesterday and to say quite clearly to the Australian public what he is going to do and what he recommends about these issues. Only then will he begin to earn the respect of the public which is responding so far in the negative as shown through the latest opinion poll.
Having said that I shall now refer to a vote of the Appropriation Bill under the Department of
Urban and Regional Development. I refer to the proposed development in South Australia known as Monarto. I asked a question on Tuesday about the State Government’s intention to conscript South Australian public servants to that city to provide the nucleus of population for it; in other words, to provide the population excuse for the project as it now stands. The Government obviously could look to very few private citizens to become the initial residents of the Monarto development. It has relied heavily on its planning to force South Australian public servants in Adelaide or wherever they might be- but particularly from 3 State Government departments in Adelaide- to go to Monarto. The Minister for Development in South Australia, Mr Broomhill, made a statement recently in the State Parliament which had alarming implications for Australian Government public servants as well. In a reply in the House of Assembly to a question on notice on the subject of Commonwealth public servants going to Monarto and whether the number would be 1 500 the Minister replied:
No official examination has been made of the Australian Government’s operations in Adelaide in this connection. . . . The Australian Government has not given a firm commitment to relocate Australian public servants at Monarto, but it is reasonably expected after the matter has been officially examined that such a commitment will be given.
That was the basis of the question I asked of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) on Tuesday. I am pleased that although his answer was not definite- I appreciate that it could not have been definite because the responsibility is not his alone but also that of his colleagues- it certainly came down on the side of not conscripting Commonwealth public servants in Adelaide to go to Monarto. But I do refer the attention of the Ministers in the chamber at the moment to the first annual report of the Monarto Development Commission on this subject. Reference was made in that report to the very subject of Commonwealth public servants going to Monarto. On page 20 of that very well produced, futuristic and in some ways misrepresentative booklet the following statement appears:
The possibility of a number of Commonwealth Government Departmental activities moving to Monarto is being investigated.
Obviously that was an early statement which was a basis for the State Minister’s further rather optimistic referral to what he hoped would be a shift by Commonwealth departments to that proposed city.
Great concern has been expressed in Adelaide about this development. On Wednesday of this week- yesterday- there was a report in the Advertiser’ of a meeting on Tuesday evening in Adelaide at which some hundreds of members of the Public Service Association of South Australia gathered to discuss the demand of the State Premier that they go to Monarto or no longer hold their jobs- in other words, that they either shift or else have no job in the Public Service. That was regarded by them- very rightly- as a form of conscription by the State Government. The report states:
Members of the Public Service Association of South Australia decided last night that no public servant should be compelled to transfer to Monarto.
The decision was a rejection of the attitude of the Premier, who said a week ago that public servants who refused to go to Monarto would lose their jobs.
The following resolution was adopted:
This meeting of members of the Public Service Association fully endorses the Association’s policies that no member shall be relocated to work at Monarto against his will and that no member who declines to be relocated shall be discriminated against in any way.
We believe that the vast majority of members employed in the three relocating departments do not desire to either work and/or live at Monarto.
It is our view that the provision of realistic relocation conditions by the Government will not alter that situation markedly.
We therefore call upon the Association to oppose the relocation of these three departments at Monarto as presently proposed and to request the Government to reconsider its decision to do so.
That expresses in concise terms the official view of the Public Service Association, which, of course, is based on its members’ attendance at that meeting on Tuesday night. It also raises the much wider question of whether the Monarto project should proceed. I believe that the Monarto project should be stopped at this time, that it should not proceed now and that the costly structure of administration which is being built up for this proposal at this moment should be dismantled. There are 2 compelling reasons why. The first one I shall mention is, of course, not the greater. I listened to Senator Cotton speak on these Appropriation Bills yesterday and I could not agree more with what he said concerning the financial dangers confronting this country and the enormous impact that is going to be felt in the ensuing months as a result of the use by the Government of a huge deficit to bolster its administrative proposals and its revitalisation of some sections of the commercial and industrial community. We are going to pay a very great price for that deficit in the form of inflation and other effects in the ensuing several months and possibly for several years to come. There is a desperate need for the Government to reduce its expenditure wherever it can in a way which, of course, does not react directly and adversely against the general employment level in the community. It is suffering as a government from the very rapid moves it has made in the last 2 years to transfer from the private sector to the public sector. The attempts which must be made now to transfer back in relative terms from the public sector to the private sector are creating the strains and, of course, driving the deficit to unheard of proportions. One of the economies that the Government can make is in the field of the development of Monarto.
– And Albury-Wodonga.
– I do not know the Albury-Wodonga area. In that sense it would be wrong of me to take up the advocacy with such strength. But I do know this area and I do know its surroundings. I am therefore confident about what I am saying. I say that postponement of its development will not have an adverse effect on the employment situation as it exists because Monarto is today really still in the minds of people and on the drawing boards of draftsmen. It is essentially a collection of administrators at this point. But it is about to take off into the disaster area in the sense that soon- quite soon- funds will be irreversibly committed to the building of a city which is unwanted in South Australia.
I come to the second and most major point, that is, the projections which have been made by the National Population Inquiry, which is now known as the Borrie Committee, in its report. I must say with a great deal of hurt that the State of South Australia has been predicted to have a very lean future as far as growth is concerned. It has come out as the State at the lowest level on all the scales and has been shown to be the least likely to develop. The predictions which have been made in the Monarto Commission’s report have been so definitely contradicted in the Borrie report. There is no doubt that Monarto has been over-promoted. We in South Australia have become used to having a Premier who will ruthlessly use any project to promote his own political fortunes, regardless of the worth of the project or its viability. Of course, the Redcliffs project in South Australia has been dealt with before in this House. I will not bore the House again with it. It is an extreme example of how promotion will get way ahead of Government common sense if Mr Dunstan has anything to do with it.
– The people of South Australia seem to endorse him all the time.
– In response to Senator McAuliffe ‘s interjection I say that it is one thing for the Premier to say that the conditions are so attractive in South Australia but it is an other thing for him to explain why it is so unattractive for people to go there and why the predictions for it are so far behind those for the other States in Australia. Why are people migrating from South Australia? Why will people not migrate to South Australia? There has to be a reason for that. I remind Senator McAuliffe that the reverse used to be the case. In 1963-64 South Australia took 29 per cent of the migrants who came from Britain to Australia on assisted passages. The Borrie report has now predicted a dramatic reversal for South Australia.
– I would not profess to knowing anything near as much about South Australia as you do, but I simply ask: Why do the people still return him?
– I think that my statistics should satisfy Senator McAuliffe that individual examples do not overcome the mass movements which are quite clearly outlined before us. I go back to the Monarto Development Commission report and give examples of how Monarto has been over-promoted as a city. This is very important because of the immense expenditure proposed for the city. We are not talking of an initial expenditure of a few million dollars; we are talking about the committal of hundreds of millions of dollars, and ultimately thousands of millions of dollars. This is the style of promotion of this city which is set out in the first annual report of the Monarto Development Commission:
Discussions have been initiated with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Melbourne to determine the viability of such a system at Monarto. The introduction of a wide-band distribution network could allow the installation of video-telephones, and could provide facilities to send written documents from one house or office to another simply by placing each sheet in a small electronic ‘box’ and dialling the appropriate telephone number. Studies include consideration of TV as a community facility for special interest transmission and for education.
I put this proposition to the Senate: Is it proper, in 1975, for video telephones and video electronic transfer devices to enable transmission of documents from house to house to be used as a means of promoting Monarto in this year? Is that a reason for the Commonwealth to commit funds it does not have to that city now? I refer now to one other illustration. This report states:
The working Draft Concept Plan, placed on public display in June 1974 . . . provided for corridors intended solely for the use of public transport and which could, in due course, be utilised for track transport, such as a personalised rapid transportation system.
What does ‘personal rapid transportation system’ mean? Is it a motor car? That is the most relevant and nearest example. As one reads this document one sees the similarity of wording to a thing called the Bruening report which was an American expert’s 3 weeks study of what is known as the MATS plan for South Australia. I am reminded of one other report that Mr Dunstan had done about the theatres in South Australia. One man said that all you needed to go through with the project was dynamic positivism. You will need more than dynamic positivism to sell Monarto to South Australians when the predictions for South Australia’s growth are so dramatically pessimistic as they are in the Borrie report. I refer once more to the population growth as envisaged by the promoters of Monarto. This is important, of course, because we have to understand their motivation for the new city. On page 5 of the Monarto Development Commission ‘s report it is stated:
It became evident that, given complete freedom to develop and build, Adelaide’s population would grow in an objectionable sprawl from its present size of 870 000, at June 1974, to approximately 1 300 000 by the year 2000. The problems of pollution and congestion experienced by Sydney, Melbourne and many cities overseas would be imposed to an increasing degree on Adelaide, with a consequential lowering of standards and quality of life.
The essential figures are a prediction by the Monarto Development Commission that Adelaide would grow from 870 000 to 1.3 million in 25 years time. The Borrie report does not substantiate those figures which are the very basis for Monarto. I refer to page 424 of the Borrie report because it is a good beginning. On that page is set out the projected population of Australia’s major cities. This information was given by the Cities Commission. The estimate was given by the Cities Commission and this also had a very vital effect on the planning for Monarto. The Cities Commission prediction for Adelaide was 843 000 in 1971 and 2 100 000 in the year 2001. That is the estimated increase in 25 years. If that increase were to take place obviously one would have to say that there has to be an alternative growth centre. All these people cannot go into Adelaide, to the north on the Adelaide Plains or down south to Willunga. But that figure is proved under the Borrie study to be totally incorrect. It is not within a shadow of being reached. The figures given in the Borrie study are contained on ensuing pages. At page 426 there is this statement:
The assumption of a national population of 23 million or even 2 1 million people by the turn of the century is now quite unwarranted in the light of current trends in fertility and in net immigration.
But that, whilst damning enough to previous projections of Australia’s growth, is on an Australiawide basis. Within that framework of a dramatic reduction of prediction for the whole of Australia comes an even more dramatic prediction of low growth for South Australia. That State was singled out as the lowest growth area for all Australia. This fact doubly compounds the effect of the Monarto Development Commission report. At page 428 of the Borrie report is set out the prediction for South Australia as compared with other States. The projected population for the whole State, under a number of possibilities, ranges from 1 173 000 in 1971 to 1 381 000 by the year 200 1. That is under the first possibility. Under the second possibility the prediction is up to 1.5 million, the third is 1.25 million and the fourth is 1 .369 million.
