29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 605 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable, the President and members of the Senate assembled: We, the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully refer to the Bill concerning the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office.
We are not necessarily against the formation of such an organisation. We do however, feel that the Bill could be rushed through Parliament without sufficient deliberation. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Bill be referred to a Senate Select Committee or Public Enquiry Committee. In this way submissions from interested parties can be called for. Recommendations from this Committee would then reflect the true wishes of the Australian electorate.
And your petitioners as in duly bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 33 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
. Lead to the nationalization of the Insurance Industry.
Divert a substantial flow of funds from the private to the public sector.
Depress the private sector still further and create unemployment both within the Insurance Industry and elsewhere.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 37 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament established. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
That while there is a need to establish in Australia a Natural Disaster Fund to provide compensation for property damage and other losses resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, such a Fund can be established, as in other countries, using the medium of the existing private enterprise insurance offices.
That a plan for such a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October 1974.
That no sound reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office (other than the desire to provide non-commercial disaster insurance and Australian Government competition with private enterprise) has been given by the Government.
That there is already intense competition between the existing 45 life assurance offices and between over 260 general insurance companies now operating in Australia, and that further competition from a Government Office would only be harmful at this time.
That the insurance industry is already coping with
a ) the effects of inflation,
increased taxation on life assurance offices,
the effects of recent natural disasters,
other legislative measures already in train or in prospect by the Government, e.g. the National Compensation Bill, a National Superannuation Plan and improved Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation.
That as taxpayers your petitioners are greatly concerned at the huge costs (far more than the $2 million initial capital and loan funds which it is proposed will be allocated) of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Office.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I would like the petition to be read but as it exceeds 250 words in length I ask that leave be given for the petition to be read by the Clerk.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 65 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
That while there is a need to establish in Australia a Natural Disaster Fund to provide compensation for property damage and other losses resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, such a Fund can be established, as in other countries, using the medium of the existing private enterprise insurance offices.
That a plan for such a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October 1 974.
That no reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office (other than the desire to provide non-commercial disaster insurance and Australian Government competition with private enterprise) have been given by the Government.
That there is already intense competition between the existing 45 life assurance offices and between over 260 general insurance companies now operating in Australia, and that further competition from a Government’ Office would only be harmful.
That the insurance industry is already faced with
the effects of inflation,
b) increased taxation on life assurance offices,
the effects of recent natural disasters,
other legislative measures already in train or in prospect by the Government, e.g. the National Compensation Bill, a National Superannuation Plan and Improved Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation.
That as taxpayers your petitioners are greatly concerned at the huge costs (far more than the $2 million initial capital and loan funds which it is proposed will be allocated) of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Office.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 28 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully refer to the Bill concerning the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office.
We are not necessarily against the formation of such an organisation. We do, however, feel that the Bill could be rushed through Parliament without sufficient deliberation.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Bil! be referred to a Senate Select Committee or Public Enquiry Committee. In this way submissions from interested parties can be called for. Recommendations from this Committee would then reflect the true wishes of the Australian electorate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975. by Senator Durack.
To the Honourable The President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Drake-Brockman. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament established. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
6 ) That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Durack, Senator Cavanagh, Senator Sim, Senator Coleman, Senator Chaney and Senator Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament Assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Coleman.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Coleman. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate Assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully refer to the Bill concerning the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office.
We are not necessarily against the formation of such an organisation. We do however, feel that the Bill could be rushed through Parliament without sufficient deliberation. Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Bill be referred to a Senate Select Committee or Public Enquiry Committee. In this way submissions from interested parties can be called for. Recommendations from this Committee would then reflect the true wishes of the Australian electorate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil. Petition received.
No reference shall be made in a Petition to any Debate in Parliament of the same Session.
I suggest that the petitions presented this morning come very close to debating issues that are before the Parliament at this stage.
– There has been a long tradition in the Senate for petitions to be presented simultaneously with legislation. As long as the body of the petition does not concern the debate that is taking place I think we can continue that practice by allowing petitions to be presented in this way. As has been suggested, it may be necessary for a revision to be made to the Standing Orders to enable this practice to continue. But at the moment the interpretation of the Standing Orders which I give and which has been given in the past is that this type of petition is in order.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a series of questions. I ask: Has the Minister sought details of documents showing a firm known as Dolmac Consultants as claiming an exclusive mandate from the Government to negotiate loans? Can he now inform the Senate whether such documents are genuine? On what basis is the exclusive mandate claim made? Has he discovered whether there are any other documents in existence relating to the matter? Further, is the Minister aware of widespread concern at the effect such documents are having on Australia’s financial standing? Finally, in view of this concern, will the Minister, if unable to give the details now, give an undertaking that he will provide the details to the Senate before the sittings of the Senate are suspended for lunch?
-I am glad that Senator Withers used the term ‘claim’ because that is the extent of the authenticity that can be given to the alleged statements that are going around the traps at present. No doubt he is referring to statements that were made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, My Lynch. I heard Mr Lynch interviewed on ‘P.M.’ last night. When he was challenged to authenticate the documents he was unable to do so. The fact is that all the alleged letters and so on which he claims to have are matters which he makes public, but he is careless about ensuring that they can be authenticated. I am not in a position to say whether these documents are correct or what is the nature of them, nor do I consider that it is the Government’s business to find out about them or to authenticate every document which someone happens to come up with and which that person says concerns Government borrowings. If Mr Lynch wants to give evidence and show that these documents are authentic, perhaps the Government can look at the matter again. As to Australia’s position as a borrower, the very fact that at present a $ 100m loan is being negotiated in New York on behalf of the Australian Government, and I believe will be accepted by the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York, is sufficient evidence of our standing as a borrower on the world markets.
– Is the Minister for Labor and Immigration aware that many applicants for assistance under the National Employment and Training Scheme seeking tertiary training have not been advised of the outcome of their applications even though they applied at the beginning of this year and have already commenced their courses? What are the reasons for the delays in advising these applicants?
– I am aware that my Department has a backlog of applications under the NEAT scheme from persons seeking long tertiary courses. I am informed that this backlog is being progressively reduced and that when an application is approved benefits date back to the commencement of the course or to the date of the application, if that is later. I am advised also that new procedures introduced by my predecessor will enable the rate of determining applications to be significantly accelerated and that my Department is currently reviewing what additional resources are necessary to ensure that applications can be determined expeditiously in the future. I remind honourable senators that my Department has a responsibility to investigate carefully all applications under the NEAT scheme and to ensure that funds are not committed, particularly to long periods of training, unless it is satisfied that the training is the most appropriate solution to an individual ‘s employment difficulty. I am advised that these investigations often require the applicant either to reconsider his or her initial training program or to provide additional information to support the proposal. I understand that these inquiries are often lengthy and time consuming and this explains the delay. In any event, I assure the honourable senator that every effort is being made to speed up the entire process, including that of notification.
-1 ask the
Minister representing the Attorney-General whether the Government has appointed the judges who will comprise the judicial committee to inquire into breaches of constitutional qualifications by members of Parliament. Is the Government experiencing any difficulty obtaining the 3 judges? If so, will renewed efforts be made so that the inquiry, set up by decision of the Senate on 22 April, can begin as soon as possible?
– A decision was taken by the Government to seek to obtain the services of 3 judges to serve on the judicial committee mentioned by the honourable senator. I am sure he appreciates the fact that it is a very difficult task. State governments often in the past have set up some resistance to making some of their Supreme Court judges available. I have not spoken to the Attorney-General about the matter recently but I will do so as the Government is as anxious as the Opposition to see the judicial committee functioning as soon as possible.
– My question which I ask of the Postmaster-General concerns representations which I understand were made to him relating to the level of television relay charges between Hobart and Melbourne. I ask the Minister Has any decision been taken yet in regard to the level of charges for this service? Are any changes to a range of television relay charges contemplated?
-Senator Douglas McClelland and I recently received representations from a number of interested parties, including people from Tasmania and a representative from Western Australia, in relation to this matter. As the honourable senator knows many of my own colleagues, including the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, have written to me. The Post Office has conducted a wide-ranging study of costs and charges. I will be announcing them later today. Some of the reductions in the charges are of the order of 30 per cent to 40 per cent. As the honourable senator comes from Tasmania he will be interested to know that, for example, an ad hoc 10 minute relay from Melbourne to Hobart will now cost $150 compared with $256 previously, and that a regular 60 minute relay, Monday to Friday, will cost $ 10,465 per quarter compared with $ 12,090 as at present.
-I ask a further question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Minister’s earlier reply to me indicate that the Government intends to take no action to investigate the authenticity of these letters? Does the Government intend to do that in an attempt to bury this issue?
– As I indicated in my previous answer, I believe it is up to the person making these accusations to establish the authenticity of the material from which he is quoting. As I pointed out, in the interview which he had last night when he was challenged to authenticate the material he did not do it. He said he was unable to do that. Should the Government initiate efforts to authenticate every document which floats around because somebody says something is being done by somebody else? It is up to the person who has raised the matter and who claims to have the material in front of him. I think the responsibility lies there, not with the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. So that claims by the Opposition that the Whitiam Government has neglected the welfare of members of the defence forces can be tested, will the Minister inform the Senate of the benefits which have become available to Australian servicemen since this Government came to office? Will he also tell the Senate what benefits have been given to ensure that former serving personnel and their families are adequately covered on retirement?
– I think everybody now recognises that the new pay arrangements which were set up by the last Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, were exceedingly satisfactory. For the first time there is an independent committee of reference for all defence pay matters. This has meant a new pay scale which has been related more closely to conditions that apply to the civilian work force. In addition we have recently accepted the report in relation to the reserve forces. That has basically meant a great new change for members of the Services.
– Hundreds of officers are going.
– The honourable senator heard yesterday the numbers of retirements from the Services. There has been an 80 per cent reduction in the number of people retiring from the Services at a time when we have the best ever
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. When the honourable senator’s Party was in government it rejected the Jess report. We accepted the Jess report. In addition we have provided, for the first time, a new eligibility for serving servicemen for defence homes and for repatriation benefits. Everybody knows Senator Wheeldon ‘s great advances in repatriation pensionsthe best ever in Australia. Nobody can say that we have not done marvellously well with repatriation benefits. We have also prepared legislation, which should have been dealt with by the Parliament, to create a defence force ombudsman. For the first time we have provided a reengagement bonus for servicemen. We have provided new conditions such as long service leave, 4 weeks annual leave, maternity allowances and, for the first time ever, annual leave bonuses. So our record in providing new conditions for the Services is remarkable. I suggest that instead of interjecting the Opposition might look closely at the gains which have been made by servicemen, and might remind servicemen, or those among them who might complain, of what the Labor Government has done.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: In view of the claim by the international firm Dolmac Consultants that it is the holder of an exclusive mandate on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, the former Treasurer and the former Attorney-General, all approved by the GovernorGeneral of this country, to negotiate a loan of $4,000m, will the Minister state whether Dolmac Consultants was authorised by the Government to negotiate that loan? If he is not prepared to say that Dolmac Consultants was authorised, will he at long last say who was the person authorised to negotiate this loan on behalf of the Government?
-Once again Senator Greenwood assumes that everything that is being said at present must be correct and that because a member of his own political Party has said that Dolmac Consultants has certain documents in its possession, therefore that must be correct. I am not in a position to say whether it is correct. Until such time as it is established that it is correct I do not see the need to make any further comment on the matter.
– I have a supplementary question. I ask the Leader of the
Government in the Senate: Whom did the Government authorise to negotiate the loan?
-This matter seems to be going round in circles but that is because the Opposition seems to be asking the same question all the time. Naturally I have no option but to give the same answer. There is a mere assumption that all this information is correct and therefore I am expected to give an answer to something which has not been established as fact.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the many Press reports of a statement by LieutenantColonel K. Newman claiming that he had resigned from the Army in protest at conditions in that branch of the armed Services and in protest at the policies of the former Minister for Defence? Has Lieutenant-Colonel Newman in fact resigned from the Army or has he merely transferred to the reserve list from which he can return to full service at a later date?
-Lieutenant-Colonel K. J. Newman resigned from the Army on 10 May 1975 upon his pre-selection as the Liberal Party candidate for the Federal seat of Bass. On 3 June 1975 he withdrew his resignation and applied for a transfer to the Army Reserve in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act 1969. He was transferred -
– A normal good Australian action.
- Mr President, I am just giving the facts of the case. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 10 June 1975. Under the provisions of the Act he is enabled to return to the Army in the event of his being defeated at the election.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. If, as stated by the Prime Minister yesterday, the sole reason for sacking Dr Cairns was that he gave Mr Harris the letters, do we anticipate that action has yet to be taken with regard to the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Can the Minister advise what commercial relationship exists between Dolmac Consultants and Mr Khemlani?
-As to the last question which was directed to me, I am not in a position to say. As to the first question, it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to make what appointments he chooses within the Cabinet. I should also say that it has been stated by the Prime Minister that executive authority was given to Mr Connor to negotiate loans. Both of those authorities have since been revoked. What the Prime Minister would choose to do in relation to any alteration of Mr Connor’s position is purely a matter for the Prime Minister.
– I ask a supplementary question. Could I have an interpretation of the following words that the Leader of the Government in the Senate consistently uses: ‘I am not in a position to say”? I specifically relate these words to my question with regard to the commercial relationship between Dolmac Consultants and Mr Khemlani. Is the Minister saying that he is not in a position to say because he does not know or because he does not wish to reveal the information.
– The minister may answer the question in his own way.
-So far as I am aware Dolmac Consultants is a firm which is unknown to me and unknown to the Government. As 1 have indicated before, questions of this nature based on material which has not been authenticated are questions which the Government is not required to answer until such time as the material is authenticated.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Media: Has the Minister been alerted to a Press report stating that an Adelaide radio personality was sacked from a South Australian radio station for allowing a caller on a talk-back program to continue making untrue derogatory political accusations about a well-known Adelaide woman who is an active member of the Australian Labor Party? Is it true that the same radio commentator at the time of his dismissal was employed as a research assistant with the Opposition’s shadow Minister for the Media? Is he still employed in that capacity?
– The answer is yes.
-As to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I am not aware of the matter, although I have just heard Senator Young say by way of interjection that the answer is yes. The facts as they have been related to me by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are that a woman called the station and said she had heard the Premier, Mr Dunstan, in a speech welcoming delegates to the International Socialist Conference in South Australia use the word ‘comrades’ very freely. She also said she understood that the Premier’s former wife had held an official position in the Communist Party and had had to resign so that Mr Dunstan could become Premier in the first instance.
I am advised by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that the morning after this broadcast had taken place the Premier rang 5DN seeking an explanation as to why the caller had been allowed to continue. In normal circumstances, as honourable senators would know, there is an emergency button to be used by the broadcaster so that he can cut off calls that may be slanderous. I am told by the Board that the Premier said he intended to pass the tape of the broadcast that he had from his own Government monitoring service to his ex-wife and to suggest to her that she take legal action against station 5DN.
Since that time, I am told, the broadcaster, Mr Carne, has been suspended by the station. The manager of 5DN informed the Control Board ‘s Adelaide office that the program had recently developed excessive political overtones and that he, Mr Linkson, had issued written instructions to Mr Carne not to allow the program to become over-political in its content. I am advised that he also instructed Mr Carne that any calls on a personal level should be dropped immediately. I am told that action to suspend Mr Carne resulted in some public criticism, but on the other hand Mr Linkson, the manager of the station, asserts and maintains that the compere had disregarded written instructions and as a result he had taken the only course possible to preserve the reputation of the station. I will be asking the Broadcasting Control Board to prepare a detailed report for the consideration of my colleague, the Minister for the Media, Dr Cass.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the Executive Council minute approving a $2, 000m loan raising included an annotation that the loan was for temporary purposes. In the light of the magnitude of the proposed loan, how could it be said that the loan was for temporary purposes? Is it not a fact that the intention of the Government was to avoid the requirements of the Loan Council agreement?
