29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of the right honourable Lord Elwyn Jones, Lord Chancellor in the Government of Great Britain. On behalf of all honourable senators I welcome Lord Elwyn Jones to Canberra and hope that the remainder of his stay in Australia is both fruitful and enjoyable. With the concurrence of honourable senators I propose to invite Lord Elwyn Jones to take a seat on the floor of the Senate.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear.
Lord Elwyn Jones thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
Hobart City Council: RED Scheme Grant
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of residents and land owners of the area of Ridgeway- Hobart, Tasmania respectfully showeth whereas:
Ridgeway was one of the early settled areas of the City of Hobart and is situated in close proximity to one of the city’s sources of water supply.
That we have suffered bush fires and a lower standard of living due to no reticulated water supply being available.
Inflationary increases in estimated costs of servicing our allotments with a reticulated supply.
Stagnation of our land due to only rain water being available.
Your petitioners request that your honourable Parliament takes immediate action to:
Make available to the Hobart City Council a special grant under the ‘Red’ scheme for urgent labour intensive works such as the laying of a water main to Ridgeway.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
Hobart City Council: RED Scheme Grant
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of residents and land owners of the area of Ridgeway- Hobart, Tasmania respectfully showeth whereas:
Your petitioners request that your honourable Parliament takes immediate action to:
Make available to the Hobart City Council a special grant under the ‘Red’ scheme for urgent labour intensive works such as the laying of a water main to Ridgeway.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Bessell.
-BROCKM AN -My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in his capacity of Minister for Agriculture. I refer to the recent instances of Indonesian fishing boat activity off the north-west coast. Is the Minister satisfied that the agreement on fishing restrictions reached in Jakarta last November is being honoured, or is there still a risk that exotic animal diseases could be brought to Australia by such fishing vessels? Are the recently intensified fisheries patrol activities adequate in the circumstances?
– There is a quite long history of infringements by Indonesian fishing vessels off the north-west coast of Australia in particular. There have been negotiations at official level between Australia and Indonesia on several occasions in an endeavour to convey to the Indonesian authorities the need for the regulations to be observed. As a result of the doubts which did exist the Prime Minister had some discussions on this matter and an agreement was reached, I think late last year, as was indicated in the question. I think all honourable senators have been given a copy of the details of that agreement. There has not been time for the effect of that agreement to be seen. The Department of Defence, in conjunction with my own Department and the State authorities in Western Australia, is continually maintaining a watch on those vessels, many of which are subsistence vessels and not commercial vessels in the normal sense. The people on them are permitted to land at certain specified points for the purpose of taking on water and supplies of food. Under the agreement precautions are taken to ensure that they do not import any diseases which may be present on the vessels.
I would think that the past performance of my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Defence and the Western Australian authorities indicates that we have maintained a reasonably adequate patrol and surveillance of their activities. I believe that the new agreement will strengthen the arrangements. I believe it would not be proper to try to make a judgment as to whether the new agreement is more effective than what applied in the past but I can assure the Senate that every precaution is being taken to see that the infringements which have occurred in areas other than those specified in the agreement are reduced to the minimum possible.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to reports that claim that Australian Embassy dependants were withdrawn from Saigon in the face of opposition from the Australian Ambassador? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any truth in these allegations?
– An article in the ‘Sun’ of 5 April along the lines mentioned by Senator Poyser was drawn to my attention. Perhaps I should mention the steps that have been taken and also give the dates to show that the situation is quite the opposite to what has been suggested. On 1 April our Ambassador in Saigon sought approval to send a warning letter to all non-official Australians- by non-official Australians we mean those not working in an embassy- and to move all Embassy dependants and the remaining aid experts out of South Vietnam by the end of the week. The Department sought clarification of some aspects of his proposals and on 3 April our Ambassador again sought this approval. The Prime Minister approved the evacuation on the basis of all the information available to the Government, including the recommendaton and decisions of other countries to evacuate their dependants from Saigon. The Ambassador has not spoken recently to Mr Wilson, the author of the report, and has advised that neither he nor to his knowledge his staff has made any statement along the lines reported. On 4 April the Government took advantage of excess capacity on the Qantas 747 charter flight which was flying orphans to Australia to move 30 Embassy dependants and aid personnel out of Saigon. We do not think there is any immediate danger to personnel in Saigon at the moment but, of course, as in the case in Cambodia, we will keep the situation under close control. We will move Embassy staff and give warnings to other Australians there in the light of the situation.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry who represents the Attorney-General. Will the Minister confirm the information given to me by those who are involved and concerned in their preparation that numerous submissions have been received by the Attorney-General relating to the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill, that the Attorney-General is still receiving submissions on that Bill, and that he has received letters from others indicating that submissions are in the course of preparation and that it is desired to submit them to the Attorney-General? Is it not a fact that when the Bill was introduced by the previous Attorney-General and by the current Attorney-General submissions were invited and assurances were given that it would not be pushed through the Parliament until those submissions had been considered? Why is the Government pursuing the debate on this Bill without these submissions having been considered? It is the first item on the agenda for the Senate today. Will he please explain to people why the Government asks for submissions and ignores them?
– I find it extraordinary that Senator Greenwood can have the nerve to imply precipitate action in this connection. I trust that he knows that a select committee investigated the securities industry and that its deliberations lasted for 4 years. I hope that he bears in mind that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department started the preparation of this Bill in 1973, even before the Rae Committee gave its as yet incomplete report, and that the Attorney-General’s Department consulted people from all walks of life and even had experts from overseas to help it in framing this Bill. It has been before the Parliament now for several months. To imply precipitate action strikes me as absurd. In any event, I will convey Senator Greenwood’s request to the AttorneyGeneral and let him have a considered reply.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health noticed a report that 6 Queensland doctors have joined the Australian Country Party? As their memberships are not likely to contribute anything to the cause of medicine, does the Minister see their joining as an indication of urgent medical attention for a sick party?
– I had not seen that interesting piece of information.
– Do you not read the Border Watch’?
-None of the journals which I read reported this fascinating piece of information. It is interesting to know that members of the medical profession are learning the charms of the rustic life. I must confess that sometimes the expression ‘hillbilly’ has been used to describe members of the Country Party of Australia, or the National Party which I think is its present alias. I must confess, from what I have seen lately from certain organisations which purport to represent doctors, that my view has been that if one were to use the word ‘hillbilly’ about anybody it could be used much more appropriately about many doctors than it could be a bout farmers. I would imagine that if doctors were to join the Country Party and farmers were to join the General Practitioners Society the intellectual level of both organisations would be raised.
-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs or his Department received reports of the recent build up of a Soviet missile base in Somalia? If the Department has received such reports can he inform the Senate whether there is any substance in them and what is the nature of the build up of this alleged Soviet missile base in Somalia? Is it true that the base is designed to supply Soviet warships operating in the Indian Ocean with missiles for use against shipping in that ocean? If the matter has not been under investigation, is the Minister aware that reports are being made publicly to this effect? Will he investigate them?
-I have seen Press reports on this matter. We will get our own assessment of it. I would say that anything to do with the Indian Ocean is generally very much overwritten by the Press on either side, so I am always very cautious of Press reports on it. We are already making investigations as to the accuracy of the report.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to provide the Senate with any details of persons who or organisations which proposed Princess Truganini as the subject for the commemorative International
Women’s Year stamp series? Were any Aboriginal persons included in the original suggestions?
– Yesterday I promised that I would give Senator Bonner a complete list. I have not got the complete list but it might be appropriate if I mention now the names of the people who nominated Princess Truganini for inclusion in the stamp series, they having understood that no Aboriginal person had been nominated for inclusion in the series. The list is not complete. The names are: W. B. Butler, Aboriginal community, Port Augusta, South Australia; E. W. and D. Irwin, Western Australia, Quakers -noted for their interest in Aboriginal affairs; D. Squires, State President of the Women’s Service Guild of Western Australia; G. Elphick, President, Council of Aboriginal Women; Tim Aguis, Executive Secretary, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement; Dick Roughsey, Chairman, Aboriginal Arts Board; the Institute of Narrative and Music of Aborigines and the Adelaide Aboriginal Orchestra- Dr Ellis, I think; Mrs L. Hume, President, Aboriginal Advancement Council of Western Australia; and Ken Colburg, Aboriginal Cultural Co-ordinator. I will get a complete list and send it to both honourable senators.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs by referring to replies that the Minister gave to questions asked yesterday by my colleagues Senator DrakeBrockman and Senator Greenwood regarding breaches of the Paris Peace Agreements. Are the Minister and the Government serious in suggesting that the breaches of the Agreements by the Government of South Vietnam in any way equal the cynical and massive breaches of the Agreements by the Government of North Vietnam? Does the Minister believe that the Government of North Vietnam had any intention of honouring the Agreements? If he does, how can he explain the flagrant violations by the North Vietnamese in constructing new military roads and airfields in areas under their control, and also the continual movement of troops and sophisticated equipment provided by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China from the day the Agreements were signed? Did such violations indicate a desire by North Vietnam to obtain a peaceful settlement?
– In dealing with this matter yesterday I said that there had been breaches by both sides, and I think that is undeniably true. It would appear on looking back that neither side was very anxious to implement these Paris Agreements, which was very unfortunate because the Agreements, I think, raised the hopes of the world at that stage and now we find them in ashes. As I also said yesterday, I do not see at this stage that it is at all helpful to be apportioning blame or to be looking back over the dreadful years that we have gone through -
– The Prime Minister apportioned blame yesterday.
– I am answering the question and telling the honourable senator the position as I see it. In respect of the Prime Minister the honourable senator is referring to a debate which took place yesterday, which I think is quite a different thing from answering questions and trying to outline what the situation is today. It was a general debate yesterday. In answering questions I do not think it is going to be any help to apportion blame. What we all ought to be trying to do still, even at this late stage, and what the Labor Party has been trying to do all these years is to get the parties down to the negotiating table.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Is he aware of the concern being expressed within the citrus industry about imports of frozen juice concentrates? Is this concern justified? If so, what is being done about this situation to protect Australian fruit growers?
– There has been for some 12 months now concern within the industry about the importation of citrus juice into Australia. The Government initiated the formation of an industry panel which has been in existence now for some months. It is a voluntary arrangement whereby the industry is endeavouring to limit the imports of these juices to meet what in fact is the shortfall of Australian production and not to go beyond that point. It is my understanding that the panel is working quite efficiently. It will meet again, I believe, tomorrow and no doubt will be reviewing the current position and reporting to the Government accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Did the Minister cancel an appointment with an insurance industry delegation set down for last Friday? Has the Minister issued an instruction to officers of his Department that they are to see representatives of the insurance industry only to discuss written submissions and only with his specific permission? Would he agree that such measures are likely to lessen communication between his Department and the industry likely to be most affected by any national compensation scheme?
-What Senator Baume has put to me is not quite correct. The appointment which I cancelled was for yesterday afternoon. An appointment had been made by somebody in my office apparently some weeks ago, unknown to me, for yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock. I learned of the appointment last week. I was handling a Bill in the Senate yesterday and it was inconvenient for me to see representatives from insurance companies of whom I have seen a great many very frequently over recent months. If there is one group of people which I can say I have seen as much as anybody has seen anybody else it is people from insurance companies who generally have much the same story to tell me. It is not a very cheerful story, either. An appointment had been made. I had seen people from insurance companies only a few weeks before and I gathered that they were not very happy with Labor Party policy. I issued instructions to my Department, and I intend to follow this course myself, that time will not be made available either by senior officers of my Department or by me to have discussions with anybody unless I have been advised in writing in advance of the subject matter of the conversation. I do not see any reason why I should give up 3 hours as I did several weeks ago in the afternoon to talk to people who came in and merely made general complaints about the Government, nor do I see why the Secretary of the Department or the First Assistant Secretary or anybody else should give hours of his time without having some advance knowledge of what it is that is to be put to him other than general stories that some people do not like the Government’s policy. I intend to follow that practice.
I have leaned over backwards to provide information to representatives of insurance companies and I do not believe that they have shown the same consideration to me as I have shown to them. At the same time as they have been repeatedly visiting me, repeatedly visiting members of my ministerial staff and repeatedly taking up time of senior officers of my Department and getting all the information we can make available to them, they have been conducting campaigns among shareholders and policyholders in their companies and among the members of their staffs, directed against the Government and its policy. I reached the end of my tether- to put it not any more strongly than that- a week or so ago when the general manager of one large insurance company telephoned me and informed me that he was going to see that this Government was brought down unless I gave undertakings that we were going to abandon Australian Labor Party policy. It will take more than an insurance company to bring down this Government and it will take more than a few telephonic threats from some general manager of an insurance company before I or the Australian Labor Party will abandon the policy which this Part)’ has adopted by democratic decision of its members and which has been endorsed by the people of Australia on 2 occasions within the last 2 years.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Police and Customs. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether convicted heroin smuggler John Egan, as an expression of contrition for his crime, has conferred with Customs authorities to aid them in smashing the drug ring with which he was associated?
– I am afraid that the answer to the honourable senator’s question is no. Egan has given no indication that he would wish to consult officers of the Australian Bureau of Narcotics regarding his or anybody else ‘s association with heroin trafficking.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the Government of West Germany introduced a regulation earlier this year increasing the permissible limit governing mercury content in fish to one part per million? Is the Minister also aware of the fact that per capita the people in Germany consume far more sea-food than do Australians? In view of that and also in view of the recent scientific and medical findings which cast doubt on the validity of the 1971 recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Council to limit the allowable mercury content in fish to 0.5 parts per million, will the Minister ask his colleague to recommit this matter to that Council so that it can reassess its recommendations in the light of more recent information on this subject? Also will the Minister be able to table for the information of the Senate the reasons behind the decision made in 1971 by that Council?
– I am not so familiar as Senator Jessop with the dietary habits of the inhabitants of West Germany. Nor was I aware of the other information which he gave to us.
However, I agree with him that if the Labour Government of West Germany has taken these steps there must have been very good reasons for it to have taken them. Accordingly, I shall convey this information to my colleague the Minister for Health. In view of the fact that the Minister’s Labour colleague, the West German Minister for Health, has taken these steps, obviously very serious consideration would have to be given to what has been done in the Federal Republic of West Germany. I will see that an early reply is given to Senator Jessop.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security tell the Senate what steps have been taken to ensure the welfare of the 200 orphans from Vietnam who have already been brought to Australia? How can the Australian Government be sure that these children are adopted by suitable parents?
– The actual adoption of children within Australia is not a function of the Federal Government; it is a function of the States. The applications by the prospective parents to adopt children are dealt with by the appropriate State courts, and there is really nothing that we can do about that. The children may be granted visas to enter Australia, whether they are coming from South Vietnam or from anywhere else, but in this case, we are particularly concerned with the situation in South Vietnam. Adoptions that have taken place overseas and where the adoptive parents are coming or returning to Australia to live are usually recognised in Australia but may not be recognised in every case. Other children may be granted visas- these are the particular ones to whom Senator Primmer would be referring- to join prospective adoptive parents in Australia where the adoption proposals have the support of the relevant child welfare authorities, which in these cases would be the various departments of community welfare and child welfare in the different States. After entering Australia children who have not been lawfully adopted are immigrant children and as such are dealt with under the provisions of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act.
In the particular case of the 2 1 5 children who arrived from Vietnam on Saturday last, the normal formalities had not been completed at the time of their arrival. In a number of cases the formalities had already been commenced and children allocated to proposed adoptive parents. In some instances allocations have been made to proposed parents whose applications may not have the support of the appropriate State child welfare authorities. Others have not been allocated to specific parents and ultimately will be allocated, if one can use the rather inhuman word ‘allocated’ in regard to children, to the various States which no doubt will make appropriate arrangements through the different child welfare organisations within those States. Until these allocations have been made the children are not being issued with entry permits and consequently are remaining under the control of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. When entry permits are issued the children will legally become wards of the Minister for Social Security, but in practice his powers and functions will be undertaken by the State child welfare departments. There will be difficulties in identifying all of the children who have arrived. Already we have had some problems in this regard. Some 100 children still have not been allocated to the various States. This matter is being dealt with within the terms of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children ) Act.
Any further flights which may bring Vietnamese children or Vietnamese orphans to Australia will include an experienced welfare worker with immigration experience. We expect that the problems of documentation and identification, which 1 think of necessity occurred in view of the very rushed way in which the previous flight had to be handled, will be avoided if there are any subsequent flights bringing immigrant children from Vietnam into Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Can he tell me the present state of Trans- Australia Airlines’ annual report which is some months overdue.
– I directed the honourable senator’s previous question to the Minister for Transport and discussed the matter with him. I think that between three and four weeks ago the Minister issued instructions that the report should be printed. Today, if I can, I will find out exactly when the report will be available.
– Is the Minister for the Media aware of the allegations made by the honourable member for Gippsland that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news reports are politically biased? I refer particularly to Mr
Nixon’s allegation of 14 March last and his violent objection to the ABC use of the term ‘forces opposing the Saigon Government’. Mr Nixon asserted that the ABC should have used the words ‘invading communist forces’. Did, in fact, the report in question arise from an attack by Montagnard tribesmen on Saigon Government forces? If so, will the ABC’s terminology be far more accurate than that of Mr Peter Nixon or, as the ‘National Times’ prefers to describe him, Spiro Nixon?
– I am aware of the criticisms that have been made of the ABC news service by Mr Peter Nixon, a prominent member of the Country Party. They were made at a time when I was in Japan. I think the Prime Minister adequately responded to Mr Nixon’s criticism by saying that he was very pleased indeed that the Government had appointed as Chairman of the ABC a man with the capacity of Professor Downing who had shown great ability and integrity and had given drive and impetus to the ABC in the time that he has been its Chairman. As the honourable senator will know, the Government has religiously adopted the practice of guaranteeing political and programming independence to the ABC.
-The honourable senator says ‘rubbish ‘. If the honourable senator can show one instance or give me one indication of any influence by this Government on the programming arrangements of the ABC I openly challenge him to do so. As to the exact nature of the criticism of the ABC news reports on developments in Indo-China I accept the explanation of journalists in the field that it is often difficult for them to identify forces that are involved in the fighting. A multiplicity of organisations and forces are involved in the events taking place in Indo-China. I accept the explanation of journalists in the field that it is often difficult for them to identify who is engaged in the fighting. I understand that this claim has been verified by other journalists who are not in the employ of the ABC but who are engaged as correspondents in Indo-China. It is for this reason that the phrase ‘forces opposed to the Saigon Government’, about which Mr Nixon complained, was used. The phrase is still used whenever there is doubt about the people who are engaged in the fighting.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Is it a fact that the Government is setting up a propaganda outlet entitled the Australian Government Liaison Service which will disseminate Government views to media outlets in the States? What is the estimated cost of such a Government liaison service? How many people would be employed and what is the real function and purpose of such a Government service?
-The Government decided last December to establish an organisation known as the Australian Government Liaison Service because there had been allegations, mainly from some State Premiers politically opposed to this Government, that people did not know what was going on in Canberra. They claimed it was difficult for them to get knowledge of decisions.
– The Government does not know either.
-The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate says it is difficult for them to get to know what is happening. Perhaps that alone is justification for the establishment of an Australian Government Liaison Service. The headquarters of the Service are in Canberra and it will have officers stationed in the capital cities of all the States.
– How many?
-At this stage there is one journalist in each State. It will provide a feedback service to the Government as to the areas in which communication problems are being experienced and will distribute information. As to the honourable senator’s assertion that it is a propaganda machine, it is an information machine, and it is certainly nothing like the size of the organisation that has been established by Mr Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland or that which apparently is being established by Mr Lewis in New South Wales.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral in his capacity as representative of the Minister for Defence: Has his attention been drawn to a newspaper report on Tuesday which stated that the Minister has decided to obtain a new class of patrol boat?
– The information I have is that the Royal Australian Navy has completed a study of the roles in which patrol craft might be employed, in peace and in war, and of the more appropriate types of craft for the Navy. The Defence Forces Development Committee has examined the question of acquiring a new class of patrol craft and has agreed that phase 1, which it calls ‘Project Definition’ should be started as soon as possible. I am told that the Minister anticipates that he will be able to indicate in a statement some time in May the intentions of the Government in this respect.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Education to an apparent anomaly in the tertiary allowance scheme. I refer to the fact that students at the Moore Theological College in New South Wales have been refused financial assistance. It appears that the Moore College Diploma of Arts course is the only course within the Colleges of Advanced Education in New South Wales which does not attract assistance for students under the tertiary allowance scheme. Has the Minister any information on this m atter? If not, would he refer it to the Minister for Education and seek reconsideration of the decision which appears discriminatory and has led to hardship for the students concerned?
– I know nothing of the circumstances outlined in Senator Guilfoyle ‘s question. I will refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Education.
-Would the Minister for the Media confirm reports that the majority of Australian dollars spent on records do not remain in Australia but go to artists, composers, publishers and manufacturers overseas? As Australia is one of the highest per capita record purchasing countries, would the Minister advise the Senate whether the Government is taking any action to ensure a growing distribution of Australian recordings and compositions to international markets?
-The matter of expatriation of profits that are being made from the sale in Australia of recordings of works composed, performed and published overseas has concerned me and the officers of my Department for some time. The honourable senator will recall that in the last sessional period of the Senate I informed one honourable senator that I had made representations to the Prime Minister to have the question of what assistance could be given to the Australian recording industry referred to the Temporary Assistance Authority for investigation. The Prime Minister has now advised me that he agrees that I should submit a case and he has asked my Department to prepare an appropriate submission to be placed before the Industries Assistance Commission for consideration. I can also tell the honourable senator that my Department has been engaging in a number of activities which hopefully will assist Australians to get their records on to the international market. In January of this year 1 sent an officer to the MIDEM festival which is a musical festival convened in Cannes and which attracts attention to musical recording productions. For instance, Canada has been engaging in this festival for about 7 years and I understand the Canadian Government has estimated that the annual return from the sale of Canadian musical records abroad amounts to approximately $ 10m. Additionally it is expected that in the United States in October or November another exposition or exhibition is to be held which I think is commonly referred to as Musexpo 75. My Department is now negotiating with the Department of Overseas Trade with a view to seeing whether it is possible for us to engage a stand at Musexpo so that we hopefully can obtain sales of Australian records in the United States.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: Has he yet been able to get an answer from the Minister for Social Security to a question that I asked recently concerning the very expensive advertising campaign for Medibank?
– I have an answer to the question which Senator Marriott asked me about the inexpensive and desirable advertising for Medibank in which the Government is engaging. The Minister for Social Security has provided me with an answer, which is as follows:
Creative work -
That is his expression, not mine - on the Medibank advertising campaign is being carried out by Mullins, Clarke and Ralph Advertising (NSW) Pty Ltd which is a wholly Australian owned advertising agency. The advertising is being placed by the placing/charging agencies appointed by the Australian Government. Medibank press display advertising is placed by Berry Currie Advertising (NSW) Pty Ltd. Medibank television advertising is placed by Jaques McCaskell Advertising Pty Ltd. Medibank Radio advertising is placed by Fortune Australia Pty Ltd. These placing/charging agencies are wholly Australian owned.
-Has the attention of the Minister for the Media been drawn to allegations that the film production company Transalia Productions Pty Ltd, which owns the film and television rights to the story ‘The River Kings’ has had its proposed television series plagiarised by an American company? As the story is by an Australian author and is set in Australia and was to be produced by an Australian company, is the Minister prepared to assist the company to establish its rights?
– I do know something of the background of this matter because I discussed the proposed series of River Kings’ with Mr Doonan ofTransalia Productions Pty Ltd as long ago as early in 1974. Discussions took place between Transalia Productions Pty Ltd and a company known as Hanna-Barbera Productions Pty Ltd about the co-production of a series towards the end of last year. As I understand it, those negotiations and discussions finally broke down and then HannaBarbera Productions Pty Ltd commissioned an Australian script writer for a pilot of a series to be called ‘River Boy’ which is set in the late nineteenth century, and has the River Murray as its locale.
The pilot program has been filmed and it is thought it may very well successfully be sold overseas. It has been co-produced by HannaBarbera Productions Pty Ltd with South Australian Film Corporation, which is a corporation that has been established by the Dunstan Labor Government. As the honourable senator has said, the dispute between the 2 companies hinges on whether the River Boy story is a plagiarisation of the original River King stories. I am told that disputes such as this appear to be somewhat common in television and film production; the fact that the dispute exists certainly does not indicate one way or the other a lack of ethics on the part of either of the companies. However, in short, the honourable senator has asked whether we can do anything to assist in this case. I have raised the matter with my colleague the Attorney-General to see whether there is any way in which we can aid both companies by perhaps assisting in the legal costs of settling the dispute in the only proper place for such settlement which is, I suggest, the courts. Given the advice that we can proceed, as Minister I will then certainly ensure that such an offer is made to the companies, so that any threat to the seriesand we are interested in preserving the series- is removed as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media, and I take up the challenge made earlier. Is it a fact that the Australian
Broadcasting Commission ‘Four Corners’ program that was prepared for showing last weekend included a segment containing severe criticism of the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns? Also, is it a fact that following the Saturday showing of that program, a direction was given to the ABC by the Government to delete that section that was critical of Dr Cairns? If the Minister is not aware of this instance of political censorship of the ABC, will he make inquiries to ascertain the full facts surrounding the direction to delete that section of the program when it was subsequently replayed?
– I can tell the honourable senator affirmatively, authoritively and quite categorically that no direction was given by the Government to have that section of the ‘Four Corners’ program deleted. The simple fact of the matter is that, as I understand it- I did not see the program- a woman asserted that Dr Cairns had at one stage pulled down an Australian flag and given obeisance, as it were, to a Vietcong flag. This was said on the original program. When the matter was apparently drawn to the attention of Dr Cairns, I understand he then approached the Manager of the ABC in Victoria and asserted that no such incident had ever taken place. I further understand it was as a result of that assertion by Dr Cairns and of the ABC’s investigating and finding that the lady’s assertion was incorrect that that segment of the program was withdrawn when the program was re-run, and a statement was also added that Dr Cairns categorically denied that such an event had ever taken place. There was certainly no direction on the part of the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is he aware of the fact that the Queensland Country Party Government gazetted an Order in Council on 15 March 1975 that had the effect of placing under the control of the Public Curator of that State all personal property of the Aborigines’ Historic Places Trust and the Cape York Conservation Council? Also, is he aware that this confiscation of funds, including Australian Government grants, and property resulted in the dismissal of employees and non-payment of debts to creditors including local business firms? Can the Minister advise what action can be taken by the Australian Government to counter the continuing high-handed acts of the Queensland Country Party Government against Aborigines and conservationists?
-The Secretary of the Cape York Conservation Council, Mr O ‘Grady, called to see me today about this matter. He left with me an order from the Clerk of the Executive Council in Queensland which stated that all the personal property of the said Cape York Conservation Council and the said Aborigines Historic Places Trust be vested in the Public Curator of Queensland. As I understand the position, such funds which are not incorporated bodies have been collecting donations for the purpose of restoring or obtaining historic areas at the Crocodile Station in Queensland. Despite a request from an official of the registrar of beneficiary funds in Queensland to put their constitution in order to obtain incorporation, the funds have failed to do so. Therefore, in the belief that the organisation in question was collecting funds as a charitable organisation when it had no right to do so under Queensland law, the funds of the organisation were confiscated or held in trust by the Queensland Government.
From conversation with Mr O’Grady this morning it appears that obviously the first thing to be done is for the constitution of the organisation to be brought to the stage where the organisation can get registration in Queensland. Mr O’Grady complained about obstruction by the Queensland Government and the inability of the legal adviser of the Cape York Conservation Council to interpret what the registrar in Queensland actually desires. There seems to be some impasse here. As to the question of what we can do to help, I do not accept that there is a refusal to grant registration. I think the position is that there must be a constitution that complies with the requirements of the Queensland Government, and my Department is working with the organisation now to try to achieve this.
– The Right Honourable Lord Elwyn Jones now wishes to leave the Senate. I am sure that all honourable senators have been pleased to have his Lordship take a chair on the floor of the chamber.
– Hear, hear.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that the Department of Transport has raised the charges for airport terminal rentals by an average of 604 per cent? If so, has the civil aviation not been singled out as the one form of transport for which a discriminatory policy of 80 per cent recovery of costs should apply? In view of the adverse effect of this policy on the cost of air travel in Australia, constituting a levy per passenger movement into and out of air terminals, and in the interests of equity, will consideration be given to having the charges reviewed?
-The Minister for Transport replied recently- I have no doubt that Senator Laucke has seen the reply- and gave a long list of figures, which I have not got at my fingertips but which I can obtain. The figures indicated, for example, that receipts from the operators at the main airport terminals did not match the amount of money which was required to be spent to clean the terminals and that some arrangements ought to be made to adjust the rates. I will obtain a copy of those figures for Senator Laucke. I think the best thing I can do in giving a correct answer is to refer to the reply which has been given by the Minister. It refers to these charges. It clearly shows that the domestic operators have to make up the leeway in the costs, and discussions have been held with the operators in that respect. As I have said, the best thing that I can do is to obtain those figures for the honourable senator.
Generally speaking, as I think everybody knows- certainly Senator Cotton would knowconsideration of what should be the appropriate charges at airport terminals started during the term of office of the previous Government. If I remember correctly, the matter was discussed by several of the Senate Estimates Committees. The determinations of how to approach it and what sort of criteria should be set down were not then set down. What has been done by the Government recently is related to economic management and returns to the Government for services which are very expensive these days. Because of the importance of the question, I think I should get a studied reply from the Minister indicating the charges I have referred to so that the honourable senator can inform himself. If he wants to follow up the question after that I shall be willing to get further information.
– Could you make it international as well as domestic?
– Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation inform the Senate of the nature of the constructions now being carried out at the repatriation hospital in Hobart, and can he inform us what future plans his Department has for this hospital?
-Yes, I can inform the honourable senator. A new building is being constructed at the. Repatriation General Hospital in Hobart. It will house two 30-bed wards, paramedical facilities such as physiotherapy and rehabilitation, and other ancillary services will be provided, such as air conditioning, staff training and lecture facilities, the dining room and so on. Construction started on 14 November 1973 and it is expected to be completed on 15 December or thereabouts of this year at a cost of some $2,400,000. The Department of Repatriation and Compensation is working in conjunction with the Department of Health in the planning of a new pathology unit. It is proposed that the 2 departments- Repatriation and Compensation and Health- will act jointly so that a new service in the field of pathology can be provided more cheaply by the two working together. Both departments believe that the demand for pathology facilities in Hobart does not warrant each department having its own facilities. The Department of Repatriation and Compensation will provide the site for the new building, and it is estimated that it will cost about $1,500,000; it will be included in the 1975-76 works program. There are some other projects which my Department has in train at present, including the building of a new branch office at a cost of some $800,000, a new appliance centre at a cost of some $400,000 and a new out-patient clinic for repatriation beneficiaries at a cost of about $30,000.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the reported statement of the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whom I quote as saying:
Nothing would be more disastrous than to see South Vietnam just rot away and become absorbed in the communist group … if people start believing that noncommunist Asia will be lost eventually to communist Asia, then everybody will take his decisions accordingly.
Does the Whitlam Government share Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s forecast of massive disaster on the scale he envisages if South Vietnam falls to the communists? Does the Minister also share Mr Lee’s concern that a communist victory in Vietnam and Cambodia in that general area could influence the countries of our region to change their philosophic attitudes and, in effect, concede to a communist overall victory of the Asian region in which we live? In view of the Singapore Prime Minister’s statements, how can the
Whitlam Government claim that what happens in Vietnam has no influence upon the security of Australia? Finally, does the Minister still assert such a claim?
-Senator Carrick took one statement by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and did not say when it was made. Mr Lee Kuan Yew also has said that he does not accept the domino theory, and he did not send any troops into the Vietnam war at any stage. Senator Carrick extends remarks. All I remember saying yesterday was in reply to a question by Senator Baume who had asked whether we were making a survey of what may be a new situation because of what may happen in Cambodia and South Vietnam. I said at the time that the Department of Foreign Affairs is making surveys continually. The Department does not wait for something to happen, it anticipates. A very shaky situation has been anticipated in all the Indo-China states, although it has settled down now in Laos and we hope that situation continues. All those things are taken into consideration all the time. There is always an ever-changing scene. We have not said that the present situation makes absolutely no difference. We say that there is a continually changing situation all the time and that this situation has been anticipated for some time.
-Has the Minister for the Media seen today’s Press report relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its young-style radio station 2JJ? Is it true that the article tells of fears within the ABC that a campaign is under way to force 2JJ off the air? Is there any truth in this assertion that there is a growing campaign against the station?
– I did see the report which, to my recollection, was in today’s ‘Australian’. I do not know of any reports that it is intended to ban the station. In fact I can tell the honourable senator that at the request of the ABC I have written to my colleague the Postmaster-General and also have had discussions with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about obtaining more power for the station. There are indications that its fastgrowing audience of young people will increase even faster when the problem of its weaker signal in comparison with the signals of other stations is rectified. Everyone would know that at the moment the station is using the facilities of the ABC’s stand-by transmitter. I am given to understand that in 2 months of broadcasting it has captured nearly 16 per cent of the 18 to 24-years age group radio audience in Sydney.
Apparently the ratings show that radio station 2JJ now is in third position behind 2 commercial operators that have a stronger signal. As I said, I have discussed the possibility of obtaining a stronger signal with my colleague the Postmaster-General and the Broadcasting Control Board.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it true that the Department of Defence has taken action to curtail travel on commercial airlines by servicemen, such travel having previously been approved as necessary for the performance of their duties? What explanation is available for this decision by the Department? Do similar restrictions apply to other activities of the Services? Does the Minister know whether any other Government departments have found it necessary to introduce restrictions on travel by their officers?
– I understand that some examination has been made but I am not aware of any decision which would affect the situation mentioned by the honourable senator. I will try to get the information from the Minister for Defence this week.
– The time for questions has expired.
– I have received a letter from Senator Withers in the following terms: 9 April 1975
Dear Mr President,
Pursuant to the Sessional Order agreed to on 1 1 February, 1975, I give notice that I shall move this day the following motion relating to a matter of urgency: that in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency, viz.
The duplicity of the Australian Government ‘s actions in its dealings with the Government of South Viet Nam and with the Government of North Viet Nam and the tacit approval it has given to the North Vietnamese invasion of South Viet Nam’.
Is the motion supported? (More than the required number of Senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– I move:
The Opposition moves this motion because of the blatantly obvious double standards and outright hypocrisy which this Government has shown in its latest handling of the Indo-China situation. It is a government that claims high moral standards. It claims respect for the international rule of law. It claims to be even handed. In fact, its claim to morality is a phoney one. It is a phoney claim from a phoney government. Its even-handedness is incredibly one-sided. To save itself it condemns past actions by the South Vietnamese Government. Yet its members cheer when the North Vietnamese, the communists, take over the South by sheer armed force, leaving thousands fleeing for their lives.
There have been many cases of duplicity and double standards on the part of this Government, but yesterday one case arose which suggests the grossest example of double standards in international affairs that this Government has ever displayed. I refer to the cables affair. Yesterday Mr Peacock told the House of Representatives that cables sent through our embassies to the South Vietnamese Government and the North Vietnamese Government indicated a clear bias in favour of the Government of North Vietnam. We believe that those cables do exist. If what we believe is not true the Government could easily disprove what we say either by tabling them or by allowing the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Malcolm Fraser, to see them under the conditions which he indicated in that House. He said that he would not disclose the details but would simply indicate whether the cables were or were not equivalent. That is the undertaking given by Mr Fraser in the House of Representatives. The Australian people are entitled to know whether the Australian Government sent cables which were directed at apportioning blame equally or whether the cables indicate that the Government is more receptive to one side than it is to the other. The Opposition believes that the cables indicate that the Government is far more understanding to the North Vietnam cause than it is to the South Vietnam cause. Whereas this Government berates and condemns the South Vietnamese Government for breaking the Paris Peace Accords it is apologetic and indulgent to the North Vietnamese actions.