I remind the Senate that those figures are for the whole of South Australia whereas the Cities Commission has predicted 2.1 million for Adelaide. This illustrates the enormous disparity in the predictions for the future. There are others. On page 429 of the Borrie report the increases are listed in absolute terms as predicted. For South Australia by the year 200 1 the predicted increase ranged across this field- 207 000, 354 000, 67 000 and 195 000. If honourable senators take an average of those figures they will find that the average prediction of increase in the total population for South Australia is 205 000 by the year 2001. There is a refinement of this figure at page 442 where there is a reference to urban areas. On that page we find the predictions for the urban areas in South Australia are set out in this way: There are predicted increases of 149 000, 254 000, 48 000 and 140 000. On the ensuing page the predicted populations are given as percentages and for South Australia they are 17 per cent, 30 per cent, 5 per cent and 1 6 per cent.
These figures dramatically undermine any proposals for the establishment of Monarto. They mean that if Monarto is to be fulfilled, according to the Borrie report there would be almost negative growth in Adelaide. We know how nonsensical that is because no matter what inducements are given there will be very many people who will want to live in Adelaide for business or personal reasons. Therefore the South Australian Government now finds itself in the most difficult of all positions. It has signed an agreement with the Commonwealth to proceed with Monarto. It is politically committed to a State election within 12 months. The Borrie report brings to the scene dramatic news that the Monarto proposal should be put into reverse. To proceed will probably waste a tremendous amount of Australian taxpayers’ money at a time when the Government is committed to economies.
– Did the honourable senator vote for that Bill? Of course he did. It is on record. He supported it in the Parliament. He changes with the wind.
-Apparently Senator McLaren is not listening. He can reply directly. What I am saying is that a report has been on his desk for several weeks. It is new material. It completely contradicts any previous material. Senator McLaren had better understand that.
– In 2 years time there will be another report which contradicts this one too.
– If the honourable senator throws this report away I suggest that he will not govern on facts or proven material. What he will do is help to govern on emotion in the sense that he lives about 4 miles from where it is proposed to build Monarto.
– I know more about it than the honourable senator does.
– I invite Senator McLaren to look at the pretty pictures in the back of the Monarto document. He lives close to the area. Let him tell the Senate for how many months of the year these pretty pictures apply to the district of Monarto. Let him honestly say whether they are true reflections of that district.
– Of course they are.
-That indicates the worth of Senator McLaren’s obviously future contribution to the debate. Those who know the district know that it is a completely overpromoted area. This morning, in response to very real criticisms which are being made across the length and breadth of South Australia about this wasteful and unnecessary project in South Australia, the Premier said that he will not now force residents in Adelaide who work for the 3 government departments to live in Monarto. He has changed his tune. In one week he has shown more flexibility, apparently, than Senator McLaren. He has changed his mind which, obviously, Senator McLaren will not do. But today the Premier changed his mind and said that the South Australian public servants in Adelaide did not have to live in Monarto. All he has said is that they must work in Monarto. They do not have to live there but they must work there. I suggest to the South Australian Premier that this is a quite incomprehensible scheme when, at this stage, he says: ‘You do not have to live in Monarto but you have to work there’. Monarto is perhaps 35 or 40 miles from where the public servants live. If they live at Brighton it is 50 miles and 60 miles if they live at Reynella. This morning the Premier said: ‘I do not care how you get there. You can get there by rickshaw, steamboat or helicopter. I do not care how you get there but you have to be there when work starts and you can leave when it finishes’. What a proposition of economic efficiency that is.
– That is what you did. You forced them out when you were in government.
– I suggest to Senator McLaren that he should contribute to the debate as provided in Standing Orders. The proposition put up by the South Australian Government is that it may not be efficient for public servants to live there but it must be the place where they work. So they can travel anything up to 100 miles a days to get to work whereas now they may travel 10 or 15 miles. That is what the South Australian Premier is saying to his public servants and they reject it, as do most South Australians. Monarto in our State is developing into one of the first really big political and Government issues which we have seen for many a decade. It has become a matter of very great concern for South Australians. I suggest it should be a matter of concern for the rest of Australia because their money will go into a city where very few people want to live and into a State which is predicted to have a minimal population growth in the next 25 years. The population growth will nowhere near sustain the expansion rate of Adelaide over the last 25 years. Therefore this proposal is totally unwarranted on projected population growth. It is totally unwarranted at a time when the Federal Government must reduce expenditure. It is totally unwanted by almost the entire public of South Australia. I welcome the opportunity afforded by these Appropriation Bills to say just that.
-This has been an extraordinary debate. It may be appropriate, for the purpose of the record, to remind the Senate precisely what it is all about. We are speaking to the motion that Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1974-75 be read a second time. The debate has taken on the complexion of a cognate debate, as we are taking into account Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1974-75. 1 understand that last evening Senator Greenwood moved an amendment to which I shall refer subsequently. Much has been said by the previous speaker, Senator Steele Hall, at least in the early part of his contribution, which took my running, as the saying is, in relation to the performance of the Opposition and its constant threat and harassment of the Government over the possibility of a snap election.
This has certainly created a situation in Australia the like of which, to my knowledge, we have not seen since Federation. This has promoted a form of instability and a sense of frustration not only for the working of this Parliament but also for the people as a whole. To that extent I think I can agree with the amendment which has been moved by Senator Greenwood which states:
Once the stability of the country is undermined naturally the security of the country is called into question. However, for the time being I shall refer briefly to Senator Cotton’s contribution. I thought this was the beginning of a chapter of extraordinary contributions in this debate. It is true that Senator Cotton referred to the 2 Appropriation Bills and said that together they represented the expenditure of some $600,979,000 to 30 June 1975. He briefly touched on the major features of the allocation of money for the purposes stated.
Interestingly enough, the honourable senator then moved into another area. At page 688 of Hansard he stated:
I have been looking at some of these issues in the light of the Senate ‘s position, ability and powers.
Then, further on, at page 689 he went on:
Looking at the Senate as an institution and its financial powers, I believe that we ought to regard ourselves continuously as an inspecting House of Parliament. This is a function that I conceive for the Senate. I believe that it has always been so but it has tended to become more so. The view that I hold in the Australian scene is that over the years this will become increasingly so- not the originating financial House but the inspecting House; in addition, a checking House -
That is an understatement-
Of course, concurrently with that it is a general review House in which senators might be prepared to take a longer view of economic and monetary policies.
I agree with Senator Cotton when he says that this chamber and its members have a responsibility to review in depth and in detail the measures which are brought across from the other place- the initiating House to which he referred- particularly financial matters.
I do not want to do Senator Cotton a disservice but I was very interested to see that he introduced this concept of the powers of the Senate. I wonder whether that is for one of two reasons. I wonder whether he was attempting to placate his own conscience because of his role in an action which was taken by the Opposition in
April of last year? Was he projecting the possibility of like action being taken again by the Senate? Alternatively, was it a combination of both? I think Senator Cotton should be asked here and now, with reference to this being a House of review, a checking House- I regret that he is not in the Senate- what standing he gives to the use of that term ‘checking’. In April last year the action of the Opposition went far beyond reviewing. It could be said that it was checking. It went so far that it brought about an extraordinary situation and a double dissolution of the Parliament ensued. I think that occurred on the night of 10 April 1974. Prior to the Opposition taking that action there were many members of the Liberal Party who had certain things to say on the subject. One of them was a gentleman who has been described, and rightly so, as the architect of the Liberal Party. Of course, he is now retired. I will refer to him as a retired gentleman, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. When he learnt of the possibility of the Senate taking this unprecedented action of refusing Supply this gentleman, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, described such action as a falsification of democracy.
I would like to read to honourable senators what was said by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) at that time. He is still a member of the House of Representatives. I commend this article to all honourable senators opposite because it has a great deal of merit. It appeared on page 4 of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 1 9 April 1 974 over the signature of Mr D. J. Killen, the Liberal member for the Brisbane seat of Moreton. It is also stated that Mr Killen is a lawyer. The article is entitled: ‘It’s a threat to our parliamentary system’. Mr Killen said:
If the Senate can reject a supply Bill … it would mean that the terms of one section of the Constitution were being trampled upon. The Senate would not have equal power with the House of Representatives. It would have greater power.
I believe that that statement in itself should weigh heavily on the minds of those honourable senators who constitute the Opposition for the time being and, as I see it, will do so into the distant future. I remind the Senate of that fateful evening of 10 April 1974. The Senate was engaged in a debate on an Appropriation Bill. Interestingly enough, it was the Appropriation Bill (No. 4)- the same title as the Appropriation Bill we are discussing today. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) made this contribution to the debate, following the contribution made by Senator Greenwood:
If we did not grant Supply the situation would be rather farcical.
Then he went on to say this:
We embarked on a course 12 months ago- I am not trying to be provocative- to bring about a House of Representatives election. That has now been achieved.
Leaving out the words which Senator Withers interpolated, what he was saying in the Senate was: ‘We’- meaning the Opposition- ‘embarked on a course some 12 months ago to bring about a House of Representatives election. That has now been achieved’. I am not sure whether members of the Opposition, in their blind thrust for power, realise that if we backtrack 12 months- the period mentioned by Senator Withers- from 1 2 April, it takes us back to a point approximately half way through the first Autumn session of the new Parliament, when the newly elected Australian Labor Party Government had not even been in office for 6 months. The Leader of the Opposition indicated in that disclosure that that was the time when the Opposition set out to cause the members of the House of Representatives to face the people again. I repeat what Mr Killen said:
If the Senate can reject a supply Bill … it would mean that the terms of one section of the Constitution were being trampled upon. The Senate would not have equal power with the House of Representatives. It would have greater power.
He had many other things to say. I think that I ought to read into the record some of what he said. He was dealing with a double dissolution and was speaking about the Senate having the power to force the House of Representatives to go to the people but the House of Representatives not being able to force the Senate to go to the people. He said:
Such a notion was never within the contemplation of the founders of the Commonwealth Constitution. It is a proposition which the overwhelming majority of Australians would regard as absurd.
Beyond this it would mean that the terms of one section (S. 53) of the Constitution were being trampled upon.
The Senate would not have equal power with the House of Representatives. It would have greater power.
Experience shows that precedents should be departed from with great care. They should be established with greater care.
If the Senate does establish the precedent of rejecting a supply or appropriation Bill, the difficulties of government in Australia at some time in the future could be immense.