-As I have indicated before in answer to a similar question about Loan
Council arrangements and overseas borrowings, the answer is no. There was no intention on the part of the Government to circumvent Loan Council obligations, and I am quite sure that had loans been negotiated which were acceptable to the Government then all the proper procedures would have been followed in negotiations through the Loan Council.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Police and Customs. In the light of recent surveys of the use of marihuana and narcotic drugs in Melbourne and other cities, in the light of the published records of arrests of drug offenders, drug seizures and drug convictions, and in the light of the arguments presented in the articles written by Dr John Helmer in this week’s Australian Financial Review’ will the Minister advise the Parliament of his reasons for thinking that a new and more powerful police force is necessary to deal with this apparently declining problem?
– I have seen the articles by Dr Helmer. I do not know how the idea is conceived that drug abuse is declining in Australia. Indeed, the statistics on drug seizures by my Department would suggest that it is increasing, particularly with heroin. The Department is fully aware that drugs equivalent to the amount seized are possibly getting into Australia undetected and thinks it would be helpful if something could be done to strengthen the Drug Squad.
I have in front of me figures relating to the seizure of heroin over the last few years. They indicate that in 1 972 there were 20 1 8 grams seized, in 1973 there were 3115 grams seized and in 1974 there were 5078 grams seized. To 1 May 1975 there have been 3172 grams seized. The figures show that the Government cannot reduce its policing of the finding or detection of those who are importing and peddling illicit drugs.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, follows on a question asked by Senator Grimes. I ask: Is the Minister not aware that because of the decision to hold the Bass byelection on 28 June- the nominations for which will close tomorrow- Lieutenant-Colonel Newman was informed that his 3 June application to resign from the Army possibly would not be able to be processed in time to enable him legally to nominate to contest the seat of Bass and that therefore he should seek a transfer to the Reserve of Officers, which request, in accordance with law and procedures, would make Lieutenant-Colonel Newman’s nomination the winning one?
– I can be guided only by the Press reports in relation to this matter. It is very clear to me from those reports and what is the history -
– Can you authenticate them?
-The Lieutenant-Colonel resigned; there is no doubt about that. He resigned from the Army.
– He did not. He made application to resign.
– The honourable senator has said this before. He made application to resign in protest.
-There you are; the honourable senator admits it. He made application to resign in protest against the way in which he alleged that Mr Barnard was running the defence Services.
Opposition senators- Hear, hear!
– There you are; honourable senators opposite agree that it is true. So why has the question been asked? By way of their interjections honourable senators opposite have admitted that he resigned. Then he decided that perhaps he should use the options that he had. He had heard or knew about -
– You are normally honest.
– There you are; Senator Marriott has already answered the question. He resigned because he thought that in some way that would give a filip to his candidature. Then he no doubt thought how better would it be to defeat the new Labor candidate than to argue about defence, so he decided to take up new options. He has the right, of course, to return to the Army. He has made sure that he has preserved that right by making an application under the appropriate Act.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation seen a report in yesterday’s ‘Daily Mirror’ that claimed that payouts by the private insurance companies following cyclone Tracy will embarass the Australian Government? Can the Minister throw any light on the reported statement by the Council of
Fire and Accident Underwriters of Australia that the Government has been ‘vague, indecisive and less than honest’? Is the Minister aware that the same general insurance companies have been engaging in what can only be described as ethically doubtful practices towards their policy holders?
– I did see the allegations that were made in yesterday’s edition of the ‘Daily Mirror’ concerning the role of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation in the payment of compensation to residents and property owners in Darwin. I must say that I was very surprised at that report. I have seen it in no other newspaper. If it is an accurate report, I am surprised that the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters should have made such charges. Certainly its President, Mr Le Page, is a man with whom I have had a great many negotiations. Although we have obviously disagreed on a number of points, I have found him to be very good to deal with, as I have found the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters to be a reasonable organisation. I am surprised that that organisation should be saying the sorts of things that it has been alleged by the ‘Daily Mirror’ to have said. According to the report in the Daily Mirror’, which, I repeat, has appeared in no other newspaper, it has been said that the public is being misled by the vague, indecisive and less than honest attitude of the Government on its Darwin relief programs.
– Hear, hear!
-Senator Wright says Hear, hear’. I would like him, if he is going to suggest by saying ‘Hear, hear’ that we have been vague and dishonest, to justify his suggestion. I only wish that his asinine gestures were televised. I only wish the Australian people could see Senator Wright as well as hear him, although I imagine that hearing him is sufficient. If he says we have been behaving dishonestly, I would like him to stand up and say where we have been behaving dishonestly.
I repeat that the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters is reported to have said that we behaved in some way dishonestly. The report goes on to say.
Private insurance companies had paid out more than $280m to Darwin policy holders . . .
That may well be true. The report continues:
But the Government, adopting a “wait and see “ attitude, had not made a single contribution,’ . . .
The report continues:
A spokesman for the Commonwealth Department of Repatriation and Compensation has told the organisation-
I presume it means the Council of Fire and Accident Underwritersit was still waiting to make its first payment.
With all due respect, if that is the word, for Senator Wright, the statements which are attributed to the Council are palpably untrue. Honourable senators may remember that it was only just recently that the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Bill was passed through the Parliament and royal assent was given to it only on 3 1 May 1975. Since then I have issued a number of Press releases with regard to the manner in which payments are being made by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. It is obvious that any payments which were made by the Department would have to be made subsequent to the settlement of claims against private insurers because the Bill itself provides that the compensation is for half of the uninsured value. So, clearly the Australian Government could not make payments before there had been some settlement of any claims which residents and property owners in Darwin had against private insurance companies or whatever other organisations they may have had policies with.
On 12 January I informed the public that over 7000 people had completed survey forms. On 2 1 January I announced the details of the compensation that would be paid for personal injury and death. On 4 March I announced the details of compensation for the uninsured loss or damage to property which was estimated to cost $58m. Last week in the Senate I announced that cheques worth $3m for over 2000 claims had already been sent out by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. This has now reached a figure of 2780 claims amounting to $3,880,000. 1 must confess that I am completely bewildered as to why the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters, if it has made this statement, should have made it.
– Have you checked it?
-No, I have not checked it with the Council; nor has the ‘Daily Mirror’ checked with me; nor has the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters checked with me. The report appeared only last night. I do not believe it is my responsibility to be checking with newspapers or checking with the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters. Serious allegations have been made against me and my Department. I do not believe it is my job to be running around in the middle of the night checking up with the people who made the allegations. It is their obligation to check their allegations with me. I say thai these allegations, whether they are made by the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters or made by the ‘Daily Mirror’ in a fit of imagination, are absolutely untruthful and dishonest allegations.
I think it ill behoves the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters, after the exposure of some of the actions which have been taken by insurance companies in Darwin, as I pointed out in answer to a question the other day, in an effort to evade their responsibilities to insured persons in Darwin, to make utterly untrue allegations about this Government. If the Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters or Senator Wright or anybody else wants to go up to Darwin and debate with me the role of this Government and my Department in providing compensation to the people of Darwin, I would be happy to go there on any occasion to do it.
– In view of the response of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the question asked by Senator Greenwood, I ask him why he will not state whom the Government authorised to negotiate the $4,000m loan which the Minister for Minerals and Energy had authority to raise.
– I really cannot see any point in pursuing this matter any further. I have stated the position quite clearly. I would invite Senator Chaney, if perhaps he would like to do so, to stand up personally and vouch for the authenticity of the material upon which he is basing his question, and I would invite any other member of the Opposition to do likewise.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware that his colleague tabled in another place the Rudman report on Hallett Cove in South Australia? Can the Minister advise whether his colleague has decided upon any action pursuant to the report?
– Yes, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development did table the Rudman report on Hallett Cove in the other place on 4 June this year. Since then he has had discussions with Mr Broomhill who is the Minister of Environment and Conservation in South Australia. They have under consideration the recommendation contained in the report that further land be purchased for the purpose of protecting the environment around Hallett Cove. The Federal Government has agreed to make available this year to the South Australian
Government the sum of $100,000 for the purchase of 4 building blocks, which I believe was part of the recommendation in the Rudman report and which was essential for the protection of the Cove. Subject to agreement between the South Australian Minister and the Federal Minister for Urban and Regional Development, the Australian Government is prepared, if it u. thought necessary to purchase additional land for the protection of the Cove, to finance its purchase on a $2 for $ I basis with the State.
– My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is a follow up question to that asked by Senator Chaney and the reply, or non reply, given by the Leader of the Government. Does the Leader of the Government know to whom authority was given to raise a $4,000m loan? If not, does he then deny that no authority was given to raise the $4,00Om loan’
– Executive Council authority was given to Mr Connor to negotiate loans to that extent. I have indicated- this has been said on numerous occasions publicly, and I do not know of any suggestion by anybody that it was not done- that it has since been revoked. What Mr Connor did while that authority was current was a matter for Mr Connor under the authority given by the Executive Council.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the urgent need to construct an all weather road link between South Australia and the Northern Territory, can the Minister say what progress has been made in the study to determine the future re-alignment of and improvements to the Stuart Highway?
-The Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, has declared the South Australian section of the Stuart Highway a national highway and has accepted full financial responsibility for its construction and maintenance. In 1973 the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads decided that that section of the highway should be one of the locations in relation to which there ought to be detailed study. Presently the Australian Government is co-operating with the South Australian Government in determining what is the most desirable route between Port Augusta and the Northern Territory and also the aspect of whether- there might be a more direct use of the track through Woomera. That study is presently being conducted in association with the South Australian Department and the Bureau of Roads and it is expected that the report will be available towards the end of the year. When the report is received decisions will be made about the bituminising and re-routing of the road.
– My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate relates to the loan situation. Is he aware that the loan was first sought in the United States by people who had authority from the Minister at the time? Is he aware that one of the people on the negotiating side travelled to America with a member of the staff of the then Treasurer? Is he aware that the then Treasurer, after attending a conference in the southern part of America, journeyed to the northern part of America in order to give accreditation to the representations for a loan? Is he aware that when the loan was agreed upon, the United States Treasury agreed to the loan being made? Is he aware that the then Treasurer, Dr Cairns, accepted the loan and then later turned it down? In view of the statement from the Leader of the Government giving an indication that letters such as those held by Dolmac Consultants have no authority, does he not consider that it is the usual practice in business and in other areas that when claims made by people that they are representing other people are found not to be correct, an authority- in this case it would be the Government of Australia- makes that known to the world in order to clear the good name of the country concerned?
– I am not aware of the earlier matters raised by Senator Wood and I do not think they are quite relevant to the general matters that have been the subject of so many questions this morning. Dealing with the last part of his question about the good name of Australia, as I indicated yesterday- I think I made reference again to it this morning- the Australian Government is currently raising a loan of $ 100m on the New York market and it is on the point of acceptance now by the American Securities and Exchange Commission. If there was any question about the good name of Australia on the world money markets, we would not be getting that loan.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. What action has stemmed from my complaints last week involving Mr Bradford, director of the
Carlingford Karate Institute, who has illegally retained the passports of 2 Malaysian karate instructors as well as paying them starvation salaries and providing them with inferior accommodation?
– I am sure that the honourable senator with his well known and well deserved reputation for fairness would not want to have this matter decided without the proprietor of the karate institute being given an opportunity to state his side of the case. For that reason my Department has arranged for him to come to Canberra this week and state whether there is any substance in the allegations that have been made by the honourable senator. Of course, if it is true that he is holding the passports of the 2 Malaysians, that would be clearly illegal because no person has the authority to hold or withdraw a passport except the government which has issued it. However, inquiries are proceeding. I hope to be able to let the honourable senator have an answer very soon.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the letter published this morning in the -
– Is it in order to read from a newspaper?
– What juvenile nonsense! This morning in what purports to be a letter from Dolmac Consultants it is stated:
We hereby confirm that we are the holders of an exclusive mandate from the Government of Australia approved in Council by J. Kerr, Governor-General-
Does the Minister acknowledge his responsibility to this chamber to give information as to the Government’s transaction of business on behalf of this country? Does he recognise the unity of Cabinet? Does he deny that there is an Executive Council minute as mentioned in that letter giving authority to raise $4,000m? Does he deny that he is in possession of knowledge as to what Mr Connor did under that authority, arising out of the decision of the Government to revoke the authority? I ask the Minister to give information to the Parliament. We are dependent on his information and are entitled to receive it.
– I think the question should go on notice. It is far too involved.
- Mr President, I ask your advice as to the appropriate procedures to object to your ruling. You have no right to direct that my question go on notice.
– I have every right. Senator, please resume your seat immediately.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I take the point of order that an honourable senator is entitled to ask questions without notice. I know that it has been the practice occasionally, when honourable senators have asked questions which are involved and which seek enormously difficult answers and statistical information, for the President to direct that the questions go on notice, but I put to you, Mr President, that the question which Senator Wright has asked is one which the Minister ought to be able to answer without its going on notice.
– As the question was directed to me, I can only say that if Senator Wright imagines, as he talks about people being juveniles, that I would be so juvenile as to answer the question which is based on the material he had in front of him he ought to reconsider his length of service in this place and ask questions which one would imagine 1 would be obliged to answer. If I were to answer the question, Mr President, my answer would be along those lines.
- Mr President, am I to understand that that submission was made to you on the point of order?
– Yes, it was taken as a submission on the point of order.
- Mr President -
– Are you now addressing me on the point of order?
– Yes. I am reminding you, Mr President, that the first part of my question to the Leader of the Government was: Does he acknowledge that he is responsible to this chamber to give information as to the Government’s transaction of business on behalf of the country? Secondly I asked: Does he acknowledge the unity of Cabinet in this matter? Thirdly I asked: Does he deny the existence of a GovernorGeneral ‘s minute to which I referred? Fourthly I asked: Arising out of the transaction that he referred to, namely the revocation of the authority, does he assert to the Senate as a matter of fact, the truthfulness of which is to be considered, that he knows nothing of the transactions that Mr Connor carried out under that authority? Mr President, having reminded you -
– Order! Senator Wright you are canvassing the question. You should be speaking to the point of order.
– I am reminding you, Mr President, of the content of my question and I am disputing your right to deny that question to any honourable senator as 1 will dispute the right of the Minister to disclaim the responsibility to answer it. You have no right under Standing Orders to refuse a proper question addressed directly to a Minister asking for information on the business of the Government.
- Mr President -
– Order! It is within the discretion of the Presiding Officer to direct that long, involved questions be placed on the notice paper. That has always been accepted as being at the discretion of the Chair, but in view of the fact that the honourable senator insists, the Leader of the Government may, if he wishes to answer the question, proceed to do so. I call Senator Wriedt.
-I ask that the question be placed on notice.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to a question I asked a fortnight ago about the hospital side of Medibank in Victoria. Is the Minister aware of recent advertisements in the Press and on television in which the Premier of Victoria claims, rather nervously, that his Government has been advised by the Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria that there is no reason other than Australian Government delays, why Victoria should not be in the hospital side of Medibank by 1 July? Has South Australia or Tasmania been caught up in similar delays? Did the Premier of Victoria receive any such advice from the Hospitals and Charities Commission? If so, is that advice correct? Has the Minister now seen today’s Press reports that the advertisements by the Victorian Liberal Government are to be withdrawn?
– I have seen the advertisements to which Senator Button refers and I have also seen the announcement that all or some of these advertisements by the Victorian Government are to be withdrawn. The advertisements which were inserted by Mr Hamer claimed that his Government was not able to enter into the hospital side of Medibank because of delays by the Australian Government and that he had been made aware of these delays by the Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria. As Senator Button has suggested in his question, these delays were apparently not found by the Governments of South Australia and Tasmania which had no difficulty in entering into the hospital side of Medibank through negotiations with the Australian Government. I am further informed that the Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria gave no such advice at all to Mr Hamer or to the Victorian Government. Certainly if it had given such advice it would have been erroneous advice.