Last night on ‘A Current Affair’ Mr Morrison, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, indicated that cables had been sent. He may well know more than our Minister for
Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), who is never in Australia. We know the reason is that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wants to be his own Foreign Minister and is indulging in the classic ploy of keeping the Foreign Minister out of Australia. It was the Acting Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister, who was responsible for this latest exercise in duplicity in the field of foreign affairs. We know that the disclosure of these cables has obviously embarrassed the Government. It is apparently now launching a witch hunt to see how they were revealed. Mr Morrison said last night that Mr Peacock got the wrong end of a telegram. From the Government’s point of view, it certainly was the wrong end. It was the end which it did not want anybody in Australia to see. It was for Hanoi’s eyes only. The Prime Minister said this morning that the Opposition was wrong. We have only his word for that. I ask: Can we trust his word? We now have an admission from Mr Whitlam that the communications to the 2 governments were not identical. The Prime Minister said that he mentioned in his cable to Hanoi links with the Provisional Revolutionary Government. We can understand the Prime Minister trying to play this down.
We believe the cables show more than the Prime Minister said they show. There is only one way to clear up this matter, and that is to release the cables. Our understanding is that the cables called on the embassies to press the respective governments to honour the Paris Peace Accords. The cables were ostensibly identical, at least in their objectives if not in their wording. The cables to Saigon from the Acting Foreign Minister, in other words the Prime Minister- the greatest- stressed that the Paris Peace Accords for settling the war ought to be implemented. The cable also required the Embassy to inform President Thieu ‘s Government of Australia’s call for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation. A similar cable was sent to the Embassy in Hanoi for relay to the North Vietnamese regime, but, we allege, after using the same tough words that the Government applied to South Vietnam in its specious bid for peace, the cable then went on to indicate an appreciation and understanding of the North Vietnamese position. I ask: How can any government claim morality in these circumstances?
On Vietnam this Government is showing the morality of an alley cat because there can be only one interpretation put on this action. The Government is clearly favouring the North as against the South. For domestic political purposes it acknowledges that it must appear to be even-handed, although one may question why it is necessary to be even-handed between an aggressor and a nation suffering the aggression. If these cables say what we believe they say, the Government’s private attitude is even more pro- North Vietnam than the occasional outbursts from some of its members would indicate. For this reason the Opposition believes the disclosure of the cables is in the public interest. If the Government has nothing to hide it has nothing to fear from releasing them either publicly or, if it really believes that they should not be published, to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr Malcolm Fraser. The Prime Minister claims that his Government is trying to stop the fighting in Vietnam. He relies on the fact that his Government established a diplomatic post in Hanoi. He says he wrote to both parties. Fine words, but it is not the Government’s words, but its deeds that count in this situation. If these cables exist they prove that while the Government was saying one thing it was doing another. While it was ostensibly calling on both sides to agree to peace it was privately giving succour and psychological sustenance to the North Vietnamese. I ask: How then can it claim to have been genuinely trying to end the war unless, of course, the Government believes the only solution is an outright victory by the North.
There is no point in this Government claiming that communications between governments are confidential. This Government has never been loath to break confidences or to overturn practices when it has suited it in the past, so let us have no selective morality on that point. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he disapproves of the Saigon Government. The Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, that great believer in selective morality and selective humanitarianism, believes that the best solution is for North Vietnam to complete its invasion of the South. The Deputy Prime Minister believes that lives are valued according to their political colour. The Opposition totally rejects that approach. The Government has always been more critical of the United States of America and South Vietnam than it has been of Soviet Russia, China or North Vietnam. Yesterday was the first time that the Prime Minister has publicly indicated that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was equally to blame.
When the Government speaks of the failure of the Paris Peace Accords, it blames South Vietnam because elections have not been held there. The Government ignores the fact that North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government have made it impossible for elections to be held. The North has been pressuring the South. This should have been very obvious even to this Government. The alleged refusal of South Vietnam to hold elections has been used by the Government as a mask to prevent any criticism being levelled at the invasion of the South. This Government has continually refused to acknowledge the build up of North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. There has been no condemnation of the 20 North Vietnamese divisions in South Vietnam. If this Government has an interest in the Peace Accords it should attempt to obtain a cease fire so that the International Commission of Control and Supervision can operate; and it can operate only in the conditions of a cease fire. It should always be remembered that the Canadians withdrew from the Commission because of violation of the cease fire by the PRG and the North Vietnamese.
One is reminded that on 28 January 1973 the Prime Minister endorsed Article 18 of the Paris Peace Accords which referred to the sovereignty of South Vietnam and to the fact that this should be a matter of self-determination and that the decision on this should be made on the basis of peace and tranquillity. How can that be done with North Vietnam invading the south? If the Prime Minister is appealing to history to justify him, does he stick by what he said in January 1973 because the issue in Vietnam is not as black and white as this Government would have us believe? After all, it is the North Vietnamese who are now occupying South Vietnam. Yet this Government chooses to criticise South Vietnam for not holding an election. How can any nation be expected to hold elections when it is under siege? North Vietnam, the USSR and China have to bear international responsibility for the total destruction of the Paris Peace Accords- no one else. If this Government believes in the Accords it should make public appeals for the governments of those nations to desist in their destruction of South Vietnam in the same way as it publicly called on the United States of America to halt its intervention. These appeals should not be secret with an understanding nod across the table; they should be open.
These cables fall into a pattern which shows the Government’s 2 faces on Vietnam. The Government claims to be treating each side equally- that is one face. But the other face, the one it tries to hide, shows that it is favouring the communists in the north over the people who are fleeing and fighting for their lives in the south. But whilst it tries to hide its real actions, some have come to the surface. The record of this Government over the last few months shows a callous disregard for the people of the south just because the Australian Labor Party does not like their government. When it was in Opposition the Australian Labor Party demanded an end to the war. It condemned the United States for supplying troops and other aid to South Vietnam. It is only now publicly condemning the Russians or the Chinese for the arms they are actively providing on a massive scale to North Vietnam. If it has put pressure on those governments it has had a notable lack of success. It would seem that the Prime Minister wasted his time, as well as our taxpayers’ money, when he went to Moscow and Peking. The only conclusion from the Government’s past silence is that it welcomes the provision of these materials because they will help the communists take over the south.
Yesterday the Foreign Minister, Senator Willesee, was asked in this chamber whether the Government had made formal protests to Russia and China over their active military support for the north. He said nothing. He used the phony excuse that the Government did not reveal its communications with other governments. Yet in the past the Government has never been remiss in revealing its protests to non-communist countries and some of its members, notably Dr Cairns and Mr Uren, equally have never been silent in their public condemnation of the United States. Therefore we see that the Government has one law for the west and apparently another for the north. But of even more concern is the fact that on Senator Willesee ‘s own admission the Government has made not the slightest attempt to urge reactivation of the Paris Peace Talks. He could not slip away from that. If the Australian Labor Party had the concern for the Vietnamese people, of whom Dr Cairns and Mr Uren allege they are so fond, it should be demanding in every forum open to it, in every embassy throughout the world, for diplomatic initiatives to be taken to achieve what it claimed it stood for for so long- an end to the fighting. It is condemned by its own silence. There can be no better example of this than the statement of that well known street walker, marcher and champion of peace, the Deputy Prime Minister. Dr Cairns says that the fall of the Thieu government would be the best solution to the problem of Vietnam- what a statement from a man who claims to serve the cause of peace and who condemns outside interference in the internal affairs of nations. No wonder the Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, took exception to Dr Cairns’ remarks, along with the great majority of Australians. As Mr Lee pointed out, Dr Cairns’ remarks must have been a source of inspiration to the communist cause. What effect it would have had on the stability of South Vietnam is unknown, but it could hardly have been heartening.
But Dr Cairns is not the only member of this Government who evinces delight when a North Vietnamese victory appears to be imminent. His close colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren- another man of peace- also had difficulty in containing himself. Mr Uren says that it should behove all nations to keep out of the internal affairs of Vietnam and let the citizens of that country solve their problems in their own way. I ask: What is their own way? The way that the North Vietnamese are going about it is by bombing and shooting and killing civilians. Is that the way in which Mr Uren believes that differences should be settled? Is that what he thinks of democracy? Mr Uren goes even further. He claimed last week that there was not a need to fly out refugees. Do Mr Uren’s colleagues, the men who pressed the Government to relax its migration requirements to take communists and pro-communist refugees from Chile to Australia, share that view? If they do, then the only conclusion can be that they, like some of their friends in the Ministry, believe in one law for the left and another for the noncommunists. They should hang their heads in shame.
That is the issue, that is the cause of this motion- the fact that the Government is clearly exercising double standards. That is why the Opposition demands the tabling of these cables. They will show that the Government is prepared to condemn one side and not the other. They will show that the Government is prepared to double-deal, to make a pretence of diplomacy, when in fact it is engaging only in a public relations exercise. The Government claims that it backs neither side but the communications that it wants to keep private will show that it is actively siding with the North Vietnamese. That is hypocrisy of a most dishonest kind. It is, of course, just one, but perhaps the worst and most despicable, of a number of exercises in dishonesty that the Government has perpetrated since it came to power. Who will forget the sellout of the Baltic States?
The promise of open government- a promise that it thought would win votes- has proved as phoney as its other election promises. Not all members of the Government have been silent, as I have noted. Dr Cairns and Mr Uren have let their true feelings be known. They might try to hide them with talk of compassion but the fact is that for these leaders of the Labor Party compassion can never take precedence over ideology. The bitter question now facing this Government is whether it should pay lip service to its humanitarian principles or whether it should openly gloat when its ideological demands are being met.
We are not calling upon the United States to enter the war. We are not urging that Australian troops be sent back. That would be a gross error. What we are calling for is honesty on the part of this Government. We do not accept this so-called totally even-handed attitude on this question. We do not support the North Vietnamese, who are invading a member nation of the United Nations which this Government professes to support. But this Government is not being evenhanded. We believe it is not. We believe that it is dishonest. This Government that talks speciously about morality is denying the people of Australia the facts of its true attitude. The Government stands condemned.
– The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) moved a motion which is based on a complete untruth. He went on to talk about duplicity in other people. He wandered a long way from his motion, as well he might. He made his usual bitter and personal attack. He followed his usual course of moving right away from the subject matter that he introduced. I regret that he has done so. I regret that he does it at times. I think debates can take place in the chamber without bitterness and without personal attacks. But, Senator Withers seems quite incapable of doing so or does not want to do so. One of the things he says is: ‘How can one trust Mr Whitlam?’ Then he says: ‘If you let our man, Mr Fraser, have a look at the cables he will not say what is in them- he will not say whether they are the same or whether they are different.’ How could we trust Mr Fraser to handle a thing like that? Senator Withers makes a suggestion about not trusting our Leader. I throw it back in his teeth. What would Mr Fraser do? He could say that because there was an ‘and’ instead of an ‘or’ the cable was different.
Let us have a look at one or two things before getting on to the main theme. Senator Withers talks about duplicity, witch hunting and all the rest of it. No witch hunting is going on. There is no denial of the cables. The situation was completely exploded this morning, but unfortunately Senator Withers had already written his speech before he heard the reply this morning.
– You saw it exploded?
– If the honourable senator will wait a moment I will quote what was said to him. Very obviously he has read the remarks and is embarrassed about them. I feel sorry for him. If he had not jumped in so soon he would not have had to make the personal and bitter attacks that he has made. In the House of Representatives this morning, following the allegations of Mr Peacock yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made it quite clear that there was no question of a release of the cables which Mr Peacock referred to in his speech yesterday afternoon and the standard practice that messages between governments should remain confidential would be observed in this case. Naturally, cables giving instructions for the delivery of these messages and cables reporting these messages are covered by the same necessity for confidentiality. Let me quote what Mr Peacock said:
I submit that on the third of this month a cable went to Saigon stressing that the Paris Accords be implemented and that in particular article 4, chapter 12, be implemented. This deals with the establishment of the National Council for National Reconciliation and Concord. I submit further that probably on that day or on 4 April a cable, initially couched in similar terms, went to Hanoi but that that cable which would have been received on either 3 April or 4 April in North Vietnam went on to refer to the activities in South Vietnam being inspired by the Provisional Revolutionary Government.
A little later Mr Peacock continued:
I submit that further on in this cable words to this effect are used: ‘We understand that for public relations purposes it has to be said that pressure is being applied to the Saigon Government to get it to implement the Paris Accords’. I challenge the Government to produce the documentation and to reveal the cables that were sent on the third and fourth of this month.
A number of things are quite clear from these statements of Mr Peacock. The first is that he has not seen the cables or, if he has, his memory of them is very muddy. Cables were sent to North Vietnam and South Vietnam as a follow-up to the Prime Minister’s letters to the President of South Vietnam and to the Foreign Minister of North Vietnam, both of which were sent on 13 March 1975. The purported quotation from the cable is just plain wrong. I have seen the cables. There is not one atom of truth -
– Let Mr Peacock see them.
-The honourable senator knows perfectly well why Mr Peacock will not see them. I have seen them.
– We know.
– Yes, the honourable senator knows all right because he knows perfectly well that we have developed a reputation internationally which his Government lacked. We have done so on the ground of integrity. We are respected throughout the world today, which is a position the honourable senator’s Government never achieved. I have seen these cables. I say that those words did not appear in those cables. I have read them before and I have read them again this morning. The statements that have been made are quite untrue.
I think it is worth while at this stage to make some general remarks about the tactics in which the Opposition is at present indulging. Opposition members allege the existence of a Government document- I stress ‘allege’- and then they let loose their imagination as to the contents of such a document. Opposition members stand up in Parliament, give voice to their imaginings and then demand that the Government produces the document in order to verify or disprove the allegations they have dreamed up. It is clear that were the Government to submit to these quite irresponsible demands there would be no such thing as a confidential document. I am sure that every citizen recognises that there is a necessity for confidentiality in a whole range of government documents. Personal details and records involving matters such as taxation and health are obvious cases. In my own area of foreign affairs it is equally clear that the continuing conduct of diplomatic exchanges between governments requires confidentiality and a mutual trust between governments that confidentiality will be preserved by the other parties. I will not in any way indulge the irresponsible demands of the Opposition by breaching the confidentiality which promotes and sustains the very necessary exchange of messages and information between governments. I believe that is more important than even the internal demands of a country.
I have mentioned the steps and action taken to impress on both sides of the Vietnam conflict our wish that the Paris Agreement should be adhered to and that violence should cease which is a subject which Senator Withers very carefully avoided. Not once did he say that he wanted to see the fighting cease. It was his Government which sustained the fighting and sent people to Vietnam to die. I should point out particularly, in view of the terms of this urgency motion concerning alleged Australian approval for the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam, that the Australian Government has specifically deplored the fighting in South Vietnam and has made it clear to both sides that it does not regard blame as lying with only one of them. In particular, the Australian Government has made it quite clear to the North Vietnamese Government that it does not condone the military actions of the North Vietnamese which are designed to put pressure on the South Vietnamese. This motion draws to public attention once again the difference in attitude to the Vietnamese conflict between the Government and the Opposition. The Opposition is for killing; we are for peace. That is the difference. The Opposition is still living in the days of the cold war. I will repeat that because it is the basis of the Opposition’s whole problem in foreign affairs: The Opposition is still living in the cold war. The Opposition believes that all communists are bad and all anticommunists are good.
– Hear, hear!
-Senator Withers said hear, hear! ‘.
– I do not believe all communists are bad.
-Senator Withers said hear, hear! ‘ He believes all communists are bad but ipso facto if you are anti-communist you are good. It is the first time I have heard the Opposition say I am good, because I am not a communist. The Opposition believes that in any conflict all blame attaches to the communist side and no blame could attach to the anti-communist side. The Opposition sees complex situations in simplistic black and white- in such terms. The Government, on the other hand, appreciates that in any war and particularly a war that, for instance, sets Vietnamese against Vietnamese, is bound to be complex and will defy the type of simple and simplistic interpretation that the Opposition attempts to place on it.
The present Australian Government has brought Australia into contact with the present realities of the world. On the other hand, the Opposition would have Australia return to believing the discredited fantasies of the past. What the Opposition did, when it was in government, was to take a very simplistic approach. It took the approach that if it was communist everything was wrong and if it was anti-communist it was not wrong. This came out time and again. I do not know why the term ‘even handedness’ has come into the Australian situation because if we had started to reverse those policies we would have made the same mistake in reverse. We would have returned to a period of cold war. The great thing about the lifting of the cold war is that it suits countries such as Australia and the middle and lesser powers. It gives them more manoeuvrability. Detente, that is moving away from the cold war, does not mean that we are safe for all time. It does mean a very much better situation than the situation we are in. Senator Withers has attempted throughout to tell the same old story- North Vietnam was wrong on everything and South Vietnam was never wrong. We have said all the time that both sides have been wrong. An honourable senator interjected this morning that Mr Whitlam never blamed Hanoi. I notice that in Mr Whitlam ‘s speech yesterday he said very definitely: ‘We do not condone the activities of Hanoi’. The letters which went to both North Vietnam and South Vietnam were an effort to put the situation into perspective and to move to the negotiating table.
The Opposition has said that we have not asked for the Paris talks to re-open. Certainly we have not. We are not a party to them and from talks with other people around the world it appeared quite useless to re-open them. When the United States of America wanted to take this dispute to the United Nations it was the previous Liberal-Country Party Government which discouraged it from doing so. It may be that it had its reasons for doing that. It may be that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government thought the United Nations would have no effect on the situation, but the fact is that the present Opposition did work against the United Nations on that occasion.
– Has the United Nations taken any step in this?
-No, the United Nations has not. What happened was that the Americans in 1 966, 1 think- I might be one year out- put the matter before the Security Council. The present Opposition opposed it at the time and, in the terms of the United Nations, ‘it remains seized with it ‘. I think it is a great pity that the United Nations was not involved in the first place. I think it is a great pity that the previous Government opposed the United States trying to bring the United Nations into the dispute. The South Vietnamese Government has consistently refused to implement the political provisions of the Paris agreements of January 1973. That is more than 2 years before this present level of fighting came about. It might have said: ‘We will not do this while the North Vietnamese are doing that’. It is very hard to apportion blame. It is very hard to sit back in moral judgment when people are at war. But it is no use taking the attitude that the Opposition takes that the whole of the blame is on one side and not on the other. We have always endeavoured to try to get to a negotiating position. It is no good saying that it will not work. It is working at least at present in Laos. Who would ever have thought that one could get the people from the jungle, the Pathet Lao, who are communists and therefore very bad people in the eyes of the Opposition, to form a Cabinet in Laos as they have done. I have talked to these people overseas and they have absolutely amazed me. they have said to me and to other people around the world: ‘We are going to make this work’. On one occasion I said to the anti-Pathet Lao people, the anti-communists: ‘It seems to me that in your Cabinet you have given away a lot of the important portfolios’. It was pointed out to me that portfolios in their countries take on different connotations to our own. I was told: ‘You are not quite right because we have very important ones as well. This is a compromise and if we are to get peace in our country it must be a genuine compromise. We must tell the communists that we are meeting them on equal terms’. If this can happen in Laos, why not elsewhere? Senator Withers thinks it is terrible. He is laughing about it.
– We have seen it happen in Hungary, we have seen it happen in Czechoslavkia and we have seen it happen in China.
– It has happened in Laos and will the Opposition not thank God that for the moment it is working. The Opposition does not want it to work, I know, because it wants to continue the war. The Opposition has never said it wanted the Vietnam fighting to end, unless it ended in one way. The Opposition said that the Government has always made clear its opposition to only one side. We have always made clear our opposition to all great power interference in Indo-China. The Prime Minister’s statement yesterday was not the first reference. The Prime Minister said the same thing in Vientiane on 4 February 1974. It was just one of the references. Why do honourable senators opposite keep stating these untruths, saying things that are just not facts? I would be the happiest person in the world if honourable senators opposite approached foreign affairs matters with a view to making constructive criticism of the Government and suggesting something that we might do, particularly in these fields of war, instead of trying to hang their hats on all sorts of pegs.
The tenor of debate on this matter has changed during the week. In the criticisms made by Mr Sinclair and Mr Peacock and in the questions asked yesterday- and I got quite a lot of attention yesterday from my friends in the Opposition- there was a different line of attack from that adopted today. Yesterday, honourable senators were saying such things as that we were not early enough in the field, that aid was not good enough, that we would not bring out the refugees, and all the rest of it. Now that those questions have been answered- and answered very effectively- honourable senators have got on to the matter of phoney cables. I have just jotted down some figures on the matter of aid.
– It took a lot of public pressure to get you into it.
-Senator Young says that there was a lot of public pressure and that we took a long time to get into this.
– You had to be -
– Do not talk such absolute rot.
– There were supplies and you could not get them away.
– We were one of the first into the field. Look at what we have done. We have 6 aeroplanes operating there now, and they were there within 18 hours of being instructed to go. That order was given within hours of getting the aeroplanes. Why do honourable senators think that the Americans, and Admiral Gayler in particular, have cabled us congratulating us? Honourable senators just do not want to listen to the facts. Do honourable senators opposite remember what they did after the Tet offensive? Do they remember how much money they put in? They raised $242,000 and added to it another sum that they took, and they put in $487,000 following that offensive. We have already put in $3,250,000, as well as 6 aeroplanes.
– Taking inflation into account, ours was worth a lot more than yours.
-Senator Young says that, because of inflation, $242,000 is a lot more than $3,250,000. How can one reason with people who have that sort of intellect? How can one reason when statements like that are made? We have moved in on the United Nations Children’s Fund side, we have given money to the Red Cross, we have contacted the refugee people and we have given special allowances. And I point out that none of these moneys provided are final payments. One of the good things about criticism made in Australia in relation to aid is that people always criticise the Government for not giving enough. I would far rather have that criticism from the Australian people than criticism that we were giving too much. I do not mind at all criticism that we are not giving enough.
One thing that honourable senators must always realise is that the first sum is generally only a down-payment. If my memory of the figures is correct, the first amount of money we gave to Bangladesh was $15,000 but the bill today is about $15m, and it will get higher because Bangladesh is one of those countries that must have outside help. So even the figures I give now will not necessarily be the final figures. Even the $3,250,000, compared to the $487,000 given by honourable senators opposite, will not necessarily be the lot. As I say, there were 6 aeroplanes operating in the field immediately, and they are still working, and working hard. Instead of the Royal Australian Air Force being criticised, it should be receiving the thanks and admiration of all honourable senators. Already we have told 570 students that they do not have to return to their country. Already we have got out one plane-load of orphans, and there is another one on its way. Already we have arranged with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid- the people who arrange voluntary aid- to help them to get their stuff into the country. What other country has done more? What other country has moved more quickly in providing help? What more do honourable senators want this Government to do? If honourable senators have any constructive suggestions to make, I would love to hear them, instead of hearing this carping and going on, with honourable senators trying to pull our achievements down.
-That is the sort of inane interjection I would expect to hear from the Liberal Party when we are talking about a war and people are dying. As I say, the debate has swung right around from those things which honourable senators opposite were going to build up. Yet if they had listened to the Labor Party, if they had done as a government what we wanted to do, then they would probably have had this war at an end by now instead of feeding it the way they did during all those years.
Honourable senators opposite never even acted as a friend of the Americans. They took a position. Time and time again we stated that when they had allies like Great Britain and America they ought not to be just genuflecting and following the mistakes made by those countries, and that in this area of the world where Australia had authority and a greater knowledge it ought to have been saying to those countries that they were doing the wrong thing. Honourable senators opposite did the very opposite. Even when the United States wanted to take the problem to the Security Council Opposition senators opposed that move. It is very interesting to see the way in which this change has been made. What honourable senators opposite ought to be doing even at this late stage is joining their voices with ours in trying to get both of these countries and Cambodia, which is getting not as much attention because of the Vietnam situation, to the conference table.
When we assumed office in 1972 the fighting had been going on for 30 years in Vietnam and for about 3 years in Cambodia. What was the effort of honourable senators opposite during all those years to avert those tragedies? They did absolutely nothing but stand back and condemn one side- even though they could see that this was dragging them further into the morass. They painted themselves into a corner because of their attitude on foreign affairs of taking the simplistic approach:’ Well, if it has a taint of communism at all it is wrong, and if it is not it is absolutely right’. Because they painted themselves into this corner they could not break out of it to do anything about the matter.
Not only did honourable senator’s opposite do nothing about it; they also exacerbated the situation. They had Australian forces in Vietnam and they provided Vietnam and Cambodia with military supplies and training. Liberal-Country Party governments claimed that they were realists, that they were shoring up the balance of power and that they were helpng to prevent the dominoes from falling. But in truth they were not realists at all. They wildly exaggerated ideas of Australia’s interests and influence in Vietnam and Cambodia. Nor did they help to shore up the balance of power- even assuming for the moment that that concept has validity and meaning in Indo-China. All that happened was that even more arms came in to the other side, and eventually the United States of America withdrew its enormous forces from the area. Nor did honourable senators opposite help to prevent their socalled dominoes from falling- again assuming for the moment that that was a necessary or possible end of the policy, because it was the war in Vietnam in which their Liberal-Country Party governments were participating so enthusiastically which, by being spread into Cambodia, caused that country to be brought to its present situation.
What a contrast that is to the policies and actions of the present Australian Government. They are consistent policies that we always advocated while we were in opposition. We have been the realists and the compassionate people in the whole affair. We took the single most important step open to Australia, which was to see to it that, even if as an outside power with limited influence we could not stop the fighting, at least we would not contribute to it. It was for that reason that the present Government, immediately on assuming office, removed the remaining Australian forces from Vietnam and ended the provision to Vietnam and Cambodia of military supplies and training. Nothing could have been more realistic or more humane. There was a stupidity going on, when we became the Government, of pouring weapons into an area which was absolutely saturated with weapons and of believing that in some way this was going to contribute to peace. We did not even stop there. Although Australia was not, and could not be, a party principal, and while we recognised that an enduring and satisfactory settlement was for the Vietnamese and the Cambodian parties themselves to work out, we did what was possible to assist the parties to that end. Thus, in respect of Cambodia, this Government initiated and consistently followed 3 intertwining strands of policy. Firstly, the Australian Government took the position that the Cambodian people should be left to determine their own future free from any external interference. Secondly, the Australian Government was willing to do all in its power to bring the hostilities to an end. Thirdly, the Australian Government eschewed all action which would have had the effect of prolonging those hostilities through military or economic support for one side.
One of the first things I did when I became Foreign Minister was to have a long talk with Mr Marshall Green, lasting over a couple of hours. I remember clearly that a half to three-quarters of an hour of that time was spent on the whole question of Cambodia. We talked it over from all angles, and I made the point that, although I realised the very delicate situation, here was a war being strutted up from 2 sides. When I was at the United Nations last year the ANZUS-plus group came to me and asked whether we would support it in its initiatives and the voting in the General Assembly so that there would be some initiatives on Cambodia. I immediately altered what we were about to do and backed that situation. I will not follow the votes through, because I have already explained them in this chamber.
When I returned to Australia the ASEAN group again waited on me and asked whether Australia would co-sponsor the resolution. Again we agreed to that. Both Mr Whitlam and I raised the matter with Dr Kissinger when we were having talks with him. Even when Lon Nol, about last August, if I remember rightly, put out an appeal in which he said he was prepared to talk with the other side without conditions, we again backed that and conveyed through our contacts with GRUNK- the Government Royle UnifieNationale du Khmer- in Peking that we were drawing this to their attention and that it was the sort of thing we had been urging Lon Nol to do all along. At every stage and in every way we could in the Cambodian situation we have done everything possible, and we have done it over the couple of years we have been able to do it. We have tried to do it in the Vietnamese situation. We have said that outside interference from all sides in Vietnam should cease. We have gone on record, even lately when the fighting has been heavy. The Prime Minister, acting in my absence, wrote again in these cables that some people are trying to drag into the mire today. This is a positive approach as distinct from the negative approach of the Opposition- Opposition senators may not think it was negativewhich was to send troops into the situation.
In implementing these policies we were completely realistic in recognising that if we were to be able to have any influence at all we must be able to talk to both sides. That is a rather obvious consideration but one which had entirely escaped the frozen minds of the previous succession of Liberal-Country Party governments.
We are criticised when we say we make contact with the other side, but when there is a fighting situation such as there is in so many countries of the world today- not the old wars that we grew up with, where half the world was on one side and almost half on the other- where we have wars of liberation, and where we see guerrilla movements, it is quite impossible to be blaming one side and not talking to the other, isolating it, and driving it into a corner. Time and time again this Government has followed this even policy, and it is what previous governments did not do.
It is most strange to me that the Opposition should be attacking the Government on anything to do with Vietnam and Cambodia. Its record was wrong. The LCP Government put troops in and had to pull them out. Our record is one of trying to bring about peace, and our record now is of doing everything possible on a humanitarian scale, and still, with the limited influence we have in this area, trying to bring these people to the conference table. Today the things we have said, with orphans having come to this country, with students already here, with aeroplanes involved, with nearly $3,500,000 already spent in South Vietnam aid, are in sharp contrast with the bitter sort of speech we heard from Senator Withers and with the record of the Opposition in Vietnam of 425 Australian people dead and 2400 wounded.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of a former illustrious senator, Mr Pat Kennelly.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p.m. (Quorum formed)
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (2.15)- Mr President, my time is very short because under the Standing Orders of the Senate subsequent speakers in debates on matters of urgency are restricted in time. Therefore I am unable to cover the ground as adequately as I would prefer to do. I am interested in 2 things. The first is the rather inveterate schoolboy style of speech read this morning by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). The style of the speech is understandable, whoever wrote it. Probably it was written by some third secretary, on trial, I should imagine, down in the house of the mandarin. The second interesting thing is that through the courtesy of the Government Whip I was able to look at the list of speakers. The list is only a guideline but it indicated to me in a substantial way the form that this debate is to take.
The operative words of the statement of the matter of urgency raised this morning by my Leader, Senator Withers, were ‘the duplicity of the Australian Government’s actions in its dealings’, and so on. Duplicity also means deceitfulness, and there is an area of deceitfulness in the Government’s attitude and actions because there is no evidence of the evenhandedness which the Government proclaims is its policy in the IndoChina region. I will give one illustration of this. In the House of Represen atives yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Whidam) made one of the polemical speeches for which he is renowned. On page 1260 of Hansard for the House of Representatives he is reported as having uttered some 200 or 300 words about the United States of America. I quote from page 1260 of that report to illustrate what I describe as deceitfulness. The Prime Minister said:
But the United States’ honour and interests do lie in helping rebuild a unified Vietnam, the unification of which misguided policies, mistaken policies of the past so long delayed; the United States’ honour and interest lie in helping to rebuild an Indo-China to the devastation of which those policies so greatly contributed.
That is an illustration of a lack of evenhandedness because those words lay upon the United States the responsibility for the rehabilitation of the Indo-China region, whereas, perfectly clearly, in the South Vietnam area the devastation in a major degree has been caused not by the United States but by the intrusion of forces from the north. There is a deceitfulness in that very statement by the Prime Minister of Australia. It is not an honest statement; it is a statement that carries an implied quality of duplicity in it. We can go further. The Prime Minister talked about the attempts made by his Government- they were repeated this morning by Senator Willesee- to lay strictures and complaints before the other countries in the area. I think he said that he had complained 3 times in Russia and twice in China, or vice versa, and 6 times in the United States, but there is no indication of where the complaints were made. I imagine that when the Prime Minister was in Moscow he was not received by Mr Brezhnev, the first secretary of the Party there, but by some sort of ceremonial figure who had been dug out, Mr Podgorny. I have no doubt that he listened with some interest to what Mr Whitlam said, but that is about as far as it would go. The reality is that there is no indication anywhere- in the United States, in the People’s Republic of China or in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- of where these complaints were directed, of who heard them and of what acknowledgment was paid to them. Therefore there is implied deceitfulness in this regard, if not actual deceitfulness.
I can go further. In the debate yesterday in the House of Representatives on the Prime Minister’s statement the honourable member for St George, the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), made the facetious suggestion that the people who were trying to speed to the south in Vietnam were not in fact voting with their feet but were being forced by the regime- the Saigon regime as it is always referred to by the Governmentto clutter up the roads. In actual fact if they were not really frightened of the Hanoi Government they would be walking to the north. But they are not walking to the north. There is a vast body of terrified people moving to the south of the Republic of Vietnam.
I come now to the curious situation about the request made in the other place as well as here in order to discover whether in fact some cables were sent on 3 April or 4 April and what was said in them. We heard the Minister for Foreign Affairs say, on one of the rare occasions when he has been in the Senate, that it is not the custom to divulge communications between governments. I suggest to honourable senators that this matter can be cleared up very easily. All that need be done is to paraphrase the cables or to make them available to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) so that he can be satisfied. But that will not happen. What we are involved in is deceit and it is a calculated deceit.
No one wants to see the war in South Vietnam go any further. I think we were immensely relieved at the time of the Paris agreements that at least this hideous war was going to stop and that peace was going to descend on this land which had been wracked and torn by civil war, to use the Prime Minister’s words. But in fact the Paris agreements turned out to be nothing but a Trojan horse, a wooden horse, established inside the Indo-China area. From the moment that the wooden horse was established, from the moment that the Paris agreements were acknowledged or initialled, or whatever happened to them, there has been a massive invasion of the south part of Indo-China by armed forces- regular divisions armed, supported and sustained by enormous amounts of equipment. The stage was reached that some 400 000 regular troops began to move across the country and through the highlands. They began to move in an area where it was impossible for the people of South Vietnam effectively to design and man a frontier of 600 miles. Those forces have wrenched open the whole of the defence posture of South Vietnam. I suggest, Mr President, that there is no evenhandedness there and there has been no acknowledgement by the Government that it has been evenhanded in its attitude to what has been happening.
But there is an area where there has been no duplicity and no deceit and that is the area where the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, has been operating, supported by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren. There has been no duplicity or deceit there. For the last 10 years they have made their attitude perfectly clear. They have had some passive supporters whom I could identify quite easily and list. There is no duplicity there. That has been open. That has been open opinion. Yesterday I heard an interjection from the Government side that Dr Cairns, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, is entitled to make his own policies on Vietnam. His attitudes are quite clear. He has always believed that the Hanoi regime- let me use that term for a change- had a right to conquer the southern area of Indo-China. He has never retreated from that statement. He is now rather gleeful at what is happening. 1 hold in my hand a cutting from the Melbourne ‘ Herald ‘ which was supplied to me by the Parliamentary Library. I am sure it is an honest quote of what Dr Cairns said when he arrived in Sydney. In part, and not out of context, Dr Cairns said that the present carnage in Vietnam was inevitable for some time. Quite coldly he said that this carnage in Vietnam was inevitable for some time. On the television program ‘Four Corners’, in answer to a question, he said:
Well in fact they have always said that they do not cany out reprisals, and anyone who is dealt with is dealt with only after proper trial and so forth. They have always said that, and I think any armed force, any government involved in a war, generally says that kind of thing.
That is patently untrue. Immediately in answer to a subsequent question ‘But how assured are you personally of that?’ Dr Cairns answered:
I’m not assured at all. I think reprisals would be carried out because as I said already there’s a great deal of bitterness that has developed at the end of this 30 years’ war, and people who have been co-operating with the other side, collaborators as they were called. . . .
Reprisals will be handed out. Of course they will be handed out. What is the Government doing to stop them? Has it uttered one word to Hanoi to stop the brutal reprisals which we know will be exacted and which Dr Cairns admits, with that sort of coldness that sometimes one finds in’ the emotional and sentimental man or woman who is pursuing a particular objective, will be exacted?
I think we are witnessing one of the great human tragedies that has happened in this world for a very long time. It oversteps immeasurably the tragedies of the invasion of Hungary and the reprisals which were exacted there. It oversteps immeasurably the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the reprisals which were exacted there. We know that the reprisals which were exacted there. We know that the reprisals which will be exacted in this event are almost beyond calculation. The ultimate tragedy is that these people will not even be statistics. They will not be dignified by statistics. Some bulldozers will dig holes in the ground and their bodies will be trundled into those holes. I have not heard one word, except some rhetoric from Senator Willesee this morning, of what the Government will do. At least we might have been told. There was a passing reference by Senator Willesee to help that will be granted there. A curious coincidence is involved in this because in today’s papers there is an announcement that the PRG people in Geneva, the liaison with UNICEF, have already put in a large requisition for all sorts of goods to be handed over to enable the North Vietnamese to rehabilitate South Vietnam, unless Mr Whitlam can persuade the Americans, whom he suggests are responsible for the carnage and for the destruction, to foot the bill. I do not see very much evenhandedness in that. I have not seen any reference to the fact that approaches have been made to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People’s Republic of China for help in the rehabilitation. I doubt whether that will ever happen.