That is precisely what we are experiencing at present. That is one of the reasons why, although I do not agree with the reasons for the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood, I agree with its wording. Finally, Mr Killen said this:
Power without a corresponding responsibility always stands in danger of degenerating into a tyranny.
Let us consider the personalities involved in another place. I do not say this disparagingly.
Firstly, there is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who is the Leader for the time being. I can understand why his performance in the other place is not as good as it might otherwise be. It must be extremely difficult to know that one does not have the wholehearted support of one’s colleagues. He is a man who displays a degree of timidity and indecision. But the real power behind the throne in this force of politics in Australia is one who is arrogant and powercrazed. He is bad news for Australians and Australia. I refer to Mr Doug Anthony. He is the one who literally forced the Opposition into a double dissolution or to refuse Supply last year. I do not propose to traverse the same ground as Senator Steele Hall traversed. But again he is the one who is pressing for and pushing for a grab for power.
Notwithstanding all the attempts that have been made by the Opposition in the other House and in the Senate to frustrate this Government and cause it to lose favour with the Australian electorate- it is obvious that the Opposition has not been successful if we have regard to recent gallup polls- we have before us today and we saw the origins of this last night, an amendment moved by Senator Greenwood which raises the question of the dangers to Australian security. I would not for one moment question the decision or the authority of the Chair. But I would be remiss if I did not say this: Because of the elaborate character of the Standing Orders of the Senate, I believe that there has been an abuse by Senator Greenwood of the liberal interpretation given by the President. I say this for a number of reasons. Senator Greenwood has relied on an obscure document. I only wish that I had been in the chamber when he raised the matter. But I was otherwise occupied. I would like to have seen the document tabled. If Senator Greenwood is listening to the debate, I hope he will give consideration to returning to the chamber. I ask him to give consideration to tabling the document.
The document evidently arose out of and was circulated at a conference or some sort of educational camp that was held at Ocean Grove between 28 December 1974 and 5 January 1975. From what I can remember of what I heard the honourable senator say, I think we must call into question the credibility of the source on which Senator Greenwood has relied for what can be described only as a hysterical outburst. It has been used to vilify- if not by direct means, at least by innuendo, inference and one of the worst techniques that can be employed, namely, guilt by association. It certainly does not enhance Senator Greenwood ‘s standing in my eyes as a man of the law, a Deputy Leader of the Opposition and a former Minister of the Crown for him to use the technique that he used in the Senate. He took advantage of the liberal interpretation of the Standing Orders. He has attempted to use this opportunity to vilify the organisation which I have the privilege to be a member of, the Australian Labor Party, and one of its subsidiaries, the Young Labor Association.
Honourable senators may not be aware of a Melbourne newspaper known as the ‘Sunday Observer’. It is a Maxwell Newton publication. Frankly, if it was a throwaway newspaper, and this is not an opinion I have formed because of this afternoon s episode, I would not buy it, firstly, because it is 40c a copy and until recent times I would not have been able to afford that- I have not got that increase anyway but I hope it will come in due course- and, secondly, even if it were a throwaway newspaper I would not allow my family to look at it. I am not an old square or a conservative. 1 like beauty and beauty can be seen in this form, but it is a sex rag. The heading on this paper states: ‘Spy- World Exclusive ‘. It goes on:
ASIO’s top agent exposes our amazing world of sex, treachery and terror’.
Going through this article at random, there is a section entitled. ‘Sex, Sabotage, Crime Makes Max’s World’. It is like something one reads in a James Bond novel or something from ‘MI5 ‘.
– A Max Newton thriller.
– But this is not Maxwell Newton we are speaking about, it is Max Wechsler. Among other things the article says:
For 26 months this true-life double-agent stopped at nothing, including taking girls to bed with him for sex and information, eavesdropping, stealing documents, committing sabotage, manipulating finances and obtaining sets of duplicate keys to allow ASIO agents to do a Watergate-type break-in at the SWL headquarters in Melbourne and Adelaide.
There are a few other really spicy quotes. It goes on:
Wechsler helped ASIO organise a major phone-tapping operation on the SWL. It had the approval of the then Attorney-General Senator Murphy. It was last March and Wechsler got a series of questions from his ASIO man John, who told him that they came straight from Murphy’s office. Wechsler’s job was to answer them. The questions concerned Arabs . . . how regularly the Arab members of the Palestine Liberation groups called up the SWL? How long they spoke on the phone. At what times of the day.
This goes on page after page. It says: ‘More on pages 14, 15’. It is hard to follow because of its poor print. As I said, it is a poor quality newspaper. Among other things it says:
As a spy I fooled everyone . . . communists like Jack Mundey and John Halfpenny.
He went on to talk about Federal members and different supporters of socialist activities in Victoria. He said:
I even fooled the girls I slept with so I could get information. I fooled the Brunswick CIB.
That is the Criminal Investigation Bureau of our police force in Victoria.
I even fooled an Army major into giving me top secret details about meetings the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, was having on the purchase of German Leopard tanks for the Army. I know the inside and out of the revolutionary movement here; I know the best way to impress people at the top; I always know in advance where and when there is going to be violence. These attainments have made me ASIO’s top undercover agent in internal political affairs.
This is not bad for inside 26 months. Then there are a few other choice pieces. In a piece entitled The Heat is On’ this appears:
Soon I was trusted by them -
He is referring to the Communist Party of Australia and the information was flowing to ASIO files in Melbourne and Canberra- it was information that was priceless. It soon became apparent to everyone including me that I was working for chickenfeed. John used the very word when I raised it with him.
Incidentally, John was the ASIO contact with the Attorney-General’s office. The article continues:
My pay had gone from $12 a month to $24, then $36 and once, when I told them I needed transport, they gave me $400 and I bought a Yamaha 250.
If my memory serves me right, that is a motor bike of Japanese origin. It goes on:
I’ve got to work full-time on this SWL thing,’ I told John. So it’s about time I became a full-time agent.’ Surprisingly, he agreed quite readily and from then on I was on $ 100 a week cash- plus my $36 a week sickness benefit cheque.
John also told me that I was the only full-time undercover agent working for the organisation in Australia.
It goes on. Senator Greenwood has relied on this type of individual to- use the national Parliament in an attempt to raise this matter. Thank goodness I have faith in the good sense of the Australian people not to be hoodwinked or fooled by such rubbish. Senator Greenwood has in my view abused the liberal interpretation of Standing Orders. The article continues under the heading ‘The heat is on’:
So I deliberately set up a girl activist I was friendly with in the movement and began wining and dining her. Soon she was coming up to my apartment and spending the nights with me.
I think he was a little bit peculiar. I do not mean for that reason but for other reasons. It goes on:
I told her that my rich aunt- the one I’d lived with in St Kilda when I first came to Australia- had taken pity on me because I was sick. I said she let me move into the Centre City Club rent-free because she was a part owner.
And so it goes on and on. Interestingly enough, that appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sunday Observer’. I think Mr Maxwell Newton has taken licence when he talks about a world exclusive. That article was published on 23 February 1975. 1 am not prepared to weary the Senate by reading that right through. I was not even prepared to weary myself. This man has evidently gone into hiding and has top senior security officers protecting him; but apparently he broke away from them or Senator Greenwood may still have some links from back in that dark age before we became the Government, when he was AttorneyGeneral. If my memory serves me right he has had some communication with that gentleman since that time. The article was published on 23 February. On 28 February in the ‘Nation Review’ there is an article by a Mr William H. Martin appearing on page 517. It is entitled: Mystery Max throws up questions on ASIO’. It is worth reading into the record. It states:
One of this country’s most incredible spy stories broke last weekend when Melbourne’s Sunday Observer carried headlines screaming: ASIO’s top agent exposes our amazing world of sex, treachery and terror’.
That is characteristic of this newspaper, incidentally, but not in terms of security. It continues:
This alleged top spy is 25 year old Czech born Maximilian Wechsler who says that he reached the exalted position in ASIO in 26 months and was being paid the amazing salary of $100 cash a week by them in addition to receiving $36 weekly in Commonwealth sickness benefits.
If that is the case I think there is some ground for us to investigate the matter because funds of the Commonwealth have been misused. That may be worth looking at but to my mind it would be the only thing. The article continues:
How Mystery Max came to receive sickness benefits and what Max’s sickness is are questions receiving scrutiny from people who have known Max and his medical history. The disclosures are expected to throw new light on the calibre of the informers and agents employed by ASIO.
I have 3 or 4 more quotes:
Maxie’s standard of reporting to ASIO shows how unreliable most of their information could be. He said that the catholic church was the unwitting host to SWL -
That is the Socialist Workers League- members at its Ocean Grove complex. Yet this camp is owned by the methodists.
Now, I happen to know somebody- you usually do get to know a great range and variety of people in politics- and I phoned before I came into the chamber to check if the facts as reported by Mr William H. Martin are correct. He said: Yes, that is right, Senator. As a matter of fact, it was an open camp. It was open to the public and the complex is in fact owned by the Methodists.’ It may be an oversight; perhaps he has got his religions mixed. I know there is a new ecumenical development between the conformists and the non-conformists but I did not think it would go so far that it would be called into question on the basis of accommodating a potential threat to the security of Australia. I should not think that the Catholic Church would be involved in that, nor would the Methodists. I go further and again quote from this article:
A number of questions remain unanswered about Mystery Maxie
How could he afford to move into the Centre City Club in Flinders Street, Melbourne, and pay $37 weekly rent from December 5 last until February 19?
Where did he obtain the money to buy a colour TV? When questioned about it by SWL members he said his aunt was feeling sorry for him and gave him the money to buy it.
He has since admitted that another story about his aunt giving him money was a lie.
Was it a coincidence -
I think this is interesting-
Was it a coincidence that he was at the City Centre Club at the same time as runaway British MP John Stonehouse? In 1969 a Czech security agent Joseph Frolik defected to the Americans and alleged that Stonehouse was a Czech agent. This was investigated by British security service D15. They later reported to Harold Wilson that Frolik ‘s allegations were without foundation.
How did Mystery Max become naturalised in less than the 3 years’ residence required to qualify?
I quote further:
His limited command of the English language and his inability to understand questions and answer them was shown on ‘A Current Affair’ last Monday. How could this man report accurately and faithfully to his ASIO puppeteers?