If Mr Hamer said that he had advice from the Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria that delays by the Australian Government were preventing his Government from entering into the hospital side of Medibank, the proper thing for him to have done would have been to inform the Minister- previously Mr Hayden and now me- as to what these delays were. He has not done this. If he has received some advice from the Hospitals and Charities Commission that the Australian Government is acting in a dilatory manner or improperly I wish he would produce the report from the Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria so that we can study it and not just have to rely on the vague statement that it has advised him. I do not believe that it has advised him anything of the sort and I believe that, because enough people know it has not given him any such advice, that is the reason why he has withdrawn the advertisements from Victorian radio, television and newspapers.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who is representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. As the Government has recognised the Provisional Revolutionary Government as the Government of South Vietnam I ask: Is it a fact that North Vietnam has not recognised the PRG as the Government of South Vietnam? Is it also a fact that the administration of South Vietnam is being conducted by North Vietnamese military forces and not the PRG? Is the Minister aware that all indications are that the control of South Vietnam will be exercised by the People’s Revolutionary Party of South Vietnam, referred to by North Vietnam as the southern party, and that the PRG has never been more than a shadow organisation with no right of independent action? When will the Government recognise the realities of the situation in South Vietnam?
– I would not presume to know the answer to the question, nor would I comment on it. I would need to refer it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for an appropriate answer.
-Has the attention of the Special Minister of State been drawn to the articles by Mr Russell Scott in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 3 and 4 June in which he described much of the criticism of the Prices Justification Tribunal as ‘simplistic’ and failing ‘to appreciate the Tribunal’s more significant characteristics’? Does the Minister agree that this is a fair commentary on the kind of criticism of the Tribunal that has been appearing in some quarters in recent months?
-My attention has been drawn to Mr Russell Scott’s articles. Although I would not agree with some of his statements about the Prices Justification Tribunal, his article shows a degree of analysis and objectivity which seems regrettably to be unusual in most statements that are made in the Australian Financial Review’ about the Prices Justification Tribunal. For some months now we have been seeing a catalogue of complaints by or on behalf of self-interested companies whose sole object appears to be to discredit the Tribunal. Mr Russell Scott mentioned a number of these companies in that article of 3 June and I have had some inquiries made by my Department about the facts. These companies have by and large complained about alleged delays and difficulties in convincing the Tribunal of their need for higher prices. But, in point of fact, I am informed that of the 6 companies mentioned which have notified a number of proposed price increases to the Tribunal in the current year, five have had their notifications dealt with in less than a month without public inquiry- some of them within a matter of days- and one is the subject of a current public inquiry. In nearly all cases the proposed price increases were granted in full by the Tribunal.
These are only examples of misdirected criticism of this kind which has been given so much prominence in some sections of the Press, I suggest for obvious political reasons, against this Government. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Malcolm Fraser, said that the Opposition, if and when elected to office, would abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. Apparently he is more concerned about getting on-side with the large companies than about protecting the consumers from excessive price increases. I suggest that his statements made in Sydney last Monday are proof enough of that. The Government believes that the Prices Justification Tribunal has been and is continuing to be an effective instrument against inflation as far as its existing powers will allow it to go; that it has dealt fairly and as expeditiously as possible with the companies within its jurisdiction; that it has retained a degree of flexibility in its approach, which changing economic circumstances require; and that, in particular, it has been giving full emphasis to the need to maintain profitability at a level that will sustain investment and employment which is, of course, the theme of the Government’s submission to the present Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd inquiry. I am pleased, on behalf of the Government, to see a balanced point of view reflected in Mr Scott’s article.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State and, as a background to it, I think the Minister will be aware that on 2 June his predecessor tabled in the House of Representatives a report entitled ‘Customs By-law Policy- A Review’. I ask the Minister whether he, as the new Minister responsible, would take this matter up and feel his way through it to see whether it is reasonable that importers and people in industry who are affected by this report should have only 4 weeks in which to make submissions on the impact of the report on their particular areas of responsibility. The Minister will find out that the interdepartmental committee had worked on this matter since January 1973. The report is very large; it extends to 161 pages. I ask the Minister to take up the matter to see whether or not he could extend to, say, 30 September the time allowed for people to make submissions on the consequences of this report.
– I am aware of the matter raised by the honourable senator. I think it was only last week that the paper entitled ‘Customs By-law Policy- A Review’ was presented by the then Special Minister of State, Mr Lionel Bowen, in the House of Representatives. The honourable senator will be aware, of course, that I was sworn in as Special Minister of State only last Friday and on Monday I was immersed in a great deal of detail with my new departmental officers. This was one of the matters that were raised with me. The Parliament was sitting yesterday and is sitting today, but I assure the honourable senator that I intend discussing the matter at the earliest opportunity with the Secretary of my Department who, indeed, mentioned it to me last Monday and suggested I should have some discussions with my colleague the Minister for Police and Customs about it.
– I direct my question to Senator Wheeldon in respect of one of his ministerial hats- as Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the article which appeared in last night’s edition of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ which claims that a Mr Anthony Cheesman has had his war pension cancelled although he is unfit to work because of war injuries sustained in Vietnam? Is there any basis for his claim that the Government would rather send the money to Australia’s former enemies than compensate wounded soldiers?
– I have seen the report. It was in last night’s Melbourne ‘Herald’. It quoted a Mr Anthony Cheesman who said that he served in Vietnam as a national serviceman from February to June 1971 and that he was hit by 2 machine gun bullets in 1971, as a result of which he cannot now work. He said that he had been told by the Australian Government retirement benefits office- I am not quite sure what that is, but that was the term which was used- that his disability pension of $58.49 a fortnight had been discontinued from 9 May. He made various claims about the policy of the Government which did not altogether appeal to him. I must say that one should feel great sympathy for anybody who is in the position of Mr Cheesman, but I am not quite sure what the problem is. This is another example of a matter about which one might have hoped that journalists would have spoken to the department or the office of the Minister involved before they printed some of the articles which they do print. It appears that what Mr Cheesman -
– Tell us -
– I know that Senator Wright always gets a good run from the Press. It never reports him. That is the greatest favour it could do him. It appears that what Mr Cheesman is complaining about may well be defence forces retirement benefits payments. I do not know why the payments have been terminated; they are the responsibility of the Minister for Defence. If the facts reported in the article in the Melbourne Herald’ have been stated correctly, it would seem that Mr Cheesman is eligible for repatriation benefits. If he is suffering from a disability resulting from war service this would seem to be a classic example of someone who is entitled to repatriation benefits. I have instructed my department to inquire whether any application has been received from Mr Cheesman and, if so, what has happened to it. Obviously, as I said, on the evidence that has been provided by the Melbourne ‘Herald’, insofar as we can accept it as evidence, he would be entitled to repatriation benefits. I shall make certain that an officer of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation gets in touch with Mr Cheesman to inform him of his rights under the Repatriation Act.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I take a point of order. May I suggest that because of the time which was taken up this morning on a point of order and because of the lengthy and tedious answers further questions should be permitted from senators who have been seeking the call since question time began.
– There is no point of order.
– Pursuant to section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-74 1 present 5 determinations by the Remuneration Tribunal, each dated 12 May 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Fourth Triennial Report on Advanced Education by the Commission on Advanced Education together with a statement by the Minister for Education on that report.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-Mr President, I seek leave to have the text of the
Ministerial statement by my colleague, the Minister for Education, the Hon K. E. Beazley, incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
TRIENNIAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON ADVANCED EDUCATION FOR THE TRIENNIUM 1976 TO 1978
It is important to remember that since the last triennium of the Commission on Advanced Education the Commission has taken under its aegis a very significant component of the nation’s structure of education- the teachers’ colleges and pre-school teachers’ colleges. This, and growth, have led to the following increases in the student clientele of the colleges of advanced education:
The Report recommends a total program, covering both capital and recurrent expenditure, of $1,681 million, to be allocated to 85 colleges of advanced education throughout Australia which by 1978 would be providing tertiary education for 175 000 students.
The Commission has recommended a recurrent program of $1,098 million, which takes account of recent rises in academic salary levels together with other continuing costs.
The recommended capital program of $583 million includes provision for new campuses. It also includes major capital development of $37,933,000 at the New South Wales Institute of Technology; $26,132,000 for the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; $13,222,000 for the Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education; $26,324,000 for the Western Australian Institute of Technology; $ 1 5,563,000 for Canberra College of Advanced Education; $10,094,000 for Tasmanian College of Advanced Education; $18,061,000 for the South Australian Institute of Technology; $13,937,000 for Torrens College of Advanced Education; $11,727,000 for Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education, and $2 1 ,88 1,000 for the Queensland Institute of Technology.
The Capital and Recurrent Programs recommended by the Commission are as follows:
As noted above, in 1975 there are approximately 123 000 students (full-time, part-time and external) enrolled in colleges of advanced education, rising from about 28 000 in 1968. Although the addition of 39 former State teachers ‘colleges and pre-school teachers’ colleges in 1973 accounts for some of this growth the figures reflect the increased student demand for places in advanced education courses. Students enrolled in colleges are offered a variety of courses ranging in length from one to four years at both the under-graduate and the post-graduate level. College programs provide courses in agriculture, applied science, art and design, building, surveying, architecture, commercial and business studies, engineering and technology, liberal studies, music, para-medical studies and teacher education. Teacher education constitutes the largest single field of study in the advanced education sector. Approximately 42 per cent of all students enrolled in colleges in 1974 were pursuing courses in teacher education. The next largest groupings are commercial and business studies (20 per cent) and engineering and technology ( 10 per cent). Although by 1978 the proportion of students enrolled in teacher education is expected to fall to 39 per cent the Commission considers this area of study will remain one of major significance to advanced education.
In considering the capital requirements of colleges of advanced education the Commission has taken into consideration each institution’s present stage of development, its capital program for the 1973-75 triennium and its projected pattern of growth. The amounts recommended follow an evaluation of each college’s needs. They are expressed in cost levels as for the December quarter of 1974 but are subject to cost supplementation from that date. That is to say, adjustments will be provided thus enabling colleges to complete their approved programs despite fluctuations in costs.
Among the projected developments for the 1976-78 triennium the Commission has supported the establishment of a new college in Queensland, the Gold Coast College of Advanced Education. Construction will commence in the 1976-78 triennium with anticipated initial enrolments occurring during the 1979-81 triennium.
In Western Australia the Commission has recommended support for plans to develop a multi-vocational college in the Cockburn area incorporating courses at present conducted by the Graylands Teachers College.
In New South Wales it is intended that a redevelopment program stemming from decisions taken in the 1973-75 triennium to relocate existing colleges in new buildings will be continued. The new Sydney College of the Arts is one such institution now located in temporary accommodation.
The Commission has framed its capital recommendations for the institutions in Bendigo and Ballarat in accordance with the Victorian Government’s decision that in each city the two existing colleges be merged to form a single institution. This decision follows on that Government’s plans for the location of a university in Geelong which will become responsible for the tertiary education activities of the Gordon Institute of Technology and the State College of Victoria, Geelong, from the beginning of 1979.
Thus for the coming triennium the Commission envisages a period of rationalisation and in some cases sharing of facilities to obtain maximum benefits without detriment to the total provision of tertiary education. The Commission has, as in previous triennia, paid particular attention to the needs of students in country areas. Thus colleges which serve a particular region, and where they may represent the only tertiary institution within a wide radius, are encouraged to develop a variety of programs in response to the wideranging needs of the regional community. Similarly for colleges in country areas the need for student residential accommodation has been recognised.
In addition to making recommendations for the capital and recurrent programs of individual colleges the Commission has made several other recommendations. These include $4.0m for the construction of various types of student residences in all States, in addition to sums provided for this purpose in the capital programs of regional colleges; $6.3m to enable college staff to take special leave in order that they may acquire further qualifications which will assist them in their teaching role; and $5.3m to enable colleges to plan and develop community education activities. These latter programs would enable colleges to meet a known community need for continuing education in fields where the college s existing expertise can be made available. This recommendation therefore represents a new direction in the Commission’s thinking about programs for colleges as such programs were not previously supported by Australian Government funds. The Commission has also taken a new direction in its recommendations for research projects. Given the increased availability of funds from other sources for educational research the Commission has not, as previously, proposed that special funds be allocated for this purpose. Rather, it is proposed that a sum be provided to enable the Commission to initiate special investigations into issues of major importance in the advanced education sector.
The Commission has made its recommendations after consideration of submissions from each college and after it received recommendations from, and had discussions with, the State co-ordinating authorities in advanced education. In addition, the Commission was able to visit colleges throughout Australia to discuss with college councils, students and staff their individual submissions and plans.
To conclude: the Fourth Report of the Commission on Advanced Education affirms its belief that colleges of advanced education have made and should continue to make a significant contribution to the broadening of educational opportunities for Australians. While framing its recommendations against the background of the need to rationalise resources, the Commission has also supported the diversification that has taken place in the advanced education sector. Recent developments have included courses in such areas as nurse education, welfare studies, urban studies and recreation leadership. All of these programs and others have been supported by the Commission. in response to community pressures and to meet gaps in manpower requirements. The main thrust of the colleges has been towards providing the community with graduates with a first qualification which will equip them to enter particular vocations- The Commission has consistently supported the view that colleges should be strongly vocational in orientation and in its Fourth Report reaffirms its belief that this is where the colleges’ principal role must lie. It considers that this need not lead to any undue conformity among colleges nor overlap with other groups of institutions provided colleges’ responses to changing social demands remain flexible and imaginative.
A list summarising the Report’s recommendations- is attached.
The recommendations of the Report will be carefully considered by the Government, which will announce its decisions in the context of the Budget discussions.
SUMMARY OF FINANCIAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR 1976-78
That the Government support a recurrent program of $258,0 1 2,000 for New South Wales as shown in Table 2. 1 (Recommendation No. 1)
That the Government support a capital program of $ 1 53,766,000 for New South Wales as detailed in Table 2.3 ( Recommendation No. 2)
That the Government support a recurrent program of $396,822,000 for Victoria as shown in Tables 3.1(a) and 3.1(b) (Recommendation No. 3)
That the Government support a capital program of $216,508,000 for Victoria as detailed in Tables 3.3(a) and 3.3(b) ( Recommendation No. 4)
That the Government support a recurrent program of $ 1 43,9 1 2,000 for Queensland as shown in Table 4. 1 (Recommendation No. 5)
That the Government support a capital program of $87,204,000 for Queensland as detailed in Table 4.3 ( Recommendation No. 6)
That the Government support a recurrent program of $ 1 0 1 ,490,000 for South Australia as shown in Table 5.1 ( Recommendation No. 7)
That the Government support a capital program of $50,364,000 for South Australia as detailed in Table 5.3 ( Recommendation No. 8)
That the Government support a recurrent program of $ 1 1 5,567,000 for Western Australia as shown in Table 6. 1 ( Recommendation No. 9)
That the Government support a capital program of $46,278,000 for Western Australia as detailed in Table 6.3 (Recommendation No. 10)
That the Government support a recurrent program of $22,853,000 for Tasmania as shown in Table 7. 1 ( Recommendation No. 1 1 )
That the Government support a capital program of $ 10,094,000 for Tasmania as detailed in Table 7.3 (Recommendation No. 12)
That the Government support a recurrent program of $33,958,000 for the Australian Capital Territory as shown in Table 8.1 ( Recommendation No. 13)
That the Government support a capital program of $15,563,000 for the Australian Capital Territory as detailed in Table 8,2 (Recommendation No. 14)
That the Government make available a sum of $6,354,000 in the 1976-78 triennium only, to enable colleges to provide special leave for academic staff development. ( Recommendation No. 1 5 ) Paragraph 2.16
That the Government make available a sum of $5,364,000 to assist colleges to plan and develop community education activities. (Recommendation No. 16) Paragraph 3.20
That the Government make available a sum of $250,000 to enable the Commission to fund special investigations of major significance in the field of advanced education. (Recommendation No. 1 7) Paragraph 3.35
That the Government make available a sum of $4,000,000 to provide up to $6,000 in respect of the cost of each student place to be provided in student residences or affiliated colleges where at least 25 per cent of the total cost of construction will be borrowed by, or donated to, the college of advanced education or affiliated residential college concerned. (Recommendation No. 18) Paragraph 5.29
That the Government provide, for approved student residences and affiliated residential colleges of a collegiate nature, recurrent financial assistance as follows:
That the Government make available a sum of $11,016,000 to meet, on the basis of an annual grant of $66,000 plus $26.50 per equivalent student place, the operating costs of the State coordinating authorities in advanced education. (Recommendation No. 20) Paragraph 6.48
– For the information of honourable senators I present the recommendation by the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Arrangements in relation to matters in dispute in connection with the 1972-73 Enquiry into Pharmacy Earnings, Costs and Profits. Due to the limited number available at this time a copy of this paper has been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
-In the absence of the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Everett, I seek leave to move a motion to extend the time for the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to report to the Senate on the clauses of the National Compensation Bill 1974.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
I move that motion on behalf of the Committee, and I shall speak to it very briefly. In response to advertisments inserted by the Committee on 1 1 June 1975, some 85 submissions have been received. The Committee has held a total of 2 1 public meetings in Canberra and in each State capital city, at which it has heard evidence from 43 individuals and organisations. Most of the public meetings were held outside Canberra. Five were held in each of Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, one meeting was held in each of Hobart, Adelaide and Brisbane, and 2 meetings were held in Perth. In addition to the public meetings, the Committee has held four in camera meetings and 21 private meetings on the reference. Following the public meetings and at the request of the Committee, 23 organisations provided supplementary material to the Committee.