The tragedy is that we are constantly involved and will continue to be involved, I am afraid, in our children ‘s time in solving this problem where the trojan horse is inserted into other countries, as it is in Portugal at present. I am afraid that the socialists, wherever they are in the world, have never remembered- they do not wish to rememberthat all the socialist conquests in this world in the last 30 years have been by wading through slaughters to a throne and shutting the gates of mercy on mankind. That is what is happening in Vietnam now.
– I heard some reference by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to the list of speakers in the debate. It seems to me that honourable senators opposite do not understand that the list of speakers opposite was composed of the ‘never was-ers’ and the has beens. The has beens have dictated their whole philosophical approach to this problem. We are confronted again, as we have been for the last 20-odd years, with the same rhetoric, the same concepts of deceit, lies and the basing of arguments on fear and emotion to try to convince the Australian people that in the Asian region there is some sort of threat to the Australian people. Resurrected again are the cold war warriors at a period in which even their own mentor, the United States, has taken energetic steps to re-establish a detente with the East to build a world free from the scourge of war. Of course this is not hard to understand, because it was the Menzies administration which brought the game of dominoes to Australia. The Liberal and Country Parties are still playing that game, whereas the Australian Labor Party Government and the people generally are more constructive and more concerned with playing the game of scrabble. The Liberal-Country Party coalition in the 1970s is seeking to reintroduce the sort of divisions and the sort of emotions which characterised its leadership in the whole of the 1950s and the 1960s. It wants to return us to an era of McCarthyism, to an Australia and a world living in fear- a fear which was manufactured, prompted and maintained by the prophet Menzies who told a hushed and frightened nation in 1951:
It is my belief -
I quote from Hansard. This was said by the man who funked his responsibilities in World War I:
It is my belief that the state of the world is such that we cannot, and must not, give ourselves more than 3 years in which to get ready to defend ourselves. Indeed 3 years is a liberal estimate.
How kind of him to accept responsibility. He continued:
Nobody can guarantee that it may not be two years or one year. Certainly, nobody can say with authority that we have a day more than three years.
What did he say when he reported to the House on the illegal, immoral and undeclared war into which his administration, including some honourable senators opposite who were members of Parliament then, plunged us? On 29 April 1965 he said:
The war in Vietnam must be seen as a part of a thrust by Communist China between the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Prime Minister Menzies was a liar. He lied to the Australian people. He misrepresented the position. The Liberal and Country Parties have misrepresented the position in subsequent years. Listening to question time yesterday and today and to the debate in the other place and in this place one would have imagined that we are confronted with the situation in which there are 2 countries in Vietnam. I heard questions asked yesterday which indicated clearly that Opposition members are playing on fear, hate and emotion and have no concept of the political or economic position in Asia and no understanding of the facts. They do not want to know the facts. They have sought to bring themselves to a position in which they can regain the Treasury benches of this country by moving motions such as this one, in the vain and inane hope that the Australian people will be beguiled as they were in the 1950s by the erroneous policies which were pursued by the parties which they represent. The fact is that there is one country in Vietnam, and every international declaration has accepted that. If I may I will just read very briefly from the declaration which was made at Geneva and signed as a result of the Vietnamese people defeating French colonialism. The Geneva Conference called upon France ‘to respect the sovereignty, independence, the unity and territorial integrity of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam ‘. I defy honourable senators and honourable members in the other place to find anywhere in the records of the United Nations, in any of the international protocols and declarations, any suggestion that there is a North Vietnam and a South Vietnam. The declaration to which the United States placed its signature called upon all the member countries at the conference ‘to refrain from any interference in their internal affairs ‘.
Once again we hear Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and those other cold war warriors endeavouring to talk about communism, the thrusts, the hordes of Asia and all those emotive terms which beguiled the Australian people in the 1950s and 1960s. The fact is that, Sir Robert Menzies said that the thrust, and the threat facing the Australian people was the thrust and the threat from China. It is a significant fact that in the period between 1944 and 1954 when the Geneva Agreement was signed no Chinese soldiers were ever found in Vietnam, North or South. In fact, no Chinese soldiers have been found there in the last decade, since the Menzies Administration illegally committed the Australian people to intervene as a Western power in a civil war that had been raging in the country of Vietnam for centuries. In fact, honourable senators opposite ought to be hanging their heads in shame because in that country of Vietnam the people have fought for their national independence over a considerable number of years.
– Against whom?
– They fought against the Japanese thrust centuries ago. Please do not blame Mao Tse-tung. He was not even a glitter in his grandfather’s eyes, so please do not associate him with that. In the early period of Asian history China, the Mongols and many different races had in one way or another invaded and attempted to occupy the region known as Vietnam. Then, of course, the French took it over and it was a French colony for several centuries. The people fought for their national independence as they were entitled to do, just as the American people were entitled to do in 1770 when they waged their War of Independence, and as people all over the world are fighting for the principles of self-determination and independence. What honourable senators do not seem to appreciate is that the very forces, the very people, the very leadership they now condemn were our allies in World War II, and that the Vietminh, which constituted the liberation armies of Vietnam, were the people who collaborated with the South-East Asian command. They were the people who collaborated with the Allies against Japanese occupation which took over the country from the French in the early days of 1939-40 and occupied. Then in collaboration with the Vichy forces, as honourable senators will recall, there was the sell-out by the conservatives of France to the Hitler forcesthe people with whom honourable senators opposite have a philosophical association. The people of Vietnam fought for their independence even in those difficult days.
The plain facts are that at the time when the war was coming to an end after Dien Bien Phu, after the defeat of the French in that period, the line that was drawn across the country was for the purpose of establishing an orderly withdrawal of French forces. It is interesting that in the Geneva Agreement it was conceded that at no time was that line to be regarded as a permanent division of that country. Documents are available if honourable senators want the truth. An International Security Agency letter to the United States State Department on 22 April 1955 stated:
In considering the question of elections -
At that time the question of elections for the people of Vietnam was a burning issue- the assumption that the Viet-Minh would not agree to free elections could well be erroneous despite the consistent Communist rejection of election proposals for the unification of Germany, Austria and Korea.
So the United States State Department was recognising a different indigenous position in this part of the world in Asia. That letter continues:
In other countries, the Communists control only a minority of the population, whereas in Vietnam they control the majority.
This report went on to say that it was in the southern part of Vietnam that the Vietminh and the communists had the overwhelming allegiance of the Vietnamese people.
– There was no election.
– If Senator Sim is prepared to open his mind and his eyes and become intelligent he will find that former President Eisenhower in his memoirs said that if there had been an election at the time when the Geneva Agreement was signed the forces of Ho Chi Minh who was a communist and a popular liberation leader, would have won 80 per cent of the popular support. What did General Collins say in a letter to the United States Secretary of State, Dulles? He said:
There is no proper grass roots support of any leader in Vietnam, leaving aside Ho Chi Minh.
So we- the affluent West- determine that we are going to decide what the people of that country shall have as their government, and what form of society they will have. There is overwhelming evidence that the people of that country wanted to have something to say about determining their own future. We have had the Paris Agreements which the American, the South Vietnam and the North Vietnam governments signed in Paris in 1973. Again in the precise wording of the Agreements they recognised one country- Vietnam. They did not accept the right of the country to be divided into halves. They did not accept that South Vietnam and North Vietnam were 2 separate countries, yet we hear honourable senators of the eminence and seniority of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack talking about North Vietnam invading South Vietnam, lt is like talking about Queenslanders invading New South Wales. Of course if peanuts continue running the country, as they do in Queensland, it is conceivable that at some stage in the future there will be a situation in which there will be civil war and civil strife between the people of Queensland and the people of New South Wales and an Australian central government which would be endeavouring to bring about a unification of the position. Honourable senators in this place would be getting up and talking about Queensland versus New South Wales as though they were not part of the one nation.
We heard Senator Withers ask: ‘Can we trust the words of the Australian Prime Minister? Can we trust Dr Cairns?’ How can one trust the Liberal senators who stabbed this Government in the back in 1974 and forced a double dissolution? How can one trust Liberal senators who stabbed their own leader, Mr Snedden, in the back only a few weeks ago and thrust him aside after they had little secret meetings in Sydney and in Melbourne, and who now have some of the crumbs from the table? These are the people who say that you cannot trust people. Heavens above, did not the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) tell this Parliament how the Australian Government in 1964 and in 1968 in a memorandum requested the United States Government not to take the matter of Vietnam to the United Nations? This is the Opposition which when it was in Government in the early 1 960s involved us in war in Vietnam ostensibly and only for the reason that it was a United States sanctioned war. But when it came to the problem of a civil war in Vietnam, Mr McMahon said that the matter of Vietnam should be not debated in the United Nations because by taking it to the Security Council attempts might be made to restrain our freedom of action in regard to military operations. The hypocrisy of the members of the Opposition knows no bounds and I hope that the commonsense of the Senate and of the Australian people will never allow them to be hoodwinked again by the propaganda of the Liberal and Country Parties.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-I do not intend to try to follow the tortuous thinking of the mind of the last speaker. We have heard all this before. We have read it in the Tribune’. Senator Gietzelt made one statement which shows him to be short on history. He referred to Vietnam being accepted throughout the world in all documents and in all agreements as one country. I do not think he knows that in 1958 or a little later a number of countries, including the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, sponsored both North and South Vietnam for membership of the United Nations. It was a package deal and the sponsorship fell down over disagreements as to who was to be in the package. But the U.S.S.R. at that time sponsored both South Vietnam and North Vietnam for membership. So it recognised the 2 countries. Senator Gietzelt also referred to a civil war. That is, of course, old hat or old hash, the expression used by Mr Lee Quan Yew. Mr Michael Stewart in 1 966, a Labour Foreign Minister in the United Kingdom, made a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra- his credit would be very high in the Labor Party- and he referred to North Vietnam’s aggression and he said: ‘Make no mistake about it ‘. That was a Labour Foreign Minister. In 1962 . . .
– Who said that?
– You have had your speech, my friend, so you be quiet. In 1962 Indian and Canadian members of the International Control Commission reported to the joint chairmen of the Geneva Agreement- the United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R.- that North Vietnam was guilty of acts of aggression and subversion against South Vietnam. The Indian representatives reported this. So we can dismiss as sheer and utter nonsense -
– I just told you, my silly friend. Let us return to the debate. The statement by the
Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) delivered yesterday, and the acts which led to this statement being made have led, of course, to this debate on a matter of urgency. The statement made yesterday clearly justifies charges of duplicity against the Prime Minister and this Government. The statement could only give support and encouragement to North Vietnamese aggression. Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s severe criticism of Dr Cairns would apply equally to the Prime Minister. The North Vietnamese no longer seek by lies and deceit to conceal their massive military aggression against South Vietnam. Today they raise not the Vietcong flag but the North Vietnamese flag. The Prime Minister, no doubt in an attempt to draw attention away from the shameful and disastrous foreign and defence policies of this Government and the falsity of his claim that the South-East Asian region was becoming more stable- undoubtedly to justify the disastrous defence policies which the Government has followed- spent most of his time dealing with past policies. I do not wish to become involved with the past too much because the present and likely future situations in Indo-China are the matters to which we should be applying our minds. But it is necessary to refute several of the grossest distortions and the perverted reasoning used by the Prime Minister to justify the policy. The whole trend of his statement- and Senator Gietzelt can read it and re-read it- is to whitewash the acts of aggression, terror and sabotage by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces.
Why did the Prime Minister condemn the bombing of Hanoi in emotional terms and not condemn the widespread use of terror- carefully documented since 1954- by North Vietnam, the indiscriminate shelling, the use of mortar fire and the use of rockets upon villages, towns and cities in South Vietnam and Cambodia? They were fired indiscriminately into market places and villages with the sole object of creating terror and tragedy. There is a silence from the Prime Minister and the Government. They had a chance yesterday to vote on this issue and they ran away from it.
– Rubbish. Where is your evidence?
– We will give you evidence, Senator Gietzelt. Do you deny that there has been indiscriminate shelling, mortaring and rocket fire in Phnom Penh? Do you deny it?
– There always is in a war.
– You are an idiot.
– You are a war-mongering Party.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Order! I ask Senator Sim to please address the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I will not be diverted by him again.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I ask Senator Gietzelt to refrain from rowdy interjections.
– I can understand his sensitivity. Does silence suggest approval or, as I suspect, just the usual double standards? Why did the Prime Minister condemn South Vietnam for vacating areas and place responsibility quite clearly on South Vietnam for the continued fighting and suffering? Why did he not condemn North Vietnam for its attacks? Why did he not advise the North Vietnamese that they should not occupy this vacated territory? There was not a word. South Vietnam is blamed. If this is not the result of tortuous and perverted thinking by the Prime Minister then nothing else is. This is the whole thrust. He did not condemn North Vietnam for the continued attacks, and nothing illustrates more than that the tortuous and perverted thinking of the Prime Minister and of this Government. The blame is on South Vietnam for vacating territory- he clearly put it there- and there is not a word to condemn North Vietnam. In the Prime Minister’s eyes those who resist violation of their territory are the guilty parties, and this the Opposition rejects with contempt. The Government’s criticism of North Vietnam is muted, but of South Vietnam it is strident. The Prime Minister’s attitude as disclosed yesterday is cynical and immoral in the extreme.
Because time is catching up, I turn very briefly to allegations that the United States of America and South Vietnam violated the Geneva Accords by rejecting free elections. I wonder whether the Prime Minister was serious. Does he seriously suggest that in North Vietnam political parties from South Vietnam would be free to operate an election campaign? That would be strange. But the major issue involved is that from 1954 to 1956, a period when the Prime Minister and this Government claim there should have been free elections, the North Vietnamese were engaged in a pleasant little game of land reform. This land reform took place in a series of purges. Torture, terror and executions were the order of the day. I have first-class authority for this and it is none other than General Giap, then the CommanderinChief of the North Vietnamese forces.
– How do you spell his name?
– It is spelt G-i-a-p. My friend ‘s ignorance astounds me. General Giap said in 1956:
Seeing enemies everywhere we resorted to terror, which became far too widespread -
A little terror was all right, apparently- while carrying out our land reform program we failed to respect the principles of freedom of faith and worship in many areas. Worse still torture came to be regarded as a normal practice during party reorganisation.
That was the situation in North Vietnam between 1954 and 1956. The Prime Minister cynically and falsely blames the United States and South Vietnam for not agreeing to free elections during that period. How could free elections be held in a situation in which General Giap admits that terror was far too widespread? Why did the Prime Minister ignore this truth? His statement was a monstrous distortion and misrepresentation of the facts.
The Prime Minister spent a great deal of time attacking military intervention and he dealt very harshly with the previous Government. But it is rather interesting to recall that when I spoke on Vietnam in 1968, I think it was, I quoted none other than the then Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Calwell. I think that I can remember fairly accurately what he said. He said that the call by the Soviet Union to withdraw all foreign troops from Vietnam was in the interests neither of South Vietnam nor of Australia. He said that the main objective would be to bring communism closer to Australia. He went on to say that the presence of allied forces in South Vietnam was justified as a holding operation. Mr Calwell made those remarks in 1965 following a Federal Executive meeting of the Labor Party. When I quoted Mr Cal well’s remarks on that previous occasion my friend, Senator Mulvihill, who is not here, interjected and said: ‘That is a good statement’. So Senator Mulvihill agreed with the remarks made by the then Leader of the Labor Party in 1965 supporting the presence of foreign troops in South Vietnam.
The Prime Minister dealt with the matter of a political settlement and criticised the South Vietnamese and the United States for not agreeing to a political settlement. I will just quote from the remarks of Mr Calwell once again. A little further on he said:
Its immediate consequence must be a communist takeover of South Vietnam snuffing out the hope of freedom and of democratic independence in that country and extending the area of communist control closer to this country.
That statement was made on 1 9 February 1 965.
– That is a good authority.
– It is a good authority, but the Labor Party today denies the person who made the statement. He certainly changed his mind later on, unfortunately. I wish now to deal quickly with the question of a political settlement. Everyone knows that the whole objective of communist parties everywhere is to seek a united front government. They then purge all the non-communists, as we have seen in China, North Vietnam, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and we know of it happening recently in Portugal. It always ends as a communist takeover. If that proposition is not attractive to the South Vietnamese or to others, who would wonder? That has always been the history of political settlements. If time permitted, I intended to say a few more things that I thought would be constructive regarding past policies. However, I shall conclude by saying that a political settlement would not be the answer, and I wonder why this Government, which is so concerned with human suffering, has never proposed that the easiest way, the most effective way, in which to end this war is for the North Vietnamese to go home and let the South Vietnamese solve their problems and decide their own self-determination, which has always been a sacred objective of the Labor Party. Why does the Labor Party today deny that to the people of South Vietnam who in every election have always voted strongly against communism, as they are voting today on their feet? Elections have been observed, and there have been observations by members of the Labor Party who have all reported that in the circumstances they have been as free as could be reasonably expected.
- Senator Sim, who has just resumed his seat, did not make any great argument of importance. However, there are a couple of points that I want to raise because the statements that he did make will not be long remembered. One would think from the attitude that he adopted that the hawks had transferred from his side of the chamber to this side of the chamber with the change of government. I would like to point out to him, through you, Mr Deputy President, that the Government and members of the Government Party are still on the side of peace. One of the last statements made by Senator Sim indicated that if he again had the opportunity he would reject all suggestions of a political settlement and go back to the old days of guns and bombs.
– He said that the North Vietnamese should be sent home.
-That is what he said. If the honourable senator had been listening carefully instead of looking through his comics there he would know what it is all about. Senator Sim distorted history as he proceeded through his remarks by making inaccurate interpretations of some of the alleged statements from which he was quoting. He fell for all the old traps of conservative propaganda. I do not really join with those of his opponents who claim some significance in the fact that the name Sim rhymes with Dim. The matter of urgency which has been brought into the chamber reads as follows:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter or urgency, viz.
The duplicity of the Australian Government’s actions in its dealings with the Government of South Vietnam and with the Government of North Vietnam and the tacit approval it has given to the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam.
The fifth edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary gives this interpretation of the word ‘duplicity’: ‘Double-dealing, deceitfulness; doubleness’. I might say that when the people who are now members of the Opposition were in government they played the game of duplicity to the hilt. In leading for the Government in this debate Senator Willesee said, in replying to the remarks of Senator Withers, that the tone had been set by Opposition members in terms of bitterness. In other words, they wanted to do a can kicking job but they have failed rather dismally. If one were to be charitable I think one could suggest to Senator Withers that what he badly needs is a new song writer, because the speech which had been prepared for him took up only two-thirds of the time allocated to him as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. It was significant that none of the heavyweights among speakers on the Opposition side came to his support. In fact, there has been a change in the proposed order of speakers. Senator Maunsell has been lowered on the speaking list and Senator Sim has been brought forward.
– At my own request.
-The change has probably detracted from the Opposition’s argument. It is significant that when Senator Sir Magnus Cormack was speaking in the debate he went to great pains to criticise the Paris Agreement. But he forgets- again this is a sign of the duplicity of the previous Government- that his Government in his day refused to recognise the Geneva Accords. Many of the problems in Vietnam were brought about because of the fact that the people associated with the previous coalition Government refused to recognise that there was a way to peace. The honourable senator criticised the remarks made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, but he failed to say that 2 people who said precisely the same thing as Dr Cairns were the Catholic Archbishop of Saigon and also that friend of the Liberal Party, Air Vice-Marshal Ky. Both of those people are much louder than Dr Cairns in their protestations about the continuation of the Thieu regime. So I think that if he was honest he should have mentioned that at the time, but he picked and chose the sorts of things that he would quote. Anyway, who is Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to accuse the Government of double-dealing? I recall Press headlines of only a week or two ago which showed that he was busy holding a party in his penthouse in order to dispose of the then leader of the Liberal Party who was not invited, incidentally, to the party that was held in the penthouse. It is not much use adopting double standards while putting up an argument of this nature. The fact is that the good senator should have been able to come in here with clean hands and say that he was never involved in the affair and was away from his penthouse that night. We all know, of course, that he was busy blood letting under the guise of social lionising.
In 1964 the then Minister for the Army, who subsequently lost his portfolio, stated- I think it was in Hobart- that there would be no conscription because it was a waste of money and manpower. But the Prime Minister of the day, the then Mr Robert Menzies, shortly afterwards contradicted the statement made by his Cabinet Minister and said that conscription would be introduced. However his statement was qualified at the time. It was said that none of the young men conscripted in this manner would be used in overseas service. But in 1965, as part of a deal with other countries, particularly the United States of America, Australian troops were on their way. From 1965 to 1972 almost 500 young Australians were killed in the Vietnam conflict and almost another 3000 were either physically or mentally crippled as a result of the compulsion that they be in that particular type of conflict.
From 1965 to 1972 no attempt was made by members of the Opposition who were then in Government to see that people who had been injured or maimed in any way in the Vietnam conflict were properly compensated. Most of them were not entitled to war service homes. Most of them were not entitled to repatriation benefits. Young widows around this country were living on the breadline while the Government backed and filled at that point of history as to what the widows’ entitlements were.
Entitlements were not given because the Government of the day was not prepared to say it was an official war. The Government was prepared to kill people and do all sorts of things in the name of war, but it was not prepared to call it war. From 1 964 to 1 972 one of the social events of the season used to be the death lottery where prominent personalities in the community who had their feet stably established on the social ladder came along to draw the draft- to roll the marbles- to see who would be next on the death list. This was almost invariably followed by morning tea and cakes while they joked about what birthdates would be next.
Let us go on further with the double standards. It was the old men in this House, who now sit on the Opposition benches but who sat in those days on the Government benches, who decided that it was right on every occasion when a debate took place in this chamber on our involvement in Vietnam to send their neighbours’ sons to war, but they never sent any of their own. It was significant that people who sat on the Government side in those days were young enough to volunteer to go to Vietnam if they believed so impliCitly in the conflict. We challenged a number of them on occasion after occasion to volunteer for Vietnam if they felt so badly about the so called social injustice of that conflict. I recall Senator Rae- it is no reflection on him that he is not in the Senate at the moment- walking into the chamber one night while a member of the then Government. We reminded him that he was young enough to volunteer. Naturally he felt rather provoked and was able to say that he was on the Naval reserve and had a greatcoat to prove it, but he never brought the greatcoat into this chamber to prove to us that he was a member of the Naval reserve. What is more he never at any stage went to Vietnam. There were others, including Senator Greenwood whose absence from this debate is significant. I recall the night when he could find only one supporter to keep members of this House in the chamber until 3 o’clock in the morning while he talked about the horrors of Vietnam so far as the North Vietnamese were concerned. This great upholder of democracy and of freedom, this well known kicker of the communist can, this well known union basher and professional gaoler of conscripts never went to Vietnam in his own right and had no intentions of going there. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate wants to look over his shoulder occasionally because somewhere there might also be the blood letter who believes in reducing leaders to the backbench.
– That is what happened in Toorak.
– I think we can find a whole lot of reasons why some of these people ought to be adopting a different stance here today. After all, the ones I have mentioned by name- this is not a personal attack because we have said it here to their faces time and time again -
– It is the usual Keeffe speech.
- Senator Marriott was instrumental in having me removed from the chamber on one occasion. I think perhaps one of the interesting sidelines of the honourable senator’s career as a member of the Government and as an assistant Minister was that he was never recognised even by the leaders of his own Party. The honourable senator should not start having a grovel around on the political table. I think he should keep quiet or he might come off second best.
Some very interesting observers have been around this chamber today endeavouring to ascertain how the Opposition would handle itself. We have seen amateur business lobbyists wandering around hoping that the Opposition could put up a good story. Until a few moments ago members of the Nazi Party were watching glowingly from the Gallery while their champions on the other side of the chamber spoke on their behalf. When Senator Withers was very briefly introducing his motion he said that the Opposition badly wanted access to secret defence documents. Members of the Opposition should be the last people in the world to talk about trying to get access to defence secrets. They had a long history in government of dealing in secrecy with their friends. I recall one night in this chamber reading out many names of business firms and organisations in this country who were double dealing with the full support of the government of the day. While members of the Government were sending our sons to Vietnam to be used as cannon fodder they and their friends- Government members held shares in some of these companies- were dealing through the back door. A wheat grower senator, who is also missing at the moment, was delighted to be able to sell his wheat to mainland China at the time knowing that a lot of it would go to troops in North Vietnam. Representatives of the beef industry were selling to North Vietnam tallow which could be used for explosive substances. They did this for a long time until they were caught out one day when the sun was high in the sky.
Some people made millions out of the Vietnam war at the expense of the spilling of Australian blood. No tears were wept by members of the then Government. They should not talk about double dealing. The double dealers sit on the other side of this chamber now and they sat on this side of the chamber then. They talk about not getting information of value concerning defence secrets. They had a secret commitment of troops in Thailand, in Cambodia and in areas in Vietnam. They did not want the Australian public to find out where the troops were being placed and what they were doing. Those members knew of the existence of political prisoners. They could have done something about it, but they did not.
In the couple of minutes remaining to me let me finalise on these points. Today, for the first time in many years, we have an Australian Government with an independent foreign policy. Gone are the days when the theme song of the then government used to be ‘All the way with LB J’ or ‘I’ll go A-Waltzing Matilda with you’. Two Prime Ministers sang that at the White House because of their complete subservience to other governments. Today we have a government that is respected in the Asian area and by the great powers of the West. We collaborate and co-operate with our allies, but we do not get dragged along by the nose and do things that we are told to do that are against the very best principles of democracy, and against the very best principles of the Australian nation and the Australian people. Senator Gietzelt said that Mr McMahon was quoted as saying that there was no case for the United Nations during the days when he was Prime Minister. This was the way the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party wanted to fight the Vietnam conflict. They did not want a case for the United Nations because this would have put them in the situation in which they could no longer send Australian troops to Vietnam and could no longer participate in the slaughter in Vietnam. No blame should be attached to the Australian Labor Partyfar from it. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of those who sit today in opposition and who will continue to sit in opposition for the next 1 5, 20 or 30 years.
– During this debate we have heard some remarkable speeches from the Government side. Naturally, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) had to reply because this matter comes within his portfolio. Since then we heard 2 honourable senators speak who are well renowned for their ideological views. The Opposition is wondering where those of the Labor Party- the members of the old type Labor Party, the right-wingers as we might call them- fit into this debate.
– We are not worried about that, they joined the Country Party.
– I know that the Government supporters are not worried about that. That is probably why, in the last Queensland election, the Labor Party won only 1 1 seats out of 84 seats. Senator Gietzelt referred to the State of Queensland as being run by peanuts. They must be some peanuts when the Labor Party can win only 1 1 seats out of 84. If there had been a redistribution in Queensland before that election, as the Labor Party wished, and there had been equal numbers representing a cross section of the people, the Labor Party would not have got any seats. It is very interesting to hear the remarks of honourable senators opposite. All that Senator Gietzelt and Senator Keeffe did was dig up the bones of the past and rehash the past. They ran away from the present and shut their eyes completely to the future.
I want to address my remarks to the future of Australia and relate it to what is happening in South-East Asia. The situation in South Vietnam today is a strong reminder of the dangerous foreign and defence policies of this Government. These policies have been followed for nearly 2Vi years. This nation is already isolated geographically. It is being isolated even further by the political attitude of this Government and its attitude to its friends- those friends we would expect to come to our assistance in the case of trouble. Australia is being completely isolated. The amazing point is that while the Government is dragging this nation into a state of isolation it is also running down the defence forces of this country which I understand and assume would be most important if the Government wanted to carry out a policy of this kind. The people of Australia have to learn the facts about the future of this country. This Government is trying to convince the Australian people that there is no threat to the nation for the next 15 years. Honourable senators opposite have all agreed on that. It has been reiterated in the last few days in the other place. Of course, the Government has used this to justify the running down of the defences of Australia. Honourable senators should not forget that defence and foreign policy run hand in hand. We cannot have a policy which says that we will be isolated and that we do not want to have any alliances with other countries but will still maintain the defence of Australia if the defence forces are not built up. Yet, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) has stated that the best thing for South Vietnam would be the fall of the Thieu Government. He is also reported to have said that probably the best government for places like Cambodia and Laos would be a communist government.
The Australian people should be aware of this Government’s future policy if other nations in South-East Asia find themselves in the same situation as that in Indo-China today. A fact which is becoming clearer to us every day is that minority groups in certain countries are setting themselves up as liberators- I stress minority groups- and are then calling for outside help. And they are being given outside help not only by neighbouring communist countries but also by the 2 major communist countries, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China, which are supplying them with arms. One would imagine that if an outside country wanted to help a country it would assist in the development of its resources and would assist in the uplifting of the standard of living of its people. But this is not the case. These countries are helping the South-East Asian countries with trained military manpower and weapons in order to force on other countries their own ideologies and what they believe is in their best interests. This is what has happened throughout South-East Asia. It has happened not only in Indo-China. We see it happening in Cambodia. We see it happening in Laos. It did happen earlier in Indonesia and in Malaysia.
What is this Government’s attitude towards the situation in South Vietnam? The Government has said that it has become an internal conflict; that it is purely a civil war; that it is a matter for South Vietnam and North Vietnam to decide. The Government believes that we should not have anything to do with it. I would like to say to the Australian people that, in the light of what has happened in the past, we can expect these minority groups to operate again in places like Malaysia, Burma, Indonesia and the small island city of Singapore, because they are there now. If outsiders who are armed come in in order to help so-called liberators, this Government- if it is going to be consistent- will adopt the same attitude as it has towards Vietnam. The Government is trying to put to the Australian people that it is purely a local matter. I think the people of Australia have got to discover at some time exactly where this Government stands. Now we have the situation -
– He has lost his notes again.
– As long as I do not lose you, it will be OK. What has the Government done up to date to put forward its stated policies that it believes that peace should be brought to the world and that there should be goodwill and peace amongst all nations.
– You do not listen to the Minister.
-What has the Government done to foster this philosophy? What has the Government done in the 2lA years it has been here to try to bring the fighting in Vietnam to a halt? Has the Government done anything to enforce the Paris Agreement? Has it done anything to tell the North Vietnamese to get out of South Vietnam? Has it done anything to tell the U.S.S.R. and China to stop supplying arms to the North Vietnamese? The members of the Australian Labor Party hailed the Paris Agreement as the great saviour of Vietnam. They said that the peace agreement was a wonderful thing. What has the Government done? In this area in which we live, which should be of interest to us, we were recognised as a leader. What has this nation done to see that the Paris Agreement has been carried out?
– You did not listen to the Minister.
– Well, where is the leadership? We have not heard anything. We heard on 5 March that the Government sent a few cables but the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is not prepared to divulge their contents. I will accept the fact that cables between nations can be secret documents. That does not stop the Prime Minister of this country stating exactly where this nation stands in relation to the invasion by North Vietnam. When will he state publicly not only for the Australian public but also for the rest of the world -
– Yesterday and today.
-He did not attack the Soviet Union; he did not mention China. The Australian people would like to know just where this Government stands. Of course it is not prepared to say anything against its new found friends in the communist world. It is quite obvious to us and to the thinking public in this community that those sympathetic to the cause of the USSR and China are the ones who dictate the foreign policy of this Government. There is no question of that, otherwise the Prime Minister would be saying the things that he said in 1956. 1 will not go over them. They have been cited by senators here and by members in the House of Representatives. His policy in those days in regard to Vietnam was very different from his policy today when he is being told what line to take.
The people of this nation want some leadership from this Government as to what our future will be if similar insurgent situations come to places closer to us. We all know what happened in Indonesia not so long ago. That can happen again. Where are the considered statements that that sort of insurgency and outside assistance will not come in to help minorities in Indonesia to overthrow the government there, with whom we have good relations, or to overthrow the government of Malaysia? Where are the statements by any member of this Government that it is prepared to protect the interests of those nations? If honourable senators opposite believe that some governments are not elected democratically, why do they no go to the United Nations to ensure that elections do take place democratically? Must we wait until such time as some communist military force moves in to assist a minority group and then wash our hands of it and say: ‘It is only an internal civil war’? A very serious situation is developing in South-East Asia. I believe that most thinking people in this community and most loyal Australians are at this time very concerned about what is happening there. Naturally they look for leadership not to the Opposition or to some State government but to the elected Government of this country. They are not getting that leadership.
– They are getting it time and time again.
– No statements are coming from the Prime Minister down as to the stand this nation will take in future aggression in South-East Asia, the stand of this nation protecting the interests of these countries, and the stand of this nation in condemning the complete violation of the Paris agreement by the North Vietnamese and by the Chinese and the Russians in supplying materiel. I believe the time has come when this Government must stand up and be counted. If it is not prepared to do that, the Australian people will do it.
-This debate is occasioned by the Opposition’s concern for South Vietnam- not the people of South Vietnam, I venture to suggest, but that piece of country that has become known as South Vietnam. It does not appear to be concerned about the people of Vietnam, that small country with the great heart for which for more than 23 years this Opposition showed not the slightest concern. Vietnam is a country that so many people would like to forget. It is a country that I think, after listening to the Opposition, some people believe we should have killed right off and then we would not have had any problem to face up to. Vietnam was invaded by the French in 1847. It fought valiantly with us against the Japanese in the last war. It was handed to the Japanese by its French protectors and itself eventually had to evict the Japanese. The people of Vietnam believed our pious wartime propaganda about believing in people’s rights to self determination and self rule. They are the people of whom General MacArthur said in Tokio, when commenting on British and French use of Japanese troops to try to defeat the Vietnamese independence movement: ‘If there is anything that makes my blood boil it is to see our allies in Indo-China and Java deploying Japanese troops to reconquer the link people we promised to liberate ‘.
– Who said that?
– General MacArthur. Vietnam is the country that believed in 1954 at the Geneva Conference that the Western countries, with which it had had dealings, were honest when they said:
In the case of nations now divided against their will, we shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections, supervised by the United Nations to ensure that they are conducted fairly.
Vietnam saw an imaginary line drawn across a map in a faraway place dividing its land in half without any consultation with the people. How would ignorant peasants know what sort of government was good enough for them? How would the interests of other people have suffered if the Vietnamese were allowed to settle their own affairs without outside interference or ‘assistance’? This is the country on which the United States of America dropped twice the tonnage of bombs that it used in the entire Second World War; the country on which was dropped, until the cease fire in 1 973, more than 3 times the tonnage of bombs that was dropped in the Second World War by everyone. In South Vietnam’s 5 northern provinces and around Saigon destruction is the greatest and the most concentrated in history. According to the United States State Department figures, casualties in South Vietnam from 1960 to 1972 were 476 837 wounded.
A U.S. Senate committee reported that between 1964 and 1972 6 355 000 refugees could be counted in South Vietnam, and nobody knew from where they came. These are the people who in the name of their freedom saw 35 per cent of their dense tropical forest in South Vietnam defoliated, and 345 000 acres of farm land ruined by bomb craters. These people saw Australians, their neighbours, come into their country to fight Vietnamese people with no declaration of war but with the excuse that it was for their freedom. From listening to some of the honourable senators on the Opposition benches it looks as though, if they have their way, we will be going back to reliberate South-East Asia all over again. The people of Vietnam felt so concerned about their own country and its freedom from outside interference that they were prepared to burn themselves alive in a gesture of despair and defiance. They saw their babies burned with napalm. They pitted their small resources but great belief in themselves and their destiny against the great American nation whose President, Lyndon Johnson, at one stage of this frightful period in history said: ‘I won’t go down in history as the first American President to lose a war’. What concern for the people? What was the principle? The principle was to save face in commercial interests.