As I said earlier, I think that this Senate has been misused and that the privileges extended to the honourable senator have been abused. I would hope that the newspapers will act rationally and sensibly and responsibly if they are going to report Senator Greenwood because it may well be that this is part of a calculated plan again to raise the sort of McCarthyism that we had in this country back in the 50s. Those who seek power and who have never conceded that the Australian Labor Party is in fact the Government- I am referring to the Opposition- will stoop to anything, stoop to any tactic or technique to try to undermine this Government. Let me remind the Senate of one thing. I am not necessarily an avid supporter of the institution or the establishment, but for the time being it is here and until something else can be put in its place then we have to have some regard to it. But as long as the Opposition continues to hold a threat over the duly elected Government of the day and so long as one has regard to what Mr Killen and Sir Robert Gordon Menzies said as to the way in which the Opposition has abused and prostituted this establishment and the Constitution- so long as there exists the instability that is presently within our community- then likewise the security of this nation is threatened. And I name men like Senator Greenwood as the people responsible for the insecurity in this nation right now and I make no apology for saying it.
– I rise to support the Appropiration Bills that are before the Senate, as do Senator Hall, Senator Cotton and Senator Greenwood for the Opposition. But in doing so I want to preface my very brief remarks by saying that I was very surprise when Senator Hall spoke here some little time ago at the loud and somewhat excited denigration he poured on the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, on the Liberal Party, and indeed on Mr Anthony, the Leader of the Australian Country Party. It seems rather incredible to me that Senator Hall, who if he has a political philosophy I assume it is concerned with federalism- I assume, as he has in fact stated, that as a political philosopher he is anti-socialist -stands in this chamber and attempts somewhat ill-informedly to pour scorn upon the very forces, the only forces, in this country which are in fact anti-socialist and federalist. It is a strange situation and it happened here today so clearly for everyone to hear and to read. It also surprised me that he should have indicated that he felt it was a strange and even rude circumstance that when Mr Snedden was asked when he proposed to force an election- and who knows who forces an election, whether there is to be one and whoever may force it- he did not reply, did not give a date. Indeed, I assume that such an astute Premier as Senator Hall once was would certainly not have indicated to anybody- to the Press or anybody else- when he may have chosen to set a date for an election. It seemed a pretty stupid and pointless criticism of .the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden.
Senator Hall went further and denigrated my own Leader, Mr Anthony, with reference to his attitudes to Medibank. I believe it is important that in that situation I should explain to this Senate, as Mr Anthony has explained to the House of Representatives, a very large measure of misrepresentation. Indeed, all of us in this Senate on either side of the chamber are from time to time misrepresented, and I believe that Mr Anthony has been misrepresented to such an extent that he had this to say this very morning. I quote:
I have been misrepresented in various newspaper, radio and television reports of statments I have made concerning the funding of Medibank. I have been misrepresented in that I have been quite wrongly reported as threatening to force an election on this issue. I acknowledge that certain reports on
ABC television and radio bulletins last night were accepted by the ABC as wrong and were corrected in later bulletins. To correct the misrepresentation of my views, I point out that I have stated that if the Government adopts a certain course of action to seek to appropriate funds for Medibank it will do so in the full knowledge of what would appear to be the inevitable consequences. I have been misrepresented as threatening to force an election over this matter. What I have said is that the Government itself will be responsible for the precipitation of an election if it deliberately and consciously adopts a course of action when it is fully aware of what would seem to be the likely consequences of that course of action. I have been misrepresented as committing the Opposition in the Senate to reject Supply if a Supply Bill containing an appropriation for Medibank is introduced. I have not done so. I cannot do so. I have simply pointed out that the attitude of the Opposition senators to Medibank is well known and that if they maintain that attitude and if the Government adopts the improper course of including Medibank appropriations in a Supply Bill it would seem logical that, to be consistent, the Senate would be forced by the Government into a position of rejecting Supply. To complete my explanation I point out that I have made it clear that the Government can avoid precipitating an election over this matter by following the proper course of introducing a separate Bill to appropriate funds for Medibank.
I believe that that is the sort of explanation with which Senator Hall should have acquainted himself before making the extraordinary allegations that he made in this place. In fact, he went on to blame the Opposition for creating the situation in which the Government governs on a 6-monthly cycle. I thought that that was a somewhat generous assumption because to me it seems that the Governments governs- whether there is an election or not- on a 3-monthly cycle. For instance, there have been about 3 Budgets in 9 months. So it does not suggest that there is any real continuity to Government policy, nor that there is any real length in the cycle which concerns the Government’s operation.
The Bills before us seek to appropriate some $600m, and the expenditure of that amount of money must naturally concern this Parliament and this chamber. It is a vast sum of money, particularly in view of the fact that already the country, the Parliament, faces a deficit which is more than 5 times the deficit that was estimated about 7 or 8 months ago. So the expenditure of $600m must be a serious question. Having said that, I accept wholeheartedly and totally the urgency of the need for the money that is being appropriated in these Bills. There is an immediate and absolute urgency to provide funds to meet the situation created by the devastation in Darwin and by the tragedy that befell the Hobart bridge, and the immense problems consequent upon the economic disaster which faces many areas in the States. Certainly we cannot be held to be responsible for creating the situation in which funds are required due to the ravages of nature, such as the disaster which befell the city of Darwin at Christmas. Likewise, we as a government or an opposition or any organisation cannot be held to be responsible for the misadventure which presumably was the circumstance that surrounded the disaster in Hobart.
I believe that we would be less than responsible if we did not examine some of the economic causes that make it necessary for literally hundreds of millions of dollars to be found to implement housing schemes, to make unemployment payments, and fortunately to aid road building and maintenance programs in the States for which I believe a small amount of $30m is being provided in these Bills. There must be reason to examine the economic situations that have brought about the need for hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent in those areas. Certainly we need to seek no further in relation to the area of natural disaster. Indeed, I compliment the Government on the importance that it has placed upon the need to overcome the problems facing Darwin and Hobart.
On Tuesday of this week in this chamber during the debate on the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, which the Opposition supported, and on the National Investment Fund Bill, which the Opposition opposed for very excellent reasons, Senator McAuliffe accused the Opposition of changing and twisting. What an extraordinary statement that was. Surely it was made from a sense of humour, because if one examines the history of this Government during the last 2 years, and more particularly during the last 6 or 8 months, one finds that there has been a constant ripping away and a gradual re-implementation of policies which in many cases had produced affluence and a strong and stable society for more than a generation. There could be no greater example of changing and twisting than the attitude and action of this Government.
I qualify those remarks by saying that in the beginning the Government established the case that there was, as well there may have been, too much foreign capital flowing into our economy. Consequently, the Government introduced a 33 W per cent deposit requirement. That was so severe that immediately the total flow of foreign capital was stopped. There was no development capital or research capital coming into Australia. Some months later, the deposit requirement was reduced to 25 per cent, some months later again it was reduced to 5 per cent, and finally, about 3 or 4 months ago, it was totally abolished. Today we see the leaders of this Government careering around the world desperately seeking funds for investment in research and development projects in Australia.
– And markets.
– Hopefully, the Government is seeking markets, too. The policies concerning tariff and import quotas have been changed. They have produced extraordinary results, although they should not have been extraordinary. The thing that was extraordinary was for the Government to assume that it would solve the tariff problems and the industrial and commercial problems by an across the board rubbing out of 25 per cent tariff protection. As a result of that we have seen the reimposition of import quotas and changes in the tariff levels in order to stop the desperate unemployment situation which arose in many industries that should not have been placed under such a strain.
We have seen a change in emphasis from the public sector to the private sector. Only 8 months ago we were told that we should move from the private sector to the public sector, to the extent of a 32.4 per cent increase in activity in the public sector. Now, less than 8 months later, we are told that after all the private sector is significant for the survival and development of Australia, and that it is significant to Australians, to employment and to the production of goods. Consequently, there is suddenly a realisation that the private sector is infinitely important, and I believe that it is infinitely important. But the question which Australians should ask is this: Is this movement in support and movement from one policy, one attitude, one philosphy to another and back again, the sort of thing that is likely to breed confidence in this community? It is confidence alone, internally and externally, that will see Australia out of the dire straits into which it has been drifting during the past 2 years.
I shall refer to another area in which we have seen extreme changes in attitude by this Government and a refusal to recognise the necessity to do something in a certain situation. The Government consistently refused to maintain the superphosphate bounty until it had received proper research advice. Yet today we are told that that advice from the Industries Assistance Commission will be given perhaps by July 1 976. In the meantime the productive capacity of a vast area of Australia is falling drastically, and many areas which depend on superphosphate- its production, the carting of it and the spreading of it- are going downhill very rapidly as a result of a refusal, in this case, to change what is surely a stubborn policy. Petrol prices are often referred to, but seldom does the Government or the Press refer to the fact that this Government has been in office during a period when petrol prices have risen by approximately 19c a gallon or 40 per cent in 2 years. That is not a very good program.
– And Mr Anthony wants to increase them, does he not?
– Since the honourable senator has asked me that question, I point out that Mr Anthony once made the hypothetical suggestion that if the price of crude oil at the wellhead were increased by 40 per cent it would involve the Australian economy in an increase in the price of petrol of 2c or 3c a gallon and that that could be avoided by a reduction in the excise duty on that petrol. That is what Mr Anthony suggested, and the statement has been distorted and misrepresented for the last 12 months.
I would like to refer to the circumstances in primary industry, but time does not permit. Centralism is one of the greatest menaces to this country in the dire circumstances of today. I refer to only 2 areas for the moment. The Regional Employment Development scheme is providing a measure of employment, but it is doing so in areas which rate probably No. 20 on the priority list of the people who count- the people in the local government councils, the people in the areas where men and women are unemployed and where they must be employed. These Appropriation Bills include $30m for roads. I quote the following from a report to the council of a typical average size shire in my own State:
A grant of $70,1 19 has been announced for 1974-75. This compares with last year’s CAR grant of $121,320 and reflects the severe cut in Commonwealth allocations to Shires for rural roads: There was also a minor decline for this Council due to a change in the State formula for distributing the Commonwealth total amongst the Shires.
The new Commonwealth 3-year Act provides that the allocation will decline further for 1975-76 and again in 1976-77.
Commencing immediately, the reduced annual allocations mean that the following types of work are eliminated in this Shire unless Council decides to increase rates to compensate for government action- which presumably cannot be contemplated under current rural income conditions:
All new bitumen sealing.
All reconstruction of gravel surfaces in preparation for intended sealing.
All reconstruction to upgrade gravel roads not intended for sealing.
All maintenance gravelling, previously financed within the Grants maintenance percentage.
The only types of roadwork now practicable from the Commonwealth funds will be:
Maintenance patching of existing bitumen roads.