Mr President, those figures which I have just given indicate how occupied the Committee has been on this most difficult report, and it is on the basis of that and other commitments of members of the Senate that the extension of time to 2 1 July is sought.
-Is the motion seconded? Senator Douglas McClelland- I will second it. Question resolved in the affirmative.
1 ) That there be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence the following matter for urgent examination:
-Is the motion seconded? Senator Marriott- I second the motion. Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received a letter from Senator Withers nominating Senator Davidson to be a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in place of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson who has resigned.
– I move:
I thank the Senate for the opportunity to move this motion. It arises from the fact that following an approach by representatives of the Academy of Science I moved some days ago for the disallowance of the variation of the plan of layout of the city of Canberra which approved the Molonglo arterial road. I moved for that disallowance so that representatives of the Academy of Science would be able further to put forward the point that the traffic which would flow from the arterial road from the off-take point would affect the environment of the Academy. The Academy representatives told me that until the day before I moved for the disallowance they had been under the impression that the western distributor which would subsequently be built from the off-take point would go underground and therefore there would be minimal disturbance to the environment in the vicinity of the Academy of Science. They were disturbed to find that no such final plan had been made and there was every possibility that the distributor might be above the ground, in which case the environment of the Academy would be very seriously disturbed. I therefore moved for the disallowance and advised the representatives of the Academy to see their local members and the responsible Minister, if possible. This they did and I understand that the President of the Academy was received in a deputation by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and also that a fairly wide range of individuals involved in the planning of the arterial road have been subsequently interviewed and seen by representatives of the Academy of Science. The problem is the location of the off-take from the arterial road which will then govern the location of the distributor road at a later date.
I hope that the planners will take note of the fears of the representatives of the Academy. Possibly it would have been more satisfactory if the variation could have been amended to accept the approval of the off-take rather than simply to move a request as is being made now in respect of the variation. However it is not possible to move an amendment to meet the situation and therefore a request has been made. I appreciate the attitude of the Acting Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, Senator Marriott, who was good enough also to see the representatives of the Academy of Science. What has now been suggested in the amendment I moved is that the “Minister for Urban and Regional Development be requested to initiate a review of the off-take from the arterial road. I believe the acceptance of this motion will give some backing for such a review. Even if it does not do so in a legal sense, at least the passage of this motion would emphasise the concern of the representatives of the Academy of Science, which after all was there before the arterial road was planned.
I think it is right for the Academy to believe that it represents a very prominent facility in Canberra and one which is much admired. Everyone would be disappointed if the amenity of the Academy was greatly disturbed as its representatives believe it might be. If the Senate feels strongly enough about the Academy to approve the motion I have moved it can know that this decision cannot legally hold up the construction of the roadworks and that the Academy is not being given some undue position of influence but is at least receiving official recognition of the problems which face it. The Academy would be in the enhanced position of knowing that at least its beliefs were being recognised while it continued its negotiations. I again thank the Acting Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee for receiving the representatives of the Academy. I want to stress that my role in this matter has been simply to give the Academy of Science a breathing space and time to make representations to the authorities about the new points of planning which it discovered so late in the day.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
-On behalf of the Government, and speaking also in my capacity as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I wish to indicate that the motion is acceptable to the Government. This position has been reached after discussions over the past day or so. The motion was designed as a consequence of discussions which ensued between me and Senator Marriott, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Committee and presently the Acting Chairman in the absence of the Chairman, Senator Milliner. Those talks arose following discussions with a delegation from the Academy of Science yesterday morning, and later with Senator Hall who moved the original motion for disallowance. That motion was amended, with the concurrence of the Senate, late yesterday to the form in which it is now before the Senate.
It is important that I take this opportunity to indicate to the Senate that the proposed Molonglo Parkway received the closest scrutiny of the Committee- I emphasise this- over the past several months. The decision to approve the project was reached after submissions from a number of interested groups had been. considered very carefully. The Committee made a site inspection of the whole proposal and subsequent suggestions for modification of the plan to ensure the adequacy of the regatta ground at West Basin were embraced within the final concept detailed in the report to the Parliament which I mentioned earlier and which I think Senator Hall mentioned. That report was presented to the Senate by Senator Milliner on 14 May 1975.
The Committee was unanimous in its belief that there should be a minimum of delay in approving this project so that the works could be commenced at an early date. That is the basis of the compromise motion which we have before us today, the amendment of the original motion moved by Senator Hall.
That covers the first paragraph of the motion. Secondly, arising from the discussions with the representatives from the Academy of Science yesterday and accepting that there were circumstances giving rise to their apprehensions which were not earlier known to the Committee because of a misunderstanding about the progress of initiatives which that body had taken in another direction some time ago, I believe it would be reasonable to accept and support the second part of the motion, the intention of which, of course, is to review the location of the off-take point for the Western Distributor which is part of the total complex to ensure, if possible, the preservation of the environmental amenity of the area.
I assure the Senate that the Committee has been mindful throughout the whole of its deliberations of the need to achieve this desirable object if humanly possible, and welcomes the prospect of some further study being given to it while not delaying the commencement of the principal works. That point, that the works must go on, has been acknowledged by Senator Hall. If there is some reasonable prospect of making some alteration to the plan to preserve the amenity of the area we can perhaps reach that happy state later on. What we have now achieved is a sensible, reasonable and, I trust, acceptable solution of a quite complex matter. A great deal of credit for this must go to our Chairman, Senator Milliner, working in the closest consultation with offices of the National Capital Development Commission and others, and of course the staff of this Committee. Latterly the matter has been in the very capable hands of the Committee’s
Deputy Chairman, Senator Marriott, the former Chairman of this Committee, for whose efforts to bring the matter to this point I believe the Senate is indebted. I trust that Senator Marriott will be in a position to indicate his Party’s attitude to this motion and perhaps its acceptance by his Party which would bring about, I think, a reasonable solution of the whole proposal. I commend the proposition to the Senate.
– I speak in 2 capacities, firstly, representing the Opposition viewpoint and also, as Senator Devitt has been kind enough to mention, as Acting Chairman of the Committee. I have been deeply involved with the officials of the Academy of Science and Senator Steele Hall in trying to get the best of all worlds for everybody, particularly the people of the Australian Capital Territory who will be travelling between the suburbs of Belconnen and Tuggeranong. The Opposition supports Senator Hall’s amended motion. As Acting Chairman of the Committee I feel that in the terms of the motion the Committee’s wishes have been fulfilled. Also it will give the people from the Academy of Science an opportunity to have further discussions with both the National Capital Development Commission and with the Department of Urban and Regional Development.
Briefly I want to put into the record, so that people will not feel that this is something that has been discussed and completed over a short period, that the Molonglo Parkway was first envisaged as a 6-lane roadway but after environmentalists and others complained, meetings were held and the NCDC proposed the Molonglo Arterial, a 4-lane roadway with an off-take to bring traffic on to the planned Western Distributor. If the off-take proposal is not accepted by the passing of this motion work cannot commence. Every delay these days means not only added cost but also traffic problems. These problems are developing in the area which this arterial road will serve. I believe that work can start in the very near future. The whole matter has been an exercise in democracy. A variation motion was put down and in each House the 6 days had almost elapsed in which action could be taken to disapprove of the proposal. That action was taken by Senator Steele Hall. There have been a lot of conferences, ideas and thoughts put into the final solution. I earnestly ask the Senate to carry this motion because it means a lot to the Australian Capital Territory. It gives those who still have some worries time for further negotiations.
– I know you have had some discussions with the National Capital Development Commission about this matter. In your capacity as Acting Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory is it possible to indicate whether any arrangements or agreements have been reached which will meet the requirements of the NCDC in this matter?
– No, all I can say is that the National Capital Development Commission is completely happy with the amended motion moved by Senator Steele Hall. It is quite prepared to have further discussions in relation to the final route of the western distributor and also about the deploying of traffic once the arterial road is carrying traffic and before the western distributor is constructed. For anyone who has fears about the western distributor I add that when the National Capital Development Commission comes forward with plans for that road those plans must come before the Australian Capital Territory Committee. Our report and recommendations must come before the Senate. The same sort of debate could be taking place in this chamber in 6 months time. I support the motion without any reservation.
– in reply- I thank Senator Marriott and Senator Devitt for their remarks. This is an excellent example of how subordinate legislation can work effectively. The project will not be held up and yet those who feel that they have a problem in relation to a specific part of these works now know that they have at least some recognition of their problem and that further talks will be arranged on their behalf. Privately, I hope that the off-take can be reorganised to suit the Australian Academy of Science. If this cannot be done at least we know that the Academy will be properly heard. I reiterate my private hope that the matter can be adjusted to suit the environment. I certainly thank the Senate. In no way do I pretend to be an expert as are the 2 members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory who have spoken on this matter. Mine was simply a holding role to enable further debate. I thank honourable senators for their remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 23 April on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We are dealing with the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1974 [No. 2] (1975) which is a Bill to amend some areas of the Broadcasting and Television Act, plus 2 other consequential Bills, the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Bill 1974 [No. 2] (1975) and the Television Stations Licence Fees Bill 1974 [No. 2] (1975). Both of these Bills depend upon the outcome of the major Bill which is the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2). Bills identical to these were introduced in November 1974 and were debated in the Senate in March this year. It is interesting to note the way in which these Bills have been introduced into the Parliament. Until last Thursday Senator Douglas McClelland was the Minister for the Media and the Minister in charge of these Bills. Although the Minister responsible for these Bills was a member of the Senate they were not introduced in the Senate. They came from the House of Representatives to the Senate. They have again taken that course. There is no doubt about the reason for this operation by the Government, that is, if these Bills are rejected a second time they can become part of the machinery for another double dissolution. I say to the Government: We in the Opposition will accept our political responsibilities. No matter what tactics or political threats the Government might try to use, we in the Opposition will not waver from what we consider to be a responsible attitude to legislation that is brought into this chamber.
The major Bill concerned in this cognate debate is the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1974 [No. 2] (1975). When it was introduced in the House of Representatives Mr Killen, our spokesman in the other place, endeavoured to move many amendments, all of which were opposed by the Government. But in the House of Representatives the Government saw fit to agree with one suggestion that was put forward by the Opposition with regard to the minimum period for renewal of licences for 3 months, which period the Government increased to 6 months. As a result of the discussions that took place the Government saw fit to incorporate certain amendments in the legislation before it came to the Senate. The former Minister for the Media has mentioned that in his second reading speech.
A great deal of time elapsed between the time the Bill was first introduced in the Senate and when it was finally debated in March of this year.
As background to this matter I should now point out to the Senate that Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, who was then the shadow Minister for the Media and had responsibility for discussion of the legislation in this place on behalf of the Opposition, had many discussions with the former Minister for the Media and the Government regarding certain of our proposed amendments. But the Government was not prepared to accept any of our amendments and subsequently the Bill was defeated in the Senate. As stated by the former Minister for the Media in his second reading speech, the Bill has been returned to this place in the same form in which it was previously introduced. As I understand the matter, the Government still has the same attitude to the legislation. I inform the Senate and the Minister in charge of this Bill that we in the Opposition still adopt our previous stand which is that we are opposed to this Bill as presented to the Senate. We will be opposing the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
There are many reasons why we oppose this Bill. Perhaps I should qualify all of them by saying that freedom of speech has always been regarded as precious in this country. I hope it always will be because it is an essential part of our democratic way of life which we in the Opposition will not see eroded in any form. Freedom of expression goes further than just the individual. It also concerns the media- the Press, television and radio. Within certain guidelines that can be laid down we must have protection of the right to freedom of expression for individuals and for the various sections of the media. It is necessary that we should have guidelines to protect the rights of individuals and also guidelines to protect the rights of the various sections of the media. Those guidelines should not be so narrow, restrictive or repressive that they interfere in any way with the freedom of the Press or, more importantly, allow areas for government interference. This Bill does not provide any of these guidelines. In fact it has many dangers and in some areas could bring about completely their reverse. I refer the Senate to page 1823 of the Senate Hansard of 27 May when Senator Douglas McClelland, then Minister for the Media, in answer to a question referred to the Broadcasting and Television Act in the following terms:
Last November the Government sought to amend the law to give the Government some say in programming arrangements -
I want to emphasise the words ‘to give the Government some say in programming arrangements’- but unfortunately the Senate rejected that legislation. Since then the legislation has been re-presented to the House of Representatives, has passed that House, has been reintroduced into this chamber and is awaiting debate here. Until that legislation is passed program standards remain completely the responsibility of the Broadcasting Control Board.
I am not questioning the integrity of the previous Minister for the Media. I have worked with Senator Douglas McClelland for a long time and not for one minute do I cast any doubts upon his principles or integrity, but Ministers do change, though I am not now casting any aspersions on the present Minister. There is always a danger with any legislation if we place too much reliance on the individual in charge of the Act, so legislation must be framed in such a way that we can make sure that even if it is taken to extremes there will be protection and that the aims of legislation will be confined within that legislation and cannot be stretched to extremes where eventually the legislation can do what it was originally stated it would not be doing. The Minister himself implied that the Government was interested in having some control over certain areas of the media. The Government, of course, talks about clarification of the Act and, as was said by a member of the Government Party in another place, the Government wants to obtain 2 new powers which the general public thought that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had.
This Bill does not stop there. It goes far beyond that and I think Senator Guilfoyle put the matter very succinctly when she spoke to this Bill when it was previously before the Senate. Unfortunately I have not brought with me the speech that she made on that occasion but she said that what this proposed legislation was about was power; not just the general exercise of power but the application of excessive and extreme power. Basically one can say that this legislation is all about total power. To me that sums up the situation very clearly. I do not intend to go into the detail of all that was discussed last time when this Bill was before the chamber because Senator Guilfoyle dealt with many aspects of it on a clause by clause basis. I wish to generalise in certain areas and to refer particularly to clause 6 of this Bill which deals with section 16 of the old Act which affects a lot of the operations of the radio and television media.
In this clause we can see just how much intrusion there could be into the various activities of commercial radio and television and how their judgment and forward planning could be affected in such a way that as time went on the economic viability of commercial radio and television could without doubt be adversely affected. When all is said and done, we must be aware of the fact that managements of both radio and television stations have many responsibilities. They have a responsibility for the service that they are giving to the community, a responsibility to maintain standards within that service, and a responsibility to ensure that their stations are economically viable, otherwise they will go out of existence. A lot of experience is required as well as anticipation of program acceptance. Many judgments must be made on the type and quality of programming.
People in various areas of the media reach a high standard in an industry which is confronted with many risk factors. Within their areas of expertise they try to reach a balance in the overall application of programming and program standards. It does not take very much outside interference to upset that balance completely. If that balance is upset financial returns to radio and television stations can be greatly reduced, and this is turn can adversely affect their economic viability.
The Opposition agrees that high standards of programming must be maintained. This has been stated in previous debates in this place, and we still stand by it. However we do not agree that there should be excessive interference, or the possibility of excessive interference, from outside in the programming arrangements of commercial television and radio. I have received quite an amount of correspondence from people expressing concern that if this Bill is not carried children’s programs could be adversely affected. I have also had correspondence from people who say that children’s programs should be not heavy educational programs but of a light entertainment type because children need time to relax when they come home from school. I have discussed this subject with the commercial television people, who are genuinely concerned about this matter. They want to do all they can to present the type of children’s program that will give the greatest benefit to the young people, but there are problems involved in this.