Much talk has gone on about the aid that these people received from outside sources. Aid from Russia and China to the whole of Indo-China from 1 966 to 1 973 was $3. 6m. Aid from America to the whole of Indo-China in the same period was $107 billion. Those figures are taken from congressional records through U.S. congressman Les Achers. Now these people are experiencing the last bitter dregs of our interference in their affairs- their children are being taken out of the country. The Opposition is making pious statements about refugees and is crying crocodile tears about caring for people in the name of freedom. Whose freedom? We bombed, strafed and poisoned the country. We turned the rice bowl of Asia into a desert and killed the mothers and fathers of these children. Now without so much as asking these people, we remove their children. I would have thought that the Opposition, instead of moving a facile motion, could have shown that it had some conscience about the damage it assisted to do to the country by showing some real concern for the children of that country and ensuring that everything possible was done to make sure that they were reunited with whatever remnants of their families were left. In so many cases ‘remnants’ is the operative word.
– Most of them have been shot by the communists.
– A lot of them have been shot, bombed, poisoned and starved by us. The world ‘s conscience connot be stilled by removing a couple of thousand battered little babies. The fact remains that no baby should be bombed, no baby should be starved and no baby’s parents should be killed. If calls by Opposition senators to that effect were made, they would get a tremendous amount of support from honourable senators on this side of the chamber. What principle is a worthy one when we can see photographs such as that which appeared on the front page of last Saturday’s edition of the Melbourne Age’ of a small naked dead baby being carted off the airfield after the crash of the refugee plane and being dangled from the hand of a South Vietnamese soldier like a small dead animal being removed because it smelt? That baby represents the end result of the interference of people such as Opposition senators who believe that they know so much better than the Vietnamese what is best for the Vietnamese.
Of course the refugees run away from bombs, guns and soldiers. Refugees in all countries and all wars do that. They are tired of fighting and killing- they want peace. The soldiers in South Vietnam do not want to fight. The following report appeared in this week’s ‘National Times’:
Several hours after the last aircraft and the last ship had left Da Nang, the communists drove in to lay their hands on the biggest single haul of the war- about three divisions of Saigon’s crack troops and all the arms and ammunition stacked in the headquarters of Military Region 1 1.
Unlike Hue, where there were attempts to destroy the material, in Da Nang everything was left intact.
Later, the report continues:
The monthly desertion rate, which rose to a record 24 000 in the month preceding the offensive, speaks volumes on the state of morale which had been slowly undermined by warweariness, prolonged separation from the family and, in particlar, the galloping inflation that heightened the misery of poorly-paid soldiers.
These men are not cowards. They want an end to this war that has gone on for over 70 years. They want their country to themselves- they want to be Vietnamese running Vietnam. This Opposition has capacity of self-delusion. It accepts phobias created by labels, instead of seeking to understand the fundamentals of Vietnam ‘s problems. Opposition senators are dupes to the skilled propagandists on the extreme right who have misrepresented Vietnam for their own ends. This motion is a result of those feelings.
– The wording of the matter of urgency is serious indeed. It contains charges and accusations that have wide-ranging implications. The charges stand- they stand repeated and emphasised. The charges outlined in the statement of the matter of urgency are of the sort that are causing the Australian people a great deal of concern about our ultimate security and survival. The urgency motion is set against the circumstances of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. The impact of this tragedy is widespread and widely felt. Of course, it is felt most of all in South Vietnam itself. The enormous loss of life, the indescribable suffering, and the total destruction have been factors in the news items in this country about Indo-China for too long now. For over 20 years the world generally and our section of the world in particular have endeavoured to cope with this crisis- indeed it may be described as the ultimate in crises.
Mistakes have been made. There have been numerous errors of judgment. Situations have been created which, from hindsight, can be seen to have been unfortunate and disastrous. However, that does not remove the principle or the reason involved, nor does it remove the principle connected with this matter now before the Senate. Involvement in Vietnam came from a firm belief that every opportunity should be given to a non-communist people in South Vietnam. It was considered that non-communist people in South Vietnam should have every opportunity to face a better future, that every opportunity should be given them to work out their own destiny, and that they should be left alone rather than have a communist-inspired dictatorship and government imposed on them from the North. So, with all the problems, the South Vietnam situation arose from a genuine desire to stem the tide of communism, which I regret to say seems to be moving inexorably southward.
As we reached this situation, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) came out with a statement that in South Vietnam a communist takeover would be better than the alternative. The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia is in favour of imposing on a peasant and free society a tyranny and terror that are part of the incredible tragedy of today. In the current situation in which we are involved now, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) has drawn attention to and emphasised the significance of what was referred to in the statement of the matter of urgency as the duplicity of Australia’s actions in the current situation. Senator Withers has outlined the details of what he has called the ‘Cables Affairs’. It is quite incredible that the Australian Government should be in a position where it can be accused of having a bias in favour of North Vietnam. The situation is serious and remains serious, and I call on the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to give proof of their evenhandedness in this matter to show whether the claims of bias are true or untrue. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the charge of duplicity in the statement of the matter of urgency is serious indeed. We await the Government’s response to the Opposition’s request for at least the sighting of the cables to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, just to indicate whether or not they are equivalent.
At this stage, I do not discern any rebuttal of the charge whatever. In his statement yesterday in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, in a burst of righteous indignation, said that we outsiders never had the right to intervene. That was a very pious statement by the Prime Minister. What was his role as an outsider in the Baltic nations situation? Did he have a right to intervene in that situation? He may argue that the two sets of circumstances are not comparable, but the principle sets out very clearly that in that case he was recognising that Soviet Union dominance of the Baltic States was an acceptable fact. The Prime Minister- a rank outsider in that situation- intervened and allied his Government and the Australian nation with the world of communist cruelty and communist dictatorship, with all the sorrow, carnage and destruction that beset Baltic countries at that time. If the Prime Minister states that we outsiders never had the right to intervene with regard to Vietnam, pray when did he have the right to intervene and approve the policy in relation to the Baltic States, causing hurt and grief not only to people in the Baltic States but also to those loyal people from the Baltic States who are living in the Australian community?
The possible imminent collapse of the noncommunist regimes within the South-East Asian area opens up new challenges for Australia and for the Australian situation. After all, we have to bear in mind that we are very much at the end of the land mass. I suppose that South-East Asia could be described as something approaching the shape of a huge bunch of grapes, and right at the bottom is the Australian continent. The present Government has sat idly by whilst the communist regime, which is the enemy of our style of life, our form of society, our guarantees of freedom and our insistence on the rights of people to work out their own destiny, has come down through the land mass. And let it be known that we are at the end of the land mass. The imminent collapse of the non-communist regime in South Vietnam presents to the Australian people and the Australian Government some serious challenges and new situations.
In the context of this motion we call on the Australian Government to undertake a series of positive and forthright measures to indicate just exactly where it stands. Why does it not take steps in the arena of the United Nations to bring together the opposing forces in this situation? Why does it not take steps within the United Nations to get the parties to the conference table in a more practical and positive way? Why does it not make public its concern not only for the people in this part of the world but also for the future of the country itself? I call upon the Government to exercise itself in the fields of diplomacy and defence and also in particular in the field of economic and international aid.
Is the Government taking steps to talk about the rehabilitation of all the dispossessed people? Has it made any statements regarding the fate of millions of refugees? I have seen for myself in South Vietnam the programs for resettlement that were undertaken by the government there. There will be many more refugees now. An increasing number of refugees will be driven from their homes by the communist hordes of the north. What steps is the Government taking to ensure that there is some international understanding of this desperate situation? Will it take early steps and make early announcements in order to play its part and to fulfil its role as a nation that has a great deal of interest in this part of the world, a great deal of leadership to offer and a great deal of influence to bear.
Will the communists as they move down engage in programs of restoration? Their programs of the past do not seem to indicate this. Will the communist regimes, if they take over in Vietnam, threaten Thailand and Malaysia? Will the Australian Government have any part to play in the relationships between the communist regimes and the regimes in Thailand and Malaysia? What steps will the Government take to protect these difficult and serious situations? In the present international environment there is a lot of talk about detente. We hear a lot about moderation, negotiation and coexistence. But the long term communist objectives of struggling for a communist world order will persist, if I read the minds of the communists leaders aright today. The rest of South-East Asia may not collapse like falling dominoes, as some people indicate, but certainly the communist regimes, encouraged by their triumph in Indo-China and by the present Australian Government, no doubt will bring new pressures to bear on their non-communist neighbours. This brings very sharply into focus the urgent need for this Government to involve itself more and more not only in programs of international aid, as we understand aid, but also in helping to strengthen the economies of our South- East Asian neighbours. This will enable those countries to take urgent and new steps regarding trade relations and trade opportunities. It will enable them to take urgent and new steps regarding investment and the encouragement of initiative and enterprise within their areas so that there can be a style of life and a quality of life which in the long term will give the people a degree of contentment with their lot.
As everybody knows, depressed economic conditions provide fertile ground for political instability and outright subversion. Therefore, it is an appropriate time for the Australian Government to make a reappraisal of the development assistance programs that it can carry out in these key countries, because if we do this we will be able to see whether or not we can step up our efforts to help these governments in economic and resource development so that they can strengthen, and strengthen the weaker and more vulnerable sections of their people. It is a situation in which we have considerable diplomatic means at our disposal to seek the interest and involvement of other, what I will call, Western donor countries in this task which is so vitally important and which, if it can be undertaken, will yield such a fruitful result not only for the well being of the people in Vietnam about whom we are talking but also for the Australian community placed as it is in a significant geographical relationship with this South-East Asian area.
Without making any apology, I indicate that the matter of urgency which is before the Senate this afternoon stands. It calls upon the Government to come out very clearly and to respond not only to the degrees of doubt which are in the minds of members of the Parliament today but also to the degrees of concern which are running right through the Australian people, and to provide the Australian people with the opportunity to assist particularly the people in Vietnam to determine their own future and live a life of freedom and satisfaction.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I am one of those who is pleased that there is a chance once again to debate in the Senate the war in Vietnam, lt had seemed for a long time that the Opposition was most reluctant to debate what had happened in Vietnam. In fact, when I for one during the course of a debate would occasionally refer to the role which Australia had played in Vietnam, to what had happened in that unfortunate country, I found that Opposition senators were most reluctant to become involved in a discussion of what had occurred there. I think that they have made a serious mistake in bringing before the Senate this lame, laborious and dreary debate which we have heard from them today, because the Australian people know very well what happened in Vietnam. They know of the despicable role which previous governments, which consisted of parties to which Opposition senators belong, played in that country. They know very well that previous Liberal-Country Party governments were responsible for the death of some 500 Australians and for the injury of some thousands of Australians. One does not know how many Vietnamese, for whom we saw the crocodile tears shed today, were slaughtered by the actions of the previous Government; not by any neglect, not by any oversight, but by deliberate systematic bombing and military attack.
I find it offensive that the people who played their part in the genocidal campaign against the Vietnamese people should have the effrontery to come into the Senate, talk about the losses of Vietnamese life and ask us what the Australian Government is doing about that. We have made our contribution to that. We stopped the killing of Australians and the killing by Australians in Vietnam. If the Australian Labor Government did nothing other than to have brought home Australian troops from Vietnam, then we would have made a greater contribution to human decency than any Australian government has made since the end of the Second World War. Honourable senators opposite are easy targets. One is tempted to ask what these people would do. When one looks across to the other side of the chamber one sees honourable senators of military age who showed their heroism by voting to conscript 20-year olds to go off to Vietnam and be killed. They are easy targets. None of them went to Vietnam. They conscripted other people to go to Vietnam. They showed their bravery by sending young Australians off to be slaughtered. They showed their bravery by sending the Commonwealth Police to arrest people who refused to go and fight- the people who had the courage to stand up and say that they were not going off to be killed in Vietnam.
It is rather sickening to hear honourable senators opposite in the Senate today talking about the losses of Vietnamese life. When they were in government they showed how much they cared about the losses of Vietnamese life and the losses of Australian life. They thought that they had a bit of a gimmick. I rather thought that after yesterday’s debate in the House of Representatives honourable senators opposite would have let the matter rest rather than bring it on for debate again today. I do not know whether they heard what actually happened in the House of Representatives. Honourable senators opposite say that in some way we have acted discreditably with regard to the orphans who have been brought out of South Vietnam when in fact the American Commander-in-Chief in the South Pacific has congratulated the actions which the Australian Government took in attempting to bring orphans from Vietnam to Australia and to give aid to people who were refugees from the fighting.
I am in some doubt as to whether these people are refugees from the North Vietnamese. They are refugees from the fighting. They are people who are actually fleeing the explosion of shells, the bombings and the fighting which is going on in Vietnam. According to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, several million people in its area have also fled from the fighting, and it is asking for aid for these people. I see no reason why I should prefer to take the word of people like Field Marshal Thieu to that of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam because one thing is sure, and that is that if one asks the average Vietnamese whom does he support, whom does he take to be the leader of his country, one will find a pretty microscopic group who say that Field Marshal Thieu or Air Vice-Marshal Ky or any of the other people who have been fleeing in such haste as the people of their own country proceed to catch up with them, represent the masses of people in that country. What has happened in Vietnam? The history of Vietnam has been told so many times: That Vietnam was once an independent country, a country very proud of its independence; that in the 1840s it became a French colony; that the resistance to the French colonialists did not cease through all the time it was a colony; and that when the Vichy French collapsed and did not fight, when the Japanese invaded Indo-China in 1942, our allies in resistance to the Japanese, the comrades in arms of Australian soldiers, were the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, the Vietminh under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, who carried on the fight as our allies against the Japanese while the French colonial governors collaborated with the Japanese.
After the war the French were restored in Vietnam. It is interesting to hear members of the Liberal and Country Parties talk about national independence in the same way as it was rather sickening to hear certain American politicians talk about national independence when they fought to retain the French empire in Vietnam. It is only within the last 3 decades that these people who now talk about independence, who now talk about Soviet colonialism, were actually fighting to retain the French empire in Vietnam. The French were smashed at Dien Bien Phu, not by the Russians, not by the Chinese, not by the Hungarians, but by the Vietnamese. They defeated France, one of the most powerful countries in the world, with all the military assistance being given to it by the Americans. Talks took place in 1954 at Geneva which were supposed to provide for the peaceful future of Vietnam. One of the provisions in the agreements reached at Geneva was that for the time being there should be a division into 2 zones, one in the north and one in the south, and that as soon as practicableand in any event no later than the middle of 1956- free elections should be held throughout the whole of Vietnam. Those elections were not held. Ngo Dinh Diem, a man whom we are led to believe- not by the communists, but by responsible Americans- was subsequently deposed and possibly murdered by the American Government itself or an agency of the American Government, was brought back from Belgium, where he was living, and a puppet government- there is no other way to describe it- was created in South Vietnam. The so-called republic of Vietnam was established and the Geneva Accords were completely defied by the United States and by its puppet regime in South Vietnam. Fighting continued, as it was bound to continue, in the one country of Vietnam, falsely and unlawfully divided by the actions of the Eisenhower Administration in the United States of America. The conflict reached the level where a provisional government was established in South Vietnam.
We hear nonsense now about this invasion by the North Vietnamese of South Vietnam. There never were 2 countries. The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi, Phan Van Dong, is a South Vietnamese. Air Vice-Marshal Ky, who was once greeted in Australia with great acclaim as a saviour, a man who stated in what high admiration he held Adolf Hitler and who showed his patriotism by fighting for the French against Algerian independence in 1956, a man who fought as a pilot strafing and bombing the Algerian people virtually as a mercenary fighting for the French, comes from Hanoi. If there is a northern invasion of South Vietnam, one of the invaders is Air Vice-Marshal Ky, a North Vietnamese.
Ultimately it became apparent that the forces of the Vietnamese people were stronger than the combined forces of the puny puppet regime in Saigon and the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world, and its satraps who took part in the struggle along with the United States, were driven from that country. No one has ever been able to claim that one Chinese or Russian soldier or a soldier from any other country in the world has fought in the forces of North Vietnam or in the so-called Vietcong, the forces of the Provisional Revolutionary Government in South Vietnam. Indeed, at the time the Americans were justifying their original intervention in Vietnam- and in one of the White Papers produced before the United States Senate- it was found that only 5 per cent of the arms in the Vietcong ‘s possession came from communist sources, that the other 95 per cent were either arms captured from the southern forces, and the Americans, or primitive arms they had manufactured for themselves. Still we hear this dreary stuff that one would have thought would have been an insult to any national parliament about the international communist conspiracy. People who have apparently never heard of the schism between the Chinese and the Soviet Union, people who are supposed to be speaking responsibly on foreign affairs, talk about our using our influence or whatever it is with the Russians and the Chinese to stop the war in Vietnam.
I can assure them, as one who has been to North Vietnam, that neither the Russians nor the Chinese control the North Vietnamese. North Vietnam is an independent country which has fought for its independence against all foreign invaders, and despite the fact that it follows what can be described as a communist ideology- and it is a communist ideology- North Vietnam is part of neither a Soviet camp nor a Chinese camp. If we were to suffer the calamity of having the people opposite in government in this country, if we were to have the calamity of the people in charge in the US being as uneducated, as illtutored, and as unsophisticated as are the people who purport to speak for the Opposition here, we would have a repetition of what occurred in Cuba, which, after what was a non-communist revolution, not even originally supported by the Communist Party- the revolution of Fidel Castro- was driven by the actions of people, whose understanding and sophistication were no greater than those of the people we hear opposite, into becoming one of the most loyal satellites of the Soviet Union. That is the effect of the policies of people like honourable senators opposite.
That sort of thing that the Opposition is advocating and has been advocating in the other place is driving us back into the cold war. If members of the Opposition were influential, if they were able to do the sort of things they would like to do- I am not quite sure what they want to do; I do not know whether they want to raise an expeditionary force or send conscripts back into Vietnam, or what it is- that still remains a mysterythey would have us back in the cold war. Senator Davidson spoke as if he were at a meeting of the World Council of Churches or Austcare, or something, which is all very nice, but it does not seem to be a solution to the problems facing us today. Certainly, it does not justfy his support for a resolution accusing this Government of duplicity. We have been completely open on this question. We were opposed to foreign intervention in Vietnam, and we are still opposed to it. We do not regard the presence of so-called North Vietnamese in South Vietnam as being a foreign invasion.
I want to say only one small thing before I finish. Of the dogmatic, untutored, unsophisticated minds we have opposite, we find a reflection in some other parts of the world. One of the things which distresses me very greatly and which comes from this arbitrary division of the world into the communists- as if Mao Tse-tung and Brezhnev and Phan Van Quang and Kim il Sung were all going along the same path together- one of the consequences of this untutored and unsophisticated view of world politics is that we may well drive people into identifying the United States of America with all that is evil in the world, because if one were to identify the United States with the point of view we get from the Australian Opposition, that is what would happen. I suggest it is a travesty of the American position, because certainly the leaders of the majority party both in the United States Senate and in the House of Representatives are and always have been opponents of the American intervention in Vietnam. In fact, I remember being welcomed in Washington as long ago as 1967 by Senator Mansfield, the majority leader in the Senate, whose views on the Vietnam question would be in all essential matters the same as those of the Australian Labor Party. But the hazard is that the United States could well abandon what are real and constructive responsibilities that it does have for the preservation of peace in other parts of the world- for example, in the Middle East. I ask Opposition senators to think just a little about what they are doing. If they do revive the cold war in the way that they would like to see the cold war revived- if by some ill chance they become the Government- not only would they be doing damage to the position in Vietnam and SouthEast Asia but they could be prejudicing the course of peace throughout the entire world. The Australian Labor Party believes that that would be an incalculable tragedy and for that reason we oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers.)
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate is debating a matter of urgency, a motion condemning the Whitlam Government for its actions in relation to the situation in Vietnam. South-East Asia is the foreground of Australia’s foreign policy perspective. Even though we have abandoned a military role in South-East Asia we have a proper and legitimate diplomatic role and failure of the Australian Government to exercise this role is a failure of national policy which deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms. We are part of this region; its problems are our problems and its interests are our interests. Where we fail to act we are letting the whole region down, not just the countries involved. We can sustain an increasing interest in global policies but not at the expense of our proper role in South-East Asia, our own part of the world.
The Australian Government has ignored what has been going on. It has ignored what it should have detected months ago, that is that the North Vietnamese were building up an invasion preparedness in gross violation of the Paris Peace Accords. Either the Government did not know that this was happening, in which case it stands condemned because it should know what is going on, or it did know what was happening and did too little, a cynical failure to act when strong action was called for. Australia needs to have a credible standing in South-East Asia. We need to be known as reliable and level-headed allies but nothing that has happened as a result of actions of this Government is going to serve those kinds of ends. There is little credibility for us in South-East Asia unless we concern ourselves more positively with regional issues, and there are no greater issues today than the invasion of South Vietnam on the scale we are seeing.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has not assisted in giving Australia the proper standing and the proper role. He seems to be more involved in globe trotting and glad-handing than he is in solving some of these real regional problems. We have been waiting for this debate and we have been waiting for the Prime Minister’s statement of yesterday. His statement was eagerly awaited. We wanted to get some sign of Australia’s future positive role. After all, Mr Whitlam is the real foreign minister. He is the man who made the decision to recognise the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States. He is the man who has taken personal control over Australia’s activities in regard to this matter of Vietnam. He is the man who chose to make the statement yesterday, bypassing his Foreign Minister (Senator Willesee). It was interesting to note that when the same statement was read in the Senate it was not read by the Foreign Minister. He was relegated, and it was read by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt). The statement indicates the Prime Minister’s attitude and it tells us that the mess we see today is his mess and the Government ‘s mess.
The Prime Minister’s statement was a disappointment. It was wholly retrospective. There was nothing in it pointing to the future and to the kind of role which this Government hoped to play. Mr Whitlam evaded many great truths about Vietnam and gave tacit acceptance of the spread of Asian communism in what we see going on in Vietnam today. He did not mention the role of China. He scarcely mentioned the role of other communist powers in increasing the supply of arms and material to South-East Asia before this invasion. lt was the Whitlam Labor Government that told us recently that there was no military threat in this area for 1 5 years. I point out that today we are seeing increasing instability in this region, not only in Indo-China. We are seeing instability in Timor and instability threatens in Papua New Guinea. The situation in South-East Asia today is that, far from being a stable and safe part of the world, it is full of uncertainty.
Part of the Government’s foreign policy failure has been that it has misinterpreted what is happening and what may happen. It has left us with no defence capability to cope with situations that could arise. Because of the events in IndoChina more of mainland Asia falls under communist control. This is a new situation and it poses new problems for us and new instability.
Nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement indicated how we were to deal with this situation or what the national Government sought to do.
We need to do more now to preserve national independence for the other countries of SouthEast Asia. We need to look at the situation in countries like Thailand. The Prime Minister said nothing about this in his speech. We need to strengthen non-communist governments. We need to strengthen their democratic institutions. We need to help strengthen their economies and we need to give them support. The Government promises to do nothing in this region. We need to influence Hanoi to cease and limit its role as a subversive force. The Government does too little in this regard. Even by tortured Labor Party logic there can be no way of condoning communist aggression in Thailand or other nations in the South-East Asian region. Let the Prime Minister declare his hand here. Let him come out and say positively that he will condemn- as roundly as he has condemned other nations- subversive action or invasion of other countries not presently under threat.
In South Vietnam we have seen aggression of the grossest kind. After the Paris Peace Accords there was some tussle for territory and there were minor transgressions from both sides, but only one side, the North Vietnamese side, has engaged in gross violation of the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. The North Vietnamese, in contravention of the Paris Peace Accords, increased the size of their army from 200 000 to 300 000 troops. They increased their fire power. They increased their supplies and they increased their tanks. They did everything to build up an invasion capability, all in contravention of the Accords they had signed. North Vietnam callously equipped itself for an offensive invasion. There was no condemnation of this action from Mr Whitlam or his Government. South Vietnam engaged in no such activity. In fact since the Paris Peace Accords were signed the United States of America has disengaged from South Vietnam and the size of the South Vietnamese army and its forces has decreased.
We know what the communist invasion of South Vietnam means. I remind honourable senators that several years ago Hue was captured by the communists and then recaptured. We had quite a rare opportunity to see what happens when a period of communist occupation occurs. We understand some of the real facts. The facts that came out of Hue were mass graves, mass executions. It was all very skilfully done. The people killed were pan of the infrastructure which ran the Government in that part of the country. They were the professional people, the administrative people, the village officials, the government officials. They disappeared following the communist invasion and brief holding of Hue. No wonder that in 1 954 a million people fled south fearing the North Vietnamese regime. We understand that nothing like that number has fled towards North Vietnam. In 1975 there are 2 million refugees out of their homes and running from the North Vietnamese armies. Those people have voted; they have voted with their feet. They have indicated their preference. It is not a question of just running from war because they are running south away from the communists. They are not running north; they are not running to Hanoi. They fear the communist regime and they do not want to join it.
The Prime Minister’s position, his posturing, his evasion and his equivocation are just not good enough. It is the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia (Dr J. F. Cairns) who tells it as it is. He spells out the Labor Government’s total indifference to the suffering in South Vietnam and the total indifference to the invasion which has occurred. He spells out the ineffectiveness of his Government in responding to the wishes of the people and the fact that it does not intend to do anything to stop this invasion or even to condemn it. The Prime Minister has not disowned this action by Dr Cairns. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has not disowned the words of Dr Cairns. The Labor Party has not disowned what Dr Cairns has said. He is the only one who has spoken forthrightly and expressed a point of view and he has disgusted most of the Australian community. No one in the Australian Government will disown what the Deputy Prime Minister has said and his outrageous comments stand as Australian Government policy and as Australian Government belief. There has been a vacuum of real policy. What he says remains the only words by which Australians can judge this Government. The real challenge at the moment is in our region, and it concerns our credibility as allies and our proper role. The Australian Government stands condemned for what it has done to our capacity to be seen as a good ally, to our acceptability in South East Asia and eventually to our capacity to protect our own security. The motion is a proper one. It expresses properly our condemnation of the Government’s action, particularly the Government’s failure to act equally towards both sides in this war. The motion has been debated adequately. We on this side support it. Therefore, I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Withers’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the principles to govern the transfer of the nonmetropolitan South Australian Railway system to the Australian Government.
– I present for the information of honourable senators the reports on: Sheets and plates of iron or steel, dated 1 2 February 1975; spectacles, sunglasses, goggles and frames, etc., dated 18 February 1975; and precision ground steel ball bearings, dated 4 March 1975, of the Temporary Assistance Authority in accordance with section 30(2) of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled ‘National Coal Research Advisory Committee Tenth Annual Report 1975’.
– Pursuant to section 5(5) of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974 I present agreements made with each of the 6 States in relation to the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme. Copies of the agreements relating to Victoria and Tasmania will be distributed to all senators but due to the limited number available at this time arrangements have been made to have reference copies of the agreements relating to New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform honourable senators that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorising me to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honourable senators.
Commission laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
Debate resumed from 6 March on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Corporations and Securities Industry Bill is a most complex measure of 284 clauses and 8 schedules. To read the Bill is a daunting task. The Opposition’s approach to this Bill, however, is clear and we believe it is constructive. May I say that the Bill was introduced into this chamber on 6 March and 2 sitting days later the Opposition is required to debate the measure. The Opposition believes there is a need for a securities commission, a national regulatory body which will be effective and which can act in order to achieve clear objectives. We accept as the objectives claimed for legislation of this character that it should maintain, facilitate and improve the performance of the capital market in the interests of economic development, efficiency and stability. We accept as an objective that it should ensure adequate protection of those who invest in the securities of public companies and in the securities market. We recognise that there must be effective regulation of the securities industry. It goes without saying that the efficiency, the integrity, the stability and the financial soundness of the nation’s money markets is of immense importance. Australia is, of course, a capitalist economy and as far as the Opposition is concerned we want to retain Australia as a capitalist economy. The effectiveness of and the confidence which people have in the capital market is vital to the stability and productiveness of our economy and, need it be said, to the continuation of employment opportunities in our nation.
We recognise, as the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange found, that the regulation of the securities markets, of intermediaries who operate in these markets and of some of the activities of public companies and investment funds, is in need of fundamental reform. We recognise that there should be an effective securities commission established by Commonwealth legislation. We recognise also that there is a need for uniform standards and uniform rules in so many areas where today there are different standards and different rules. But having acknowledged those objectives as objectives to which the Opposition subscribes and which will motivate its approach in its consideration of this legislation we ought also to acknowledge that there are different ways in which these needs may be satisfied and these particular objectives realised. The Government’s view is that its Bill is the only way by which these objectives can be realised. It is shutting the door to any submissions, approaches or amendments which others are offering to it. The Government has rushed this legislation through the Parliament, ignoring submissions of persons and institutions and regarding those who have put in these submissions as having no relevance or consequence to the form of legislation. We believe that there should be proper time for submissions and amendments to be considered and it is a matter for regret that efforts made by the Opposition to secure this time and to indicate that people do have submissions to make have resulted in abuse and denigration of those who are not prepared to debate the Bill when the Government determines.
– Who by and when?
-If Senator Georges was present at question time this morning he would have heard the response of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) and if he had been present on occasions earlier this year, in late February, he would have heard a similar response. But I indicate to him that 1 will elaborate what I have just said in due course. I believe that this Bill has been drafted without regard to the contents of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. We have heard over a period- in the Governor-General’s Speech in February 1 973 after the Labor Government first took office and in subsequent statements from Attorneys-General- that this Bill was in the course of preparation and that drafts of the Bill had been shown to interested persons, not Opposition members, at various times in the course of its drafting. It is a fair statement to make that it was drafted without regard to the contents of the report of the Senate Committee.
The Opposition supports a regulatory body established by Commonwealth law to exercise in the public interest an oversight of the securities industry. But there are provisions relating to the securities industry and the proposed commission and also to the many other aspects of the Bill which require greater explanation, consideration and justification than have been given. The immense coverage of the proposed legislation ought to warrant time being given to the need or desirability of particular provisions. The provisions need close and intelligent scrutiny. I have said that we accept the need for legislation regulating the securities industry. But what should be the form which this legislation takes? What is the form of regulation which is needed? What are the mischiefs or evils to be avoided? What are the protections for investors which are needed? Are the provisions of the Bill necessary or do they in some ways and in some requirements go beyond the reasonable measures which are justifiable? The Opposition believes that there is not the time or the means by which this Senate can give the close and intelligent scrutiny to these provisions which the legislation requires and which a proper assessment of the objectives which the legislation is designed to meet would also require.
I stated earlier that the Bill had been rushed through the House of Representatives and I instance, for the benefit of those who might question that remark, that when the Opposition sought to have the debate adjourned there that request was refused by the Government. When an explanation was sought to be given as to why the Opposition felt there should be greater time for consideration that opportunity was likewise denied. When other speakers on behalf of the Opposition desired to speak to the Bill the gag was applied and the debate was cut short. There was the farcical procedure on a Committee debate in the House of Representatives in which the Opposition moved no amendments having indicated beforehand that it had not had the time to consider what amendments it would move. At the time that this was occurring there were pious assurances by the Government that no rushed action would occur. I refer the Senate to what former Senator Murphy as AttorneyGeneral said when he introduced this Bill on the first occasion just before the Senate rose in 1974. He said: . . it is desirable that the detailed provisions bc subjected to close study by all interested persons before final decisions are made as to the provisions that should go on to our statute book. 1 hope that the Bill will be subjected to close consideration. . . .
I know that the commencement of that examination by many people and by Opposition members was made during the December-January period. What happened when the Parliament resumed on 1 1 February? The Bill was withdrawn from the Senate and reintroduced into the House of Representatives. Senators will recall that the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral was asked in this chamber what the Government’s intentions were and the Minister, with a frankness which I regret he has since lost, conceded that the Bill was of the dimensions of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. I assume he meant by that that it was very large and heavy reading. He said:
I had intended to take it home to read in bed one night but I have not as yet mustered the strength to carry it home. I have discussed it with the new Attorney-General. As Senator Webster has suggested, the reason the Bill has been withdrawn from the Senate notice paper is that the AttorneyGeneral wants the opportunity to study it and perhaps redraw it in the light of representations he has already had. The Attorney-General has assured me that he is ready to receive submissions and representations from any persons intersted in the final form of the Bill, including representatives of the various stock exchanges in Australia and that the Bill will be reintroduced in the other House . . after he has received and considered such representations. . . .
However that was not to be, because on the day that the Minister was assuring the Senate that that would be the course which the AttorneyGeneral would follow the Bill was being reintroduced in the other chamber. We in the Senate felt that the Minister himself had been misled and he was asked the following week why it was that there was an apparent inconsistency, between what he had said and what had occurred. He replied:
I was unaware that the Bill had been introduced into the House of Representatives, but I am sure that there is no intention on the part of the Attorney-General to rush the Bill through the House of Representatives. … I reiterate the assurance that was given to me by the Attorney-General that full opportunity would be given to any interested party to make representations for amendment of the Bill before it was pressed on with in the House of Representatives.
Within 2 days I had been told by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) that the Bill was to be proceeded with on 25 February and it duly was proceeded with on 25 February. When we sought a further explanation from the Minister in this chamber we were regaled with abuse of the stock exchanges, of the securities industry and of Opposition members for not being prepared to do their job as Opposition members and to debate the legislation. I think it is fair comment in those circumstances that the Bill was rushed through the House of Representatives, as it was, was brought into this chamber, introduced by leave 10 minutes before the Senate rose on 6 March and has been required to be debated 2 sitting days after we came back.
– There was another reason for it and that was that the Opposition was threatening the Government wth an election.
-Certainly the Opposition is not threatening the Government with an election now unless the Government has something up its sleeve which will arouse great concern. The fact is that at present I am receiving submissions in increasing number from bodies, institutions, organisations and persons who have an interest in the ramifications of this legislation urging amendments to the Bill and urging more time for consideration. The submissions that I am receiving are by way of copies of documents which are in the form of submissions being forwarded to the Attorney-General. This morning I asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry who represents the Attorney-General in this place whether it was a fact that submissions were still being received and that there were other submissions, of which the Attorney-General had notice, which people desired to put in in sufficient time for them to be considered before the Bill was debated. I received no answer to that aspect of the question which I asked the Minister. This represents an attitude which I believe reflects the true authoritarian temper of the Government. The Government has determined that the Bill as introduced represents the only way of implementing the reforms which are desired and it is not prepared to consider amendments or suggestions for change which might be made by other bodies.
It ought not to be supposed that a perusal of this Bill does not throw up problems which require resolution. I want to raise some of the problems and then speakers on the Opposition side who follow me will instance other problems which ought not to be the subject of immediate examination and immediate decision but which ought to be subjected to the reflective examination which opportunity over some weeks can provide. There ought to be an opportunity to consider the views which interested persons have with regard to these vexing problems so that ultimately a solution can be arrived at which is in the interests of everybody and, in particular, in the interests of the industry which the Bill is designed to regulate.
May I say in the first place that as a result of this Bill a number of State laws will, in many respects, become inoperative. What are the laws which will become inoperative and in what respects will they become inoperative? There must be an enormous amount of uncertainty in this respect, adding to the lack of confidence, the confusion, and the sense of frustration with government and government agencies which is so much a feature of our economic debilitation at the present time. In the second place, there is a need for fewer diverging companies Acts and not for more. There are at the present 6 State companies Acts, each of them massive pieces of legislation; 2 companies ordinances in each of the major Australian territories; and numerous other legislative requirements affecting companies, including 4 securities industries Acts. This Bill will add a further legislative requirement of the widest character. It adds to the complexity; it does not reduce it. The provisions of this Bill envisage that companies will have to file an onerous and comprehensive set of documents with the Corporations and Exchange Commission which is to be established by the legislation.
– Are you in favour of one companies Act for Australia?
– I am certainly in favour of far greater uniformity, and if we can secure, in the way you mention, legislation which can comprehensively and in all respects cover the field, then I would be in favour of it. But there is a long way to go before we can reach that situation. Without being subjected to the attractive digressions of the Minister, let me repeat what I am saying in this area. What will be required as a result of this Bill is not a reduction in the number of requirements with which companies will have to comply; there will be an increase, and that seems to me to be moving in the direction which is opposite to that sought by those who are urging one national companies Act. The requirements provided for under this legislation will be in addition to the 8 existing statutory obligations throughout Australia in the straight companies field, and it must add to costs. It must add to the bureaucracy governing company administration and it must raise questions as to the relevance and the need for all the hied material which the Government is seeking. One might simply ask: Is it necessary to have this additional set of requirements, or can there be improvements? Is there not a different way in which to deal with it?