Re-sealing of the existing bitumen system on a 10-year cycle.
Incidentally, the bitumen system in that shire covers 123 miles out of the shire road mileage of 450 miles. The report continues:
Allowing for cost inflation, a grant of nearly $150,000 would have been required to achieve the same results as last year’s allocation. Accordingly, Council’s funds have been cut to much less than 50 per cent in one year in real terms.
I close by once again drawing the attention of this chamber to the necessity for these Appropriation Bills to be passed because circumstances of nature and misadventure demand that this should happen. But I also draw the attention of this chamber to the fact that these enormous amounts of money in very large measure are due to economic mismanagement, in respect of which this Government certainly cannot escape responsibility.
– I enter this debate only to reply to some of the remarks that were made by Senator Hall. A condition of being able to enter the debate is that my remarks must be very brief. We on this side of the Senate must agree with parts and disagree with other parts of Senator Hall’s speech. We also must do that in respect of other speakers, with the exception of Senator Greenwood. The last speaker, Senator Scott, praised the Government for its initiative in rebuilding Darwin and acknowledged that there was some over-investment in Australia in respect of which we had to take action, but then he criticised the Government for what we have done since. The Opposition, lacking the security of which Senator Hall boasts, is embarrassed by its leadership and has tried to overcome that embarrassment by simply condemning this Government.
After he completed his address to the nation on the inadequacies of the present leadership of the Liberal Party, Senator Hall went on to this other pet hate and condemned Don Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia. As Senator Hall said, Monarto is one of Don Dunstan’s proud achievements. Because it is Don Dunstan’s proud achievement, what he proposes to do there must be the subject of condemnation by Senator Hall. Yet this Premier who gets these weird ideas, as was said by way of interjection, has been reendorsed by the public of South Australia and is the man who was responsible for kicking Senator Steele Hall out of the Premiership of South Australia. Here the defeated is condemning the successful, and what the successful one, the accepted one, does is said to be no good.
To put the issue straight, Monarto was started on the initiative of the State and is being funded by Commonwealth loan money. In 1972 the
State Government appointed a committee to investigate and report upon the side for a second city. The State Government decided to appoint a committee because it concluded that Adelaide would grow to an unmanageable and uncomfortable size unless it created a second city. Of course, the planning committee decided on the site of Monarto. Whether or not this is the right site, the best brains in the Commonwealth have accepted it. We are asked to believe that it is no good because Senator Hall says that it is no good. After the planning committee from the South Australian Government decided on the site, it was surveyed by the Department of Urban and Regional Development, together with the development division of the Premier’s Department of South Australia and the development divisions of the South Australian and Commonwealth Treasuries. After all this, we have it on the authority of a defeated South Australian Premier, who is now a senator, that it is no good.
If a government believes in decentralisation, surely it must take part in activities concerning decentralisation. It is no use telling everyone to go to Monarto or to Albury-Wodonga if the authority that is telling them to go will not go itself. It has been decided that certain public servants in South Australia will go to Monarto. The Premier of South Australia told me last evening that there is no compulsion on people to live at Monarto. They can commute from Adelaide- a drive of three-quarters of an hour on a freeway- if they so desire. There can be some rearrangement through a re-location committee to try to make the position more acceptable to the public servants. The Public Service Association of South Australia pressurised the State Government to announce what sections would be transferred to Monarto. When the State Government made the announcement the particular sections protested against going approximately 45 miles away from Adelaide. The Government has a relocation committee working with the Public Service on the transfer. The fact that the Public Service asked for the announcement to be made shows that there was no opposition to the transfer. It wanted to know which departments would be transferred. The relocation committee is working with the Public Service and considering how it can offer more incentive and more assistance for those who have to go to Monarto.
The night before last a public meeting was held in Adelaide. Senator Hall remarked on an Advertiser’ report of the meeting. The report stated that nearly 450 people attended the meeting. Officials of the Public Service Association had hoped to fill the Town Hall with the bulk of the 1300 officers of the 3 government departments which were to be transferred to Monarto. The report stated that officers of the 3 departments did not desire to live at Monarto. They do not have to. My information from the South Australian Premier’s office is that actually only 200 officers who would be affected attended the meeting. The rest of the people who attended were members of the families of the affected public servants. Seventeen hundred public servants will be transferred to Monarto, so there is not a protest among the public servants of South Australia. The protest is being made by a small proportion of public servants- it is insignificant. It appears that the Premier has succeeded in his objectives to gain acceptance of the transfers.
We are now told that there is no need for public servants to be transferred from Adelaide. The Borrie report states that Adelaide has a poor outlook for the future. Senate Steele Hall repeated that statement today. Adelaide has a poor outlook only if we accept what is contained in the Borrie report and if we accept the dismal attitude of Senator Steele Hall. We should accept what the Premier of South Australia says. He says that the population report was based upon the trends of the last 6 years. If this continues there will be a zero population increase in Adelaide. If South Australia is to expand and not have a dismal future more factories must be set up there. In the last 2 years $28m has been spent on diversified factories in South Australia. This has kept employment figures up at the time when the motor vehicle industry has been in recession. For the first time in 29 years, including the period when Senator Hall was Premier, South Australia had the lowest unemployment figures proportionate to population of any State in the Commonwealth. That is because of the building of small factories in South Australia. The building of small factories must increase so that South Australia can have a greater population. The dire consequences of the population report will not happen with a progressive government.
The Government has reasons for moving public servants out of Adelaide. The Jordan Committee, which looked into environmental aspects, said that Adelaide was reaching danger levels in pollution. The Committee said that there should be no more environmental corruptions by building more factories in Adelaide. Therefore, more factories cannot be built in Adelaide to develop South Australia. Any future population increase in South Australia must be elsewhere. The site of Monarto is 45 miles from Adelaide. Consideration was given as to whether it was the best site that could be selected. On all available evidence -Monarto is connected to Adelaide by an interstate road, a freeway, and is one the main Adelaide to Melbourne road- the area was settled. Of course Senator McLaren gets some condemnation because he lives near the area and advocated its development. We get condemnation because a particular senator does not like the Premier of South Australia. There is justification, if South Australia is to progress, for Monarto to go ahead. The Commonwealth expects Monarto to go ahead. Possibly the Commonwealth Government, which is financing the scheme, should see that its employees favour decentralisation. I just wanted to put the record straight about Monarto.
– In speaking to Appropriation Bill (No. 3)1 wish to refer to the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs and particularly to the question of any proposed visit by members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to this country. Yesterday, in answer to Mr Ruddock in another place, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) gave conditional approval to a visit by the Palestine Liberation Organisation to this country. Further, in answer to a question by Mr Berinson, he offered some justification of the stand taken by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Today, according to the best information from radio and wire services, a terrorist attack has occurred in Tel Aviv. To the best of our information 12 Arab terrorists have come ashore in Tel Aviv in 2 boats. Firing automatic weapons they have taken over the Hotel Savoy in Tei Aviv. The terrorists are holding somewhere between 40 and 45 hostages. It is uncertain but reports indicate that some people have been killed, all of them being civilians. A number of people have been taken from the hotel on stretchers. It appears that the terrorists are demanding an aeroplane, safe conduct and the right to take hostages from Israel.
The group claiming responsibility for the attack is not entirely clear, but 3 groups appear to have claimed responsibility at this time. Reports indicate that the Palestine Forces Commandthe military arm of the Palestine Liberation Organisation- has claimed responsibility. The second news report indicates that El Fatah, Mr Arafat’s own group, has claimed responsibility. This group is part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The third report indicates that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command- has claimed responsibility. This group is also part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. In the end it does not matter which of these 3 groups claims responsibility. The Palestine Liberation Organisation today has launched an attack upon the civilian population of a city in Israel. lt is worth looking at some of the recent history of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. In 1 968 the 14 groups making up the Palestine Liberation Organisation met and issued a covenant, a document of common principle. I should like to quote to the Senate just two of the articles of that covenant. Article 9 of the covenant states:
Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.
Article 2 1 of the covenant states:
The Palestinian Arab people, in expressing itself through the armed Palestine revolution, rejects every solution that is a substitute for complete liberation of Palestine, and rejects all plans that aim at the settlement of the Palestine issue or its internationalisation.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation has as part of its covenant’ armed struggle and the destruction of the State of Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organisation is, on past history, a terror group. It is a terrorist group responsible for some of the worst massacres of the last 10 years. It has specialised in attacks upon the unarmed, upon civilians and upon athletes. The associated groups that make up the PLO have used terror against civilian populations as part of their regular program. Today’s events in Tel Aviv simply emphasise that that is the case. The PLO is not a legitimate national liberation organisation. It has no right to speak for the Palestinian people. It is not an elected body. We do not want it in Australia. Its acceptance here would enhance its standing in the world at large. If it can be shown that yet another country has been willing to accept representatives of the PLO it could only increase its standing throughout the world. I certainly recognise the legitimate and proper place in this country of the embassies and missions from Arab nations and I recognise the job that they do and should do. I confine my criticism and remarks to this particular grouping of organisations- the PLO- which uses terror as its weapon and has totally unacceptable foreign policy aims.
In speaking to this item in the Appropriation Bills I am asking the Prime Minister to consider the position again. I am indebted to one of my Senate colleagues for having made available to me remarks by a pioneer civil rights activist of America’s black community- a man named Bayard Rustin. Writing in the ‘Jerusalem Post Weekly ‘ last January, he roundly condemned the PLO, he roundly condemned its tactics and he condemned the kind of international attitude that could accept any of its activities as being in any way legitimate. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet should consider again their expressed conditional support for a PLO visit. While these organisations use terror they should not be allowed into Australia.
– The Senate has been debating the Appropriation Bills. In that debate there has been the usual wide ranging discussion of various issues. I do not think that there is a great deal of point in making a lengthy reply to the debate that has taken place because the matters raised were discussed very recently in this chamber. I wish only to restate the broad principles of Government policy in respect of monetary matters.
It is true that the economy has been suffering considerable strains over the past few months. They have been brought about by a number of factors, many of which, of course, have not been the responsibility of the Government. The Government has been very alert in endeavouring to reactivate those sections of the economy which have been adversely affected by the current situation. In particular, the increase in the money supply has been very significant in the last few months. The Government is mindful of the fact that the liquidity necessary in the economy is being provided. We do not intend to be led into a position in which further strains and stresses will be bought upon the economy by taking overt action.