What type of program should be provided for children? If television stations were to present a program which some children would refer to as being very stuffy children would not watch it. They would run out into the back yard to play. Some parents say that this is the best thing that children can do- go out of doors, exercise and get some fresh air. Other parents say: ‘Give them light entertainment’. This is the argument that goes on.
Whilst the Opposition and I fully support the Children’s Television Action Committee and the work it is doing, I can assure this chamber that the television industry itself is giving and has given a lot of thought to what can be done to present the best type of program. With the cooperation of people in the television industry and their acceptance of responsibility, and through constructive discussions and trial and error, I hope that one day we will reach a situation where most people- we will never please all people- will be happy with the type of children’s television programs that are presented. I know that people in the television industry are prepared to work towards this end. No doubt in future the Minister, I if I am still in my present position, and the commercial television industry will still receive letters from people who do not agree with the type of programs being presented. I say that in all fairness to the commercial television people who, as I say, are genuinely trying to do all they can to give the best type of program for the children, and this community.
Again I say that the Opposition accepts the authority of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board- or the Broadcasting Authority, as it is proposed to be renamed- as a regulatory body for the standards of both radio and television, but we do not accept the excessive control that is proposed in this legislation. There must be limitations. It is all very well to propose legislation to give control but there is not need to have legislation that goes further and threatens, through the provision of power such as that to be found in the legislation that we are now considering, to screw down commercial radio and television stations. As was pointed out in a previous debate, there are powers here that, if they were carried to the extreme, could virtually be a form of censorship.
I do not disagree with the view that when a person steps completely over the line there is a need, as happened recently, to have the type of program that person is presenting taken under control. But the Board has that power now. Why do we have to go further and really get into a situation in which there is a risk of abuse occurring? I am not going to say that the members of the Board would do this of their own volition. I am not going to say that the present Minister would want to see this being done. But one cannot always be sure about who will be the next Minister. Therefore I think that the legislation itself should be framed in such a way that abuses cannot occur through the use of excessive control or excessive power. Once again we can see the danger of such interference occurring in the nature and content of programs that they could be completely changed. As I said earlier today in this debate that could greatly affect the returns of the commercial television and radio stations and adversely affect their whole economy. So we must show caution as to how far we go regarding the intrusion of authority into the areas of programming.
Whilst I am dealing with the subject of programming standards let me point out that this Bill deals with legislation relating to the overall regulation and so on of the commercial sections of radio and television in Australia, but it does not provide in any way for any power with regard to the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission- not that I am being critical of that aspect. The Government is now attempting to bring about a clarification of the Act, a better interpretation of the Act, a whole revision of the Act. We agree with that, but we do not agree with the way in which the Government is going about doing that at the present time. We do agree that certain standards should be laid down in this country.
Having said that, I think that we should also look at what is happening in the radio world at the present time. I refer in particular to the reasonably new radio station in Sydney- 2JJ. Since it first went to air that station has caused a lot of concern to many people, not only because of the type of programs it has presented but also because of the type of discussion that has been held on it and the type of language that has been used. If any commercial station in Australia were to try to do half an hour of the programming that 2JJ has been doing I am certain that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as a responsible body, would have it on the mat. Yet this station has been allowed to go on.
I have discussed this matter previously, not with the Minister but in other areas. It was to be the station that would enable free expression by young people. It was thought that eventually 2JJ would tone down its programs and reach a balance at which perhaps there would not be the extremes and excesses of language in the very crude forms of discussion, but it has gone on in that way. 1 am just wondering why the people involved in 2JJ in Sydney have not been brought into line. The reports about a certain rock show that was held during the weekend before last worried and frightened many people and disgusted many people. This show was sponsored by people working for 2JJ. I want to qualify my remarks by saying that I have no objection to the type of station that 2JJ was set up to be. However, I take strong exception to certain people who were given freedom of expression which they are abusing at the present time.
If commercial radio and television stations are to have standards placed upon them- and I agree that these standards should be set- I think it is time that someone had a jolly good look at 2JJ and imposed certain standards upon people who at the present time are abusing the opportunity that has been given to them as young people of this country to express themselves freely on the ether waves. These people must not forget that there are people besides their type of person who want to listen to radio stations of this type. I hope that something is done in this area because I respect both the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission as responsible bodies. I hope that the Commission will soon take steps to make some changes in the attitudes of certain people who are programming 2JJ at the present time. I do not suggest that the Commission should be excessively restrictive or take away the type of programming that was initially intended. But if abuses are occurring, certain people must be brought into line, as would and does happen in the commercial section of the media today.
I wish to turn to another area that is very important to commercial radio and television, namely, advertising. Advertising, of course, is the lifeblood of commercial radio and television. Whilst standards must be applied to advertising -again I emphasise that- excessive interference in this area can greatly and adversely affect the economic viability of these commercial sections of the media. I understand that there were proposals afoot- and the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland) can correct me if I am wrong- to introduce a system of block advertising. It was proposed that instead of advertisements being spread over the hour as is the case at the present time, they would be grouped together in a solid block and shown on the hour. This would be one of the greatest things that one could ever wish to introduce to kill commercial television. I know that many people think it would be a jolly good idea because advertisements would not be shown at a time when a film had reached an interesting point. But as I have said- and I want to emphasise this strongly- advertising is the lifeblood of commercial radio and television. I can see what would happen if commercial stations were forced to group all their advertisements into one solid block to be shown on the hour. People would use the time in which the advertisements were shown to make a cup of tea, to make a phone call or something of this nature. Such an arrangement would greatly affect the revenue received from advertising and in turn would affect the incomes of television stations.
I think the introduction of such a system would be a very adverse step. I would like to see it proven to me that it would be of benefit to the commercial television stations. I can see such a step achieving one thing only, and that is completely the reverse of what is intended. Anything that is done to interfere with or upset the general revenue earning capacity and the economic viability of commercial radio and televisionparticularly commercial television- at the present time will be a detrimental step. Unless these companies can at least break even- and they need more than a break even point- they will not be able to maintain their standards of programs because they will not be able to afford to do so. It is all very well to say at the present time that some commercial radio and television stations are doing extremely well. There are some that may be doing reasonably well, but the radio and television industry today, like most industry in Australia, is really feeling the crunch. I do not think we can afford to try to take excessive action that in any way will affect the television industry. If there is excessive interference in these areas by the introduction of measures that will in any way increase the cost structures within the industry it will reduce incomes. The result will be that we will finish up with a greatly reduced television service and a greatly reduced standard of programs from those television companies that might survive. I do not say that lightly.
We are all aware that many industries in this country today are particularly concerned about their economic viability and just what the future holds for them. The television industry is not singularly peculiar in that regard, but it is a very sensitive industry which is dependent so much upon its market. The market of the television industry is found in the lounge rooms and the other rooms in people’s homes. Most people watching television can change their market very easily. All they have to do is turn a knob and the people in the commercial television industry are very aware of that. They are very conscious of the fact that if they do not act responsibly and if they do not present the type of program that will appeal to people, then they will be the ones who suffer initially. In the longer term, of course, the people of this country will also suffer because they will not have the spread of television coverage that they have at the present time.
That brings me to my next point which is concerned with Australian content. I want to make clear that we in the Opposition support the principle of Australian content. However, I do question the suggested 75 per cent Australian content. I know that the Minister has clarified this point by saying that the Government does not aim to achieve 75 per cent Australian content or local content in one year but that it should be a target. It is all right to have that target. I do not disagree with 75 per cent as a target, but one thing I want to emphasise is that we should hasten cautiously, not necessarily slowly, towards that target because unless we maintain standards and present quality in that Australian content the market, the people of this country, will not readily accept it. We have to look to the cost structure involved in achieving that target. I hope that constructive discussions can be held between the Minister and the departments in relation to many aspects related to Australian content to ascertain the best way in which to approach the problem. I regard it as a problem because costs today are extremely high and, whilst the commercial television industry is prepared to accept Australian content, it is concerned about how much it can afford if the excessive cost situation which we have had in the past continues in the future.
I repeat that I hope that when looking at this system we are conscious of the fact that quality must play a very important part in the production and in the final presentation of Australian content on television. I look forward to the day when Australian content in television programs is greatly increased, because I am a firm believer in the principle that if things can be done locally they should be done locally so that local resources are used. I think that is good for the country and good for the viewers. At the same time, I also say that we must have some overseas content to keep a balance and to have some idea of what is going on in other countries. I would hope that in the future programs with Australian content will go to other countries.
That brings me to another aspect- the points system. I urge the new Minister for the Media, Dr Cass, through the previous Minister, to have a good look at the points system. I suggest that it should be both reviewed and revised. I go further and say that it also should be related to costs. I feel sure that the points system in itself could help and encourage Australian content in the programs which are shown on television if they are applied in the right way. This has not been so to the present time. The points system has been introduced and it is only by experience that we learn, but already it is showing up very clearly that there should be a revision of the whole structure and of the priorities within the points system. A further endeavour should be made to relate it to realistic costs. When that is done we will start to see greater benefit from our points system. ,
One could talk about the many areas covered by these Bills. I simply say in conclusion that we in the Opposition will oppose the second reading of these Bills. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Media to take away this Bill, review and revise the Act and then bring back properly drafted Bills for the Senate to consider.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Young in regard to the Broadcasting and Television Bills which are before the Senate. As he has stated, these Bills have previously been debated and defeated. The honourable senator recommended in bis closing remarks that the Act should be redrawn or redrafted so that it is intelligible for those people who need to work within its framework. I think it has been stated before that the licensees of broadcasting and television stations need to work within the framework of an Act which states variously regulations, rules, determinations, orders, directions and conditions. To be providing through these amendments the unfettered power for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to use these regulations seems to us to place in an intolerable situation those people who have been granted licences to operate broadcasting and television stations in this country. When the Minister originally introduced these Bills last year he stated:
These intentions have been the subject of some misunderstanding, to say the least, in recent weeks. The Government, by this legislation, basically is seeking to remove any legal doubt about whether or not the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has power to carry out its functions and to exercise its powers under the existing Act.
Later in his speech he stated:
Unfortunately, however, the advice tendered to the Government, and also tendered to the previous Government, is that the instrument by which this regulatory process was initiated- that is, the Broadcasting and Television Actcontains several defects of major significance. The major purpose of this legislation is simply to remedy these defects.
We would have no argument with remedying the defects which we believe exist in regard to the clarity of the Act. But to suggest that the amendments which have been introduced do no more than remedy the defects is to overlook the very wide and unlimited powers which the amendment would give to the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board. Senator Young mentioned several aspects of broadcasting and television as they are of interest to us at the present time. He has mentioned the matter of Australian content. We are aware of the Government’s policy with regard to an objective of 75 per cent Australian content for television programs. We would have to caution the Government on several matters with regard to that objective. If we wish to see diversity and quality in Australian programs, to suggest that 75 per cent of them need to be Australian productions places very severe limitations on what can be approved as a diversified program in quality television. We put the suggestion that if this 75 per cent Australian content were to be related to expenditure on programming, it is fair to say that the television stations in this country have already achieved that level. It ought to be brought to the attention of everyone that productions made in Australia are very costly. The amount of television programming that has Australian content would account for a very high proportion of the total expenditure. We believe that it is a fallacy to talk of a 75 per cent Australian content in time, instead of in expenditure.
Children’s programming has also been suggested as one reason why we need these amendments. Senator Young has referred to our attitude with regard to children’s programming. The Opposition has a very sincere interest in improving the quality of children’s programming in this country. To suggest that the amendments affecting the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as we see them before us at the present time, are the only way in which this can be achieved is again to overlook the requirements of quality children ‘s programming and many other things that need to be taken into consideration if this is to be achieved. We would like to see the formation of a children’s film foundation in this country so that we could be producing quality films. We would like to see a real objective in using television as a medium to entertain and educate children and to make them part of a culturally aware community. These are things that are important to us. We do not overlook them as being required in television at this time but we do not regard the amendments which have been related to this aspect or this problem as being the only way in which this can be achieved.
I want to say something that I think is perhaps far more important than any of the other things about which we have been talking. I refer to the news content of television and radio broadcasts. Management of the news undoubtedly could be undertaken through the amendments that have been introduced. During question time this morning Government Ministers queried whether things that were printed in the Press or items that were shown on television last night were authentic and whether they could be used as the basis for questions to government. I suggest to members of the Government that in any healthy society the daily Press and the radio and television are the watchdogs over government. They relate very much to the people and to the Parliament. It is only through open access to the Press that we have the opportunity to question the Government and the Executive. Any suggestion that management of the news can be undertaken through the amendments which have been introduced, we believe, is something which would be resisted by the Australian people.
If these Bills are to be used as the basis for a double disssolution we would welcome it on the basis of the simple and easily understood attitude to the freedom of the Press in a democratic society. We say this because to suggest that there can be editorial freedom without economic freedom is to be totally unrealistic. All the statements of government in the past have been related to control of the outlet of television and radio, control that can be exercised through programming with regard to Australian content, for instance, or programming which would perhaps require a station to have a particular news session- all the things that infringe editorial freedom as it would need to be managed and sifted through those people who are presenting the daily news to the people of Australia.
These are things that we regard as absolutely fundamental in this society and we do not for one moment suggest that freedom of the Press can be taken for granted because we have seen too often ways in which it can be jeopardised. We need look no further than the Bill which was brought into the United Kingdom Parliament with regard to a closed shop for people who were employed in the newspaper industry. The closed shop requirements of the Bill would have meant that an editor was not able to make a contribution to the newspaper and that private contributors would not be able to have their words printed in the newspaper. These are things that sometimes are taken for granted but which, through legislation introduced by socialist or Labor Party governments, can impinge very much on a freedom that has been exercised in the past and should continue into the future.
We have seen on the part of the Government an unprecedented interest in the issuing of licences. The Government has a policy on frequency modulation radio which provides that no commercial interests are to be granted a licence in this technology which is not new but is now available to us. To suggest that no commercial interest would be able to develop that new form of technological advance in radio is to suggest that large numbers of Australian people are not to have sound of this quality as soon as they otherwise would. If we are talking about the economic circumstances of Australia at present I believe that we should not be expecting that large sums of public expenditure could be placed further to develop radio and television access through, for instance, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. For FM radio not to be available to commercial interests and for them to compete for licences with other interests, such as public broadcasters and educational groups which may wish to have this style of licence, is to say that it will be a long time before the people of Australia have access to FM radio sound. I believe this again is an intrusion through government policy into what ought to belong to the Australian people and what should be competed for in the form of licences.
This brings me to the amendment in the present Bill with regard to the duration of licences and the 6 months’ period which has been inserted as the minimum period for which a licence may be granted. This again is a totally unrealistic approach to the granting of a licence commercially to an interest that needs to undertake a great deal of capital investment and needs to have forward planning for a lengthy time if it is to achieve what is required by a licence holder. One need go no further than the requirement of 75 per cent Australian content, the production of programs that would need to be undertaken, the planning, and the equipment that would need to be purchased, to understand that no company could engage in lengthy planning of that type if it had security of no more than 6 months for the licence which it held. We could ask the Government whether it would suggest that the Australian Broadcasting Commission could program on a 6-monthly basis or whether it could budget on a 6-monthly basis. It is only fair to say that it has not been required to do this. Neither would it be suggested that it is realistic to expect that a 6-month period of planning or budgeting could be undertaken for this sort of commercial activity.
I want to refer again to the interest by government in the granting of radio licences and to the matter which I feel should be ventilated as we are talking about Licences granted for radio- that is, the licences which have recently been granted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act instead of in the normal way through the recommendations of the Broadcasting Control Board to the Minister. We have seen licences styled as ethnic licences granted, firstly, to Mr Grassby, the Government’s Special Consultant on Community Relations, and then on the force of some recommendations that were made, now approved, to committees which will operate them. I asked questions as to why these were granted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act and not in the normal way of calling for licence applications and having the public hearings that usually accompany the calling for any radio licence application. I believe that in using the Wireless Telegraphy Act in this way the Government has made it impossible for other interests who may have wished to compete for licences to have had the advantages of the Broadcasting and Television Act which is being upheld at the present time and which the Government says needs to be clarified.