The third point is that the discretionary character of the many powers which are being sought under this Bill suggests that the Bill is designed to secure power just for the sake of having power. What we ought to be able to assess is whether this wide ranging discretionary power to obtain information is necessary. There is singularly little in the Bill or in the Minister’s second reading speech which explains why powers of this wide description are required. A fourth point is that the Government’s Bill proposes a bureaucratic structure which can lumber into action over a 44-day period. The idea is that a Commission will be able to regulate the securities industry. But there must be a 30-day period within which it makes the rules. One appreciates that the 30-day period is usefully employed by giving those who may be affected the opportunity to put their submissions to the Commission. There is then a 14-day period in which an appeal may be made to a tribunal. At the end of the 44-day period the rule will come into operation. One may doubt how far that is consistent with the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange which suggested that there should be a regulatory body which is able ‘to operate quickly and with flexibility in response to events taking place in the securities market’. It would be unreal, I think, to suppose that a procedure of that character could be regarded as either speedy or flexible. The Commission would lack the ability to move rapidly. It would lack the ability to identify the abuses and malpractices and act quickly to rectify them.
The Bill contains provisions under which an officer of the Commission may sit in on all stock exchange committees. The Commission also claims the right to impose onerous obligations on stock exchanges to supply detailed monthly reports on all complaints which are received by the Commission. One might wonder why both of those requirements are necessary. It may be supposed that if an officer is to sit in on stock exchange committees any reasonable power which the Commission may require is a power to have details of complaints, which a person has made to the stock exchange and about which he is not satisfied, forwarded to the Commission.
But that is an area to which consideration ought to be given.
One might ask, fifthly, whether it is necessary for there to be Commonwealth legislation in respect of the registration of prospectuses when there is a body of existing State law. Why is a provision of that character needed in this Bill? If it is needed in a Commonwealth Bill, in addition to the provisions which exist in the State legislation at the present time, why is it that the differences between the State provisions and the Commonwealth provisions are not identified and highlighted? Is it necessary for the Commonwealth legislation to take over the existing State provisions relating to disclosure of substantial shareholdings, investment corporations and the take-over rules? If it is necessary, why is it that the differences between the State provisions and the Commonwealth provisions are likewise not identified? How is it expected that those persons who have a statutory obligation, the failure to honour which is visited with penalties and obligations, are going to determine which of these provisions they are required to comply with if they are to observe the law?
The provisions of the Bill envisage that companies will have to file an onerous and comprehensive set of documents with the Commission. As I have said, that requirement is in addition to the existing requirements. Many of the obligations to be complied with by companies are yet to be specified. The power of the Commission to make rules and of the Governor-General to make regulations is to be availed of in a vast number of areas in order to spell out the substance of company obligations. It is a power of immense width. This is bad legislation because the power to disallow regulations does not provide the same opportunity for consideration and amendment as does legislation. As far as possible substantive obligations upon citizens and companies should be imposed by legislation and not by rules and regulations.
The Commission and its officers have a power of intrusion into the affairs of stock exchanges and companies which no individual would tolerate if he were solely involved in running his own affairs. While there may be justification and indeed benefit, in having an officer of the Commission able to attend stock exchange meetings, it appears quite unnecessary for companies to be subject to such intrusions. Moreover, the customary power sought by this Government for the Commission to have power to summon persons to answer questions, provide information and produce documents is contained in this Bill. Why should it not be removed as an unwarranted intrusion and not justifiable in the light of all the other powers contained in the Bill? These are matters which ought to be able to be examined in the form which a committee of the Senate would provide so that they could be tested in the light of the varying views about their efficacy which may be put forward.
I instance further one specific provision- there could be a host of others which are referred towhich appears in clause 1 19 of the Bill. It seems to me to be wholly objectionable and potentially destructive of the stock market. It reads, in short, that a person shall not carry out any transactions in securities that have the effect of lowering the price of securities for the purpose of inducing other persons to purchase securities. It may be that there is a desirable reform to be found in those words or in the objective which the words are designed to serve, but as the clause stands at the moment it simply means that an order to sell a large parcel of shares would, if carried out and having the effect of lowering the price of the shares, expose the dealer to prosecution. It is a matter that ought to be looked at and scrutinised.
– What is wrong with that proposition, senator?
– It is part of the inevitable ordinary dealings on the stock exchange. If a person sells a large number of shares, which may happen on occasions because a deceased estate has to be sold up, it will have the effect of reducing the price of the shares. No improper practice is involved in it yet apparently the seller could be involved in prosecution.
– But you did not read the whole lot. The operative part is -
-Let us leave the provision until we get into the Committee stage. I return to the substance of what I was saying. Time is limited and the Government is not very generous in extending it. One might examine the Third Schedule of the legislation. One might ask with regard to the obligation of the Third Schedule of the legislation why a directors’ report should include matters such as the personal and employment policies of a company, safety, health, environmental and consumer protection measures and employment statistics. These are matters which, in their place, are proper requirements which I imagine appropriate bodies might require, but why should they be part of the material to be contained in directors’ reports to be filed with the Corporations and Exchange Commission?
One looks at the provisions relating to disclosure and one appreciates that they are designed to protect investors and to give them information which they ought to have. But if it is good enough to impose this disclosure provision upon dealers in securities and a range of persons so wide as to make one wonder how effective the provision could be, why should not this same provision apply to the officials of the Commission who are entitled to attend board meetings of companies and who are also entitled to attend meetings of stock exchanges? Is it justified or proper that the liability of directors should become a personal liability in respect of certain issues of shares and debentures in the circumstances contained in the Bill? It may be that so many of these questions might be answered and justified in terms of what is contained in the legislation but, as I said earlier, there is a need for explanation, elucidation and justification which currently is not forthcoming.
Numerous questions, issues and problems are posed by this legislation. Some I have touched on and others, as I have said, will be elaborated on in other speeches. There are some obvious gaps and difficulties in the existing legislation which render proper consideration in the Senate at this time virtually impossible. There are, moreover, submissions of weight which are still being received. There are currently being looked at by the Opposition and I hope by the Department all the views which interested bodies are prepared to put before us. The Opposition Parties are looking at literally hundreds of proposed amendments to a Bill which, as I have said, contains 284 clauses and 8 schedules.
– And which you have had since 5 December last year.
– I say in response to the Minister’s interjection that whilst the Bill was introduced last year persons who have considered the Bill and are making the submission are only now putting in the submissions to the Opposition and to the Government. They should know that the Attorney-General’s Department gave notice that the analysis of submission made to the Department would commence on 3 March this year. Before that date the Bill had been rushed through the House of Representatives. I suggest to the Minister that there are no bona fides in the Government’s approach to an examination of this legislation. The Opposition believes that a consideration by a Senate committee is more appropriate than any attempt in this chamber to examine the countless amendments to a Bill of 284 clauses. Therefore, as an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time, I move:
– I thank the Minister and the Senate. There are matters which might be suggested by way of explanation of the particular heads of the committee’s inquiry. It is relevant to consider whether the provisions of the Bill relating to the securities industry ought to be contained in a Bill which contains many other provisions relating to the corporate structure of the companies which are covered by the Bill’s provisions. A number of submissions received by the Opposition Parties suggest that there ought to be a division of the Bill, a splitting of the Bill, so that some provisions relating to corporations should be excluded from the provisions relating to the securities industry. This is a matter of some complexity which ought to be considered by a committee in the type of examination for which a committee is suited. The second head of reference is whether these provisions might more properly and effectively be included in a companies Act of uniform terms throughout Australia. There is obviously a need for consideration of the matter which the Minister for Manufacturing Industry raised with me at an earlier stage by way of interjection. Is there a case for a national companies Act or is there some other way in which there could be a companies Act of uniform terms to overcome the problems which so many people engaged in company administration recognise? Is it a better step for the provisions contained in this Bill relating to the corporate structure to be contained in some such legislation or are they, as the Government proposes, appropriately included in the provisions of this legislation?
The third matter is whether there may be any areas of company activity and operation outside the ambit of Commonwealth constitutional power. If there are, are there other appropriate courses which might conveniently overcome the deficiencies of power? May I say, because it is not often recognised, that there are real doubtsgenuinely held doubts- as to the extent of power which the Commonwealth has to make laws with respect to foreign corporations and trading and financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. If one goes back to one of the earlier cases decided by the High Court there was a clear indication by one of the eminent judges that companies such as mining companies, manufacturing companies, religious companies and charitable companies are excluded from the definition of trading and financial corporations. If that rule were to be applicable today, quite clearly there would be a hiatus in the Commonwealth’s power. One comes more recently to the concrete pipes case which opened up this vista of power for the Commonwealth. One must acknowledge from that decision that the High Court found no difficulty in holding that as a manufacturing company the provisions of the Trade Practices Act could apply to such a company. Yet one comes more recently to a case in which a municipal council- the St George County Council- was engaged in clear trading activities and yet was held not to be a trading corporation.
I mention these matters simply to indicate that there is basis for the doubt as to how far the Commonwealth’s power over corporations extends and how competent or capable it might be to pass legislation which would enable one national companies Act to operate and cover all companies operating in Australia. One must acknowledge that four of the States of the Commonwealth within the last few days have put forward to the Commonwealth Attorney-General a proposal in which they have suggested that this legislation be deferred and that consultations take place as to whether there could not be a joint Commonwealth-State commission which would overcome any of the legal doubts which must attend the unilateral assumption of power by the Commonwealth in this field. There may be problems with regard to the proposal which the States have put forward, but it is an ingenious proposal. It is a proposal which, on the information made available to me, the State AttorneysGeneral of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have agreed upon. It warrants consideration by the Government. Let the Government in this area not pursue some policy of confrontation or belief that it cannot get anywhere with the States but let the Commonwealth work with the States and examine the States’ proposal to see whether it has merit. Indeed, let the Senate committee which is proposed by this amendment be established and let that committee examine the proposal which is put forward. There may be other ways in which the problems of dubious legal power in the Commonwealth might be overcome by co-operation. At least the opportunity should be given for these avenues to be explored.
The fourth requirement is whether the Bill could properly be considered separately from the proposed Commonwealth companies Act. We h ave been given notice by the present AttorneyGeneral and the past Attorney-General that the Commonwealth will introduce a national companies Act into the Parliament later this year. If that be the case, there is a very real question whether this Bill ought not to be considered along with provisions of that projected Bill when it has been completed. Finally, it is suggested that there should be an examination of all these hundreds of amendments which have been suggested to the clauses of the existing Bill. I know that, once again, the tired old criticism will come from the Government that the Opposition is seeking to delay and frustrate. It is not. We are imposing in this proposed amendment a time limit that the Senate committee should report by 1 September. That is a short enough time as it is, having regard to the immensity of the task.
I reiterate what I said when I commenced speaking: The Opposition’s position on this Bill is clear and it is constructive. We accept, welcome and will work for an effective regulatory body to oversee the securities industry in this country, but we shall also work to ensure that the regulatory body is a sensible and constructive body able to achieve the purpose which those who urge such bodies have always recognised as their justification. We shall also seek to see in the legislation provisions which are justifiable and which serve a particular purpose. There is a lot that could be said on this Bill, and the fact that one acknowledges that is an indication of the length of time which could be taken if this Bill were to be dealt with clause by clause in a long and arduous debate. It does not serve the Senate ‘s role well for it not to refer this Bill to a committee. If it does refer the Bill to a committee I am sure that the Senate will be seen in that constructive role which its committee system has built up for it. The Opposition therefore commends this amendment to the Senate.
– If any proof were needed that the Opposition is the ally of conservative vested business interests, that proof has been afforded by its declared attitude this afternoon to the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1975. In moving the amendment that Senator Greenwood has just moved the Opposition has shown that it has no will to co-operate and no intention of cooperating with the Government to prevent practices which led to the scathing indictment of the administration of the securities industry in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange.
Let me first of all correct the false impression which I suggest Senator Greenwood has given by his reference to the fact that this legislation was being rushed through, having been called on for debate only 2 sitting days after it was introduced on 6 March. Literally, that is true, but Senator Greenwood omitted to remind the House that in fact after this Bill was introduced there was a recess of four and a half weeks. The Bill is not being debated until after that recess. He also omitted to say, in that context, that the Bill is not fundamentally different from the Bill that was introduced into the Senate in December of last year, in relation to which an explanatory memorandum was circulated and a second reading speech was given by the then Attorney-General. There have been no fundamental alterations in the legislation. To suggest that this Bill is being rushed through the chamber is simply, I suggest, a capitulation to the vociferous complaints of those persons who want the old order to continue and do not want any reform or any change.
Let us examine the history of this matter. It is now more than 5 years since this Senate, by its vote, resolved to appoint a select committee to inquire into this matter. Significantly, the initiative was then taken by the Labor Party and very reluctantly, as the debates indicate, the then Government had no option but to comply with the resolution that was moved by the then Leader of the Opposition.
– Now the position is reversed.
– I do not understand the relevance of that interjection at all. I want to get away from this type of interjection and get on to the facts because in March 1970 when former Senator Murphy moved his motion he said:
The background of this motion is the greatest speculative boom in Australia ‘s history- one of the greatest in world history. In the background also are a series of company crashes during the sixties and recent evidence of improper practices, notorious and harmful to the interests of this nation.
He referred to Poseidon N.L., Tasminex, Mineral Securities (Australia) Ltd and other companies. Very reluctantly the then Government agreed to the resolution because it knew that public disquiet was so rampant and so justified that it did not dare oppose the resolution. So the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange came into existence. It first met on 2 1 April 1970. For details of its meetings I refer honourable senators to chapter 1, paragraph 1, of the report. A better reference in that context would be page 7 of volume 1. 1 do not pause to read it but for more than 4 years the Committee investigated allegations of abuse, malpractice, unfair dealing and improper control and exposed, as no issue, I suggest, has ever been publicly exposed, so comprehensively, the need for firm regulatory action in the interests of the nation and in the interests of the public. The Committee reached one main finding which was expressed in these words:
The main finding of this Committee is that the regulation of the securities markets, of the intermediaries which operate in these markets, and of some of the activities of public companies and investment funds, is in need of fundamental reform. Our essential recommendation is that an Australian
Securities Commission be established forthwith by the Federal Government to carry out this reform. Securities markets have an important part to play in the development of Australia and effective regulation is required to ensure that the markets are functioning to achieve this objective.
In the concluding words of Senator Greenwood there seemed to be a return to the rather woolly concept that was voiced even in 1 970 that there was still room for State legislative action in this field. One of the myths which the Senate Committee exploded in its report, I suggest, was the view that was expressed in 1970 by Senator Wright speaking on behalf of the then Government that there was still an appropriate role for State legislation in this field. I quote from Senator Wright’s remarks which appear in Hansard for 1 9 March 1 970 at page 504. He said:
The position of the Government for which I speak tonight is that we recognise that we have had close and productive consultation with the States through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. We recognise that the States are more directly concerned than the Commonwealth with the administration of company law and matters relating to the securities industry. We recognise that these consultations have not been infertile and have produced extensive amendments to the Companies Act and 2 important Bills in the field of securities legislation.
He was referring to Bills introduced in Victoria and New South Wales.
– What was the topic under debate?
-The setting up of the Select Committee of the Senate. It was the first Select Committee, not the second one that is sought in this proposed amendment. The suggestion contained in the passage that I have read was debunked by the Select Committee which emphasised the national character of the share market. I refer to chapter 16 of its report where the Committee said:
When considering the regulatory needs of the securities market, it is essential to recognise the national character of the activities being regulated.
The evidence has repeatedly established that the securities market is a national market. Each of the stock exchanges functions as part of a national network.
Yet towards the end of his speech Senator Greenwood was extolling the attitude of the 4 Liberal States in Australia which as long ago as 2 years, I believe, were by action amongst themselves endeavouring to retain State administration of company law. I suggest that it cannot be said with any truth that there has been insufficient time for any individual group or organisation which is interested in this legislation to make their own views known to the Government. Let us see how co-operative this Government has been. It is well known that one of the first acts of the first Attorney-General in this
Government, former Senator Murphy, was to commission the preparation of legislation which would establish a securities and exchange commission, irrespective of the fact that the Senate Select Committee was still then sitting and had been established as long ago as 1970. When the report of Professor Loess, the Cromwell Professor of Law at the Harvard University, was tabled comment was invited by the Government to assist in the preparation of legislation appropriate to our national needs as long ago as September 1973. The Government already had in existence a draft Bill when the Senate Select Committee’s report was tabled on 18 July 1974. As the second reading speech of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) indicated, that draft Bill was revised in the light of recommendations contained in that report Further, when the matter was debated in the House of Representatives the Government took the initiative to make further amendments.
Anyone interested in the detail of this matter has had the opportunity since last December to make representations to the Government, to any member of Parliament, to the Opposition, to Senator Greenwood or to anybody. Some people have availed themselves of that opportunity and it may well be that the Government would accept some amendments which were based on those submissions. But now, 4 months after a substantially similar Bill was first introduced into the Senate, more than 5 years since this chamber decided by resolution that the matter was causing such public disquiet that there ought to be a select committee of inquiry and nearly a year after the Select Committee’s report, which took some 414 years- I do not say that critically- to compile -
– It shows the complexity of the subject.
– It shows the complexity that the Opposition seeks to feed to delay and frustrate this legislation. That is not what the Opposition’s new leader said a fortnight ago. After all that, we have a proposal to have another select committee of this chamber to report on the Bill that is the product of the first Select Committee of this chamber. Where is the end to select committees? I would not suggest that this is a plot to keep government lawyers out of consideration of this matter, but I make it very plain that for this year we have run out of lawyers on this side of the chamber to serve on committees. That is the fact. The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has a very full program for the rest of this year. The 2 honourable senators available on this side of the House, other than the Minister, are members of the Committee to which I have just referred. I do not suggest that this area is the sole prerogative of lawyers, but it might not be a bad idea from the Government’s point of view if it had a lawyer on such a committee.
– Do not emphasise your deficiencies.
- Senator Wright seems to suggest that there is some magical advantage in having lawyers on one ‘s side. I do not follow that theory. The Government is fairly well represented, having 4 lawyers on this side of the chamber. I believe that enough is as good as a feast, and sometimes more than 4 lawyers can be too many.
I submit that the proposal of Senator Greenwood is a clumsy, albeit patent, attempt to delay this measure inordinately. It is hypocritical of Senator Greenwood to suggest that what he seeks to have done by the committee could be accomplished by 1 September, as it could not possibly be accomplished by then. If the honourable senator wants all the things that he has dredged up, including the constitutional power question, to be considered by a select committee of this chamber, whose members will have primary and fundamental duties to this Senate and will have only the recess between the end of this autumn session and the commencement of the Budget session in which to hear mountains of evidence that will surely be a repetition of what has been said in the past, I suggest he is not genuine in his desire to see this legislation translated into law.
I suggest that a select committee given the task that Senator Greenwood would seek to give it could not possibly complete its task under at least a year, simply because everything that has the remotest connection with anything dealt with in the Bill is raked together, put on 2 pages, and then chucked to a select committee.
– And one that is not proper to be considered before the legislation goes through.
-One would expect that interjection from a person dedicated to pursuing a conservative attitude towards securities industry reform, an attitude that can be summed up by the words ‘do nothing’. That was the tenor of the honourable senator’s speech in 1970, although he spoke reluctantly, because the then Government was not game to oppose Senator Murphy’s motion; reluctantly it agreed to that motion.
– I have the speech before me, and it was not as you say.
– I have the speech before me, too; I have read it. If I am right that the select committee, which it is proposed to establish, could not complete its task in less than a year, this would mean that it would be the Budget session of 1 976 before this Bill, if approved in this form or in an amended form by the Senate, became law. That would be 6Vi years after this Senate had agreed, on a Labor Party motion, that an inquiry should be held into the very matters with which this Bill deals.
We all know that it is a common political tactic, when vested interests are opposed to a legislative reform, to press for the matter to be made the subject of an inquiry by the slowest possible process. I do not say this in any derogatory sense, but a select committee of either chamber is the slowest possible form of inquiry. I have outlined simply the stand that the Opposition is taking. I suggest that the tactic that it now employs marks its surrender to the combined forces of private enterprise which see in this Bill a barrier to the continuation of practices that have enabled these activities to be carried out. These practices have, first, robbed Australian citizens, as the select committee’s report proves. Secondly, these practices have resulted in huge profits accruing to company promoters and proprietors, and in that connection I will refer shortly to Tasminex NL. Thirdly, these practices have denied the nation of Australia the undoubted advantages of a national regulatory system.
I have referred to Tasminex, which Senator Murphy referred to in March 1970. I want to refer to the fact that the type of practice being allowed by the Opposition, if it succeeds in its motion, to continue unabated and without any regulation is revealed starkly in the report of the inspector appointed by the Tasmanian Government early in 1970 to inquire into the affairs of Tasminex. I might say that I do not pick out Tasminex especially. However, it was a Tasmanian company, and I moved the motion in the Tasmanian House of Assembly that led to the appointment of the inspector under the Companies Act.
– Was any action taken on the report?
-By the then Government, no. I point out to Senator Wright that the report was available in 1 970.
– Who was the AttorneyGeneral of the day?
-The present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bingham. I think Senator Wright had better get his dates right. I moved the motion concerned, and perhaps that misled Senator Wright, because we were then in Opposition and could not get the Government to do anything. Therefore, I moved the motion, which succeeded, and Mr Wilson, a prominent barrister from Tasmania, was appointed. His report is a matter of public record.
– Did you take any action?
-No, I did not take action for a very good reason. However, we will not now debate what action was to be taken, because if we read the concluding paragraph on page 6 1 of Mr Wilson’s report that will perhaps indicate why certain action was not taken under either the Companies Act or the Criminal Code.
Mr Wilson’s report revealed 3 basic points in relation to Tasminex. First, there was the myth of Mount Venn. Mr Wilson called it a myth because of the mythical reference to massive nickel sulphides. Secondly, Mr Wilson referred to the false market that was created by the public statements of directors and agents of the company. Thirdly, at page 40 of the report Mr Wilson referred to the huge profits that were made by certain persons. These events took place in 1 969 and 1 970. The Senate knew that this was happening, because Senator Murphy told the Senate what was taking place. It became a matter of public record that it had happened because of the report of Mr Wilson, even if” we leave aside the report of the Senate Select Committee.
Nearly 6 years later, the Opposition now proposes a tactic that would permit that situation to recur tomorrow. Senator Wright, by interjection, has asked what action was taken. No action was taken- no charges were laid. However, I suggest it is, in these circumstances, an a fortiori case because, if no action was properly taken by the Liberal Government that received that advice, it could be assumed that on advice no action could be taken. If no action could be taken, surely that demonstrates the need for regulatory action that will prevent a repetition of these circumstances.
– Was any civil action taken, to your knowledge?
– I did not hear of any civil action, but of course writs could well have been issued and settled; I do not know about that.
– Perhaps it was so insignificant as to be a secret.
– I do not know whether Senator Wright, by his interjections, is condoning what happened in the Tasminex case.
– Certainly not.
– The honourable senator says ‘Certainly not’. I would have thought that in those circumstances he would be one of the first to say that we should, with as little delay as possible, get legislation on the statute book that will prevent occurrences such as those in the Tasminex case from being possible again.
– That is what you are all saying.
-The Opposition is saying: ‘This year, next year, some dme, never’. What will be the effect of this delay on a national Companies Act? We know that Opposition senators are very ambivalent in relation to this matter.
– We would like to see the Bill.
– I suppose honourable senators would like to see it so they can put it in cold storage and delay it. In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
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 AttorneyGeneral 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 up-to-date basis for both company law and the control of the securities industry.
The conservatives would say- one of them, Senator Missen, has just opened his mouth to interject- ‘Let us wait until we can have both Bills together’. This Government has endeavoured to do as quickly as it can something which the Opposition claims that it supports, at least in principle, and in respect of which Senator Rae in 1970 acknowledged public disquiet in those words in the debate on the original resolution. I suggest that any decent member of the public would want this as early as possible. Of course, there is room for difference of opinion on the detailed provisions of the Bill. But so there was in relation to the Trade Practices Bill and the Family Law Bill.
– What did we do with the Family Law Bill?
-We referred it to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. There is no analogy whatsoever between the 2 Bills. Why cannot such amendments as the Opposition proposes be debated on the floor of this chamber? Why cannot the Opposition vote against such provisions as it proposes to vote against? It is a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns; Nero is Senator Greenwood and Rome is the nation of Australia and the investors of Australia. There are 2 essential functions of the Corporations and Securities Commission which are contained in clause 20 of the Bill. It reads:
It is the duty of the Commission, to the extent to which the Parliament has power to confer that duty on the Commission, to-
ensure adequate protection of persons who invest in securities of prescribed corporations;
maintain effective surveillance over the operations and activities of registered stock exchanges and the holders of licences having regard to the provisions of this Act.
Those are the 2 basic purposes of the legislation. I suggest that the Senate Select Committee, by the whole tenor of its report, supported those as proper functions. If there is any variation of the detail of ensuring that those functions are carried out, let the Opposition produce its amendments. It has been rumoured round the lobbies that Senator Rae has more than 100 amendments to move to this Bill. Let him produce them and let us deal with them in the proper way on the floor of this chamber. I suggest that to delay the operation of this legislation, which is designed to achieve objectives to which the Opposition pays lip service, is a shameful misuse of the Opposition’s numbers in this chamber. Not only is it a shameful misuse of numbers, but also it makes a mockery of the promise of the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser), as recently as about 2 weeks ago, that the Opposition would stop its obstructive attitude to Government legislation in the Senate. Far from stopping its obstructive attitude towards Government legislation, by this amendment the Opposition is showing that it will intensify that attitude. I do not know whether or not the Leader of the Opposition is aware of the effect of this amendment, but the Opposition and its Leader cannot evade the responsibility. We now know that that promise of the Leader of the Opposition was hollow and is not being reflected in the Opposition ‘s attitude to this measure.
I conclude on the note that no case has been made for deferring an essential and important piece of Government legislation to which the Government has committeed itself in 2 policy speeches and I believe in a Speech of the GovernorGeneral. The only reason given is that certain unidentified individuals and groups want to continue to bombard the Government with further paper. That is all it amounts to. That is no reason.The Opposition in the introductory words of its amendment says: . . the Senate accepts the principle of an effective Securities Commission to regulate and supervise the securities industry for the purpose of assuring its integrity, efficiency, stability and financial soundness . . .
Does the Opposition mean those words, or is it a case of sheer hypocrisy? I suggest the latter, because the Opposition is seeking to delay a beneficial and essential reform, and it does so under the guise that it has not had sufficient time to consider the matter. We are now in the sixth year of the consideration of this matter. It speaks for itself. I oppose the amendment.
Sitting suspended at 5.41 to 8 p.m.
-The Corporations and Securities Industry Bill is a huge Bill. It is new, it is novel; indeed it is gargantuan. Nothing like it has been seen in Australia previously. It has 235 pages, 284 clauses, and 8 schedules each big enough to be a Bill. The Minister himself has noted that it is more like a book than a Bill. The then AttorneyGeneral, in his second reading speech, which itself is of 30 pages, made 3 main points. He said initially that the Bill had been tailored to the requirements of the securities industry in Australia. His second point was that, for its pan, the Government would give close consideration to any representations made to it and would make amendments where that course appeared desirable. And I stress that ‘the aim would be to get the best possible legislation’. The third point made by the Attorney-General, which is rather forbidding and which contained some foreboding, was that the Bill represented a first step towards the objective of national companies legislation to which the Government was committed.
Returning to the first point, that the Bill had been tailored to the requirements of the securities industry in Australia, I say that, from the shocks and scares we are getting from the stock and share people in Australia and from the huge flood of submissions appearing before us, it would appear that there has been insufficient consultation between the Government and the industries involved. On that ground alone there is sufficient reason to refer this huge new Bill to a Senate select committee so that all the evidence can be sifted to get the best possible legislation, which was the then Attorney’s second wish. The
Bill can be dissected into 2 broad segments, the first dealing with the control of stock exchanges and the second- parts 4 and 5- dealing with the obligations and regulatory requirements on the operation of companies; that is, it adds a new obstruction to the operation of companies which already have to comply with regulations in the States. It will add another tier of regulations to company operations- this in the face of the forthcoming new national companies legislation which we expect later this year.
At the outset I should like to point out that the stock exchanges themselves recognise the need for some regulation. This, of course, has followed the wonderful and exciting boom of the 1960s, when we had people punting on the stock and share market in much the same way as people punt on the races, and they were enjoying it. However, some people took advantage of loopholes in the legislation and commenced such debasing practices as insider trading, sweetheart deals, cornering, salting mines and so on, which I suppose was more or less to be expected. In any business or profession one can find some rogues. That happens in my own profession, in the legal profession, or in any other profession. But to put everyone into a straight-jacket because of a few rogues is, I consider, overreacting. We are aware that a securities and exchange commission has been in existence in the United States of America for 40 or more years; but how is it operated? It has operated as a restrictive trade practice, and it has slowed down development, increased costs, and fed inflation. I would say that those are the natural effects of government interference in almost any business.
The question I ask is this: Is the regulation of the stock exchanges a proper role for government? I have not yet been convinced that it is. I know many people would not agree with me, but I think it is more properly a job for the stock exchanges themselves. Most- or all- great professions possess the power to police themselves, and they jealously guard their reputations; the success of their members depends upon their skill and their ethical standards. We have medical ethics committees, which are most stringent in their regulations. Doctors abide by their rules wholeheartedly. If they do not, they are deregistered. The Bar Association operates in the same way for the legal profession. I suggest that the required regulation of the stock exchanges should be a code of ethics voluntarily agreed to by their members. The irregularities in practice during the boom years have focused attention on the malpractices that occurred, and now that we are aware of them I think we can rectify the faults ourselves. A flaring appendix is cut out; the whole body is not put into an icebox. 1 see no reason to put corporations and stock exchanges into a government strait-jacket because of a few rogues. The proposed corporation and exchange commission will have enormous powersfrighteningly wide powers. For example, the commission can close a stock exchange for 21 days. That, of course, would break it, because often closure for one day is sufficient to do that. In addition to closing stock exchanges for 21 days, the Government can close a stock exchange indefinitely. If this legislation is passed, any member of the commission will be able to sit in at a meeting of a stock exchange or at any board meeting of a company. That is unwarranted government intrusion. The commission would impose many obligations and requirements on the corporations and stock exchanges, either through the commissioner or by regulation through the Governor-General. Again, this is an unwarranted government intrusion and interference which will increase costs all round.
The machinery for appeal and review against acts of the commission is less desirable than appears usual. I submit that it should be regularised. The statutory commission proposed will be extremely powerful. It is intended that brokers’ fees will be fixed, and I suppose this is the long awaited fruition of a desire on the part of the Government; as it wants to fix medical fees, which will give bad medicine, so it wants to fix brokers’ fees, which will give bad business. Collective investment schemes are envisaged, and indeed proposed, and eventually the establishment of a national stock market- how typical and how socialist. It is proposed in the legislation to make rules in many areas- rules made by the commissioner or the government. I shall mention a few of the more repugnant ones- for example, rules concerning the liabilities assets ratio of dealers, rules regarding information that dealers are to obtain from clients and rules concerning the qualifications and experience required for company directors. It is proposed to have rules governing the charges that dealers and advisers may make, rules about the responsibility of dealers authorised to use discretion and rules governing the provisions to be included in option contracts. The wrong rules in any or all of these areas would strangle our free market system and break down the basic financing of most of our industry. For the proposed regulation of foreign corporations, financial corporations and trading corporations, the Commonwealth would appear to need an additional constitutional power which it does not yet have. That is another reason for further scrutiny of this Bill by the proposed select committee. It could consider also the proposed agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. That could be an exercise in co-operative federalism, which I find most ingenious.
There also are many technical issues which need further clarification but which are not clarified in the Bill. They relate to takeovers, the issuing of prospectuses and similar issues which need much further clarification. I can just imagine the reaction of trade union leaders if the corporations of labour were to be subjected to the controls that are proposed in this Bill for the corporations of capital. One good thing that has come out of the introduction of this Bill is that it has brought the intentions of this Government to the notice of the business world as a whole. Businessmen have had a preview of coming events. I hope it will weld them to other sections of the community in their opposition to big government. I would like to quote an example of this from a speech given by the chairman of the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges earlier this year. He said:
One of the sad truths in the community is that too many of us confine our attention to our own self interest and leave other people to fight their own fights. As I have said, those directly affected are probably those who will be least convincing in arguing against a particular piece of legislation. The result I think has been in the last couple of years that far too much legislation has been passed without sufficient public discussion and with those directly concerned not feeling disposed to utter much more than a whimper. Yet bit by bit a quite vast array of powerful regulatory legislation is being built up in Canberra giving a variety of bodies a range of powers that would have been quite unthought of just a couple of years ago- in fact even now a great many of us are only slowly becoming aware of just how extensive this armoury of powers already is- the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Trade Practices Commission and next the Corporations and Exchange Commission.
I hope that he has some sympathy for the medical profession which already has been tested by fire. Mr President, I have much pleasure in supporting the recommendation to refer this Corporations and Securities Industry Bill to the proposed select committee.
– I enter this debate a little sooner than I thought I would be needed. I expected Senator Sheil to speak at greater length on a matter so important as this, but it seems that there is some endeavour on the part of the Opposition to maneouvre its speakers. I noticed that the list of speakers has been changed and that my name now appears on that list before that of the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, Senator Rae. Be that as it may, I intend to speak as a member of that Committee, knowing the experiences that it had. I intend to speak strongly against any attempt to delay further this legislation which has been necessary since 1970 when that Committee was first formed. Under the chairmanship of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, working with considerable drive it came to the conclusion within 18 months that a national regulatory commission was needed for the stock exchanges. No matter what Senator Sheil says, the record shows that the stock exchanges are unable to regulate their affairs. They are unable to do so because they are fragmented State by State. It quickly became apparent to those of us who were members of that Committee and heard the evidence that the securities industry was as strong as the weakest stock exchange and the weakest State. What had been happening- it is still happening- was that the companies established in this Commonwealth were listed on the weakest stock exchange. The main abuses during the boom were by companies which were listed in Western Australia and Queensland, which had the weakest supervisory rules and the weakest establishments and were not in a position to supervise either the prospectuses or the subsequent reports on various new issues.
What was necessary quickly became apparent in the early months of that Committee. In fact the Committee, in one of its first progress reports, reported that there should be such a regulatory commission. Unfortunately the Committee became bogged down to such an extent that now, 5 years later, the full report is not before the Senate. The most important part of the report, that part upon which we should be depending to judge this legislation, has not been presented to the Senate. It is inconceivable and unacceptable that we should have to wait for so long to have the complete report before us. That is self criticism because I am a member of that Committee. Over the last 2 years it has been evident that the Chairman did not have the capacity to use his staff, the material and evidence that had been presented to us and the various recommendations from our staff. He did not have the capacity to draw those matters together and present them to the Committee so that it could complete its report and present it to the Parliament. That is the reason why I am concerned that we now face an amendment moved by the Opposition for this very important Bill to be referred to another committee. Let us accept the view that if the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange had completed its report and its recommendations the most sensible move would have been to refer this Bill to that Committee. I would say that that suggestion would have been acceptable had the Committee facilitated its work and brought down its report; but there has been delay after delay and, even to this moment, the Committee has not presented very important recommendations relating to the legal opinions which would have been of great use to the Senate in considering this matter.
What does the Opposition propose? Does it now propose that we set up a new Senate select committee with new members to re-investigate the whole of this legislation line by line? Is that the proposition? Does the Opposition state that the new select committee should have the advantage of all the evidence, all the documents and all the papers of the existing Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange? Is it the purpose of the Opposition to wind up the present Securities and Exchange Committee? Is that its purpose, or are we to have 2 select committees operating virtually in the same field?