It is apparent from figures which have become available to us recently that the economy is moving back into a very strong position again. One very significant factor is the quite dramatic jump in retail sales that took place in January, which is the last month for which figures are available. In December there was only a $6m increase in retail sales in Australia whereas the figure jumped to $60m in January, which represents a 4.5 per cent increase. There are other factors which lead us to believe that the economy is coming back very strongly. I am quite sure that in the next month or two this will become increasingly evident. It was only yesterday, I think, that the Minister for Labour and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) stated that the actual rate of unemployment has already begun to decline. That is a very encouraging sign. I am sure that it is one about which the Parliament is glad to hear.
I would like to reply to some of the many matters which have been dealt with by honourable senators in the debate but, in view of the time factor and because other matters have to be dealt with before Senate rises, I will not involve myself in debating them at this stage except to say in respect of the remarks which were made by Senator Scott about the rural sector that it is very easy to be critical of the Government about a section of the rural sector that is currently depressed because of market forces, but, as I indicated yesterday, the Government is taking steps to ensure that those persons who have been adversely affected by such conditions are in fact being properly attended to. The Government will continue to expedite the provision of assistance to those people. I think that the most important thing, in view of the critically necessitous factors contained in these Bills, is that these Bills be passed today by the Senate. I am glad that the Opposition has seen fit, despite the considerable amount of criticism it has levelled against the Government during the course of the debate, to agree to the passing of these Bills.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 5 March on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask for leave to incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
This Bill is similar in most respects to the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1974, which the then AttorneyGeneral introduced into the Senate on 5 December 1974. Honourable senators will recall that the latter Bill was discharged from the Senate Notice Paper on 12 February 1975, following the appointment of Senator Murphy, as he then was, to the High Court of Australia. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the securities industry in Australia to operate on a sound basis with an effective system of controls administered nationally by a commission to be called the Corporations and Exchange Commission. More specifically the Bill aims to maintain, facilitate and improve the performance of the capital market in the interests of economic development, efficiency and stability. This is in accordance with the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange.
The introduction of legislation to establish a commission such as the one provided for in the Bill was promised in the policy speech of the Australian Labor Party prior to the election in December 1972. The Bill has been tailored to the requirements of the securities industry in Australia. Many of the provisions are derived from existing State and Territory legislation. But a number of changes have been made. As the classic example of a Securities and Exchange Commission is to be found in the United States of America, due regard has been paid to the laws and practices in that country. In some areas proposals have recently been made in the United Kingdom and some of those proposals have commended themselves for inclusion in the Bill. In other areas the Bill has taken the opportunity to implement changes recommended by the reports of the Company Law Advisory Committee, which was under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Eggleston.
The Bill is a lengthy one and it covers a wide range of complex matters. In its consideration of those matters my Department was fortunate in having assistance from eminent persons from the United States of America. In the early stages of the preparation of the Bill valuable assistance was provided by Mr Sol. Freedman, a former senior officer of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Later on the Attorney General’s Department was fortunate to obtain the assistance of Professor Louis Loss, Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard University and the author of an authoritative work on the securities industry in the United States. Professor Loss submitted a report setting out his comments in the light of American experience. That report was tabled on 12 September 1973 and comment on it was invited to assist in the preparation of legislation that would be suited to the needs of Australia.
Professor Loss’s report was followed by the report of the Sentate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, which was tabled on 1 8 July 1974. The Senate Committee’s report revealed a disquieting state of affairs in the way in which the securities industry was being conducted. The Committee’s main finding, which underlined the need for the present Bill, was that there was a need for the immediate establishment of an Australian Securities Commission to regulate the securities market in Australia and the conduct of those engaged in that market. The Senate Committee’s report was studied closely, and changes were made to the draft Bill that had already been prepared in the light of the matters discussed in the report and the recommendations made by the Committee. Further amendments were made at the instance of the Government when the Bill was passed by the House of Representatives.
The Bill deals with a wide range of matters that are currently contained in the companies legislation of the States and Territories, and it therefore represents a first step towards the objective of national companies legislation, to which the Government is committed. Other matters of company law, being matters that are not so closely related to the conduct of the securities industry, will be the subject of a further National Companies Bill, which the Attorney-General proposes to introduce at an early date. The further Bill will be integrated with the present one so as the 2 Bills together will then make comprehensive provision on a national and uptodate basis for both company law and the control of the securities industry.
When Senator Murphy, as he then was, moved in the Senate on 19 March 1970, for the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, he referred to the series of company crashes that had occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s. He drew attention to the fact that members of the public had been induced by false rumours to buy shares, that inside trading was rife and that self-regulatory bodies seemed either powerless or unwilling to act to protect the public against this and the many other market abuses that were prevalent at the time. It has been said that the boom time in which these market abuses prevailed is over and that there is no point now in introducing legislation which will merely lock the stable door after the horse has bolted. It would be quite irresponsible for the Government to proceed on such a short-sighted view. The need remains for effective legislation which will, so far as practicable, prevent a recurrence of such abuses at any time in the future. Before indicating the nature of the main provisions in the Bill I shall say a word or two about some of the basic requirements for such legislation.
The Need for National Legislation
The report of the Senate Committee on Securities and Exchange drew attention to the need for the securities industry to be subject to national legislation rather than legislation of individual States and Territories. The report made it clear that the securities industry functions on an Australiawide basis, and that control on any other basis is bound to be inadequate. The requirements of the law and the administrative procedures should be the same throughout Australia. The persons responsible for the administration of such legislation must have direct access to information in all parts of Australia. In addition, there is the consideration that there are many large corporations operating across the Australian continent for which the need to comply with the requirements of separate State and Territory laws involves pointless frustrations and unnecessary costs.
Uniform State and Territory legislation is not the answer. That approach has been tried and failed. Efforts to achieve uniformity are invariably slow, and seldom more than partially successful. Even where uniformity has been achieved problems arise from differences between the separate administrations of individual States and Territories. The only satisfactory course, and the course which is adopted by this Bill, is national legislation, and a single administrative agency with jurisdiction throughout Australia.
The Need for Continuous Reform of the Law
One of the problems we have had with company and securities law in Australia has been that the need for changes in the law has occurred more rapidly than the responsible legislatures have been able to make those changes. It has become increasingly evident that it is just not enough to have an expert committee examine certain aspects of company or securities law once in every 15 to 20 years or so. There is a need, which was recognised long ago in the United States and in the First Interim Report of the Eggleston Committee, for an expert body with continuity of existence to be charged with a responsibility for seeing that the laws are kept up to date at all times. There are many matters of detail with respect to which the expert body should be trusted and empowered to make rules of its own having the force of the law. It is sufficient for Parliament to have a power of disallowance over such rules. In other matters of more fundamental importance the expert body should be responsible for submitting reports recommending changes in the law which it considers desirable.
The Need for a Preventive Approach
The experiences of recent years have made it clear that it is not sufficient for legislation with respect to securities to prescribe rules and provide remedies that are available when those rules are broken. All too often the remedies prove to be worthless, either because the trail of the offender is well covered or because he has placed his assets beyond the reach of the persons who have been defrauded. There is a need for more emphasis to be given to the prevention of fraudulent conduct. The Bill that I now present recognises this need in a number of ways, but mainly in providing for the establishment of a strong administrative agency, which will have access to relevant information and effective powers to intervene where intervention appears to be desirable.
The Self-Regulatory Role of Stock Exchanges
The management of a stock exchange in Australia is in the hands of a committee elected from its members. The committee has responsibility for a range of matters including the admission of new members, the disciplining of members who act improperly and the listing of securities to be traded on the market of the exchange. The Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange found that in the discharge of those regulatory responsibilities the stock exchanges in Australia had been ‘seriously wanting’. In fairness to the exchanges I hasten to add that the situations they had to deal with during the boom years were anything but normal. But the fact remains that the Senate Committee’s report has shown very clearly the need for some changes to be made in the self-regulatory roles of the stock exchange committees.
Criticism of the stock exchange committees should not overlook the fact that the committees perform valuable functions. But there is a need for the committees to be brought under some degree of surveillance by an official body representing the public interest generally. In the United States of America this has been recognised. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been given what has been described as a ‘lookingoverthe shoulder’ role. That is to say, the immediate day to day management of an exchange remains with that exchange, but the Commission is responsible for ensuring that the rules of the exchange are satisfactory, that those rules are properly enforced and that generally the exchange is conducted with due regard to the interests of the public.
The present Bill provides for a similar role for the Corporations and Exchange Commission. In doing so the Bill recognises that the stock market of a stock exchange is like any other market in the sense that it is a place where the public may buy a commodity- in this case securities of corporations. The public needs protection as it does in any other market, and the protection should be provided by appropriate laws coupled with a strong administrative agency representative of the public interest.
The Need for Prompt and Adequate Disclosure by Corporations
Legislation cannot protect the individual against his folly or lack of judgment in the making of investments in securities. But there is a need, which the legislation should recognise, to ensure that the investor has access to information which is both relevant and up to date. It should not be overlooked that the funds of public companies come from the public. Relevant information should not be regarded as the exclusive property of the controllers of such companies. There is, in particular, a need for the financial position of companies to be properly disclosed in its accounts, for information concerning matters significantly affecting a company’s prospects to be promptly made available and for the identity of the persons beneficially entitled to major shareholdings to be ascertainable.
The Need to Prohibit Undesirable Market Practices
The report of the Senate Committee on Securities and Exchange disclosed a number of undesirable market practices. Practices such as market manipulation, insider trading, short selling and dealing in undesirable conflict of interest situations, to name a few, are referred to in the report. They need to be dealt with effectively by the legislation if public confidence is to be restored in our stock markets.
The Need for Proper Examination of Prospectuses
It is also clear from the report of the Senate Committee on Securities and Exchange- if indeed it was not clear before the report- that there is a need for prospectuses by which the public is to be invited to contribute funds towards companies to be subjected before issue to a more thorough examination by the administering authorities than has been the case. The lack of adequate investigation into prospectuses during the boom years plainly led to millions of dollars being subscribed by the investing public for worthless ventures. Apart from the inevitable losses to the individuals concerned, this involved a substantial misallocation of the country’s resources.
The Need for Appropriate Investigatory Powers
If one thing has been made clear in recent years it has been that the existing methods of investigating the activities of companies and the conduct of their officers is altogether too ponderous. All too often reports that are made following investigation action do little more than provide a record for history. It is of the utmost importance that company investigations be made in good time and that they are no longer impeded by the irrelevancy of State boundaries. In recognition of this fact the present Bill contains provisions which will enable the Corporations and Exchange Commission to act quickly and effectively throughout Australia in the conduct of investigations.