These are a whole lot of issues that we feel are important when we are discussing broadcasting and television in this country. It is fair to say that in recent months or in the past 2 years there has not been any great development in commercial undertaking in radio and television. There has been accent on developments through the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the other licences which I have mentioned, and there is now a new development of public broadcasting which is having a somewhat shaky start. I think that these things need to be put into perspective when we are talking about a new Bill, new amendments and the Government’s contention that it needs these amendents so that the Broadcasting Control Board can, in the terms of the Government, achieve greater Australian content and a better quality of children’s programs. These are almost unrelated to the whole aspect of broadcasting and television developments that we have seen in the past 2 years. I think that it would be more accurate if the Government were to say that these amendments would give control to a Government appointed authority of every decision that needed to be taken by a commercial broadcaster or a television station.
– in reply- This is the second time that this legislation has been debated in this chamber. On the first occasion- last December- the legislation was defeated by the Opposition at the second reading stage. Therefore I do not intend to respond directly to the remarks made by Senator Young and Senator Guilfoyle on this occasion because they were adequately covered in my earlier response. I can only reiterate my convictiona conviction which I expressed in this chamber some 6 months age- that there is a growing need, on all the legal advice available to this Government and the legal advice that was tendered to the previous Government, to clarify the provisions of the existing Broadcasting and Television Act. There is a need to clarify the provisions so that the interests of the listening or viewing public can be protected adequately and effectively. I suggest that that is all we have attempted to do with this legislation.
As honourable senators are aware, I no longer speak on this matter directly as the Minister for the Media. Having been appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as Special Minister of State last Friday I now appear in this chamber as the representative in the Senate of the Minister for the Media. Notwithstanding that, I think it only fair to the officers of the Department of the Media and the statutory authorities for which Dr Cass is now responsible and for which I was responsible until last Friday that I refer to the achievements which have been recorded by the Department and the statutory authorities for which I was ministerially responsible over the last 2 1/2 years. Indeed, I suggest that these achievements have been considerable and they give the lie to those uninformed journalists and commentators who have asserted that nothing at all has been done.
The impartial observer need only take the example of what has happened to the broadcasting band in the last 30 months. We, the Australian Government, have completely opened it up. Whereas the previous Government adopted a strongly protectionist policy so far as the broadcasting band was concerned, thereby for 23 years locking in the protection of those who had been licensed to operate the nation’s airways, in 2Vi years the Labor Government has opened up the band completely. We have liberated it from the clutches of the vested interests and we can now point to a number of stations, some of which have been mentioned here today. For instance, we can now point to 2JJ in Sydney, the first new AM radio station established in Sydney for 30 years, and in 3ZZ in Melbourne we now have the first AM station established in Melbourne for 40 years. Despite what Senator Young has said, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has attracted by the use of 2JJ a host of young fans and, whether you like it or not, it has attracted large audiences. Also, whether the Government likes the programs or not, as a Government we have said categorically that we guarantee programming independence to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
That is one aspect of the broadcasting band. Let me mention some others. Fine music lovers were another group of people who battled vainly against previous Government apathy for more than 2 decades until the Labor Government came to office. Not only did we in 2Vi years introduce frequency modulation but also we provided, with 2MBS-FM in Sydney, the first nonprofit broadcasting licence to be issued in Australia. Melbourne will have a similar station shortly and I am advised that it will be experimenting this week. Despite anything that the Melbourne ‘Age’ has said claiming that they were stations agreed to by other people, the fact is that they were agreed to by the Labor Government on my recommendation as the Minister for the Media and on the recommendation of no one else.
The broadcasting story is not complete, of course, without reference to the additional commercial licences we have called for, notwithstanding the remarks of Senator Guilfoyle. For instance, additional commercial licences have been called for in Adelaide. The hearing has taken place and a recommendation is about to come from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in Melbourne. Licences have been called for in respect of the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, the north-western suburbs of Sydney and also the great city of Wollongong- licences that have been ignored for a period of at least 25 years. But now something new has been added in the commercial field in the shape of the restricted Licences that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is about to issue for Campbelltown in New South Wales and for the Melbourne metropolitan area- another form, I suggest, of community or public broadcasting.
A new commercial television service has been authorised for Geraldton in Western Australia and a recommendation is now to go before Dr Cass for a licence for the Renmark-Loxton area in South Australia. Another one is being considered for Mawson in Western Australia. In the last few days we have seen the fruits of another initiative. Let one consider the position of the new settlers in Australia over the last 30 years, the period which saw an influx of hundreds of thousands of people- indeed I think it fair to say millions- looking for a new life and new hope for their children, far from the anguish and tragedy which the Second World War brought to their homelands. Why was nothing done by the series of conservative governments that preceded the election of the Labor Government to provide radio services for these new citizens? Could it have been the same protectionist phobia which applied in the examples to which I alluded earlier? Now ethnic radio, although in the experimental form, is a fact. Two low powered experimental community radio licences have been issued to an ethnic community committee to provide ethnic group broadcasting. It is true that the stations are experimental, but at least they are a start. They are on the air and are being listened to. I suggest that it is deplorable that nothing was done until Labor came to power to cater for the needs of people who have done so much towards the vitalisation of our country and who have contributed so handsomely to the expansion of our national horizons.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has assumed some startling new boundaries in the field of production, and international recognition of that production has been won. In the 2 years that I was Minister for the Media I was able to have increased the operational expenditure of the ABC from $66m in 1972 to $98m last financial year. Capital expenditure increased from $4m to $ 14m. That is one very good reason why the ABC has been able to increase its .list of successful productions such as ‘Seven Little Australians ‘, ‘ Rush ‘, ‘ Marion ‘, ‘ Certain Women ‘-to name a few- all of which have been sold by Australia on the export market. I told the Senate 6 months ago that I felt the Whitlam Government had done more for the television industry, nationally and commercially, than any other government. I still stand by that statement. Since 1972 we have established nearly 40 ABC television services, including translators, throughout Australia. Many of them have provided for people in the most remote areas of Australia. There are many more of these services to come.
Other activities that were undertaken and pursued by my Department were the establishment of publications and inquiry centres- they are referred to now as Government bookshopswhich have been set up in every capital city. We have started to expand the system to regional areas such as Albury-Wodonga, thus building on outlets which will sell this financial year more than $2m worth of Australian Government publications. The centres also have handled more than 300 000 inquiries from members of the public. There have been other initiatives in other areas of the portfolio such as the selection of all Australian advertising agencies rather than foreign owned agencies for use by the Australian Government as plating-charging agencies on behalf of the Government. There has been a considered use of the transference of Australian
Government advertising from one form of media to another, bearing in mind the economics of the industry at the time and bearing in mind particularly the obligations of commercial broadcasting and television stations to abide by government requirements so far as Australian productions were concerned.
From the moment this Government turned its attention to the largely neglected area of television- I stress ‘neglected’ in the sense of the public interest- we have tried to balance the question of reasonable profitability on the part of the commercial operator with job opportunity for the worker and the rights of the viewer. That is one reason why we brought in the points system to replace the former arrangements of overall percentage of Australian programming. The new system had the dual effect of boosting employment prospects for Australians and export prospects for Australian productions as well as affording commercial stations flexibility in their choice of program schedules. It gave programmers their right of program selection under the Act, but at the same time imposed upon them a national obligation to encourage the development of creative and performing Australians.
We, as a Government, instituted and are continuing with the phasing out of cigarette and cigarette tobacco advertising on commercial radio and television. We have made it clear that we will not stand for excessive advertising over and above the standards imposed by the Control Board of any product in these 2 media. Of course it is basic to our policy that we foster the Australian product- a very good reason for imposing the 15 per cent Australian performed music quota in radio, a step which has meant a great deal to the local recording industry and to the people who write and record for the industry. There was no quota 2Vi years ago; now it is 15 per cent and on a gradual basis it is still on the increase. It is helping to develop an export market for our recording artists. As well as encouraging the growth of public and access programming, we have insisted on the political and programming independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission stations and the other stations.
There have been 2 major breakthroughs concerning films and information activities. Firstly I refer to the Austraiian Film Commission which we established through legislation earlier this year- something that took 2 years of hard work on the part of my former Department’s officersand also the Australian Government Liaison Service which now provides a weekly digest of
Government information to all media throughout Australia, especially those who cannot afford representation in Canberra. It also affords a weekly service to our Australian missions abroad. The Australian Information Service has been substantially developed and there are plans to extend this vital overseas chain of publicity offices for Australia.
As the Minister for the Media, I was often denigrated by some journalists who are members of the Association to which I was proud to belong- the Australian Journalists Associationparticularly some on the ‘Australian’ newspaper and on the Melbourne ‘Age’. I suppose some of the criticism was understandable from their point of view because they were obviously ignorant of all the facts. That does not excuse them from the charge however that they sought only one side of the facts before putting their pens to paper. One of them today used that oftused expression ‘freedom of the media’. Regrettably, against public interest, some of these people often interpret ‘freedom of the media’ to mean ‘unrestricted licence’. Unfortunately, most of the criticism has been lacking an evidentiary basis. Indeed, on a couple of occasions I was given legal advice that some of it could be defamatory and libellous. I was strongly urged to take legal action on one or two occasions. One such article was published as recently as last Monday. At times I was often tempted to do so, but I adopted the attitude that whilst my critics and my Department’s critics denigrated and perhaps vilified, there were more constructive things for us to be doing than to get down in the gutter with them. Indeed, had I cited one or two documents that came into my possession in the time that I was the Minister for the Media, I well could have destroyed the integrity of one of them in particular. But such a course of action would only have been destructive and I and my Department were not there to be destructionists; we were there to build, we had a job to do and we had to get on with it. We chose not to allow the unfair, vicious, false and at times lying propaganda to divert us from our tasks.
The information of the Department of the Media has created great controversy. I suggest that it has achieved much in its 2 1/2 years of existence in such a hostile environment. I suggest that we have been criticised by some proprietors on the one hand, who through fear or ignorance embarked on a course of frustrating our operations. On the other hand, we have been assailed by enthusiastic zealots who, not knowing or understanding some of the legal complexities involved or that were concerning us, wanted us to move too quickly. We certainly did not set ourselves up as the fount of all knowledge on all sections of the media. Merely as a Department, we set out to achieve an expert knowledge of all sections. If I may say so, I believe that one of the great weaknesses of the media industry today, in all its forms, is that apart from one or two individual exceptions there has been little, if any, attempt on the part of those who have criticised to obtain an expert and all-round knowledge of media affairs. It appears to me that our critics may have been experts on individual single media matters but quite ignorant over the multiplicity of the total areas involved. Few of them, if any, set out to identify what should be determined to be the objectives of a free and enlightened media, yet they deplored every effort that my Department made to achieve that ideal. The Department of the Media inaugurated the drive, but our critics refused to look at things across the board. They selected for criticism individual or single attempts at change and defined these individual changes as snide bids to deny them freedom.
The Labor Government, through the Department of the Media, really has attempted to come to grips with the great issues that are involved in media affairs today, and whilst there is a long way to go along that road, nonetheless over 216 years distances have been travelled and much has been done. I believe that the task will continue well. In the last week, after months of planning and detailed consideration, Cabinet submissions were prepared on a number of subjects, such as the institution in Australia of public broadcasting, the further extension of the national broadcasting and television services, the extension and updating of the Australian Information Service, and a great number of other matters. Those submissions will be able to be considered now by my colleague the Minister for the Media, Dr Cass, my successor in office. The submissions are now there for his consideration, approval or otherwise.
Finally, may I say that the officers of the Department of the Media and the statutory bodies for which I was ministerially responsible- the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Film Commission- exhibited to me the great qualities of loyalty and dedication, despite the vehement and frequent unjust and unfair criticism levelled at them. As the Australian Minister for the Media, 1 am proud to have been associated with them and with the services that they have given to Australia. I support the proposition that the Bill be read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time. The Senate divided (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 23 April on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I just wish to say that the Opposition adopts its previous stand as stated, that is we oppose both these Bills.
– The question is: That the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Bill 1974 [No. 2] ( 1975) be read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 23 April on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
- Mr President, earlier this morning you reported that you had received a message from Senator Withers advising of the appointment of Senator Davidson to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory to replace Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I seek leave of the Senate to move a motion arising from your report to the Senate.
– Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I move:
That Senator Davidson be appointed a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of the Senate I table the details of VIP travel in
Royal Australian Air Force aircraft for the period from 1 August 1974 to 24 March 1975.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 4 June on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the Tasmania Grant (Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd) Bill 1975. But it expresses itself more in sorrow than in anger because, like the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), when we first saw this proposal for overcoming the problem we thought that this was an untidy way of doing this sort of thing. We had a substantial quantity of regret in our minds that the country had got into such a mess that this sort of proposal had to be introduced to keep people who were in employment from experiencing disaster.
– It was the company that got into a mess.
-Senator Georges from the northern State of Queensland is making some observation I cannot hear. What we are really talking about here is a proposal by a fairly bad method, by grants under section 96 of the Constitution, to pay to Tasmania a sum of $650,000 to cover the interest on a sum of money for stock accumulation in the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd enterprise at Burnie in order that that stock can be financed and kept intact until it can be sold, so that the people in that factory in that city in Tasmania can be kept in employment and not be put off. As I said, this is a rather strange way of overcoming this problem.
In dealing with this matter the Minister referred to his concern that this proposal was a rather untidy way to operate in an emergency. As far as I can ascertain from reading through the second reading speech and the Bill, while the capital sum is identified there is no identification of the interest rate or the length of time this debt is to be financed. The stock may necessarily have to remain. This is quite clearly a section 96 grant to Tasmania to be made by the Commonwealth in order to finance the interest burden on a capital debt to cover the stock so involved. I think it would be useful for us to be told, if the Minister is able to tell us, whether there is any limit on time for the repayment of this debt or whether the interest rate might be regarded as a commercial rate, in excess of a commercial rate or possibly something better than a commercial rate. Really I think the measure is a method of covering the employment assistance to the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd in Tasmania. I suppose it might be argued by pragmatic purists that the people should be put out of work and on to some kind of unemployment relief scheme. The Opposition would not support such a view- no way. Although, as we have said, this is a difficult and untidy way of doing a particular job -
– Why do you not oppose the Bill?
– If the honourable senator would remain silent, which is not his usual practice, he would allow me to illuminate the scene slightly, which might help him as time goes on.
– I was just wondering. I am bewildered by your approach.
– I am saying that we do not oppose the measure. I do not want the honourable senator’s help. I do not need his contribution. His lack of knowledge dismays me. I am concerned about the people in employment who need to be kept in employment. Why are they in danger of not being able to be employed? I suggest it is because the present Government has demonstrated a fairly massive degree of incompetence in managing the Australian economy and its manufacturing scene. Manufacturing is a substantial factor in the Australian employment area; it employs 25 per cent of the Australian work force. It adds 33V5 per cent to the gross national product and exports about 20 per cent of its output. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd are an important integral pan of the Australian manufacturing scene. The whole manufacturing scene has been confused and concerned for quite a long time. It is important that this position be recovered in the best possible way. The Opposition undertook long ago to try to help and not to oppose constructive measures designed to improve the situation.
This measure is designed to protect employment. We do not oppose it but we are entitled to comment on how the situation came about. It is the view of the Opposition that if we in Australia want to protect employment and safeguard people from unemployment we have to lead in the direction of an Australian economic recovery. We believe that we have to lead in the direction of a reduction of inflation. If the Government does these things it will lead towards economic recovery, development and growth, inflation will be reduced and the unemployment problem will begin to diminish. That is the view which we have held for quite a long time, and we have expressed ourselves as having that view.
We have not seen the Government leading in this direction. We have seen from time to time a series of spasmodic exercises which we might call interesting operations, but the broad pattern of recovery is not yet available to us or to the Australian economy in general. It is not to be seen. We believe that it will be difficult to restore corporate profitability. We believe that it has come under a series of massive attacks and assaults by transfers from corporate profitability to other sectors; by transfers from the private to the public sector; by massive assaults on people’s ability to survive; by employment changes; by tariff changes; and by currency changes. Although it is nice to see the current Government observing that it will be a good thing to have private investment recovery and that the Government has begun to believe in the private sector once again, it has not yet begun to achieve results.