I have stated- I stated it in the campaign which preceded the 1 8 May election- that to my mind it was a disgrace that this legislation should have been delayed for so long. I stated that it was a disgrace that the Liberal Party leadership had not made a statement on this matter. I stated also that there seemed to be evidence that the Liberal Party was pulling away from the establishment of a securities and exchange body. I stated then- I tried to make it an election issue- that we could delay no longer, that it was necessary for the Liberal Party to declare itself and that it was necessary for it in its policy statement to declare that it was in favour of and would introduce this legislation. That very important policy statement was never made, in spite of reports that it would be made. Perhaps I stepped a little over the mark in making that statement, but the net result as far as I was concerned was that I- was served with a writ by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Rae. That writ is still in force, in spite of my offer to Senator Rae that if he felt aggrieved by the statement which I made as part of an election campaign I was prepared -
– I raise a point of order. I submit that Senator Georges is not in order in referring to pending court proceedings, especially court proceedings in which he has an interest.
– I wish to speak to the point of order.
– You still have only 30 minutes.
– I know. It is certainly not the intention of a writ to prevent a senator fulfilling his duties in this place. For the last year
I have been patient in this place. I have not made a statement which might have indicated some further malice towards Senator Rae. I would have expected the Senate or the Committee itself to have taken notice of a standing order -
– You have more important things to say.
– I know I have more important things to say, but the point of order was raised. The Senate should have taken notice of standing order 443 which states:
The Senate will interfere to prevent the prosecution of any quarrel between Senators, arising out of Debates or Proceedings of the Senate or of any Committee thereof.
– Rubbish. You think you are dealing with turtles.
– I am saying that up until this moment I have not raised the matter. Because this legislation is before the Senate surely I am not denied the right to explain how I have been limited in expressing my opinion on this sort of legislation. Surely this writ which the Chairman of the Committee has issued against me and which concerns matters arising out of the Committee should not limit my speaking about the position of the Committee.
– 1 wish to speak to the point of order. Since those matters are sub judice, surely Senator Georges is not entitled to deal with any matters which arise from that writ or any matters which are to be litigated in that writ. I submit that he is not entitled to do so or to discuss matters which are covered in the terms of that writ. He should not be allowed to do so.
- Mr President, could I make a further observation which might influence your ruling?
– If that is the case I would consider myself excluded from debating in this Parliament any matter which is the subject of that writ. Therefore I would take it that Senator Rae would be in the same position.
– This is a most unusual point of order on which I have to rule. I would say that any situation which gave a senator the right to speak in the Senate among his peers must be preserved at all costs. I would ask Senator Georges to observe the situation which has been created by outside circumstances. I ask him to continue his remarks. I ask him to be careful and to confine his remarks to the Bill.
-I shall exercise the care which you wish of me, Mr President. It is merely necessary for me to indicate my point of view. If this legislation must be referred to any committee, that committee is the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange of which Senator Rae is Chairman. Unfortunately, that Committee is in a state of collapse. Because of the issue of the writ to which I referred I have withdrawn from the Committee, I am not able to participate in the work of that committee, as I would wish. For that reason and since the matter is not resolved, I feel that the usefulness of that Committee is at an end. It is to be regretted that after 5 years of work that Committee should reach this stage. Nevertheless, the Committee did reveal the malpractices on the stock exchange which necessitated this legislation.
I make the point that the Securities and Exchange Committee, which is to my mind the only Committee with the information and the knowledge to deal with the legislation, cannot deal with it as it should because its advisers are no longer available to it. The work of the Securities and Exchange Committee rested almost entirely on the shoulders of Dr Rose in particular. Full credit has not been given to him. That young man had the tenacity, initiative, intelligence and knowledge of the industry to enable the Committee to carry out such remarkable work of investigation. We must give credit also to Professor Harding, who was the legal adviser to the Committee, for the mass of material which he presented to the Committee and which has not been properly considered. Let us give some credit to Senator Murphy who drew up this legislation. He waited for many months hoping that the Securities and Exchange Committee report would be presented before he introduced the legislation. That was not to be the case. He then took advantage of the experience of Dr Rose and Professor Harding, in particular Dr Rose. The legislation was drawn up with the advice and the assistance of Dr Rose. In fact, the legislation was based largely on the experience which Dr Rose and Professor Harding had gained during this investigation. That experience was brought to bear upon the legislation. For many weeks Dr Rose worked with the Attorney-General’s Department in the drafting of this legislation.
– What did he think of the Bill?
-He thought it was a good Bill.
– Are you prepared to quote him?
– I am prepared to quote him. He said that in some areas it did not go quite far enough. Professor Harding thought he would like a little more time- I am prepared to admit this- because there were one or two areas which he would have liked to have examined. The sorry situation in which we find ourselves now is this -
– Do you think you would get from Dr Rose a written reference for this Bill?
– If you want to speak, speak later.
-Obviously Senator Durack will have his opportunity to speak in the debate.
– I just asked a question, that is all.
-You, as a member of the Committee, will be aware of the problems which faced the Committee. I will not go any further tonight. When the opportunity arises I will say a little more about the delays which took place, the reason for the delays and the question of whether there may have been some deliberateness in those delays. That matter can be raised at another time. Senator Wright may raise a point of order and claim that the matter is sub judice and we will accept that, but in due course we will be able clearly to state why the delays took place, who was at fault for these delays and who should bear the blame for them. To my mind the legislation should proceed.
If the legislation had been enacted and brought into operation some 2 years ago people like Alexander Barton would not be thumbing their noses at us from Brazil. We have delayed far too long over this matter. A rogue like Alexander Barton- I use the word because I have used it before in this place concerning this man- who was able to float 500 million shares on the Australian market in 1 8 months and milk the community of almost $20m would be made to accept responsibility for his deeds if this Bill were law. One of the sorry consequences of this Committee taking too long over its investigations is that there is now locked inside that Committee a considerable amount of information that should be the property of the Senate. We had the information on Alexander Barton. We knew that Alexander Barton would fail, and Alexander Barton did fail. Yet that information was locked within that Senate Committee. It is unthinkable that at any future time any Senate committee should take as long as that Select Committee. It is to our discredit.
What I fear now is that if the Senate decides to refer this legislation to another committee who will be the members of that committee? Will it be constituted with the present members of the Securities and Exchange Committee? If that happens then I suggest that there should be a new chairman. I make that suggestion without any hesitation at all because it is fairly obvious that the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Committee did not have the capacity to wrap up the evidence and to use his staff to bring down a report to the Senate when it was needed. Such dilatory methods should not be permitted. Who are to be the members of this so-called new select committee? Is it not better for the Senate to proceed to examine this legislation, to go into Committee and to take the Bill apart and deal with it clause by clause? If honourable senators do not want this legislation they can throw it out, but at least face up to the necessity for a decision to be made quickly.
It is my view that if this legislation goes to another select committee it will be another 12 months at least before there will be any legislation which will protect the investor against the rogues. What is more, this legislation will protect the stock exchanges against the rogues, because the stock exchanges, especially the Victorian Stock Exchange and its members, are greatly in favour of this legislation which will regulate and restore the ethics of the industry. If there are some weaknesses in the legislation, if there are come conflicts in it between Commonwealth and State legislation, let them be tested in the courts. Let us not have a party committee which is going to be split when it comes to decisions just as the Securities and Exchange Committee was split when it came to the crunch because the legal recommendations coming forward from our advisers to the Committee were for a national -
– I raise a point of order. I submit that it is not proper for a senator to refer to the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange being split in regard to deliberations because this has not been revealed in any report to this Senate. It was a unanimous report that was put down to the Senate. Senator Georges is apparently making some assumption in regard to the deliberations by this Committee and I submit that it is quite improper.
– I will accept that, Mr President, and avoid persisting with that.
– I think I had better answer the point of order raised by Senator Durack. Do you wish to speak to the point of order, Senator Georges?
-Standing order 308 says:
The evidence taken by any Select Committee of the Senate and documents presented to such Committee, which have not been reported to the Senate, shall not, unless authorised by the Senate or the Committee, be disclosed or published by any member of such Committee, or by any other person.
I ask Senator Georges to observe that standing order.
-Thank you, Mr President, but it rather proves my point when I say that locked in that Committee at the present time are some very important documents that should have been before the Senate before this time, especially the legal advice which was obtained from several eminent legal men in this country which would be of service to the Senate. It most certainly would be of service to any new committee if one is set up. The honourable senator is creating a problem here of which he is not aware.
– I do not think that would daunt any committee.
-You are creating a problem, senator, that you are really not aware of, because of the nature of the documents and the experience of the existing Committee, especially as most of the members, apart from the Chairman, have not received- if I may say so, and I think that the honourable senator would agree with me on this- credit for their work on this Committee. I am speaking of senators from both sides of this Senate. This Committee has become the vehicle for the political advancement of one person, and I say that advisedly. If honourable senators want any support for that statement I suggest that they take a look at a copy of the report.
– You are becoming personal.
-No, I am not. Look at a copy of that report. Usually when the transcript of evidence is published in the report questions asked by the Chairman are shown to be questions from the ‘Chairman’. The questioner is shown as ‘Chairman’. If I may, I will ask this question. Why was the staff of the Committee asked to go right through the transcript before it was reprinted in the report and the word ‘Chairman’ crossed out and replaced with the words Senator Rae’ as is shown in the report? This bears out what I have been saying- that is, that the Chairman of that Committee has allowed himself to serve his own interests rather than the interests of the whole Committee. I can repeat this at a later stage and I intend to repeat it. If I am challenged on it I will support it. If honourable senators want support for this statement let them look at the report. When Senator Sim was in the chair he was recorded in the transcript as
Chairman’ or ‘Acting Chairman’ and in the report he is still shown as ‘Chairman’ or ‘Acting Chairman’. But someone gave an instruction deliberately to go through the whole of the transcript before it went into the report and to change the word ‘Chairman’ to ‘Senator Rae’. If that is not an example of self-interest and misuse of a committee for one’s own personal advancement, what is?
The whole Committee has rested on the failure of the Chairman to complete his report and to bring before the Senate the evidence that is necessary for us to judge the legislation before us. I am saying that we cannot wait any longer. I am saying that we should proceed to debate this legislation. We should go into Committee and we should deal with the Bill point by point. If the Senate decides that it should go to another select committee then the existing Securities and Exchange Committee should be disbanded and all its records and documents should be made available to the new committee. But even if that is done do honourable senators realise what a task they will be giving this new committee? It would take possibly 15 months to complete its task especially if there happen to be new members on the Committee, and I am saying that if such a committee is established there should be new members on it. There is support from the advisers to the Securities and Exchange Committee for what I have said but that I will produce at another stage.
I am surprised that Senator Sheil should revert to the economic theories of the past century. What is needed in the stock exchanges of this country, and what they want, in spite of some of the statements which are coming from the Sydney Stock Exchange, is regulation. By regulation we mean certain rules, certain ethical standards to be laid down in those regulations which will be binding on every stock exchange in Australia. It would no longer be possible under this legislation for a company with a questionable background to list itself in Queensland and automatically become listed in every other stock exchange in this country. It would be impossible under this legislation for prospectuses to be issued without proper scrutiny. Senator Greenwood objected to this because, he said, it would be costly and costly to the company. It may be costly initially to the company but eventually it would serve the interests of the company, the investing public and the stock exchanges.
Honourable senators realise, of course, that in the securities industry just as in any other industry, in order to defend oneself and to survive one is sometimes forced to accept the ethics of the less principled. It happens in merchandising; it is happening in the stock exchanges. The Melbourne brokers ethically were superior in my experience, listening week after week to the evidence which was given to the Committee at this very table. The ethical standard of the Victorian brokers was higher than the ethical standard of the New South Wales brokers. There appeared to be no doubt about that. But what happened? In order that the Melbourne brokers should survive they had to accept some of the tactics, some of the methods and some of the corruption of the Sydney Stock Exchange. The gambling atmosphere of the Sydney exchange penetrated finally the Melbourne Stock Exchange, and most of the protests to us came from the Melbourne Stock Exchange. Most of the resistance to the inquiry came from the Sydney Stock Exchange and that is the case at present. Most of the criticism of this legislation is coming from the Sydney Stock Exchange.
It was evident that the Sydney Stock Exchange was not capable of regulating its own members. The members who needed to be regulated were sitting upon the committee that was responsible for the regulation. What the industry requires, and requires quickly, is national legislation. The Bill has been criticised from various places on the basis that there has not been sufficient time for consideration of it. When the former AttorneyGeneral, Senator Murphy, introduced the legislation here late one night rather hurriedly it was for the purpose and the honest purpose of allowing scrutiny of that legislation, and he said so. When we came back for the next sittings there were several changes and the Attorney-General was appointed from another House. The legislation was withdrawn from here and reintroduced in the House of Representatives. But let me make it clear. One of the reasons for the new change in pace of legislation through the other House was the Senate’s desire to obstruct the Government and send it back to the electors. There seems to be no doubt about that.
– Did not the AttorneyGeneral say that he wanted to reconsider the legislation and that that is why he took it to the other House? Was not that the reason he gave?
– That is right. He said that he took it back to the other House. But you realise before you had your leadership change -we had better not go on to that at the moment -
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I speak in support of the amendment which has been moved by Senator Greenwood on behalf of the Opposition, but before addressing my remarks to the amendment I fee! that I should address some remarks to the comments which have been made by my colleague from Queensland, Senator Georges. It appears to me that he has used this opportunity to explain his personal situation, a situation which is properly regarded as sub judice, and I regret that he has used this opportunity for a personal attack upon the work and capacity of my colleague, Senator Rae. To have suggested that Senator Rae as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange did not have the capacity to use the staff or to draw the matters together while on the other hand to have used the argument that there has been 4 years’ investigation into this subject as a reason why this Bill should be dealt with expeditiously, I find somewhat inconsistent.
I regret the remarks that were made in a personal sense regarding Senator Rae and his chairmanship over a most complex matter that was undertaken by the Senate in order to advise the Senate on the securities industry in this country. I believe that we shall all find advantage in the report which was presented by the Committee. It seems somewhat tedious in the extreme to have gone through the report to check whether Senator Rae’s name appears or whether the comment is attributed to the Chairman of the Committee. I do not argue with the honourable senator that this may be the case but I think that the time could probably be better spent if we were to look at the recommendations and some of the matters which the honourable senator says are not properly stated. To have had the advantage of the report in its complexity on matters that were covered on behalf of the Australian Senate we owe a debt of gratitude to the honourable senators who served on the Committee throughout the 4 years of its investigation and to the 2 chairmen who carried the responsibility of the work on behalf of this chamber.
I wish now to address my remarks to the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. The amendment describes those matters which we feel could be looked at by a select committee to the advantage of the Australian Senate and the Parliament and to those bodies in the community which will need to work under this legislation if it is enacted. The former AttorneyGeneral undertook that adequate time and close consideration would be given to representations by parties affected by the legislation. When a Bill has been introduced covering some 235 pages and 284 clauses and 8 complex schedules, it is a most far-reaching piece of legislation and one that deserves the time and consideration of the Senate to ensure that it is the style of legislation that will serve us. We recognise that the Bill was introduced in the closing hours of the 1974 Parliament and reintroduced into the House of Representatives with a change of AttorneyGeneral a short time ago.
The break in the service of the Houses due to the Christmas recess and other matters has not given a great deal of time to us for consideration and I believe that the matters which have been specified as important in our amendment show that we have a concern that the effectiveness of the Commission which is to be set up should be a matter of close consideration. We have placed a time limit on the work of any such committee so that we will in this year have a report from that committee on the complexity of the legislation and have an opportunity to consider representations from the many bodies which would wish to give public evidence and to be questioned by honourable senators who will later be giving consideration to the Bill. To suggest that the Opposition is not giving its support to a regulatory body for the securities industry in Australia is to state falsely our attitude on this legislation. We have stated as a policy of the Opposition parties that we give support to the establishment of a regulatory body in this country to cover the operations of the stock exchanges and the securities industry, but to suggest that this legislation or that this Commission should be lightly regarded is to overlook the fact that this is the means of mobilising the capital in this country for the development of our industries and the creation of opportunities for employment which we find to be a necessary and desirable feature of any area of government responsibility. I am surprised that the Government should consider that the particular Bill which it has produced for us ought to be rushed through the Parliament. It seems to me that the Government has a somewhat inconsistent approach to protection for small investors when this Bill is contrasted with the National Investment Fund Bill which was rejected by the Australian Senate. At the time when that Bill was being considered, members of the Opposition took the stance that it was the small investor in this country who deserved the protection of any legislation that could be enacted to ensure that his investment was protected.
To suggest that a Bill with the ramifications of this measure needs to be treated lightly is a suggestion with which we do not agree. Its effect on the stock exchanges, the securities industry and the corporations in this country is not the only effect that this legislation will have. It can be argued that governments are entitled to exercise powers with regard to the securities industry, with regard to some other industries, and with regard to some operations of the commercial sector. But to suggest that this Bill does not also affect the investing public is to overlook the reality of the way in which we mobilise investment in this country and use the capital resources of the people. For the Government to suggest that we or the stock exchanges themselves are running away from the establishment of a commission is, I think, to place unfair accent on that particular point of view.
– Not the stock exchangesyou.
– We have stated that we have a policy which accepts that there is a need for the establishment of a regulatory body for the securities industry. I was instancing the fact that the stock exchanges have accepted that there is a role for a regulatory body to play in this country with regard to their industry. This Bill is the most important piece of legislation which has been introduced in Australia to affect business and finance, and its final policy will have farreaching consequences. For that reason we would like to think that it received the consideration which it deserves. There is a responsible policy which would suggest that the regulation of the securities industry and the objective of uniformity would be desirable. We would like to think that it is good legislation, legislation that worked out in the market place where it is needed to do so. Uniformity in the securities field is a desirable feature, but that can be achieved only if the whole field can be encompassed, and the suggestion has to be made that this Bill does not cover the whole field. It does not cover all corporations, all people who deal in investment and all stock exchanges. The whole field cannot be covered by this Bill because of the complex way in which legislation is undertaken partially by Federal government and partially by State government in this country. It is for that reason that our amendment calls for a close investigation of the relationship between the areas of government responsibility and what is proposed in the Bill which we are considering.
We also wish to have an opportunity to consider whether this Bill will work in concert with the proposed national companies Act which has been foreshadowed as a proposal of government. Again, we believe that to be asked to deal with these Bills in isolation without comparing their relationship, one with another, is not in the interests of consistency or of sound legislation which will work where it needs to operate. But I do not want to state a point of view on the detail of this Bill at this time because in referring the Bill to a committee we should have an openminded approach. I believe that to be specific about objections at this time would show that we already had a closed mind in relation to particular factors, that we were not prepared to hear arguments and evidence to allow us to deal with the queries that were in our minds or to clarify some matters which we felt needed to be ventilated in public hearing so that there could be the type of evidence which could assist us in our investigations.
Although I state that as a generality, I feel that it would be perfectly valid to suggest that this Bill would initiate an absolute power for the Federal Government, without consultation with or reference to the States, to govern the whole securities industry and the wide range of corporations which would be involved. Surely it would be preferable to provide the framework for the participation and contribution of expertise by the States in the formulation of uniform legislation covering the whole field and in working out the way in which the legislation would work in the future. If we are to have a transition in this area from exclusive State powers to a dual system of regulation or legislation, we believe that the Bill ought to be considered in that context. It can be envisaged that it would be very disruptive and costly to the investing public- to the commercial sector- on a scale that we have not yet experienced in Australia if we were capriciously to enact legislation which placed in jeopardy those trading practices and other negotiations which needed to be worked out in the commercial markets.
It has been said also that this Bill does not provide sufficient rights of appeal against many of the powers that will exist in the hands of the Corporations and Exchange Commission. I would like to see a review of whether there is sufficient right of appeal and whether it would be workable to impose the views of a commission upon either the investors or the people who will be dealing in securities on the Australian markets. To suggest that there is no complexity in this legislation and to suggest that there could not be confusion would be to overlook all of the views of the States as to the way in which they have needed to co-operate to develop some sort of corporate affairs system which allows them to use their powers in co-operation with one another. The Attorney-General of Victoria has expressed his concern with regard to the Bill. He has said that if the Bill is passed as it stands it will cause tremendous confusion and uncertainty.
– Anything would cause him confusion.
– I have to ask the honourable senator whether he would suggest that anything which would cause further uncertainty to the commercial sector at the present time ought to be envisaged as being desirable. I would think that uncertainty, confusion and a lack of confidence in the private sector in Australia ought to be regretted. The attitude of government ought to be to overcome the problem and not to add to it. I take the statement of the Attorney-General of Victoria as being one in which he expresses concern with regard to investment in corporations in the State of Victoria, which will have to be regarded as a highly developed State in the sense of investment and development and one which can provide enormous employment opportunities for Australians if the business sector is not hampered and is not asked to continue with this lack of confidence and misunderstanding between the Government, the public and the State governments. The sorts of things that have been said by honourable senators on this side of the chamber surely are sufficient to enable members of the Government to understand that to place this Bill before the committee is to seek an opportunity to investigate the relationship of the clauses of the Bill, the powers of the Commission -
– It has had 4 years already.
– I thought that the honourable senator’s colleague from Queensland just said that the 4 years which he spent on the Committee were used simply to enhance and advance my colleague, Senator Rae. He did not give me the impression that the report of the Securities and Exchange Committee was one that in any way enhanced the understanding of the securities industry. He denigrated the report of the Committee and he denigrated the work of the Committee. He made a personal attack on the Chairman of the Committee, which ought to be regretted. There is another matter that I feel is of importance, and it is a matter which is raised professionally. It is one which affects members of the accounting profession and the way in which they feel that they will be affected by the Bill which we are considering. It is suggested -
– They did not show up too well in the inquiry.
– It is suggested that there are new responsibilities for the accounting profession. The members of that profession would like to have an opportunity to give evidence as to where their responsibilities lie. They would like to place at the disposal of the Government and the Commission the research which is undertaken by the Accountancy Research Foundation in Australia, because it is thought that there could again be duplication of effort in the matter of accountancy research and they would like to see uniformity of accounting procedures in this country. Responsible bodies of people in this country such as these would like to work with government. There are professional bodies and commercial bodies in Australia which would like to work with government and which would wish to share their expertise with government. To suggest that government is the only body in this country that can do things, manage things or control things is to overlook the way in which this country is best served. The accountancy profession desires to have the opportunity to describe in detail some of its thoughts with regard to the accounting responsibilities and auditing responsibilities of the corporations and bodies which would work within the ambit of this Bill. I believe that many clauses of this Bill depend for their substance on regulations which will be made from time to time. We, as parliamentarians, know how the lack of specific quality of regulations must be taken into account when considering how legislation can be applied in the future. These are things that can be put together surely around the table of a Senate committee and discussed for the advantage of government.
– Why did accountants not do this years ago when they knew the industry was so crook?
– I think the honourable senator would have to understand that Australia has reached a new stage of complexity in every profession, in government and in every commercial activity. For us to pretend that what was useful to us 5 or 10 years ago is to overlook the advantages of new research that has been undertaken by the establishment of the Accountancy Research Foundation, a body which is financed by the profession and which has been used to enhance the standards of accounting in this country. I hope it will soon be directing its wits and expertise to inflation accounting methods which obviously will be required if this Government remains in office for much longer.
I have made these remarks with regard to the amendment which was moved by Senator Greenwood simply to state that as so many areas need to be considered with regard to this complex piece of legislation I would certainly welcome the opportunity to have this type of Senate report and the quality of work that a Senate report can give so that we may examine and I hope establish a regulatory body for the securities industry. If we were to talk of other Senate committee work and have regard to the Family Law Bill which was processed through a Senate committee, we would surely expect -
– That was a standing committee.
– Yes, that was a standing committee. I do not have a strong feeling whether this Bill should go to a standing committee or a select committee. I would have considered that the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations could have been quite an appropriate body to do this work. I do not have a special preference that we set up a new select committee. The Bill should be referred to a committee simply to provide an opportunity for exchange of views, discussion and expertise around the table so that honourable senators can come to list areas of agreement without the tedium of going clause by clause through the 284 clauses in this Bill in the Senate itself. I commend the amendment to the Senate and I hope a committee will be established which will undertake this very valuable work and enhance the prospects of the establishment of a workable securities commission to regulate that industry in Australia.
-The Senate is debating the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1975 which is designed to regulate the securities industry in Australia by the establishment of a Corporations and Exchange Commission. The purpose, in simple terms, is to regulate the activities of the stock exchanges and large corporations in the interests of efficiency and the protection of the public. The Opposition, in these proceedings now, wants to delay the legislation by referring it to a select committee of the Senate for further examination. While all sorts of reasons are given for these supposedly necessary delays the basic reason, of course, is the inability of the Opposition to make up its own mind about a number of provisions of the Bill. One might ask the rhetorical question: For goodness sake, how long does that take? When we look at the history of this legislation we begin to get some idea of how long that takes.
– How long did it take the Government to make up its mind?
-I will come back to that later in my remarks. The Bill was introduced in the Senate for the first time in December 1974, not as Senator Greenwood told us earlier in this debate in March 1975. It has been available to all members of Parliament since late November 1974. It has been available through 2 recesses of this Parliament. Now, on 9 April 1975, the Opposition still has not determined its attitude to many of the issues raised by this legislation. Lack of time is pleaded as the reason for the failure to make up its mind.
It is worth noting that since the Bill became available in 1 974 it has been the subject of much public discussion. It has been the subject of much Press comment. It has been the subject of representations to the Government by the stock exchanges. The provisions of the Bill have been the subject of public seminars. On 30 January this year the Law Society of New South Wales, the Commercial Law Association of New South Wales and the securities industry itself organised a public seminar on the provisions of this Bill. A number of comprehensive and thoughtful papers were presented. Similarly the Business Law Education Centre of Victoria organised a public seminar on this Bill in early March of this year at which the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) spoke. It seems that all people who are concerned with this legislation have been able to formulate their views and make up their minds about it except the Liberal-Country Party Opposition in the Senate. That, of course, is not an unfamiliar situation in contemporary politics in Australia. The truth of the matter is that the Opposition has been caught between its own high flown rhetoric in favour of this legislation and its natural inclinations which are against it and the belated concern on the other hand of its State government colleages who have suddenly discovered that they are concerned about this legislation in the interests of their own particular governments.
What is the legislation all about? It is described, of course, as the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. It sounds pretty tedious stuff to the average Australian, but in fact it is pretty fundamental. It had its origins as a problem of transparent national importance in the early 1970s at the time of the great stock market boom in Australia. In 1970 a need was seen to examine the situation. On 19 March of that year the Senate appointed a select committee to investigate alleged abuses in the stock market. It had the specific function of determining what should be done about these abuses ‘to enable the utmost protection of the members of the public and the national interest’. That was the purpose of the setting up of the committee to inquire into the matter. That committee took 4 years to report. It tabled its report on 18 July 1974. Even then the report was incomplete. It was not a final report. In October of 1974 Senator Rae told the Senate:
I can inform the Senate that the chapter on Queensland Mines is in an advanced stage of preparation … the chapter on recommendations requires drafting and the drawing together of the recommendations which exist. Part of that work- not all of it- has been done.
He went on to say that it would be done very quickly. What does the Opposition want to do in April 1975? It does not want to consider the Bill and does not want to consider whether the final report should now be here; it wants to adjourn the question to another committee for further investigation. That is what is wanted in April 1 975 after this 5-year history.
What did the Senate Committee find in relation to its task of assessing the public interest and the national interest in this matter? What did it find after 4 years examination? In the words of the ‘Financial Review’ it found ‘a catalogue of abuses and malpractices in the securities market’. In the words of the same paper it found ‘a long chronicle of duplicity, share rigging, insider trading and hoodwinking of private investors’. That is what the Committee established by this Senate found in July 1974. Lest anybody should forget, the chapter headings of the Rae report, as it is sometimes called and which was tabled in July 1974, remind the people of Australia of some of the things which were regarded as important by that Committee. I ask honourable senators to examine some of the chapter headings. They are: ‘Insights Into The Poseidon Boom; Financial Structure and Profits of Member Firms of the Stock Exchange; The Conflicts of John T. Martin & Co.; The Default of Michael Ricketson & Co.; The Failure of an Adelaide Broker-Underwriter; Investment Consultants, Sharebrokers and Share Tipping; Runs, Pools and Rumours; A Case of Conflicting Associations in a Run; Abuses and Malpractices in the Making and Disposal of Private Issues; Some Market Practices in Public Issues; Queensland Mines; Minsec; The Failings of the Existing Regulators; The Need for an Australian Securities Commission’. These are the chapter headings of the Senate Committee’s report. To that list one might add Tasminex NL and Barewa Ltd and others to the role of dishonour of the heyday of laissez faire government in this country under the Liberal and Country Parties, the halcyon days of unregulated, free enterprise when greed was the principal ingredient in the great Australian dream. Senator Sheil tonight referred to those days as those exciting times when everybody punted on the stock exchange. It is an interesting analogy, ‘when everybody punted on the stock exchange’. If one carries this line of thought through it puts the stock exchange in the same category as bookmakers and racecource touts. This honourable profession of stockbroker is reduced by his analogy to the level of racecourse touts. We do not believe that they are in that category at all. We believe that something has to be done. The need was seen 5 years ago and something has to be done pretty quickly. What is hoped for, of course, is that the Poseidon boom, the Minsec boom and so on, when millions of Australians lost money as a result of malpractices, will now be seen somehow through charitable mists of retrospect. We can look back but no longer in anger; this happened 5 years ago, there is no need really to do anything about it.
– They now give way to the Halfpenny agitator
-This is the hope of Senator Greenwood and his colleagues. It is their hope that we will forget all about these events and he, as a responsible alternative legislator in this country, will be freed from the embarrassment of these sorts of considerations.
– It will have to wait until he comes back into office.
-That is right. But unfortunately, that will not happen. This Bill will not suffer the same fate as the Trade Practices legislation which the Opposition, when in government, talked about for a decade but did nothing. It will not suffer that same fate. What we must remember about that period of Australian history- all Australians will remember it- is that the dream suddenly became a nightmare for thousands and thousands of people in our community.
– It was millions earlier.
-Well millions, if Senator Sheil likes. His guess would be better than mine. Senator Sheil told us earlier that he was a punting man. But let us not be concerned about whether it is thousands or millions because Senator Sheil, as a responsible member of Parliament, would of course be concerned if it involved 100 people. But the fact is that it is thousands and possibly millions. In April 1975, in spite of all this, the Liberal-Country Party Opposition wants further time to consider what we should do about this legislation to regulate the situation to which I have referred. The Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange reported in
July 1974. It was mindful, no doubt, of its charter to provide the utmost protection for the public and the national interest. It recommended that a securities and corporations commission be established ‘forthwith’- a pretty unequivocal expression, one would have thought.
– Why does the Government not establish a securities commission as recommended by that Committee instead of the one it is putting into this Bill?
-Because, Senator Greenwood, however unpalatable it may be to the Opposition, we are the Government and it is not. The majority of the recommendations of the report are in this legislation. In April 1 975, as I said, in spite of that injunction to deal with that matter forthwith, the Liberal-Country Party Opposition still wants further time to consider the Bill. Let us look at what the Government has done in answer to that injunction to proceed forthwith. In early 1973, before the Committee had even reported but when malpractices had been revealed, the Attorney-General’s Department commenced work on a draft Bill. It engaged experts to consider the type of legislation which should be brought forward to deal with this problem. They consulted with the stock exchanges and prepared draft Bills and distributed them to the stock exchanges. Officers of the Attorney-General ‘s Department discussed it with numerous brokers in this community. Numerous amendments were made to the draft Bills on the recommendations of interested parties.
– The Government never discussed it with the Opposition, did it? Not once.
-Senator Greenwood, if you have difficulty in accepting the fact that the Opposition is not the Government, I sympathise with you but I am not prepared to do anything about it during the course of this debate. It is a fact. We consulted interested parties in the community and we accepted their recommendations. What does the Opposition want to do now? It wants to defer the matter, in Senator Guilfoyle ‘s words, ‘to hear further evidence’. Who is to hear the evidence? The Opposition in the Senate is to hear further evidence, one presumes. Again, the Opposition wants a further delay of this legislation.
The famous report, euphemistically called the Rae Report’ and described by the ‘Financial Review’ in discussing this national problem as Rae’s blockbuster’, now appears to be defused by Senator Greenwood’s bomb disposal squad. The blockbuster element is to be taken out of it. The bluster is to be retained but the blockbuster element is to be taken out of it. It is to be defused and no longer will the report historically be known as ‘Rae ‘s blockbuster’. If one looks at the terms of the motion which seeks to adjourn this matter, in effect, one finds how totally specious this bomb disposal squad is in the operation which it intends to embark upon. The whole truth of the matter, in spite of the empty rhetoric we have heard in the Senate today, is of course revealed in today’s ‘Financial Review’. Today’s Financial Review’ says that the State non-Labor governments have mounted a campaign to have the Bill scrapped, not deferred after these 5 years, but scrapped. The Press report refers to a meeting which took place between Mr Maddison, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr Wilcox, the Attorney-General of Victoria whom Senator Guilfoyle seems to find some room to admire, Mr Knox of Queensland and Mr McNeil of Western Australia. That is an interesting collection, if ever there was one. As a result of representations by that group it appears that the motivation of the Senate Opposition now becomes quite clear. Not really is it the stock exchanges which oppose this legislation because they have not done so in the sort of terms we have heard today. Not really is it the experts, not really is it the public which opposes this legislation or which wants to delay it, but it is the Opposition in the Senate- the Opposition in cahoots with their Liberal colleagues in State governments. What it is doing, of course, is really getting up to its old tricks again. The Opposition is listening again to the ideological fringe dwellers of Australia on this issue and determining its attitude as a result of that piece of eavesdropping. Everybody knows that that is not a relevant consideration for the problem with which this Parliament is faced.
– Who are the ideological fringe dwellers?
-Well, Senator Greenwood, it would take me about an hour to enumerate them but they are most of your friends. Let me put it that way: They are your friends. I congratulate Senator Greenwood on having friends. Everybody knows that the securities industry cannot be regulated by State legislation. Every first year law student knows that and I am sure that Senator Greenwood does, too.
– They are very precocious law students.
– They are probably better in Victoria than they are in Western Australia. I do not know. Most law students would know that. It is quite clear, even to Senator Durack, that this is not an area of securities control legislation where there is room for any State right interest. As the ‘Australian Financial Review’ put it, here is an area where there is no room for State righters. As a contemporary Samuel Johnson might remark, State rightism on this issue is the last refuge of the scoundrels. It is becoming not only the last refuge of the scoundrels but also of those in this Parliament who seek to hide the activities of the scoundrels. When the Senate Opposition listens to Mr Wilcox and others about what it should do about this matter, it illustrates that there is no new broom in the Liberal Party, that that is all a sham. It is the same old thing again. Just as the last leader of the Liberal Party refused to assert his authority over Mr Lewis in New South Wales when he flouted a constitutional convention, so the present Leader of the Liberal Opposition has refused to exert his authority in an area which is properly the field of Commonwealth legislation without any interference from the interest of the States in legislative form. It is another example of exactly the same thing.
In accepting this sort of view the Liberal Opposition in the Senate has abandoned its moral right to call itself an alternative government in the national Parliament of this country. The Opposition is up to its old tricks. It mouths the platitudes of public interest and progressive reform and shakes in its shoes at the possibility of any change in the existing situation in this country. We have a pretty poor course record in referring this problem to committees in the Senate because it has taken 5 years already. It will take another 5 years if the Opposition really has any influence on the matter.
– It is what they want.
– Of course it is what they want. If I may say so, Senator McLaren, you expressed that with your usual eloquence.
– Are you trying to hide anything from the Committee?
-No, but we can take that matter up at another time if the honourable senator wishes to do so. There is still the same old refusal to accept that we are in government in Australia and the present Opposition is not. Unpalatable as it may be, that is really what it amounts to because it is the Government’s responsibility to deal with this matter and to proceed with this legislation. Over and above every platitude which has ever been uttered on this issue by the Opposition it is the Government ‘s responsibility to proceed with it now. The Government will not go away with a wave of Malcolm ‘s magic wand. Our responsibility as a government is to proceed with this legislation because, as it was found in 1974 and suggested as long ago as 1970, there is a pressing national need for this matter to proceed.