The Provisions in the Bill
It will be convenient now to indicate what is provided in the Bill. Having regard, however, to the length of the Bill, and to the comprehensive explanations provided in the explanatory memorandum I have circulated, I shall confine my present observations to some of the more important provisions.
The Corporations and Exchange Commission
The Commission will be a body of high standing with a positive and on-going role in a wide range of matters with respect to the securities industry. It will be a body corporate consisting of 5 full-time members appointed by the GovernorGeneral for terms of years. A member of the Commission will need to be qualified for appointment by virtue of knowledge of, or experience in, industry, commerce, economics, law or public administration. He will have to make public disclosure of his financial interests. Specific duties of the Commission will be:
Corporations that are public companies will have to register with the Commission and keep the Commission informed of prescribed matters. The Commission will be able to supplement this information by using powers which enable it to require information to be furnished on an ad hoc basis. The Commission will also have power to nominate an officer to attend meetings of the directors, members or debenture holders of a company. In general the records of the Commission will be available for inspection by the public, but documents of a truly confidential character will be treated as such. The Commission will have a rulemaking power, which will be generally coextensive with, but subordinate to, a regulationmaking power of the Governor-General. Before the Commission makes a rule it will be required to give not less than 30 days public notice of its intention and to invite interested persons to make submissions. Either House of Parliament will be able to disallow a rule made by the Commission.
Control over Stock Exchanges
All stock exchanges will be required to register with the Commission. The rules of a stock exchange will have to comply with requirements in the legislation. In particular, the membership of an exchange will have to be open, without unreasonable restrictions, to any person who is the holder of a dealer’s licence. The Commission will be responsible for ensuring that the rules of each stock exchange make satisfactory provision with respect to the matters mentioned in the legislation. If it appears to the Commission that they do not, the Commission will be able to require appropriate changes to be made. In the last resort, if the need arises, the Commission will itself be able to make a rule to give effect to a proposed change.
A stock exchange will be required to report to the Commission each month and set out details of complaints made to it concerning the conduct of its committee, employees and dealers. The report must also state the action taken in respect of the complaints and the result of the action. Where the Commission considers it necessary or desirable for the protection of investors or in the interests of the public it will have power to prohibit trading in a specified security for up to 2 1 days. Any such action by the Commission may be cancelled by the Governor-General, who will have a power of his own to prohibit trading on a stock market. The Governor-General will be able to prohibit either all trading on a particular exchange or trading in a particular security. He will be able to exercise that power for such period as he thinks fit.
I would expect that neither the Commission nor the Governor-General would find it necessary to exercise these powers except in very special circumstances. But it is necessary that the legislation provide the powers and thereby avoid any possibility, however remote, that a stock exchange might deliberately refuse to take action of its own accord after the need for such action has been established.
The Commission will be able to nominate one of its officers to attend any meeting of the members or of the committee of a stock exchange. The officer is to be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard on any issue, but he will not have any voting rights. If a stock exchange fails to enforce its rules, the Court will be able, on application by the Commission or by a person affected by the failure, to give directions requiring due enforcement.
Licensing Requirements for Persons Conducting Business in the Securities Industry
Licensing requirements will apply for the following 4 classes of persons: Dealers; dealers’ representatives; investment advisers; and investment representatives.
The power to grant, suspend or revoke these licences is vested in the Commission. A licensee, and also a financial journalist, will be required to maintain a register of his interests in securities of corporations and to keep this register open for public inspection. Dealers will be required to keep appropriate accounts and the Commission will be responsible for ensuring that those requirements are properly complied with. The accounts will need to be audited by auditors registered with the Commission. A dealer will not be permitted to deposit documents of title of a client as security for a loan to the dealer unless he gives his client 3 days notice and complies with relevant requirements in the Bill.
Prohibition of Certain Conflicting Roles
The report of the Senate Committee on Securities and Exchange made it clear that it is undesirable that dealers engage in certain classes of activities which lead to conflict of interest situations. While it is plainly not practicable to ensure that dealers conduct their businesses in such a way that conflict of interest situations never arise, certain restrictions are desirable. The approach of the Bill is to prohibit dealers from engaging in certain activities which would be bound to lead to undesirable conflicts. In addition, the Bill requires a dealer to make disclosures of his interest when a conflict of interest situation does arise.
Particular attention has been paid to dealers who are members of a stock exchange. These are the dealers to whom the general investing public resort to have their dealings transacted. They provide the public market. There is a need to ensure that the members of the public have access to dealers who will, as their agents, attend to their transactions for them free of conflicts of interest. In dealing with persons who are not members of a stock exchange- for example, merchant banks- the client is normally an institution or a sophisticated investor who is better able to look after his interests and less in need of protection from the law. A dealer who is a member of a stock exchange is required by the Bill to give his clients’ orders priority over any transactions he is permitted to carry out on his own account.
The Bill also provides restrictions on the right of such a dealer to engage in trading as a principalincluding trading on behalf of an associated person, and causing or procuring an associated person to deal. The only forms of trading as a principal that will be permissableapart from trading in accordance with regulations or rules or with the consent of the Commissionwill be:
The apparent exemption in favour of floor trading should not be taken as an indication that such trading does not need to be controlled in the public interest. It is envisaged that the Commission will give close attention to this form of trading and use its power to prescribe requirements for its regulation.
The practice of stock exchange dealers holding directorship of listed corporations has long been a matter of concern. A director inevitably acquires information about his company which is relevant to the value of its securities but which he is not then permitted to disclose. Yet in the ordinary course of his business, a stock exchange dealer is expected to advise clients in their dealings in those securities and clients should be able to expect full and unrestricted advice from their dealers. The roles are plainly incompatible, and the Bill accordingly prohibits a stock exchange dealer from being a director of a listed corporation.
The right of a stock exchange dealer to act as an underwriter is also to be restricted. The restrictions apply in cases where the dealer has an interest of a specified kind in the corporation making the issue or where he may profit from the issue otherwise than by reason of acting in a professional capacity. Another provision prohibits a dealer-underwriter, whether or not he is a member of a stock exchange, from giving credit to a person to enable him to subscribe for securities the dealer has underwritten. Strong forces generally operate on an underwriter to dispose of all the securities he has underwritten and thereby avoided a shortfall. The giving of credit in such circumstances can be an undesirable means of sales promotion.
Undesirable Market Practices
The Bill contains provisions to deal with a number of undesirable market practices most of which were referred to by the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. The most important practice is probably that of insider trading. This is a practice that is engaged in by persons known as insiders who have access to confidential information of a company. They engage in the practice if, in dealing with the company ‘s securities, they make use of such confidential information for their own purposes.
The story of the ruthless exploitation of the Australian investing public by corporate insiders during the mining boom is now well documented and it constitutes a sorry indictment of the commercial morality of some Australian businessmen. Other countries like the United States of America have long ago prohibited insider trading and this Bill now adopts a similar approach. The effect of the provisions in the Bill is that an insider is prohibited from dealing in securities while he is in possession of confidential information that would, if it were generally available, materially affect the market price of those securities. For this purpose the term insider covers a wide range of persons connected with a company. In addition to this prohibition the Bill requires directors and officers to make monthly reports to the Commission disclosing any change in their beneficial ownership of securitiesirrespective of whether they possessed any confidential and price-sensitive information at the time. These monthly reports will be open to the public and this will enable checks to be made on non-observance of the trading prohibition.
Breach of the insider trading provisions will be an offence with a heavy penalty, and it also gives rise to a civil right to recover damages. It has become clear that some of the worst cases of insider trading in the past have been perpetrated by persons who have covered their traces by engaging in dealings on an Australian stock market through the agency of overseas intermediaries. The Bill makes it an offence for a person in Australia to engage in such conduct except in accordance with the regulations or by consent of the Commission. The Bill also makes it an offence for a person to engage in the practices of stock manipulation, wash sales and matched orders and fraudulently inducing a person to deal in securities. Conduct known as short selling is also prohibited except in certain defined circumstances. The provisions relating to all of these practices are explained in some detail in the explanatory memorandum.
Improved Disclosure by Corporations
As I indicated earlier, there is a need for the legislation to ensure that the investor has access to information that is both relevant and up to date. The Bill provides for a number of improvements in this regard. A great deal of basic .information about corporations will become available as a result of the registration provisions. These provisions apply to corporations that are public companies and require those corporations to lodge with the Commission copies of their basic documents.
The corporations are required to keep this information up to date. They are also required to lodge their annual accounts with the Commission. Their accounts will need to contain information that has not previously been required. For example, turnover will now have to be disclosed and the directors’ reports will have to deal with the additional matters. These include:
Directors’ interests, direct and indirect, in the securities of the corporation and in contracts with the corporation; the number of persons employed by the corporation; arrangements made by the corporation for protecting the safety and health of its employees and of the public and for protecting the environment; and arrangements made by the corporation for the protection of its consumers.
Another new provision will require quarterly reports to be submitted to the Commission. These reports will not have to be audited but they will, nevertheless, do much to ensure that the information available to the investing public is kept up to date. The provisions in State and Territory legislation for disclosure of substantial shareholdings have been modified in a number of important respects. For example, the threshold reporting percentage has been reduced from 10 per cent to 5 per cent of the nominal amount of voting shares. The time for notification under these provisions has also been shortened from 14 days to 3 days.
The substantial shareholding provisions are to be supplemented, moreover, by provisions enabling particular requirements to be made as to the persons beneficially entitled to holdings. Such requirements may be made by either the company or the Commission. These provisions will go a long way towards removing problems which are created by the holding of shares in the names of nominees.
Raising of Moneys from the Public
The control of public offerings of shares and debentures by companies is an important function of the Commission. It is closely related to the question of disclosure which I have just discussed. The Bill contains provisions in this area which are stronger than those of existing law.
An important question to which consideration was given in the preparation of the Bill was whether it would be practicable to define what constitutes an offer to the public. Close consideration was given to the recommendation of the Eggleston Committee, and also to the somewhat similar proposal advanced by Professor Loss. In both cases a definition in the form of a mathematical formula was proposed. The Eggleston Committee envisaged that the number of offerees would be counted; Professor Loss favoured the counting of acceptances. Each of these solutions, however, presents considerable difficulties the nature of which is outlined in the explanatory memorandum. The difficulties are probably similar to difficulties that have occurred to others engaged in law reform in the common law countries where the concept of ‘the public’ has so far defied statutory definition. Pending further close consideration of the matter, the Bill has not attempted to define in this manner what constitutes an offer to the public.