People will have to believe that the Government really means this. Perhaps people even believe that what the Government is now doing is expedient, but without corporate profitability and a willingness in the private sector to grow, build and expand I do not think the Government will get the employment capacity of the country back up again. Without that profitability I do not think there will in truth be any increased investment, any expansion of output, or any overhead spreading. I think the trends and forces which led to this present manufacturing industry slump, which the APPM situation helps to demonstrate, have been coming about for quite a while; they have been conscious acts of policy by the present Government. Although the Government is in a state of massive repentence those reversing trends have yet to be seen. I think the Australian Labor Party has destroyed confidence in the manufacturing sector. I do not think it understands the workings of the economic system, although it has a kind of deathbed repentance feeling.
I think the Government, in its own heart, has some antagonism towards entrepreneurs, managers, inventiveness, skill and initiative. I do not think it understands that to have higher living standards we must have higher rates of creation of resources. I think the industrial unrest in this country has to be seen to be believed. Although this Government claimed that it would be able to achieve a better result than the previous Government, it has achieved a much worse result. I do not think the Government is in control of the Australian economic scene, the management scene or the manufacturing scene. That is why from time to time we have these ad hoc measures which are brought in in a state of emergency to safeguard particular situations. If the Government wants to stop repeating the performance, such as its APPM performance, of granting money to finance excess stocks and to keep people in employment it will have to change the economic scene totally. The country must stop spending old wealth and begin to create new wealth. Economic growth must return. People must believe in their country and have confidence to invest, produce and expand. In the end that is the way in which we will defeat inflation and maintain safe employment.
I do not think there is any concept in the Australian Government today of the essential need to export. The Australian manufacturing industry will increasingly have to export more and more of its products. It must be a conscious act of any government to stimulate exports and this Government has destroyed the export incentive system. Investment allowances will have to return if we want technological change, updating, productivity and improvement for the people. We have a tremendous collection of bodies to advise, to alter and to change, but we have not seen much in the way of what I call bodies of people with a lot of knowledge in the total field to lead towards change, expansion and reconstruction. We have had a lot of bodies which shift things around and alter present positions but they are not bodies which say what is basically wrong with the total position. The total position is that we cannot have higher living standards when national productivity is diminishing. That is no way to achieve anything.
We are arguing that in this country today we need to start moving forward again and to stop shuffling around. We believe that members of the community must be induced to work together. It disturbs the Opposition to see the Commonwealth and State governments quarrelling with each other. It disturbs us to see the Government showing that it believes that the private sector is a remote factor with which it can tamper at will, which it can knock down and pick up again. Things are not like that. When people are knocked down three or four times, as the private sector has been, they are not all that mad about getting up on their feet again to be knocked down once again. We are arguing that a lack of cohesion and lack of understanding have been an integral part of the Australian scene.
This measure is designed to cover an emergency situation in which people’s jobs are at stake. Therefore we support that emergency measure to keep those people in those jobs in a city and in a State whose citizens, we understand, would have difficulty in being properly employed elsewhere.
It is our view that if we could get the country back on the road again, that industry could revive and could probably expand again and those people could once again be gainfully, properly and usefully employed in a growing and productive enterprise in a growing and productive State in a growing and productive Australia.
We do not think that that will happen under the present Government. We cannot see that it is really dedicated to that kind of purpose. We certainly are. We believe that basically our real troubles in this area are illuminated by this measure. For 2 years now Australia has been shuffling around and redistributing wealth and resources that were created by previous governments. That wealth has been shuffled about and has been eroded by inflation and from time to time we are having to deal with a series of stopgap measures where people’s lives, fortunes and welfare are at stake. It is not only people in governments which have had to suffer in the past years the problems of depressions, lack of employment and lack of opportunity; people in the Opposition have been through that experience and we know what we are talking about. We all have a strong wish to see that the Australian work force is safeguarded and that it receives its proper share of opportunity and its proper share of the national wealth.
Our concern is that if the national wealth diminishes, no greater share is available for anybody in real terms. To say that it is available is an illusion. In our view this measure is an illumination of the kind of confused mess that the Australian Government has created in the economic scene and in the manufacturing scene, to which we must lend support so that decent people can be kept in employment. Our hope is that one day industry can recover properly in an expanding Australia, and people will once again feel that they can be gainfully employed, that the industry in which they work is worthwhile and that the purpose of their lives is justified. That is what we understand by a dynamic and growing Australia, and we are not impressed with smart propositions to cover situations of emergency like this which have to be supported. It is a great pity in our view that these situations ever have to occur.
-The Senate is dealing with the Bill to grant financial assistance to Tasmania in relation to the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd at Burnie.
The concluding statement in the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), then the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, was:
The financial assistance proposed by this Bill is exceptional in nature to meet exceptional circumstances. It is not intended to be a generalised form of assistance.
It was explained by the Minister when introducing the Bill that $650,000 is to be made available to Tasmania as a financial grant of assistance under section 96 of the Australian Constitution, that in turn this money is to be lent by Tasmania or reimbursed by Tasmania to the company so as to provide for the interest cost of accumulating stocks because the employment predicament of the company is serious and the company continues still to be handicapped. As the Minister explained, because of the very high level of stocks held by the company it has reduced operations in the coating plant of one mill from a 7-day to a 5-day week and at other locations it is working 3 weeks in every four. It is to prevent further unemployment in this area that this sum of $650,000 is being made available to Tasmania in these exceptional circumstances.
It is remarkable that so soon after the Labor Government came to power we found chaos in the Australian economy, particularly in the Tasmanian economy. Tasmania suffers some disabilities by reason of the Bass Strait and its dependence upon water transport and that has made this company, which is the subject of this Bill, a target for the seafaring unions which have administered blows in the form of industrial unrest that have affected this company. Efforts have been made to employ charter ships which are likely to lessen that impact, but the damage caused by dislocation of shipping to a company which is manufacturing special paper at Burnie and which is dependent for its markets on other countries and mainland Australia, but mainly mainland Australia, can be tremendous. When we recall that the industrial, unrest that was experienced all through last year was at a record level, unsurpassed in the past 15 years, we realise the damage that has been done. That industrial unrest is continuing. We are hoping for some improvement following the change of Minister in the portfolio of Labor and Immigration that occurred in such dramatic circumstances last Friday, but that is another point.
When this Government came to power it professed to indulge in a policy of open government. We had a display of it this morning in a most obstinate attempt by the Government to cover up. When this Government came to power it thought it was the architect of a new economic system and it withdrew from primary industries ever so many of the supports by which they were benefiting. Here we find a secondary industry that, the Government now recognises, depends upon a specific support to keep it going. That is so despite the fact that the Government vaunts a policy that nobody shall receive assistance unless he can maintain financial viability on an ordinary competitive, economic basis.
The Tasmanian apple industry has been cut in half. An apple stabilisation plan is due to expire this year. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) said to me the other day in answer to a question: ‘We will not renew it unless the Temporary Assistance Authority recommends it on a viable basis’. The assistance to APPM has been forthcoming after a review of this company’s specific application by the Temporary Assistance Authority in the tariff field in February of this year and the delivery of a report in April. The Authority recommended both against the restriction of imports and against an increase of import duty. The ink was not dry upon that report before the company showed that without assistance it could not maintain the employment of its 4000 personnel and keep its operations going so that it could provide more than the limited employment that I have read from the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. One of the company’s mills has reduced operations from a 7-day to a 5-day week, and at other locations the company is working 3 weeks in every four.
It just shows how obstinate persistence with creeds and economic fantasy by the Treasury can be a false guide. The Tasmanian apple industry is threatened with extinction unless a decision is made to continue the support which is vital to it. Senator James McClelland, soon after becoming Minister for Manufacturing Industry, was presented with the problem that APPM had to retrench employees, and the only solution that he could come up with was a direct financial grant of $650,000. That is only compensation to this Tasmanian industry for the damage inflicted upon it by the short sighted policies of the Government. It is just like the textile industry in Launceston, which was damaged very seriously and suffered a loss of employment of perhaps 1500 to 2000 personnel due to a misguided, ill advised across-the-board reduction of 25 per cent in the tariff. That of course presupposed that the Tariff Board and the other advisory agencies of the Government were surplus to the great genius that then prevailed in the Treasury, no doubt stemming from Mr Whitlam ‘s impulsiveness. Tariffs were slashed by 25 per cent straight across the board. As a result the textile industry in Launceston is crippled and the paper industry in Burnie is very seriously damaged to the extent that it is in need of the specific cash grant being made under this Bill in order to maintain even the handicapped rate of employment that I have mentioned.
It is sad to relate that this blow fell upon the Burnie company at a time when the country was suffering from record interest rates imposed by the Government. Latterly we have seen public companies of very good financial standing offering as much as 13 per cent on 5-year debentures. We have seen record interest rates. The Burnie paper company has been involved in holding some millions of dollars worth of stock. Of course, the extra cost involved in transporting and storing that surplus stock in the interim period is very expensive. In other industries we already have record unemployment. Therefore it is quite obvious that all sections of the Parliament will be doing everything they possibly can to prevent the expansion of the unemployment situation.
One has only to recollect how artificial is this aid to the employment situation of this company to see how false are the claims of the Government in recent weeks that the economy has turned the corner and there are signs of a prospective improvement. Of course, while inflation is raging at a record rate- it will probably run at the rate of 20 per cent this year- we are facing a deficit that is unparalleled in our history. It is a deficit that the Government has not been able to overcome even by the approaches that it has made to the Arab money world of which it has been a bit shy in recent weeks. We have record inflation, record interest rates, record unemployment and the terrific debacle of this industry necessitating the provision of specific monetary assistance. I have said that it is compensation to Tasmania. Of course, the Government will pretend that Tasmania is an object of its special solicitude.
– It always has been.
-The Government will boast that it is paying Tasmania for the damage done by the collision of a ship with the Hobart Bridge. Of course, Senator James McClelland, who is the Minister in charge of this Bill, would, as a lawyer, be the first to recognise that, due to the negligent navigation of an Australian National Line ship in that respect, the Commonwealth was bound in law and in any court would be compelled to pay compensation. The Tasmania that one can see in Launceston, in the Huon Valley, in Hobart and in Burnie has been specifically damaged by the shortsighted policy of the present Government and, just to add insult to injury, a little negligent navigation in the Derwent River last January.
The predicament of the Burnie company has been caused by such vicissitudes as imports rising very rapidly last year and the demand growing artificially. By June 1974 the stocks of fine paper in Australia were beginning to build up. By December 1974 they were estimated to exceed 88 000 tonnes, about 29 000 tonnes in excess of the normal stocks. A warning was given even at that stage because it was then necessary for the company to shut down some of its plant at Burnie and Ballarat and to retrench 1 70 employees. Then the orders of the company suffered a very dramatic collapse. They had been running at a fairly high rate until comparatively late in the year. They then commenced to contract. The domestic sales for the last 6 months of 1974 obscure the fact that trade in paper, as in business generally, changed dramatically about October and November of 1974 from a position of high demand to rapid decline. In the first 2 months of this year the forward orders for paper held by the company declined from almost 8500 tonnes to less than 5500 tonnes and averaged less than 40 per cent of the available production capacity of the company.
– Why not have the speech that you are reading incorporated?
-I am reading from the record of the Temporary Assistance Authority. These facts were before the officer who made that report on 6 April. It is astonishing to realise that that one functionary advising the Government of those facts written in the report should have his report accepted by the Government instead of its being referred back to him for adjustment in the 2 respects in which the company asked for adjustment, namely, an increase in tariff of 20 per cent, and an increase in import restrictions to prevent the ready inflow of competitive goods into Australia at a time when the company was experiencing difficulty with sales.
The company represents overall an investment of $125m or approximately $30,000 per employee. The report to which I have been referring points out that in the period 1970-71 to 1973-74 the company had earned dividends of between 4 per cent and 10 per cent. What is remarkable to me is that the authority went on to state:
The return on funds … on the information provided to the Department of Manufacturing Industry, was well above the average for Australian manufacturing industries.
I pause to comment that it is a poor prospect for Australian manufacturing industries if they are able to pay a dividend rate well under 4 per cent to 10 per cent. According to APPM the company supplies the printing and publishing industry which employs 76 000 persons and is the fourth largest Australian secondary industry. We have a situation in which one can get a return of 13 per cent on money invested in first grade Government debentures but, by taking all the risks of business such as depreciation, variables of the market and alterations of tariff, APPM is expected to carry on with a dividend rate of between 4 per cent and 10 per cent. That shows how thoroughly shallow is the outlook of a Government which can receive a report composed of statements, excerpts of which I have just read, act upon it, refuse to adjust tariffs and refuse to restrict imports. As a result the company is faced with its present predicament.
Notwithstanding the unusual approach that the Government has made in this case- in my time here it is almost a unique approach- a similar approach was made in the case of the Victorian Canning Co., which was a co-operative, some three or four years ago but in vastly different circumstances. This is a completely unique approach and it is approved by us only because of the predicament in which the company, an enterprise in north-west Tasmania which employs 4000 people finds itself. We do so in the hope that the assistance can tide it over the market vicissitudes in the next 6 months. We support a payment even on these exceptional bases so that there will not be too much unemployment in the area and too great a dislocation in business.
-It may surprise some honourable senators to learn that the Tasmanian Grant (Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited) Bill which is before us seeks the approval of the Senate and of the Parliament for a section 96 grant to be made to the Tasmanian Government to enable that State to assist the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, subject to that company maintaining certain employment levels. It certainly will be able to maintain higher employment levels than it would have been if we had not applied this grant. Both Senator Cotton and Senator Wright commenced their speeches by announcing that fact, but thereafter I do not believe Senator Cotton mentioned the Bill, and Senator Wright gave it passing reference at the end of his speech. One would have thought from their remarks that the Opposition would be opposed to the Bill. If their remarks could be accepted at face value, they really would have to oppose the Bill. But it seems that their words were just a sham to cover their embarrassment at having to support the humane and sensible action of this Government.
Associated Pulp and Paper Mills is a very large company in Tasmania. In fact, it employs 1 in 11 people involved in manufacturing industry in that State. It produces, amongst other things, fine quality papers for the printing industry, the magazine industry and the general media industries of this country. Early in 1974 and in late 1973 there was a shortage of paper in Australia and elsewhere in the world. In fact, I can remember that when I first came to this place there were still rumours of a shortage of paper, and the joke was that we were creating that shortage because of the quantities of paper that we used in this place. Large stocks of paper were imported to overcome that shortage. As Senator Wright said, there was a certain artifically high demand for paper by some of the merchants, and their stocks built up. At the same time APPM increased its production. Its stocks rose and its orders fell below its levels of production. The orders on its books began to drop late last year and early this year, and an intolerable situation arose in that its stocks were too high and it was in grave danger of having to put off large numbers of people.
Members of the House of Representatives, some honourable senators on this side of the chamber and I were amongst those approached by Associated Pulp and Paper Mills in seeking assistance from the Government to do something about the situation. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills has always been a company very conscious of its position in the community in north-western Tasmania and it has always been very concerned about the effects that the vicissitudes of the market, as Senator Wright puts it, have on the local community and on production. Representatives of the company came to us and, in my presence and in the presence of at least 3 other honourable senators admitted- and also did so publicly in a north-western newspaper- that a lot of their trouble was due to the fact that they badly misread the market, that they over-produced, that they had made a mistake, and that they were willing to admit to that. They did not come along with any of this nonsense that Senator Cotton goes on with, namely, that in this case all their problems are due to something that this Government has done. They did not make any pretence.
They admitted fully to everybody, including the unions, that part of the problem was due to their misreading of the market.
Burnie is almost entirely dependent on APPM for employment. In view of the fact that this was a unique situation in the paper industry in this country, in view of the fact that the north-west area of Tasmania would suffer dire consequences of large scale lay-offs, and in view of the fact that this was unacceptable to this Government- a Government which is concerned about people as well as figures and moneys and ledgers- the then Minister for Manufacturing Industry, the then Treasurer, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the whole Government of the time agreed to take this course of making a section 96 grant. As the Minister said, it is a unique way of giving assistance. But I put it to the Senate that it was a unique situation which needed urgent and unique remedies. I contrast this action with the situation that arose in Burnie in 1 96 1 when again the vicissitude of the market caused a slump in sales and production at Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. The company had to put off men. Meetings that blocked the streets were held in Burnie. As a result of that occurrence, the majority of the honourable member for Braddon in another place increased by some 10 000 votes from some hundreds of votes. The Government of the time- I need not remind honourable senators that it was a conservative governmentrefused aid altogether because it was more concerned about figures and percentages than the effects on a unique industry in a unique town.