What does the Opposition want? It wants to delay the legislation again. It is not my job, of course, to tell the Opposition what it should do, but it is within my province perhaps to say what its responsibility might be. Its responsibility is surely to face up to its own platitudes on the issue, to debate this important national issue now in the national Parliament and to use its numbers, if it wishes, to pass amendments to the legislation. But its responsibility is not to defer the legislation in the way it has sought to do and in the way which experience has shown us is merely putting the whole issue on a sort of carousel of public debate. The Opposition’s obligation is to proceed with the legislation now.
– Can you identify any amendment that you want?
– I could, senator, but it is not my obligation to do so in the course of this debate because you have the carriage of the issue. You moved the amendment and you are anxious -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Senator Button, you would be better off addressing the chair and ignoring interjections. Your time is running out.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I will ignore the interjections and conclude on this note: This is a matter of national and important public interest. It is a matter of concern that it be delayed no longer. The Opposition must stand condemned by its own amendment and its own failure to confront the problem which it has recognised in its public utterances but cannot really confront in the conclaves of its Party.
– This debate, which has been proceeding in the Senate now for several hours, has strayed very far from the motion which has been proposed to the Senate by Senator Greenwood. We are debating the Government’s Bill to set up a corporations and exchange commission and to clothe that commission and indeed the Government itself with vast powers of investigation and control not only of the whole of the securities industry but also of public corporations throughout Australia. The tone of the debate which the Government speakers have tried to set, of which my predecessor in this debate, Senator Button, was a good example, has been to suggest that the
Opposition’s attitude to this Bill is one of obstruction and is also one which has been dictated by what they choose to call the friends of the Opposition in the commercial world and in the State governments and parliaments. On that emotional tone the Government has attempted to denigrate the proposal which the Opposition has put before the Senate in relation to this Bill.
I would like to return the debate to the actual issue before the Senate, which is that instead of the Senate immediately proceeding to the consideration of this Bill, instead of passing the motion that the Bill be read a second time, and while accepting the principle of an effective securities commission to regulate and supervise the securities industry for the purpose of ensuring its integrity, efficiency, stability and financial soundness, it should resolve that the Bill be referred to a select committee of the Senate to inquire more fully into the Bill and in particular to deal with it clause by clause and to report to the Senate by 1 September 1975. That is the proposal that is before us this evening. This Bill was first introduced into the Senate in December of last year. It was introduced at the end of the Budget session and certainly with no intention that it should be proceeded with at that time. When the Senate resumed sitting this year on 1 1 February, there was a somewhat dramatic change of circumstances with regard to the Attorney-General who had been responsible for the Bill. When a new Attorney-General was appointed in the House of Representatives, it was clearly stated that this Bill would be withdrawn from the Senate and subsequently reintroduced in the House of Representatives. At that time, it was made perfectly clear in letters sent to interested parties throughout Australia that the Government seriously intended to reconsider the Bill and that it would commence considering submissions made to it by interested parties throughout Australia after 3 March this year.
Therefore, I believe that it was quite clearly recognised by the Government from the very beginning, when this Bill first saw the light of the day last December, that the opportunity should be given for the closest scrutiny of the Bill by all parties interested in it- even, I suppose, the Opposition. That was the state of play. Then suddenly there was a dramatic change in the game by the Government, which insisted on the Bill ‘s proceeding through the House of Representatives. Even then the Government did not get the Bill before the Senate until 6 March, just about at the end of our last period of sittings. Those are the circumstances in which we are now invited by the Government to consider the Bill, before there can have been any real opportunity for the Government- and certainly before there has been any real opportunity for the Opposition in this place- to give a full, deep and proper consideration to the great number of submissions that have been made by interested parties all around Australia in relation to the details of the Bill.
For that reason and for that reason alone the Opposition has suggested the alternative course that, instead of proceeding laboriously with the Bill clause by clause in the Committee of the Whole of this chamber, the Bill should be referred to a select committee for its consideration, with that committee to report back to Parliament on 1 September 1975. Before dealing with the questions of delay and so on that have been raised, 1 wish to refer to the pure mechanics of dealing with a Bill of this type. We have already heard some references in this debate to the size of the Bill. Very colourful references were made by the Minister in charge of the Bill about the horror with which he faced it when he first saw it because of its size, and so on. To recapitulate, this Bill contains 284 clauses, 8 schedules, and covers 235 pages of single space typescript. This is a vast Bill, and all parties agree that it is of the greatest importance as it has the most farreaching consequences. Not only should every clause and sub-clause of the Bill be closely considered, but almost every word contained in this vast piece of legislation should also be examined carefully.
I can assure the Government that if it wishes to proceed with the Bill, and has the numbers in this chamber to enable it to proceed with it, tonight or tomorrow the Opposition intends to proceed with the Bill in the manner I have outlined, because it is vitally important that the Bill be given that type of consideration. Therefore, if the Government wishes to clog up debating time in this Senate for weeks on end to the exclusion of all other business to come before the Senate, and if it wants the Senate to sit here not only as scheduled during the rest of this month and next month but probably further into June, that will be the inevitable result of the Government’s attitude in opposing the Opposition’s suggestion. If there is to be the type of” debate that must take place on this Bill, with a clause by clause consideration and vast numbers, probably hundreds, of amendments that will have to be moved and discussed, the consideration of a Bill of this size, having regard to the mechanics of dealing with legislation in the Committee of the Whole Senate, will be a very lengthy and arduous process indeed.
Therefore, it seems perfectly natural and, to my mind, quite obvious that, when the Senate is confronted with a Bill of this type, with its size and complexity, the proper and efficient way of dealing with it, both in the interests of the Bill itself and of the Senate’s proceedings in dealing with other business and legislation, is that it should be sent off to a special committee or a standing committee to give it the type of close consideration that it must receive. That is really the basic reason why the Opposition has proposed that the Bill be referred to a select committee. In recent months, we have had two very notable precedents for following this procedure. On both occasions, the motion that a Bill should be referred to a committee was proposed by the Government. First, I refer to the Family Law Bill which, although not nearly of the size or complexity of this Bill, was a Bill dealing with very fundamental questions that needed virtually word by word scrutiny. On the motion of the Government, that Bill was referred to a Senate standing committee, I think last September.
Secondly, another large Bill introduced by the Government was the National Compensation Bill which was introduced last year. That also was referred towards the end of last year to a Senate standing committee that is not to report until 30 April. It may well be necessary for some further time to be given to that committee before it reports. With regard to so-called delay, I emphasise that that Bill was referred to the committee last November, I think, and the committee was given until 30 April this year to report. In that case, the Government itself moved the relevant motion, including the period of time. The alleged delay in this case is certainly no longer or the so-called obstruction greater than was the Government’s own proposal in relation to the National Compensation Bill.
– Why a select committee instead of a standing committee? What is the explanation?
-This just reveals the fact that there is no Senate standing committee that obviously has an interest in legislation such as that dealt with in this Bill. The Senate standing committees do not cover the whole field of legislative activity. My colleague Senator Guilfoyle mentioned the Finance and Government Operations Committee, but that really does not seem to be a committee designed to deal with a Bill of this type. With his great experience and knowledge in matters of this type, Senator Georges would readily agree that this is a very specialised area. We are willing to debate this matter, but to my mind, in view of the special nature of this problem, it would be appropriate to send it to a special committee, and that is why we have proposed that the matter should be sent to a Senate select committee. Those are the reasons why the Opposition has taken this stand.
I turn now to deal with some of the alleged delays and alleged failings by the Opposition in relation to this question of the regulation of the securities industry. I remind the Senate, and particularly those honourable senators who have spoken in this debate and who have berated the Opposition for its alleged attitudes to this questionI see that most of them have left the chamber now- that it was a committee composed of a ma jority of non-Labor senators which conducted the very close investigation into the operations of the securities industry and those associated with it during the 4-year period to which reference has frequently been made in this debate. That Committee was composed of 8 senators- only 3 Labor senators, 3 Liberal senators, one Australian Country Party senator and one Australian Democratic Labor Party senator. The Committee was chaired on every occasion by a Liberal senator. It was that committee, the findings of which have been freely quoted in the Senate this evening, which revealed in the securities industry the great abuses and so on which, according to the argument of Government senators, call for the industry to be immediately regulated without any debate or consideration of the matter.
I again remind the Senate that it was a committee composed of a majority of non-Labor senators which conducted this investigation. I would be much more impressed by the argument of the Government senators if they had the courage to set up a committee with a majority of Labor senators to make a thorough investigation into the trade union movement in the same honest way as this Committee, which was composed of a majority of non-Labor senators, investigated the securities industry. I would be much more impressed with the honesty of the argument that Government senators seek to advance here tonight if they mustered the courage to conduct an investigation into the trade union movement in the thorough way that a committee dominated by Liberal and Country Party senators investigated the securities industry.
– You seem to be admitting a vested interest.
– I am simply dealing with the argument that has been thrown up here, that the Liberal and Country Party senators are not prepared to do anything about this subject because of their so-called friends in the securities industry. That is all I am dealing with. Admittedly a period of 4 years elapsed before the Committee reported fully to the Senate, and unfortunately there is some further work of the Committee to be completed. But at the end of 1971 that Committee did present to the Senate an interim report of some considerable importance. It made the recommendation to the Senate, broadly in regard to the brief which was given to it, that it was satisfied that the time had come when it was desirable that there should be a national regulatory body of the securities industry. The Committee took the rest of the time to finalise its report because it wished to give full consideration to the case histories of specific firms or specific malpractices and so on which had been raised before it. But the actual broad recommendation of the Committee was made in December 1971.
Another matter that should be stressed is that the Committee was not given the responsibilityindeed, it could not have the responsibility- of bringing forward a Bill to establish a securities commission. The Committee was asked to ascertain whether or not there was the need or justification for a securities commission, a national regulatory body or whatever one likes to call it. That was its main brief. It was asked to investigate whether there were malpractices, such as insider trading and so on, which would justify regulation of the securities industry at the national level. Therefore, the Committee had to consider 2 questions- whether or not these practices were taking place, and whether or not they required regulation not by the State governments but at the national level. That was the Committee’s brief. The brief of the Committee was never to bring forward a Bill, as we have here tonight. Indeed, it would be quite impossible for a Senate committee to bring forward such a Bill as this.
– Well, what has happened now?
– That is the point we are now considering. It is no good Government senators coming into this chamber and berating the Opposition for delay and so on. The Government was elected to office in December 1972. This Bill was introduced in December 1974. It took the Government 2 years to produce this document which the Government is now saying we in the Senate should be prepared to debate after considering is for about one month. That is the absurd and ludicrous proposition that we have heard mouthed in this chamber time and time again by Government senators. It was never the responsibility- it could not be the responsibilityof the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange to produce a Bill like the one we are debating. This is a different question altogether. The bringing forward of the actual legislation to set up this securities commission is the responsibility of the Government and the Government alone. It has taken the Government 2 years to bring forward what it thinks is the type of legislation which is desired as a result of the report of the Senate Committee. There is no dispute on this side of the chamber about the basic recommendations of the Senate Committee. There is no question on this side that a national regulatory body is desirable. Whether it is called a corporations and exchange commission or a securities commission or an Australian securities commission is quite immaterial. We have said- we say and affirm it again- that we entirely support the proposition that there should be such a body, and we indicate this in the amendment which was moved by Senator Greenwood on behalf of the Opposition. It states: . . the Senate accepts the principle of an effective Securities Commission to regulate and supervise the securities industry for the purpose of assuring its integrity, efficiency, stability and financial soundness . . .
I want to nail and nail again, and everyone on this side will continue to nail, the false impression Government senators are trying to create here tonight and no doubt are trying to create around the country, that the Opposition is in its heart of hearts opposed to such a proposition and is being ruled by its so-called friends in commerce and in the States. The whole record I have just outlined entirely refutes that proposition, and my colleagues and I will keep nailing the big lie- and that is what it is- that the Government senators are constantly putting out in this regard.
Having said that there ought to be a national regulatory body or a securities commission, the question arises as to the nature of the body that is desirable, what its powers should be, how it should operate and so on. On that question there may be many opinions, and such a commission could take a variety of forms. The Bill before us is what the Government thinks is a desirable way of handling the matter. I do not think there is any question that, if the Opposition had been bringing forward such legislation, it would have brought forward a measure of a very different character. The type of commission in mind has been publicly stated by Senator Rae many times; indeed, there is a good analysis of the view that he takes- and I think those of us in the Opposition who have closely studied it would support it- in a special article in the ‘Age’ newspaper this morning. We do not see a national securities exchange commission as a great bureaucratic structure, floundering around, hamstrung by numerous restrictions, with a vast bureaucracy with great powers of penetration into every transaction of the most minute and irrelevant character that may be carried on in the securities industry.
Some of the provisions of the Bill would require the filing of documents relating to the minutiae of the industry. For instance, clause 56(11) states:
A registered stock exchange shall, not later than 10 days after the expiration of each month of the year, lodge with the Commission a written report-
setting out particulars of any complaints made to the stock exchange during that month in respect of any act or thing done or omitted to be done by-
the committee of the stock exchange;
any employee of the stock exchange;
any member of the stock exchange or any partner or employee of such a member; or
any other person who has traded in securities on the stock market . . .
And so it goes on with a host of other requirements on filing, in the most minute detail. Who is going to handle all this? What sort of an army of bureaucrats will we have to study every one of these minutely detailed reports to be submitted to the commission? Look at the absurd detail required in relation to a disclosure of interest. This is a matter I fully support: There should be proper disclosure by those who are substantially concerned in these matters. But the Bill contains a definition of those who have to disclose as being persons such as, say, a stock broker sending a circular to his clients on the the prospects of a company. Naturally, in making the report, he would have to disclose his own interest and perhaps the interest of a few people closely associated with him.
The Bill provides that such disclosure must be made not only by the person, the stock broker himself, but by his spouse- no doubt that is quite reasonable- as well as any relative of the person or of the person’s spouse. Before a stock broker can send out a report on a company presumably he has to find out the interest of every relative, whether it be his third cousin or the third cousin of his wife, a sister, an aunt, or anyone else. He must disclose any interest they have in the company on which he is reporting. He must also find out what interest any employee may have affecting the matter. The Bill goes to totally absurd lengths, and underlines a philosophy that does not surprise me. I would expect this Government, with its obsession for creating a bureaucratic structure for its socialist purposes as the panacea of all ills in the community, to go to such lengths. Undoubtedly, it is in line with the doctrines of the Labor Party to bring forward such a Bill as its version of the type of control that we all envisage as desirable in trie securities industry.
I want to make it quite clear that the Opposition has very different ideas and that if it were introducing a Bill it would be introducing legislation to provide for a small watch-dog type of securities committee which could act promptly without this massive detail regarding documents, filing of documents, investigation of documents and of every movement that might be made. As I think Senator Button unchallengeably pointed out. the Opposition is not the Government and it is not privileged to bring forward the legislation. However, Opposition senators have the privilege, and indeed the obligation and the duty to the community as an opposition, to scrutinise such legislation closely. We certainly have a duty to give full consideration to all the criticisms made of the legislation by those interested in it and concerned by it- and we have had a mass of such views submitted to us. We intend to give them the fullest consideration and to give the Bill equally full consideration in the light of this mass of detail.
The Opposition intends to give this Bill that detailed consideration. We believe that we can greatly improve it as a piece of legislation, even though it may proceed according to a philosophy very different from ours and by an approach very different from ours. For all those reasons the Opposition has decided to move that the Bill be considered by a select committee. I emphasise that the Opposition does that, fully accepting the need for effective regulation at a national level of the securities industry, and to emphasise our bona fides in this matter we require that this committee should report by 1 September 1975. In the light of such a report the debate in the Senate in the Committee stages of the Bill would be far more speedy and informative than if the debate were to proceed now. As to any alleged obstruction, we are simply proposing a delay of a few more months in a Bill which this Government took 2 years to produce.
– Since this Bill was introduced in the Senate last year there has been a great deal of activity, although perhaps least of all among members of Parliament. I have found that members of the community who are deeply involved in the securities industry have taken the view that members of Parliament have been rather tardy in studying the Bill and readying themselves to debate it. In any case, a great deal of activity has occurred in the industry itself, and 1 have had the pleasure of speaking to individuals and organisations on the matter. I have found, of course- as no doubt other senators have found- a variety of views. Some individuals would like to see the Bill defeated, but I believe a significantly greater number of individuals, involved in the securities industry, would welcome many of the provisions of the Bill, while requiring significant amendments to other sections of it. I think it can be said that the industry has displayed a pretty responsible attitude to this legislation.
As has been said here today, there are calls for very significant amendments to the Bill and I think the contentions are very reasonably based. The regulation of the securities industry, as honourable senators are well aware, is said to be quite a separate matter in some instances from regulations in respect to company law. Therefore there are many aspects of this Bill which are yet to be studied by members of the Parliament and there are many aspects which are yet to be made clear to the industry itself and to many individuals and companies in the community. Therefore I support the referral of this Bill to a select committee. In other circumstances I would have quarrelled with the length of time by which that committee should report, which it is proposed shall be 1 September, but in view of the time factors governing the sittings of the House I believe that period is reasonable, lt is not possible for the committee to report in time for this session for the Senate to deal with the select committee’s findings. Therefore 1 September is a reasonable date in the light of the new session which must begin in the second half of the year.
I do have some problem with a little of the detail of the amendment moved by the Opposition. My problem relates to the certainty or otherwise of the final majority say of the Government on that committee. My experience has been, and I suppose this would apply to all members of Parliament, that the Government of the day ought to have a majority on a select committee that may have to take a final vote on contentious issues. At least theoretically the government of the day ought to have a majority on a committee. That basically has been my experience in the State sphere, as I said, and I am sure that must have been the case here. It certainly has been exhibited as the right of government in regard to a number of committees. Therefore 1 intend to move an amendment to paragraph 5 of the amendment presented in the name of the Opposition to ensure that if the Senate desires to support the committee it will be chaired by a
Government supporter. I assume, and I believe it is so, that the Opposition did not intend that the committee should be chaired otherwise and in moving my amendment I do not disparage the Opposition’s view. I would like to see the matter set out clearly in the amendment so that there can be no doubt for those who consider it and vote upon it this evening. I wish to speak no longer than to say that I think it should be set out clearly in writing just who the chairman of this very important committee will be which will study this Bill designed to institute very wide ranging and new regulatory powers if it is passed or in part passed in this parliament. In support of the Opposition’s amendment I therefore move:
In paragraph (5) leave out all words after ‘be’ and insert one of the senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. ‘
Paragraph 5 of the amendment would then read:
That the Chairman of the Committee be one of the senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The effect of this would be to give a casting vote to the chairman in respect of matters of contention dealt with by a full committee. The Government would have a margin of one, a majority, as it ought to have on such a select committee. I moved the amendment in the expectation that the Senate will provide what I think is a proper and normal provision, one for which there is precedent, enabling a normal vote to be taken by a select committee and giving the majority to the Government in respect of contentious matters.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I ask for leave to indicate willingness to incorporate Senator Hall’s proposal in the Opposition’s amendment. We believe it is unnecessary but I would be prepared to incorporate it in our amendment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Hall, are you agreeable to that course?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted for that course to be followed?
There being no objection, leave is granted.
Amendment- by leave- amended.
– The subject matter before the Senate tonight concerns legislation involving the regulation of the Australian securities industry. I dare say that of all the parliamentary committees, particularly those of the Senate, which have excited much comment during the course of their hearings the Senate Select
Committee on Securities and Exchange probably would take one of the principal places. As we know, that Committee was formed in 1970 as a result of a motion moved by the then Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy. It was set up for reasons which he stated at the time. Those reasons indicated the need for such an inquiry. I was a member of that Committee and the history of it is so long that I am sure no-one will tonight canvass all the events that took place during the 5 years of hearings, particularly those in the first 3 years.
In view of the amendment moved by the Opposition it seems that there would not be much point in debating the merits of the Bill. The debate now seems to centre on whether there is to be any legislation arising from this Bill. Much as I would accept the amendment which has been moved by Senator Hall and which has been accepted by Senator Greenwood on behalf of the Opposition, in substance it does not alter the Opposition’s amendment and as such it is not acceptable to the Government.
I think in fairness it should be said that the hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange were conducted in a new area. Many of the practices adopted during those hearings were new to a Senate committee. When we started the hearings all of us on the Committee were very much in need of a great deal of briefing. It was not only an industry with which we as individuals were not familiar but it was soon apparent that very little analysis of the securities industry in this country had been undertaken. I would like to indicate immediately the debt which the members of that Committee owe to the services of Dr Rose who was seconded to assist the Committee. It may seem that the work of the Committee is not specifically related to the legislation but it has to be remembered that this legislation was born of a desire by the Government, and I believe by members of the Opposition, to see a proper regulatory body established in this country. The findings of the Senate Committee have played no small part in the deliberations and the drawing up of this Bill.
There were 3 people I was always reminded of during the hearings of that Committee. The first was Ned Kelly, for reasons which I do not think I need elaborate. The second was Groucho Marx, because on so many occasions what one heard about the securities industry in Australia surely must have been the laugh of the day. The third was Karl Marx who said 100 years ago: ‘I told you so and it has taken you 100 years to wake up.’
– Are you supporting his theory?
– I am not. I merely make the point that 100 years ago that gentleman told us that there was something wrong with the system. We were able to see some of the tremendous abuses that had been going on within Australia, particularly, of course, during the mining boom. Thousands of Australians were literally defrauded of their money by some remarkable sales talk about mining leases and tremendous finds which were being made. I distinctly recall one company which was formed during that time and which was known as the Instant Mining Company. I think that was an indication of how easy it was for people to be induced to invest in ventures which obviously could be described as little more than fakes.
One could legitimately ask the question: Should the individuals who were involved in these activities be condemned or blamed for what they were doing? I suppose it is part of the nature of our society that if people who are inclined to do these things can get away with them under the law or if there are no laws to prevent them from doing these things, obviously they will do them. This inquiry highlighted the need for legislation such as the legislation which is the subject matter of this debate. I believe it is doubtful whether we would have this legislation before us if this initiative had not been taken in the first place 5 years ago. We certainly would not have it at this time. It awakened an enormous interest in the industry in Australia. It made people aware of just how much they could be abused if they were not properly informed of the prospectuses and all the other information which was necessary, particularly during the time to which I referredthree or four years ago. That situation still applies and will continue to apply in future.
One of the matters to which I wish to refer in the course of this debate is the remarks which have been made about whether some members of the Committee were sincere in their efforts. The point has been raised about their sincerity now. I believe that the Committee tried to grapple with an extremely complex industry and to come up with findings and recommendations which would be a guide to the Government of the day when framing legislation of this nature. I wish to make it quite clear that in my view all members of the Securities and Exchange Committee contributed to the best of their ability to ensure that we were coming up with information that would be advantageous to the industry and to the Government in formulating this legislation. Contrary to the comment that was made earlier by Senator Durack, this is not a typical socialist measure. I think they were the words which he used. It is important to realise that it is a very lengthy Bill. It is the type of Bill which a parliament is entitled to debate in depth, but it must be a debate about the legislation and not whether we will reject the whole Bill completely and refer it to a committee. I do not think that is the basis on which it ought to be debated. Unfortunately, that is the position into which we are literally forced tonight- not to decide whether this Bill should go on the statutes, no doubt in an amended form. I do not believe that the Government would expect the legislation to go through the Senate unchallenged. A great deal of thought has gone into it. An eminent member of the United States Securities Commission was employed to advise the Government on the drafting of the legislation.
– Not much notice was really taken of his report was it?
– I was not specifically involved in the drafting of it, but I know that his services were used to the maximum during the time that he was available to work and to advise the previous Attorney-General who was responsible for the drafting of this legislation. It is quite erroneous to suggest that the Bill has been prepared hastily. Senator Durack, in his closing remark, made the point that the Government has spent 2 years producing the legislation. I think that surely indicates the tremendous amount of thought that has gone into the preparation of this legislation. I believe that we have before us a Bill which would meet the great majority of the requirements of the industry to ensure that it is properly regulated. With a Bill of this complexity it could not possibly be expected that something could be drawn up and put before the Senate on which we would all agree- obviously not. Certainly the legislation as it stands is a proper basis for consideration by this Parliament.
I must confess that I was quite astonished to learn that the amendment would be moved by the Opposition. Until I learned of it I had assumed that the Bill would be properly debated, amendments would be moved and some of them would probably be carried. Some of them may even have improved the legislation. After 5 years of inquiry by a Senate committee, after 2 years of deliberation by the Government of the day in preparing this legislation and after the majority of people involved in the securities industry had indicated their desire that a commission of this nature be established- despite all those things- the Opposition wants to refer this legislation to another select committee which must report by a certain date. I will not accept on their face value the reasons why this is being done. I do not know in my own mind why it is being done. If we had in front of us a hastily prepared piece of legislation in relation to which there had not been sufficient inquiry of this complex industry, I could understand the reluctance by any member of Parliament to have this legislation carried. The fact is that all the evidence is to the contrary. No government could have done more to ensure that the legislation which it was bringing before this Parliament had been more thoroughly researched or more thoroughly considered or that we had the best advice in drafting it.
Despite all those things, we are confronted with an amendment by the Opposition which, it appears at this stage, will be carried. We will see the legislation passed over to yet another committee. I do not think the Australian people, particularly those who are interested in this legislation, will be impressed. The need for this legislation to be introduced, for a commission to be established and for laws to be passed to ensure that the abuses that we have seen in the past are not repeated is overwhelming. Yet the Opposition, for some reason about which I am not convinced, refuses to have this legislation considered in the normal way and to have the normal amendments put to the Committee of the Whole, to be carried or otherwise.
– Did not a similar committee consider the Family Law Bill and greatly improve it?
– I am not concerned about making comparisons with the Family Law Bill or with any other piece of legislation. I know the history of this legislation. I know the work that went into the Securities and Exchange Committee’s findings. I know the work that has gone on since this Party has been in government to ensure that what was brought before the Senate was a complete and well prepared document in respect of this industry. That applies in respect of this legislation. I believe that Senator Marriott would have a very difficult task establishing otherwise. With great respect to anyone on the Opposition side who holds that view, that is why I have the gravest doubts in my mind as to the reasons for moving the amendment. I am not going to say on any personal basis that there is some ulterior motive, but one cannot help but question the reasons why this amendment has been moved. The whole purpose of this legislation in the first place, as I have indicated, was to ensure that as quickly as possible regulatory provisions were made for the securities industry. Yet we have before us a Bill that gives us all the things that the majority of the people in the industry are seeking from this Government and which they are entitled to receive from this Government, but the Opposition is going to frustrate our efforts.
I see very little reason why we should debate any more the substance of this Bill during this debate, although I understand that there are other speakers to follow. I think it should be placed squarely on the record that the Government has acted upon the initiatives which were taken 5 years ago. It has taken every reasonable step to ensure that the duty that it had and still has to bring legislation of this type before the Parliament has been discharged. I hope that we are not witnessing tonight a complete run-around on this most important legislation, that eventually the good sense of this Parliament will prevail and we will see brought before it, carried and placed on the statute books, legislation such as is contained in this Bill.
-The Senate is now debating the second reading of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. We have before us an amendment which was moved by Senator Greenwood on behalf of the Opposition. I think it is perhaps important at this stage just to read the opening words of that amendment because in the debate quite a bit of it has been forgotten or misrepresented. We seek by this amendment to say that ‘the Senate accepts the principle of an effective securities commission to regulate and supervise the securities industry for the purpose of assuring its integrity, efficiency, stability and financial soundness’. The amendment goes on to resolve that we should appoint a special committee of this Senate for the purpose of further investigating this Bill and in fact reporting back to the Senate by 1 September.
This Bill, as we all know, contains 284 clauses and, despite what the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) has just said, it is not in any way a normal Bill that can be dealt with in a normal way. It is an extraordinarily important Bill, lt is a very complex Bill and it is one which has been in a gestation period for a long time. An important committee of the Senate has already investigated many of the problems which are touched on but which perhaps are not satisfactorily dealt with in the Bill. In the course of argument this evening we have heard some extraordinary statements, some of which I may refer toparticularly those made by Senator Everett and Senator Button, because they particularly have pointed out to the Senate that this legislation should not be dealt with now by a select committee of the Senate.
Senator Everett said that a Senate Select Committee is the slowest possible form of inquiry and Senator Button in a similar pessimistic vein proceeded to say that we have a poor course record in referring these matters to committees. Yet these 2 honourable senators have both served with distinction in the period that I have been a member of the Senate on committees which have been investigating Bills of importance, although not of the great size and complexity of this present Bill. In this they have modesty, which becomes them, but they have a lack of judgment. Judgment has deserted them because they should realise from their own excellent work on these committees that it is possible for committees to proceed swiftly and effectively in dealing with Bills and, in fact, to remove the heat, which often appears and which has been engendered occasionally in this chamber, by looking at the matters dispassionately and hearing the evidence. Despite what Senator Everett said, namely, that the work could not be done by 1 September and that there would have to be the hearing of mountains of evidence before a committee could come to a conclusion, I would say that committees recognise, as those committees on which they have served have recognised, that it is possible to deal with a Bill and work in haste. It is possible to read the representations that have been made in recent weeks to the Government and to the Opposition in respect of this Bill and to deal with those matters speedily. I suggest to the Senate that the course that has been suggested by the Opposition is an effective one which can operate successfully.
There are a number of matters of considerable importance to be dealt with by a committee to be formed by this Senate. They are critical issues that should not and cannot be dealt with in the ordinary Committee debate in this Senate. Such a committee would have to decide what should be covered by the Bill and whether this Bill should cover all those areas that are at present in the Bill because, as it stands, it is not just a Bill which deals with the securities industry. It is a Bill which deals- and it is admitted by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) in his second reading speech- only in part with company legislation and it is part of the national Companies Act. The rest of it, like some part of a jigsaw puzzle, is to be seen by the Senate at some later stage. To take one particular instance, when Senator Everett referred in the Senate tonight to the idea that the States could have a place in the regulation of the securities industry and when he proceeded to quote chapter 16 of the Rae report and say that that had exploded the idea that the States should be involved, I would say that he was misquoting the section of the report. In fact, that part was dealing with the national securities industry. It was not dealing with corporations or with the national companies Act. Those matters are matters which, of course, are important for such a proposed committee to consider.
There are additional matters of great importance which such a committee should consider, namely, the constitutional powers which may justify this Bill. Does this Bill in fact exceed the constitutional powers of the Parliament? It must never be forgotten that under the Constitution the powers that we are concerned with as a national Parliament are those in relation to foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the power of the Commonwealth. Suggestions have been made- I do not necessarily adopt them but I say that they must surely receive very earnest considerationthat in fact some parts of this Bill and some parts of the regulation of corporations are beyond the powers of the national Parliament. For example, one can say that clause 83 of the Bill, which requires financial journalists to do certain things and to make certain disclosures as to their interests, may not be a law in relation to corporations and it may well be that it is not within the power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution. These matters call not for argument in this chamber but for consideration and advice given to a select committee.
In addition, should such a committee have to decide that the Bill should relate solely to the securities industry and the control of that industry and not have included in it parts of the companies legislation that might form part of the national companies Act. Then there is the very difficult question, as I see it, to determine where exactly the line is drawn and just exactly what powers are needed relating to companies to enable a securities exchange to operate. This is a matter that again calls for dispassionate and careful consideration and it is not one that can be done very easily.
Further in regard to a committee investigation that might be undertaken, one would say that the Rae report which took so many years to complete, because of the very complexity of the subject and the difficulties that were before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, must be looked at to ascertain to what extent the recommendations in that report are implemented successfully in this Bill. Otherwise the work of that Committee will be wasted and we will find that the creation of these new regulatory authorities will not succeed in achieving the purpose which we all seek, namely, that the troubles of 1970-71 and the malfunctioning of our securities industry at that time are not repeated. One must also bear in mind the consideration which no doubt this Committee would give to the fact that the Bill must be water tight. It must be one that can operate successfully in a crisis. By way of example I refer to a paper which was presented by Mr R. P. Meagher, Q.C., a Sydney counsel of great experience, at a seminar in Sydney in January this year. The question which he dealt with was: Can the Bill’s provisions be evaded? That is, taking the Bill as it stands at present, is it possible to evade it? He said:
The answer to this question, in a practical sense, should (in my opinion) be in the affirmative. If a company which is diversified in its operation to the usual degree and is therefore partly engaged in (let us say) trading operations and pardy engaged in other operations, and which hence suspects that it might be classified as a ‘trading corporation’ for the purposes of the Bill, wishes to gain maximum immunity from the impact of the Bill, all it need do is create a new company to which it will hive off its trading activities. Thereafter that new company and only that new company, will be caught by the proposed legislation. Any competent lawyer should be able to arrange that all other divisions of the old company remain unpolluted by Federal legislation interference.
I am not saying that that is necessarily correct but I am saying that that type of submission, that type of doubt should be investigated carefully so that the Bill which comes forward to this Senate again and which the Senate adopts will be one that will stand the test of challenge and the test of ingenuity of minds.
I turn to another aspect of this Bill- the regulation and rule making powers which are contained in the Bill to an enormous degree. I refer to 2 clauses- Clause 283 gives to the Commission power to make rules and clause 284 gives power to the Governor-General to make regulations. A massive amount of power is given to those authorities to make rules and regulations. Clause 284 provides a particular power in relation to the qualifications and experience to be possessed by directors of corporations, other than foreign corporations, to which Part III applies; namely, a complete power to prescribe whether directors of companies throughout this country need to have a university qualification or some sort of experience or whether they do not need any at all. It would probably be very easy for the Government to disqualify a great proportion of the directors who have successfully achieved a great increase in productivity for their companies throughout this country but who have no specific qualifications. It would be possible to exclude them hereafter from taking part in the affairs of those companies and the effect on the economy might be disastrous.
– Is it intended to do that, or is it directed against -
– I am not concerned with what might be the intention of this Government or any future government, but once that power is given we no longer have any real control over the way in which governments operate. I know that we have power to deal with regulations; they can come back here and, in the mass of other things, we may get around to repealing them. On the other hand a lot of damage could be done under those regulations.
In addition to these provisions is the power to impose penalties not exceeding $5,000 in the case of a corporation or $2,000 in the case of a person not being a corporation for offences against the regulations. These penalties are all to be provided by way of regulation. Some calculations have been made of the number of clauses that are subject to regulation. This Bill contains not only those general regulation powers but also something like 84 clauses under which matters can be prescribed and regulations made. Those 84 clauses indicate to me and to many of the critics of this Bill that what is wrong with this Bill is that it is shoddily prepared; that the legislation which should set out as far as possible the matters in detail that are required has left to the Government the power of regulation in 84 clauses of the Bill. I suggest that by any general principle the Senate should resist the idea that there should be need for regulation to that degree.
On the same line, under 36 different clauses there are various provisions for appeals to be made and, in the main, made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the legislation for which has not been adopted or debated yet in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. It is a Bill which we now have seen but we do not know the final form in which it will go forward. We do not know what grounds of appeal will be available. We do not know to what extent this appeal provision will apply. How foolish it would be for us to pass this Corporations and Securities Industry Bill before that Bill is passed and before we know whether or not the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is an adequate body to conduct appeals. Once again there is reason for this aspect to be investigated by a Senate committee.
I take 3 examples only of areas in this Bill where a closer examination is needed; where detailed consideration should be given to each line. Senator Georges earlier this evening said: My goodness! Is the Committee going to look at each line of the Bill?’ Of course it is if it is to do its job properly and that is something which obviously we cannot do in the time available to the Senate. Certainly the Committee, if it is to do its job properly, must look at the clauses of the Bill to see how they inter-react one with the other and whether they are satisfactory. This evening Senator Greenwood referred to the extraordinarily detailed provisions for directors’ reports, to how much information must be provided, to how necessary it is that one must supply directors’ reports to members, and to what details concerning employment and environment activities undertaken by the company should be supplied in particular cases. Such requirements are included in the Bill- in clause 130 and in the Third Schedule of the Bill. Imagine the cost and the effects on efficiency which this will impose on companies which are trying to compete in a very difficult world. But this aspect has been dealt with already.”