I shall mention briefly some of the more important changes that have been made with respect to prospectuses. In addition to these changes a number of the recommendations in the Fifth Interim Report of the Eggleston Committee have been implemented.
A prospectus is not to be issued unless it has been registered by the Commission after inquiry and investigation. Before registering a prospectus the Commission is to make such inquiries and investigations into it as appear to be necessary or desirable for the protection of investors or in the interests of the public. It is to refuse to register a prospectus if it is of the opinion that it contains a statement that is false or misleading in a material particular or if there is some material omission.
The Bill provides that if a prospectus contains an untrue statement as to a material fact, or omits to state a material fact, the persons responsible for the prospectus are guilty of an offence as well as being liable to pay compensation to a person who subscribed for securities. The civil rights of action for issuing prospectuses which contain material mis-statements or omissions, have been made more effective. The nature of the changes made appear from the explanatory memorandum.
Prospectuses Confined to Existing Shareholders or Debenture Holders
Under the existing State and Territory legislation an offer or invitation which is confined to existing shareholders or debenture holders of a company does not have to be registered as a prospectus. Such an offer or invitation is treated as not made to the public. The Eggleston Committee in its Fifth Report concluded that this position was not satisfactory. It recommended that a prospectus be required for offers and invitations to debenture holders and that something less than a prospectus- described by the Committee as a director-proposal- be required for offers or invitations to shareholders. The Bill requires a prospectus in each of these cases. The matter is discussed in greater detail in the explanatory memorandum.
Liability of Underwriters
For the first time in Australia an underwriterbut not a sub-underwriter- of an issue is made liable in respect of the contents of a prospectus.
Oversubscriptions for Debentures Not to be Accepted
The Bill puts an end to the practice under existing State and Territory law of a corporation accepting oversubscriptions to an issue of debentures if a power to do so has been reserved in the prospectus. This change gives effect to a recommendation of the Eggleston Committee.
Deficiencies in existing State and Territory legislation in relation to sharehawking were adverted to by the Eggleston Committee in its Sixth Interim Report. The recommendations of that Committee have been implemented in the Bill.
Interests Other than Securities
Existing company law contains provisions for the control of offers and invitations to the public with respect to interests that are not securities. For the purpose of these provisions an ‘interest’ is widely defined but so as not to include a share or debenture. The main application of the provisions is in the field of unit trusts. It has been widely felt that these existing provisions relating to ‘interests’ are not entirely satisfactory. It has been generally recognised for some time that the law in this area should be amended but there is a clear need for a prior inquiry into the matter. The Bill provides for the Commission to conduct such an inquiry and pending its completion the Bill largely adopts existing law.
Another area of existing State and Territory legislation that has been largely adopted without modification at this stage relates to investment companies. These provisions relate to companies that have been declared to be investment companies, and the power to make such a declaration is vested in the Commission. Experience in the United States of America has shown that this is an important area of securities legislation and I envisage that the Commission will give consideration to improved legislation at an early date.
The take-over code in existing State and Territory legislation gives effect to recommendations made in the Second Interim Report of the Eggleston Committee. Having regard to this recent review of the matter, the Bill has, in a large measure, adopted those existing provisions.
However, experience since the provisions were enacted had indicated the need for a number of amendments and these have been made. The amendments are discussed in some detail in the explanatory memorandum, and, with 2 exceptions, I shall refrain from referring to them here.
One of the amendments applies, to a greater extent than is presently the case, the principle enunciated in the Second Interim Report of the Eggleston Committee that ‘so far as practicable each shareholder should have an equal opportunity to participate in the benefits offered ‘. The effect of the amendment is that, in the case of a bid for less than all the shares in a company, every shareholder is entitled to accept for the same percentage of his holding.
The other amendment to which I would draw attention provides that during the period of a take-over the offeror or invitor is not to be entitled to acquire shares in the target corporation by transactions on the market. As appears in the explanatory memorandum these 2 amendments are related to each other. The latter provision is in line with the law in the United States.
There can be no doubting the need for legislation of this kind to provide for the securities industry in this country. If ever there was any doubt about the need for such legislation that doubt was finally dispelled by the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. This Bill contains a great many provisions that will have an important bearing upon the functioning of our securities industry in the future. I am confident that they will cause the industry to function much more efficiently and with better regard for the rights of investors.
A great deal of careful consideration has been given to the provisions of this important Bill and I commend it to the House.
- Mr President, I ask whether there is a copy of the Bill accompanying the second reading speech. I have not received a copy of the Bill.
– I understand that the Bill has been circulated.
– I do not have a copy and it is essential in this instance that honourable senators have the Bill.
– I was under the impression that the Bill had been circulated. I will see to it that copies of the Bill are made available to honourable senators.
– I will give the honourable senator a copy now.
– I understand, Mr President, that copies of the Bill are being distributed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– Earlier this week Senator Marriott requested the tabling of certain papers and documents relating to the purchase of the Hobert Trades Hall property in Hobart by the Department of Services and Property. I formally table those papers.
-by leave- I bring up the sixth report from the Publications Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Terrorist Activities in the Middle East
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I will not detain the Senate ibr more than a few minutes. My reason for rising is a matter which I consider of the utmost importance. I refer to the resolution passed earlier in the day whereby the Senate is to adjourn for 4 weeks unless you, Mr President, or your Deputy call the Senate together at an earlier date. The matter I wish to bring before your attention is the basis of my request that you consult not only the Leader of the Government of the Senate (Senator Wriedt) but also the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in case any matter of urgency arises.
What gives very practical apprehension to me is the event to which Senator Baume referredthat is the event that came over the news at 1 o ‘clock. On that news broadcast it was stated that terrorist sections of the Arab movement had made an incursion into Israel and were in possession of one of the hotels on the seafront of Tel Aviv. I remind you, Mr President, that the end of April is the time stipulated by the United Nations for the conclusion of the solution of the Palestine question. The United Nations set 30 April as the date. You will be aware of the intensive negotiations by Dr Kissinger which are designed to get some solution at this time. You will be aware also of the very energetic moves made in the propaganda fields to centre attention upon the terrorist elements operating to confront Israel.
One of the organisations said to be responsible for today’s event is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I wish that an article that appeared in the ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ of 12 February had received wider publicity than has come to my knowledge, because in that article it was stated:
The Marxist Palestinian Leader George Habash said today that his Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine would do all in its power to provoke a new Middle East war.
Amongst other things, and I am curtailing my quotations to the minimum, Mr President, he said:
We are struggling to put the region into a people’s war which will end up by exhausting the enemy before annihilating him.
That statement, taken in conjunction with the fact that that organisation is one of those organisations of which the Palestine Liberation Organisation is the umbrella organisation, prompts me to remind you, Mr President, that the leader of the PLO, Arafat himself, stated as recently as 12 March 1970:
We shall continue to fight Israel all alone, until we get Palestine back. Our goal is the destruction of Israel, and it does not admit compromise nor mediation. . . . We don’t want peace, we want war and victory. Peace for us means Israel’s destruction, nothing else.
These statements, taken in the context of recent events, and in the light of today’s event and on the basis of what I heard virulently debated at the United Nations during my recent visit there, give rise to the greatest anxiety that we may reach a flashpoint in this very heated contest during the time allotted for the Senate adjournment. I ask you to bear in mind that very important matter if in the interval any responsible representation is made to you from either side of the Senate for the Senate to meet to consider an emergency situation.
– I give Senator Wright an assurance that in the event of any emergency arising in the recess I shall consult with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) and with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) as to whether it is necessary to call the Senate together.
– Very briefly I indicate on behalf of the Government that we share the concern which has been expressed by Senator Wright. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) has said on many occasions in the past we deplore any acts of terrorism against innocent people.
– But the Government encourages it.
– That is an interjection to which it is not worth replying. As far as the incident is concerned, the Government is seeking urgently from our embassy in Tel-Aviv whatever information can be given to us. I presume that events will become clearer over the next day or so. Quite possibly the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Whitlam) will make a statement on the matter in the near future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.57 p.m. till Tuesday, 8 April 1975, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Detention of Australian Citizen by Palestine Liberation Organisation
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
How does the Government plan to operate the Medibank scheme if the Health Funds do not agree to act as agents?
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A number of Funds including the major ones have indicated they will not accept agency arrangements, but some Funds have agreed to co-operate. Those Funds which will be participating in Medibank have asked that their names not be published until such time as formal agreements have been signed.
Agency arrangements were offered to funds at the instigation of several funds. Agency arrangements are not essential to the operation of Medibank. I will make details of the development of the Medibank program available at appropriate times as the scheme progresses.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
With all of the problems facing the ‘Medibank’ scheme, how does the Government expect to still start the scheme by 1 July 1975.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The establishment of a large nationwide enterprise such as Medibank inevitably involves many problems of an administrative nature. Good progress has been made in handling these problems and I have no reason to believe that any insurmountable difficulties will arise which will delay the introduction of Medibank.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What will happen to the present employees of the Health Funds when ‘ Medibank ‘ scheme is fully staffed.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The answer is that some of the present employees will be on the staff of the Health Insurance Commission, others will continue on the staff of their present employers and many others will have left their employers in accordance with the high rate of staff turnover which has always characterised the private health insurance industry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What will happen to the Health Funds which may act as agents for ‘Medibank’ scheme after the three years agency period has expired.
The three year period to which the Senator refers is not a fixed period at the end of which agency contracts will terminate. If it is to the mutual advantage of the parties concerned these contracts will run on or will be renegotiated.
What is done will be decided by the Government at the relevant dme. The decision will no doubt be influenced by the advice of the Health Insurance Commission, which will report on the efficiency, level of service and cost of agency arrangements.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
How does the Minister expect the Health Funds to effectively carry out their agency responsibilities if their staffs are being encouraged to leave the Funds and become employees of Medibank ‘ schemes.
Staffs of Health Funds are not being ‘encouraged ‘ to leave the funds and become employees of Medibank. Positions in Medibank are advertised widely and fund applicants along with people from many other walks of life are applying for the positions.
Whilst the Government is committed to a policy of giving preference of employment to fund personnel, the Commission is co-ordinating with those funds which have agreed to accept agency arrangements so as to minimise disruption to their work.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Renting and equipping- $630, 1 63 Employing stafF-$ 1,22 1,979.
The offices have been financed from appropriation items administered by:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750306_senate_29_s63/>.