I take one further example- the provision made in clause 14 and clause 1 1 1 of the Bill that when stockbrokers are reporting to their members, customers and other people they must disclose the interests which they or associated persons have in respect of shareholdings in companies to which their dealings relate. Looking in detail at the definition of ‘associated persons’, it includes grandparents, parents, children, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Of course the clauses create an impossible situation as they stand.
– You could change that by amendment, though.
– Of course we could deal with some individual clauses by way of amendment but we have to give a great deal of thought to just how much we are going to require. It is impossible to imagine that a stockbroker should be expected to know what his adult sons and daughters and other relatives might have in their holdings.
– Particularly if they are overseas.
– Particularly if they are overseas or if he has not seen them for years. Why should they disclose these things? Therefore this rule could be broken with ease. That is one of the obviously silly provisions of this Bill which calls for alteration. Under the Bill there are provisions- on my reading they are serious infringements of the liberty of the subjectrequiring things to be done by brokers and others. They are provisions which can take away rights and occupations without providing for adequate appeal. I illustrate these things only to show that there have come before Opposition members- I have no doubt they have come before Government members- representations made by people who are concerned, who have rights and who ought to be considered. The representations would, if accepted, give rise to hundreds of amendments. They are the types of amendment that ought to be looked at individually and also in relation to other parts of the Bill. In my view, it is clearly not a Bill that can satisfactorily be dealt with clause by clause during the Committee stage of this debate. If it were to be dealt with in that way it would hold up the business of this Parliament for many weeks.
I trust that the amendment which is before the Senate will be adopted, because in moving it we are trying to produce a Bill which will properly regulate the securities industry and overcome defects which have arisen in the past. What we are doing is related to companies. We are not imposing obligations on trade unions. If we were I have no doubt about all the screams, all the disputes, that would arise throughout the country. Therefore it is important that the Senate, representing all parts of the community and realising that it is dealing with a very important and delicate industry which should be improved and not hindered or destroyed, should make sure in its operations that it uses the system of the Senate, which is a committee system of which we can be proud. The committee system should be used in this instance because it is quite appropriate that it should be used in relation to this Bill.
– The Corporations and Securities Industry Bill which is before the Senate tonight is a most important Bill, and I think that the importance of the regulation of the securities market, which is sometimes rather incorrectly referred to as the securities industry, has been recognised by the Senate through the establishment of a Senate Select Committee which has been sitting for some 416 years. Although I am a member of the Committee I think I may be pardoned for saying that it has been a very good Committee. Criticisms have been made by various people that the Committee has taken unduly long in bringing down its report, the bulk of which is now before the Senate, but I do not believe that the criticisms can be fairly justified as the Committee determined at a very early stage in its deliberations that it would not be like some committees and merely perform a function of bringing down a page or two of recommendations put in some very stark form. The Committee decided that there should be a detailed analysis of the operations of the securities market throughout Australia and that before any recommendations were made as to how the law relating to the securities market should be changed adequate reasons should be given for taking any such action. For that reason the Committee engaged in quite detailed case studies of some of the more significant events which occurred in the exchange of securities within this country over the past years, and particularly during the mining boom which occurred in the early 1970s.
When the Committee’s report is completed, as doubtless it shortly will be, I think that the Senate and all Australians who are interested in the matter will have before them a substantial historical document setting out in very great detail some very important events in Australia’s economic history. What has been revealed by the Committee’s inquiries illustrates without any doubt that the economic history of a country is determined not only by what can be narrowly looked at as economic activity- that is, the conduct of industry, the building of factories, the discovery and mining of minerals, the selling of goods and services- but also and almost equally importantly in the type of capitalist system or mixed economy in which we live, by the trading of shares in public companies. We have a system whereby trading in shares in public companies, which is the ownership of a large part of the means of production, distribution and exchange, takes place.
In fact, many of the distortions which occurred in our economy, many of the problems with which we were faced, with which we are still faced and with which other countries have been faced, have not resulted from any substantial weakness in the economy in the sense of a lack of raw materials, a lack of industry; they have resulted from imperfections in the means whereby the ownership of public companies, the trading of shares in public companies, the financing of public companies, takes place. This was found to be so most glaringly in the United States at the height of the Great Depression when President Roosevelt’s Administration, after its election in 1932, determined that at least part- certainly not all but at least part and a significant part- of the great distress which had afflicted the United States during the Great Depression had been caused not by problems in the economy, in the narrow sense of the economy, but by malpractices, defects in the stock exchanges of the United States.
For that reason the Securities and Exchange Commission Act was passed as a part of the New Deal, and a most important part of the New Deal, and the Securities and Exchange Commission was established. It may be remembered that the first Chairman of the American Securities and Exchange Commission was Mr Joseph Kennedy, the father of the late President of the United States. He was regarded, rightly or wrongly, as being one of those who was most experienced in manipulating the stock markets, and therefore it was considered that one could not find anyone better suited to catching those who had been doing the same sorts of things that he had been doing.
– After he had got $350m out of the racket, though.
– I would not disagree with Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I was saying that Mr Joseph Kennedy was a man indeed of very great experience- in fact, unsurpassed experience, one might say- in the manipulations of the securities market.
– It was like making the poacher the gamekeeper.
-That is right. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has said that it was like making the poacher the gamekeeper. But I think that Sir Magnus would agree that he was a poacher who was proved to be a very effective gamekeeper indeed. There are still many great imperfections in the American economy. There are certainly many things which members of the Australian Labor Party do not find desirable and which in this country it is within our policies to see regulated. Certainly there are still from time to time scandals within the American stock exchanges, and there are some very serious scandals indeed. But the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission has certainly led to a situation in which those abuses are nowhere near as great as they once were. As part of the long period of tutelage which I endured, for want of a better term, under Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and his successor, Senator Rae, I found it necessary to read a great many volumes. If one were to look back at what took place in the period particularly between 1900 and 1910 at the time of the war between the New York Stock Exchange- the Big Board- and the now defunct Consolidated Stock Exchange- the Little Board- the stories which one reads would make the hair of even the most bald-headed member of the Senate rise. But, indeed, none of the things which happened between 1900 and 1910, and indeed none of the things subsequently dealt with by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States, could have been any worse than some of the matters which were revealed by the inquiries of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. We learned as members of this Committee and the public learned from the public inquiries of the Committee. I would think that whatever the report of the Committee may say and whatever recommendations the Committee may or may not make the revelations which were made because of the Committee ‘s activity in themselves were of very great importance to the Australian people in understanding just how the economy of their country has been managed. The things which we discovered then were just as serious as any of the abuses which have been discovered in any other country at any time in history.
I remember shortly after the Committee had been constituted I was travelling in the United States of America and happened to be invited to attend a meeting of one of the smaller American stock exchanges, the Honolulu Stock Exchange. The President of the Exchange introduced me to the brokers who were gathered there one day as a member of the Australian Senate Committee which was inquiring into the Australian stock exchanges. I was rather embarrassed when the assembled Honolulu stock brokers started laughing and did not stop laughing for about 5 minutes when they thought of the hilarious task that one would have in investigating Australian stock exchanges, so extraordinary was the reputation they had gained for themselves in those parts of the world which knew something about what had been happening in Australia during the mining boom. This matter has been publicly canvassed and canvassed in the Parliament for quite a considerable period of years. The Australian Labor Party in its policy speeches has made it quite clear that it has proposed that we should introduce legislation to establish a commission or a regulatory body to control the exchange of securities in this country. There has been considerable debate here and elsewhere as to what form the commission should take.
– What was your Party’s policy before you started on the Committee?
– I am not disputing that. In fact what Senator Greenwood says would only reinforce what I am saying. It was Liberal Party policy. The Liberal Party had not actually got around to doing something about it and I agree it was in its policy like, I think, the belief in God. I appreciate that it was in its policy. I am glad that Senator Greenwood reminds me of this. It adds to my argument that it is well known that even the Liberal Party had been so distressed by what had been going on that members of the Liberal Party found it necessary to include such a proposal in their platform, although they did not find it necessary, to actually do anything about it. It required a resolution from our former colleague, Mr Justice Murphy, to have even a committee established to inquire into the problems with which we are dealing. It has been claimed by the Opposition that more time ought to be given to consider this matter. In fact I am rather startled, on reading the amendment which is before the Senate, that the Opposition proposes that a new committee should be established to inquire into the matter again.
– And call the witnesses all over again.
-Yes, call the witnesses again and start off apparently from scratch. The only proviso apparently is -
– Start reading again and make sure you are reading correctly because your assumptions are wrong.
– I do not think they are. I notice that the amendment says that the committee should report by September 1 this year.
– This year?
-This year, yes. It is an admirable objective and one which one would only hope would be fulfilled. If one looks back on many committees which have been given a time in which to make their reports anybody who has been in the Senate for any time at all knows that the date by which a Senate committee has to report on a complex matter generally has nothing whatsoever to do with the date on which it actually does report.
- Senator, you are labouring.
– I do not think I am. If our committee, the committee of which you were once chairman had reported by the date it was originally set to report we would have reported years and years ago. In faa, the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange already would have something of the antiquity of the Domesday Book.
Senator Missen has put forward some arguments tonight. I would not wish to disagree with anything he said. There may well be a great deal of merit in what he said, but I suggest to him that there are more appropriate ways of dealing with the matters that he has raised than by sending the Bill off to another committee.
We have enough committees, I think, functioning already. I hope that the honourable senator would not expect any of the unfortunate members of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, who are already busily traversing the length and breadth of this great continent to inquire into the National Compensation Bill, having recently completed their Herculean labours on the Family Law Bill, should be required now to set their minds to repeating the exercise at which so many of us laboured for so long and for so many years. One wonders who would be the members of this new committee which is to go into all of these matters all over again. In fact the Senate does have provision for committees. The Senate has a Committee of the Whole. No Bill which comes forward will be perfect and no government has been more agreeable to reasonable suggestions. 1 know my colleague and friend, Senator Guilfoyle, would agree when she looks at me and recalls my own record as Minister representing the Minister for Social Security and as Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass). The honourable senator knows how amiable we are and how prone we are to accept any reasonable suggestion which is put forward. I am sure that the members of the Opposition would find precisely the same attitude would be adopted by us in discussing this Bill when it goes into the Committee of the Whole.
This is an essential Bill and I believe that it would be quite improper for the Opposition, by its brutal weight of numbers, to have the Bill referred to a committee. I know that Senator Bunton, as a political neuter, would not be a party to the sort of thing which members of the Liberal and Country Parties would like to do, and that is to delay this essential, urgent and much traversed legislation as it would be delayed by the amendment which is before the Senate tonight.
– There could be another Tasminex while we are waiting.
-Another Tasminex or Poseidon, in fact, could occur while the committee was inquiring. Goodness knows what sort of tragedies could afflict us. I am surprised at Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I know that he does not really mean it. I can tell by the smile on his face that he does not really mean that there ought to be another committee constituted to deal with this matter. In his heart of hearts he would like to vote for the second reading of this Bill, and I am sure that he will absent himself when the division ultimately takes place. I suggest that a Bill of this importance, a matter of this urgency, should not be delayed in the cavalier way in which members of the Opposition wish to delay it by this subterfuge which is contained in the amendment which has been moved.
This is a matter of urgency and should be dealt with promptly. I notice that Senator Missen was very concerned. Although he is not normally a senator who becomes very agitated I noticed something of a tremor in his voice on some occasions. I am sure he must have felt strongly about some of these matters, otherwise he would not have spoken. Any of the evils which have captured his attention can be dealt with by way of amendment when the Bill is taken into the Committee stage. I suggest that this is the honourable course for the Opposition to follow. Senator Greenwood has told us that for many years the Liberal Party has been anxious to see a Bill of this nature, but it was too preoccupied with other things to actually introduce the Bill during those many long weary years- like Stephen’s reign- when it reigned. The proper course is for the Bill to be read a second time and then to deal with these matters when the Bill goes into the Committee stage and not to delay any further this essential legislation which is so needed by Australia and which is so essential to the economic life of this country.
Arrest and Imprisonment of Aboriginal You th
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am conscious of the transport situation and I know that many of my colleagues are anxious to leave the chamber to make their way to their respective dwellings. However, I desire to raise this evening a matter which I believe needs to be aired in this Parliament. After a great deal of investigation on my part I believe that what I raise tonight is a gross miscarriage of justice. I refer to a matter concerning a young Aboriginal gentleman by the name of William Leslie Davidson. To bring this matter to the attention of the Senate one needs to be able to understand something of the problems faced within the Aboriginal community. Sometimes I am rather perturbed when I listen to honourable senators and members in the other place speak about Aboriginal matters. It needs more than a casual acquaintance with the Aboriginal community to know something about it as a whole.
In the city in which I dwell, Ipswich, we have a rather large Aboriginal community. Within that community there is sometimes what one might term ‘clan warfare’, in a very minor way, between Aborigines who are living in the city. One family group, because of some misunderstanding, may be feuding with another Aboriginal family and quite a deal of fighting goes on. One of these families is named Davidson and the other is named Anderson. The young man that I mentioned by the name of William Leslie Davidson is, naturally, a member of the Davidson clan. The misunderstanding to which I refer has been going on for a number of generations. This young man was charged in the courts with assault and damage to property. But this young man, William Leslie Davidson, has a nickname, Junior’. It is very important that honourable senators understand this. He is not ‘Junior’ Davidson in the true sense of the white man’s understanding of the term, which is of a son named after his father. This lad’s nickname is Junior’. He is not ‘Junior’ in the true sense of the word. There is another young man who also is called ‘Junior’ because he is named after his father.
The young man about whom I want to talk this evening, William Leslie Davidson- nicknamed Junior’- was arrested because an Aboriginal man made a complaint to the police. He said that Junior’ was one of a number of Aboriginal persons who came to his home one night, assaulted him, gave him a pretty bad thrashing, broke furniture in his home and then went off on his merry way to another home of a member of the Anderson clan to do exactly the same thing. The grandfather of William Leslie Davidson is a gentleman by the name of Les Davidson. He is an Aborigine who worked his way up through the ranks when it was not easy for an Aborigine to do so. Some 40 years ago Les Davidson joined the Ipswich City Council as a labourer. He studied by kerosene lantern light to become a fully qualified tradesman. He became a drainer and he worked with the Ipswich City Council for about 40 years with many men, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, under his charge.
The young lad I have mentioned is the grandson of Les Davidson. He is the son of Les’ daughter, who was married twice and whose first husband deserted her. The first husband deserted Les’s daughter, leaving young Leslie
Davidson with his mother as a small child. The grandfather- Les Davidson- and his wife took into their charge young William Leslie Davidson and reared him.
I suppose that in the white man’s way of looking at things this young boy has not had a good life or a good record. He was one of the young lads around Ipswich who played up and got into mischief, like most young boys do. His grandfather lives some 2Vi miles from the centre of the city and on occasions young William Leslie Davidson with other boys, both Aborigine and non-Aborigine, would pick up pushbikes and ride them home. They did not steal the bikes; they just got hold of them and rode them home, leaving them lying at the side of the road. They were quite happy because they were able to get home a little earlier. This young lad was taken before the juvenile court as a young boy and was sentenced to a boys’ home, Riverview, which is just outside Ipswich. So all through his life this young lad has never really reached the top.
When he was charged with this offence a number of witnesses were prepared to give evidence on his behalf. This young man was represented by the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. His grandfather brought to the attention of the Legal Aid Service the names of a number of people who could have substantiated the claim that this young lad was not even within the vicinity of where the alleged crime took place. The people who could have been called by the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service to give evidence were not called to give evidence. For what reason they were not called one can only guess. I have the names of those people on a document in front of me. I am qute willing to table that document containing the names of the people who were then, and who still are, prepared to give evidence to the effect that young William Leslie Davidson was not the young Davidson who should have been charged in this case but that it was his cousin, who is a junior in the true sense of the word. The people concerned are adult citizens who were and would still be willing to give evidence in favour of young William Leslie Davidson. The people named are: Sonny Thompson, Charley Speedy and Donald Davidson junior, who is the ‘Junior’ and who made a statutory declaration in one of the gaols in Victoria that he was the lad who was present and was part of this case, not the William Leslie Davidson who is commonly known as ‘Junior’. Then there is Budger Davidson and his wife, John Davidson, John Thompson and his wife, Yvonne Parson, George Thompson and his wife, Keith Davidson senior, Kevin Davidson, George Smith, Slim
Summerville, who was the driver of the car that allegedly took these men on their rampage, and Michael Davidson. Those people were then and still are prepared to appear and give evidence that this young man is serving 2 years for a crime he never committed.
– Why did you not take it to the State Minister?
-Just be quiet and I will tell you why. Where does an Aborigine go for justice? Justice must not only seem to be done; in my opinion, justice must be done. The very highly respected gentleman to whom I have referred took it upon himself to write to various people for their assistance on behalf of his grandson. What have been the results? May I take up a little time to read a letter that he wrote to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Senator J. L. Cavanagh. It reads:
I am writing for advice to help my grandson, William Leslie Davidson aged 2 1 years (Aborigine) who was tried in the District Court in Ipswich before a judge and jury on the 10 September 1974 charged with grievous bodily harm against one Robert Anderson, Cecil McDonald, Collin McDonald, all Aborigines. He was found guilty and sentenced to a term of two years. A subsequent appeal on the 13 November failed. It has been suggested that I bring this matter to your attention. My grandson was able to provide witnesses proving that he was not in the vicinity of the place of assault at the time, Nor were all the witnesses called to testify. I fear that the trial of my grandson, William Leslie Davidson, was in fact a trial by newspaper- I enclose relevant newspaper clipping to show what I mean. It was a case of mistaken identity Sir, I would like to go before a high court so that this lad can get a fair hearing. There is no justice for aborigines …. as long as they arrest someone and get a conviction, they are happy
That was written to Senator Cavanagh on 7 November 1974. He received a reply on 25 November 1974, but not from the Minister. That reply stated:
Senator Cavanagh has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your recent letter concerning the appearance in the Ipswich District Court of your grandson, Mr W. L. Davidson.
The Minister is seeking some additional information on this matter and will be writing to you personally in due course.
Mr Davidson still has not received that further answer to his letter. On 7 February 1975 Mr Davidson again wrote to his Minister, who is my Minister as an Aboriginal- the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. That letter stated:
To the Honourable Minister, Senator Cavanagh. Sir,
As I wrote to you before concerning my grandson Leslie William Davidson who was serving 2? years gaol. There is a lot of witnesses who have come to me and asked me why they were not called in as witnesses for William Leslie Davidson. We know that it was wrong identification also for the way that they conducted the defence for William Leslie Davidson was darn right appalling.
This was written by an Aboriginal grandfather who was concerned and was eating his heart out because his grandson was in gaol and was appealing to the Minister for some assistance and guidance. Again I ask: Where does an Aboriginal go for justice? The letter continued:
I went in to see M. A. Kent and Associate, and I saw Mr Thomas. I asked him what are they doing for William Leslie Davidson and Mr Thomas said until they could get a declaration from either witness they cannot do anything. One of the witnesses was in gaol in Victoria and he signed a declaration that he was in the fight at Whitehill Road. He came up to Ipswich to be a witness for William Leslie Davidson but they did not call him to court. So, Sir, there is a question I would like to be answered by the barristers and solicitors. Was one Sam Speedy that was identified and not brought to trial. Also Boyd. John Davidson Junior that admitted that he was in the fight was not arrested and brought to trial also the other witness that was there wasn’t used by the Barrister, Mr Pagliarina.
These are some of the witnesses that were not brought in.
He lists the names of the people of whom I spoke earlier. That letter was not answered and Mr Davidson is still waiting for an answer.
– What is the date of that letter?
-That letter was headed Ipswich’ and dated 7 February 1975. It has still not been answered. This same dear old gentleman who is eating his heart out for his grandson who is in gaol wrote to the former AttorneyGeneral. His letter was dated 18 November 1974. Today he still has not received an answer. I realise that the former Attorney-General is not here now, but surely the officers of that Department are still here. Let me read the letter from Mr Davidson to the Honourable L. K. Murphy, Q.C., Attorney-General. It states:
On 10 September 1974 my grandson, William Leslie Davidson aged 21, aborigine was tried in the District Court in Ipswich before a Judge and Jury, charged with grievous bodily harm, against one Robert Anderson (aborigine), Cecil McDonald (aborigine) and Colin McDonald (aborigine). He was found guilty and sentenced to a term of two years. A subsequent appeal on the 13 November failed. It has been suggested by Senator Bonner who resides in Ipswich, that I bring this matter of injustice to your attention. My grandson was able to provide witnesses proving that he was not in the vicinity of the place of assault at any time. Nor were all the witnesses called to testify. I fear that the trial of my grandson, William Leslie Davidson, was in fact a trial by newspaper and I enclose relevant paper clippings to show what I mean. Sir, as you can see by the clipping that it is a case of mistaken identity. Donald Davidson also known as . . . Davidson admitted while in jail he hit someone. Also Robert Anderson.
That letter has not been answered. The question I keep asking is: Where does an Aborigine go for justice? The type of thing to which Mr Davidson refers- trial by newspapers- happens so often with Aborigines. Let me quote some of the things that were said just prior to the case in which young William Leslie Davidson was tried for crimes or alleged crimes in which he had no part.
– When did you first know about it?
– It is all right for Senator Georges to be squealing his head off now. A moment ago, when the Senate was discussing matters pertaining to white people, he was all upset. When I am bringing before this chamber something pertaining to Aborigines all he can do is natter. If he wants to say something when I finish speaking, he is quite at liberty to do so. Let me quote from some newspaper articles to show what is meant by ‘trial by newspapers’. Under the heading ‘Aboriginal housing’ appears this article:
In relation to an article in the ‘Queensland Times’ (21-8-74) headed ‘Ipswich Aborigines a forgotten race’, outlining an interview with Mr Fisher of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee I would like to add a few words in protest.
This is written by a white resident of Ipswich. It goes on:
Mr Fisher appears to be intent on attacking the Queensland Government in relation to Aboriginal housing . . . while I am not suggesting that the Queensland Government is without faults, I think that he and his fellow Aborigines should be very grateful that housing is given to them for small rentals (a privilege not given to other members of the community).
The article goes on to slate the Aboriginal people in a particular area of the Ipswich city. Another article appearing under the heading ‘Story onesided ‘ states:
I would like to refer to the story ‘Ipswich Aborigines a forgotten race ‘ (‘ Q.T. ‘ 2 1 -8-74). If I was a man I would tell you that it was a load of ‘. . .’ being a woman, I can only say hogwash’.
It goes on again to slate the Aboriginal community in a particular area in the Ipswich city. There are sheafs and sheafs recording nasty things said by white people about a group of Aborigines who unfortunately do not conform or behave the way the rest of the community would like them to do. This material appeared in the newspapers just prior to the trial of young William Leslie Davidson, who from my observations and my investigations was not the Junior Davidson implicated. Despite all the things that the grandfather tried to do, there seems to be nowhere that an Aborigine can go for justice. Let me read another letter written by the grandfather, Mr Les Davidson, to the Minister for Justice in Queensland. It states:
I am an Aborigine and to whom do I turn (in fact any citizen turn) when it is firmly believed that there has been a miscarriage of justice and an innocent man convicted of a crime?
I am the grandfather of William Leslie Davidson (known as ‘Junior’), the ‘Davidson’ referred to above, and Sir, I appeal to you as part of the democratic system of our State of Queensland.
There are two (2) ‘Junior’ Davidsons; one my nephew Donald Davidson Junior, known as ‘Boy die’ or ‘Junior’ and my grandson. The latter is serving a sentence in HM Prison (Boggo Road) for the crime in fact committed by the former. My grandson’s sentence- In respect of the assault upon Anderson, two and a half years imprisonment with hard labour and in respect of the assault upon Pollard, one and a half years. And the sentences to be served concurrently.
He wrote this letter to the Attorney-General in Queensland. This is a long letter, and I am quite prepared to table it.
– What is the date?
– Do not ask me any more questions. If the honourable senators want to read the documents, they can do so later. Mr President, I seek leave to have this letter incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
It is my firm conviction that while one person is wrongfully convicted of a crime and good people do nothing then justice is not being served. So Sir, apart from being his grandfather, I’ll not cease till I have explored every avenue to have this wrong righted.
I ‘m only an average bloke, a retired Drainer and Foreman of the Ipswich City Council, but with my average intelligence I am able to see after reading the transcript of my grandson ‘s trial that it contains many contradictions; many questions left unanswered; much doubt as to which ‘Junior’ Davidson, committed the crime.
I think perhaps the major ‘incident’ eating at me, is that my nephew Donald Davidson Junior (known as ‘Junior’) was waiting in Ipswich on the days of the trial, expecting and prepared, to be called on as a Witness. Prepared to tell the truth; yet he was not called by Prosecution or Defence. Yet this same ‘Junior’ Davidson had made a Declaration while imprisoned in Pentridge Gaol, New South Wales. I submit his Declaration was relevant to the case! Other persons with knowledge of the case were also awaiting on the trial days, but they also were not called to the stand. (Their names would be supplied by me at your request; they certainly could throw new light on the case).
Another major nightmare in my mind is that prior to the trial much had appeared in the local newspaper ‘The Queensland Times in the column- Letters to the Editor- re the bad behaviour of Aborigines in the vicinity of the ‘crime ‘ i.e. 1 54 White hill Road, Ipswich. And things in the press concerning ‘Blacks’ tending to interest European readers (if that news’ is against Aborigines) would then of course sway the thinking of an all-white jury. Sir, why was there not a change of venue? Justice was certainly not served. While on this point, and to digress for a moment; why are Aborigines not called more frequently for Jury duty? Where is our trial by peers?
There is a great deal I would like to put to you personally (or a high representative of yourself) concerning my grandson’s situation. Is this possible and may I be accompanied by
Senator Bonner whom I have known for almost forty (40) years, or by Mrs Bonner whom I have known for fifteen (15) years?
Another point comes to my mind concerning Mrs Bonner. Early in the Police investigation of the case, Mrs Bonner a J.P. and fully conversant with Aborigines in the Ipswich area rang the Detective on the case and informed him that in her opinion (an opinion which the Ipswich Police have never hesitated to seek during the past many, many years) William Leslie Davidson known as ‘Junior’, was not the ‘Junior’ whom the Police should be questioning but Donald Davidson Junior. This advice was totally disregarded, why?
I pray my letter Sir warrants a reply; I pray it warrants an Officer of your Department further investigating. In Australia, Aborigines have tried all types of avenues seeking justice; perhaps we’ve been wrong at times. Now Senator Bonner tells us that we must work through the system, so this is my attempt to try the democratic system.
-What answer did this gentleman receive from the Attorney-General in Queensland? At least it was an answer. Honourable senators can listen to it, as follows:
Thank you for your letter concerning your grandson William Leslie Davidson.
I, have examined the contents of your letter very carefully, but I regret to inform you that there does not appear to be any way in which I can be of assistance. The matters which you have raised should, I think, be referred to your grandson’s legal representative.
At least the Attorney-General of Queensland had the decency to answer the letter, whereas the Federal Attorney-General did not even have the courtesy to do so, and neither did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who stands up in this chamber so often and says what a wonderful job his Government is doing for the Aboriginal people. I am sorry that I have had to take up so much of the Senate’s dme this evening, considering that many honourable senators desire to get home. However, I believe this matter needed to be aired in this Parliament. I hope that some honourable senator who may have a legalistic mind, or who may have some decency in him, will take up this case for William Leslie Davidson, who is serving time in Her Majesty’s prison, Bogga Road, Queensland, for a crime he never committed. A number of people whom his grandfather has contacted have done absolutely nothing to help; some of them have not even had the courtesy or decency to write to the dear old gentleman and tell him that they cannot or are not prepared to do something for him. I believe this is not only a case of trial by newspapers but also a case of a gross miscarriage of justice.
– May I advise Senator Bonner that, in a case as serious as the one he has just disclosed, which seems to give fairly firm evidence of a mistrial, he, as a senator of Queensland, had the responsibility to bring the matter to the attention of the State authorities. He should have continued to pursue the case with the State authorities until such time as there was an inquiry into the evidence that he had. What he states is a serious case, but what is even more serious is that the senator obviously knew about this matter in December last year, yet he raises it now on 9 April. It is Senator Bonner’s responsibility, as much as it is the responsibility of anyone else, as a senator in Queensland- particularly when it concerns a member of his race- to take up the matter and pursue it.
– Who delivered all the letters to the Minister?
-The honourable senator knew about this. If the case is as he states and he became simply a collector and deliverer of letters, he let this person down, because if this case had come to any other senator I am prepared to say that he would have followed and searched it through, and confronted the State AttorneyGeneral with it.
– You have it in your hands to do something about it.
– The honourable senator told me a moment ago to keep quiet, but he also invited me to say something and to stop nattering in the background. I am telling him now that, as a senator, when such a serious case was raised, he should have persisted with the State authorities to get this man justice. It is of no use the honourable senator passing the buck. It is obvious from the honourable senator’s advice that the last person he approached was the State Attorney-General. Yet he should have been the first person. The honourable senator should have persisted until such time as an inquiry was instituted by the State authorities. Yet he comes here passing the buck. He is endeavouring to pass the buck on to the Minister. I say that he ought to accept the buck for himself. He should take the matter, follow it up and see that this young man gets justice
– I hope there are no other speakers on this matter.
– lt depends on the Minister’s reply.
-Yes. If anything I say provokes another speaker I can understand that. I was wondering why Senator Bonner brought this matter before the Senate. I noticed, at the last, that his purpose was political. He made an attack on the Minister and on this Government.
Because he lacks facts he could only try to persuade the Senate by his emotionalism. Of course, I think he can well act that part and he can get some sympathy as a result. What he has actually done is condemn the police system of Queensland, the judiciary of Queensland, the magistrates of Queensland, the Supreme Court of Queensland, the whole set-up of the BjelkePetersen administration of justice in Queensland and the honourable senator’s organisation of legal aid in Queensland. It is not our organisation.
– Why has the honourable senator not had a reply from you?
– That is a good interjection. The honourable senator asks why the honourable senator has not had a reply from me. I think he seeks to incorporate in Hansard a reply from my office soon after the receipt of the letter to say that the Minister would make inquiries and write to Mr Davidson. What the honourable senator does not know- I am going from memory as to the contents of the letter- is that the Minister made inquiries which necessitated getting reports from Queensland on the case. I, 2 days ago, replied to Mr Davidson who possibly has the letter now.
– He does not have an answer as I was talking to him last night on the phone.
– It was posted 2 days ago. The postmark will show whether it was. It was posted 2 days ago on 7 April 1975. The letter was posted to Mr Davidson. I do not get up and tell lies about issues on which I can be proved to be incorrect.
– That is a surprising concession which does not do justice to you.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I ask Senator Greenwood to withdraw the remarks he made by interjection. They were deplorable.
– What is the point of order?
- Senator Greenwood cast aspersions against the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh. He made remarks which I think should be withdrawn.
- Senator Greenwood, a complaint has been made to me. Objection has been taken to the remarks which you made and it has been asked that you withdraw them.
– It was a complimentary remark to the Minister. I will withdraw it.
– I find the withdrawal more offensive than the remark. I took no notice of the source from which it came. I was saying that no one would be stupid enough to tell a deliberate lie in relation to something where there is evidence which could prove him wrong. The information is contained in the newspaper cutting which Senator Bonner has. There was an attack upon a group which was playing cards. An invading party went in after taking some alcohol. This was not a minor offence; it was a brutal assault. These people kicked an individual who had to receive hospital treatment.
– But not the boy who is serving time. That is the point.
-Let me come to that. A number of Aborigines were accused of the assault. One of them was Davidson Junior. Davidson Junior stated to the policeman at the time of his arrest that he was not in the vicinity of the assault that night, that he was attending a party at a relative’s place in another area of Ipswich. He said that he could bring 6 witnesses to prove it. The policeman asked him to name the witnesses so that he could interview them, but Davidson Junior refused to name them at that time. He may have had justification for doing that. At the court hearing a number of people who were present at the disturbance when the assault occurred identified Davidson as one of the assailants. Davidson brought along some evidence to show that he was at another place attending a party. One witness said that Davidson went out and slept on the lawn. The witness said that he was there when she came and that he was there when she left, so she presumed that he slept on the lawn. The magistrate said that there was a contradiction between the defence witnesses and the jury found that Davidson was one of the assailants. Whether he was or not I do not know. If it is not correct it is the jury system of Queensland which is corrupt and which has convicted an innocent man. It is not our fight at all. Then the case went on to appeal to a Supreme Court judge who- I suppose only with appellate jurisdiction- found that there was no error in the trial at the lower court hearing.
There were 2 judicial investigations into this matter. One found Davidson guilty and the other reaffirmed that decision. Now we have the grandfather of Davidson saying that there are a number of other witnesses and that since then he has obtained a statement from another Davidson who is in gaol in another State who is prepared to say that it was he who committed this assault.
The possibility of taking this case to the High Court has been raised. The statement was made that counsel for the defence would not call a number of other witnesses. The report on this is to the effect that it is not always the practice of counsel to call every available witness. It is the practice of counsel to call essential witnesses to prove a point. Counsel called all the witnesses who he thought were necessary but he was not successful; the judge and jury did not accept their testimony. If that lawyer was wrong it is another condemnation of lawyers in Queensland. That lawyer was not employed by my Department.
– He was hired by your Department.
-We fund the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service throughout Australia. We do not appoint lawyers. We do not control them. We give them no instructions. The only thing for which the service is responsible to us is the method by which it spends the money. Senator Bonner is attacking the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service and not the departmental legal service.
– You ought to have a good look at it.
– If Senator Bonner is saying to me that because he is not satisfied with the legal aid provided by his own people in Queensland- that is what he is saying- and that as a result of that we should not fund them, I am prepared to look into the question. I would not judge whether the legal representative did his job or not, but I am prepared to refer Senator Bonner’s allegations to the Law Society of Queensland to investigate whether the legal representative did his job. If Senator Bonner can convince me that the legal representative did not do his job and if he suggests that that is a reason why we should not fund his legal service in Queensland -
– Not my legal service.
– The Queensland Aboriginal Legal Service not the Federal one. I am prepared to do something about it. From memory the reply to Mr Davidson said that it was a matter for the Queensland police; that he was found guilty by a jury; and that the case went to appeal and he was still found guilty. If he wants to take the case to the High Court- it is up to him to make the decision whether he takes it to the High Court- we will supply him with counsel for any court in Australia to which he has to go. What more can we do?
Only the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs has been exonerated in this attack tonight. It is of no use getting emotional. As I said, a reply was sent immediately acknowledging receipt of the correspondence. As soon as the information was received we replied in detail. Because Senator Bonner has not received the letter that does not mean to say that a reply was not sent. My Department has done the right thing. If there has been a miscarriage of justice I am very sorry about it. Senator Bonner should look to his own political party that he supports in Queensland. That is the guilty party. If there has been a miscarriage of justice it is due to the whole legal system in Queensland.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How may prescriptions were written for pharmaceutical benefits purposes in which the drug Rauwolfia, in one or other form, was prescribed (a) in each of the 12 months up to and including October 1974 and (b) in the months since October 1974.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I ) Yes. I understand that the Queensland Government is seeking to vacate three (3 ) houses.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer given by the Minister representing the Prime Minister to a similar question asked by him (see Hansard of 3 1 October 1 974 at page 2198)
Petroleum and Minerals Authority
– On 20 February, Senator Durack asked me as Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, whether the Government had yet appointed to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority any person experienced in the petroleum and minerals industry and, if not, when it intended to do so.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy has advised me that the members appointed to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority are:
Mr A. B. McFarlane.
Mr J. A. R. Egerton.
Sir Lenox Hewitt, Secretary, Department of Minerals and Energy, is, under Section 17 ( 1) (b) of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973, also a member.
These members are men of outstanding ability and are experienced administrators who are able to call upon the best technical advice on all the many facets of the petroleum and minerals industry.
The Authority is in the process of appointing experienced professional staff and it is also drawing on the services of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and of consultants outstanding in their professional fields.
asked the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s questions is as follows:
asked the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750409_senate_29_s63/>.