– I thought that the Liberal Party claimed to be concerned about Tasmania.
-The Liberal Party’s concern about Tasmania has been demonstrated by its results in elections in that State over the last 23 years. I am the first to admit that I sometimes find it very difficult to understand how the Temporary Assistance Authority arrives at blank findings such as the findings it has arrived at in this case. I will agree that we will probably have to change the criteria on which some of its decisions are made. But we set up this Authority and the other tariff reviewing authorities to try to bring some uniformity and sanity into the tariff situation in this country. We did not want to indulge in the blind protectionist policies that some people opposite would ask us to engage in. If occasionally this system does not work in the way in which we think that it should work, we will have to look at it. But the Minister and the Government ended up in the situation in this case of needing a quick response and an effective response. After consultations with the company and with the unions, most of which went along with the solution, it was decided that a section 96 grant was the easiest and quickest way of helping this company out of its problems.
I would like to emphasise again that the company itself admits that some of the problem- in fact a lot of it- was of its own making. APPM has always been concerned that its industry should remain viable, that its industry will expand and diversify. The company has gone into forest holdings. It has gone into other milling and projects in Tasmania to try to diversify and to protect itself from some of the ups and downs of the paper market which always occur. It has always been conscious of its position in the community, as I have said before, and has not had a lot of industrial strife in the past. A lot of the company’s troubles will be solved by this policy of diversification and by its policy of looking after its workers and the people in the community. If we can help in a small way- it is a relatively small way- when great difficulties occur, I think that we should and I think that we should look after the people of the area and prevent the evils of the ups and downs of the markets in a system that most of us on this side of the Senate perhaps do not agree with but which we can do very little to change at the moment.
Much comment has been made about special assistance for Tasmania in both the Senate and the other place. The most famous, of course, came from Mr Wentworth, MHR, who claimed that New South Wales and Victoria should not have to provide financial help to Tasmania and that New South Wales was becoming a bit tired of it. I am pleased to say that the Liberal Party unlike the Liberal Party of 1961 now says- and these are the words of its present Leader, Mr Malcolm Fraser:
We recognise particular difficulties have faced the Tasmanian people which call for specific assistance by government. Some of our proposals for that assistance have recently been outlined in the Opposition policy package which I have recently reaffirmed.
The Opposition policy package was hurriedly thrown together in the hope that there would be a double dissolution in May this year. I understand it is being reviewed in the light of present events.
– Keep your hands out of your pockets.
– I always keep my hands in my pockets, Senator Baume, in case you walk around the back and remove what is in them. I support the Bill. I am glad the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I think they do but they are not going to vote that way.
– I agree with Senator Devitt. I think the Liberals really oppose the Bill but in view of the circumstances in the community at the moment they are not willing and not courageous enough to come out and oppose it. I commend the Minister for his actions.
-We just heard the accusation that we on this side of the House are opposed to this measure. I think anybody who looks at this question objectively and humanely will realise that while the matter may or may not cut across principles or policies the situation has not been brought about entirely by the company. Senator Grimes indicated that it had been brought about entirely by the company. Admittedly Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd said and recognised that it did misread the situation in regard to supply, but I fear that the Governmment, with all the resources available to it, was not in a position to help, either through not having people watching closely enough or through not having people able to give information to the company when it wanted it. The result was, of course, that with the announcements in late 1973 and early 1974 that there was likely to be a world wide shortage of paper, orders started to build up at a fairly rapid rate. The company then commissioned another machine and imports increased very dramatically at the same time.
The world wide shortage of paper, of course, did not eventuate. This left this company, along with many others, in a situation of over supply- a position that it has not been possible to rectify in the interim period and one which unfortunately even today with the changes that have been made in production factors and cycles is still proving something of a problem. Senator Wright indicated that the Wesley Vale Mill, by receiving increased orders particularly from the Postmaster-General’s Department, has been able to maintain a 5-day week instead of the previous 7-day week and in this way keep employment fairly constant. APPM- the largest employer of labour at Burnie and, for that matter, on the north-west coast- has had to change its method of production quite dramatically. In effect it has had to cut production by 25 per cent and work 3 weeks on and then one week off. This has caused a tremendous problem for the people involved. It has caused problems in a socioeconomic way and other people in the community are being affected by the fact that the employees at APPM have that much less money to spend.
Another factor that has not been mentioned but must eventually and almost inevitably have a result is the unfortunate situation in which APPM, which normally makes bonus payments to its employees at the end of the year, by reason of the curtailment in sales and reduction in income will not be able to pay anything like the amount of bonus that would have been expected had this situation not developed. I think that it has been fairly amply demonstrated that the general economic situation in Australia has been part- not necessarily all- of the cause of the problem in which this company in line with many others finds itself. Honourable senators will remember a recent television program on which Mr Henderson indicated that 160 000 small businesses were in some danger of bankruptcy or were in extreme financial difficulty basically because of their size. It is not possible for these companies, due to their financial instability or their lack of financial backing, to weather an economically depressed situation.
This is the second occasion on which the Government has come to the assistance of 2 relatively big companies in Tasmania- EZ Industries and Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. I do not think that, politically or otherwise, anybody would say that neither of those companies should have received the assistance that is being made available to them. As has been indicated, this section 96 grant of $650,000 is being made available to the Tasmanian Government for the purposes of loans to the company to pay for the interest on loans that it has negotiated for the storage of paper. The storage of paper for the company is not as simple as it may sound. Admittedly, these huge reams or rolls of paper from the various production methods can be rolled into a shed somewhere but unfortunately paper is a deteriorating product and is very much open to the intrusion of moisture. For that reason the company has some real problems associated with the storage of paper. Quite a large quantity of paper could be spoilt if it were necessary to keep it in storage for too great a period. We know that the storage of anything is an extremely expensive operation, particularly when it is of the magnitude of the paper which it is needed to store at the present moment. As I understand it, virtually every piece of storage available in Melbourne, Sydney and particularly in and around Burnie is chock full of APPM paper.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) was in Burnie a week or so ago, when he was Minister for Manufacturing Industry. At about that time he indicated that this would be a once only method of assistance. The Opposition accepts that, for the reason outlined by Senator Wright when he was talking about the Temporary Assistance Authority. But we hope that, if this is to be the case, the situation in the paper industry generally picks up because, as I understand it, as of last weekend the company’s orders were running at only about 40 per cent of the reduced productionnot 40 per cent of the maximum production on which the company was working previously. For the sake of the company and particularly for the sake of the people involved- it was indicated that 3000 or 4000 people are involved in this company right throughout Tasmanialet us hope that orders pick up so that the company will inevitably be able to get back to full production and thereby save the jobs of a tremendous number of people in the Burnie area.
The other interesting fact that was indicated in the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority was that should the imports of paper exceed 6000 tonnes in any 3 months- in other words 2000 tonnes a month- this would automatically trigger off an additional inquiry. As a result of that inquiry, some other form of assistanceeither by way of import restriction or additional tariff- may well be recommended by the Temporary Assistance Authority. Be that as it may, we still have a rather unfortunate situation in the town. If the machine that was commissioned had to be taken out completely rather than adopting the method that has been adopted by the company and has been indicated by other speakers- 3 weeks work and one week’s down time- it would have meant that 280 people would have become redundant. I do not think that anybody would like to see that happen because Burnie unfortunately, like many other towns with a specialised industry and a fairly substantial industry, has fairly limited job opportunities available, particularly in the economic situation we see today with unemployment at a very high level.
Notwithstanding what assistance has been made available through the Government’s Regional Employment and Development scheme and the National Employment and Training scheme, we find when we add the figures together of those still registered as unemployed we still have a figure in excess of 300 000 people. This fairly obviously is going to make alternative work extremely difficult for anybody to find for themselves. We sincerely trust that this money will, when the company gets the opportunity to receive it from the Tasmanian Government, tide the company over the next 6 months and that during the 6 months period, as I indicated earlier, there will be an uplift in demand for paper, orders will start to increase, and we shall see once again the economic situation within Australia- not only within this companyreturning to some semblance of order so that we may be able to continue on in a developing country with the sorts of development that we need, not only in Burnie, Tasmania, but in every other town of a like nature within Australia.
-We are discussing the Tasmania Grant (Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd) Bill 1975 which is designed to grant an amount of money of 6-5- zero-zero-zero dollars -
– Add another zero.
-No. I should like to add another zero, and before it’s over Tasmania may well need that extra zero.
-The figure is $650,000, is it not?
-That is what I said. If the honourable senator had listened to the number of zeros I said he would know that. It might be too high a figure for him to understand.
– You might be a zero short.
– I said as many as were necessary. Four was the number.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator Townley, please address the Chair.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I find that every time I start speaking in this place, before I finish my first sentence a few members of the Government side get into me. It is something I enjoy and something I hope continues. As a Tasmanian senator I want to say a few things about the economic situation in Tasmama that has led to the need for this Bill to grant money to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. It was only about a year ago that we heard in election promises that inflation would be reduced and unemployment removed and we heard that only Whitlam could do it. Now we know what he could do. APPM needs this money because of the direct actions of the Whitlam Government. As I said in a speech the other day, even Blind Freddie could have foretold just what effect the ill-advised 25 per cent across the board tariff cut would have on a lot of the manufacturing industries in this country. The tariff cut has hit industry right across Australia, but nowhere has it hit it harder than it has in Tasmania
If I mention the unemployment that has been caused in Launceston I suppose some people would say I was playing politics, so I will not delve into that. But unemployment is particularly well known to the people of that area. That decision to cut tariffs was one that Mr Whitlam must have approved, because he is the Prime Minister and that means he is responsible for the actions of those Ministers whom he appoints. So I say that Prime Minister Whitlam certainly has proved to be the only one who has caused unemployment in this country as we now know it; the only one who has ever been able to lift inflation to the level that it is at now; and the only one who could oversee the industrial unrest that affects my State to such a great extent. You have only -
– It is a bad record.
– It is amazing that the Prime Minister has been able to do all these things, but I think they are a little contrary to what he said back in May might happen. On the matter of industrial unrest, I saw in the ‘Examiner’ of Tuesday, 10 June- for the benefit of those honourable senators who are present, that was just yesterday- that the recent metal workers’ strike hurt most of Tasmanian industry. That is the kind of thing that has been happening increasingly over the last few years.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! We are discussing the Tasmania Grant (Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd) Bill 1975 and not industrial unrest in Tasmania. Would the honourable senator confine himself to the Bill.
-With due respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, this Bill is designed to stop unemployment. I believe that one of the reasons for such a lot of the unemployment in this country has been some of the strikes. That was just something in passing.
– There were 6 million days lost last year through strike action.
– I think that would have some effect on unemployment. I believe this Bill is designed to keep people in work, and rightly so.
– Strikes in the shipping industry would not help.
-Difficulty in the shipping industry has been one of the things that has caused the company to need this money. As a result of the Prime Ministership of Mr Whitlam we certainly now have high interest rates, and they are one of the causes of this company being in the dire straits in which it is now. Mr Whitlam certainly has a record that historians will look at and talk about for a long time. I am not sure that in future he will be remembered well.
– That would not worry you.
– It does worry me to see the effect that government policies are having on the people in Tasmania. Tasmania has just about the highest rate of unemployment per head of population of any State. The unemployment rate is high not only among those who previously had a job but also among young people who are becoming confused because this country used to offer them every incentive to work and get ahead, but it now offers them nothing but soul destroying unemployment benefits. Perhaps if they are lucky enough they will be able to while away some time in Regional Employment Development schemes. I am not against RED schemes, but they are no answer to those who want to work for themselves or in private industry. I can think of some people who are seeing not only a few weeks of their lives go by without a job or without a suitable job but months. These months could easily turn into years before they get the jobs they want. For them it is most soul destroying. Many of them will never recover from the lethargy that is being instilled in them because of this Government’s policies.
The Government promised to help the private sector. I am afraid that I do not believe that it means to keep that promise. At an Australian Labor Party conference at Launceston in February this year Mr Whitiam said:
There is good reason to hope that our economic conditions will soon begin to improve. In saying this I don’t want to raise undue hopes or generate complacency. We live in times of rapid and sometimes unpredictable change. But I am confident that our recent economic measures will shortly show their effects.
We have not yet seen those improvements about which Mr Whitlam spoke in February. I do not believe we will see them while the Labor Party is in government. We must remember that Mr Whitlam was addressing the Australian Labor Party conference at Launceston. He said also:
If we want to prepare the ground for further gains in future years, we cannot push the system too far too fast. If we overload our demands at present we run the risk of cancelling out our gains. We will certainly pose a threat to the Government ‘s survival whenever the next election comes.
I feel that the things which the Government is doing are done simply because it is biding its time until perhaps one day it has control of the Senate or something like that, when it will push the democratic system to the edge and over the brink. If that happens Tasmania will be the first State to sink into the oblivion of total economic destruction, and I believe the Government wants economic disaster so it can impose upon us its kind of socialistic desires.
The Government has given this grant to APPM in an effort to stop many hundreds of people being thrown out of work. I am told on good authority that unless the demand for paper picks up a fair deal and fairly quickly, even greater cuts will need to be made than those which have already been made and which have been detailed by Senator Wright. Even more machines will have to be closed down. I begin to wonder how long it will be before the Government uses up all the paper that it has bought. I am told that it holds 18 months supply of paper for telephone books.
– They print a lot of money with the paper.
-They need a lot of yellow paper for telephone books. I do not know about green paper for money. That may be one answer the Government has thought of.
– Are you opposed to our buying paper for telephone books?
– I am certainly not opposed to it, but I think that it would be much better to generate economic conditions under which one does not have to buy 1 8 months in advance. How is the decision of 18 months reached? Why not go to 24 months or 5 years storage of paper for telephone books? The line has to be drawn somewhere. My point in pointing that out is that the crunch has to come sooner or later. One cannot just continue to make paper and store it. Even the Government cannot buy 2 years supply of paper and continue to store it for the printing of telephone books.
At a time when inflation rates are falling in many other Western countries, we in Australia hear the Government make excuse after excuse for its failure to control inflation here. In an effort to avoid the blame, the Prime Minister has now taken to shifting Treasurers. But as I have already pointed out, the eventual blame must be accepted by him. He appoints the Ministers and if they do not do the job that he expects of them, then the final blame is on his shoulders. At the back of the trouble of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd is inflation. We know that our real cure for inflation in this country is for the Government to reduce its spending. I suppose that every time we say that, people say that we want to cut out welfare payments. In these things, I find the people of Australia are more intelligent than the Government gives them credit for. They know that it is reasonable for the Government to concern itself with the well-being of people and that it is its responsibility to do so. Of course it is. But it is quite a different matter to propose, as this Government does, that the Government should look after all our welfare requirements. In my opinion, this is a stupid and a dangerous view. It is one that is held by many members of the Government and I think that really they should know better. Then again, there are some members of the Government who see no danger in inflation provided that wages go up at the same rate or faster than prices. But we can list fairly simply three of the economic harms that come from inflation.
Firstly, let us look at the farmers and the miners and all those who want to sell their goods on the open market overseas. Export prices are virtually certain not to rise at anything like the rate of internal inflation in this country at the present time, so gradually we will be priced out of world markets, even if we have not already been. Yet exports are essential to the future of this country, not only in the long term but also in the short term. Secondly, of course, when we look at inflation and the effect which it has on those people on fixed incomes, we can see the damage that it does.
Then there is a third group, not the old people but the young people, those who have not yet been able to buy their own homes. They find themselves faced with trying to accumulate a larger and larger deposit that is required nowadays to buy a house. If they do save and put their money in a bank or a building society loan or something like that, then the money value is reduced by some 20 per cent to 25 per cent each year. Inflation is a part of Government policy; it is a mean and despicable thing. Inflation is one of the reasons that APPM has had to request this grant from the Government.
I suppose we could say the Government started the trouble by allowing, or even encouraging, bigger and supposedly better wages. It used the Public Service as a pace-setter. This of course snow-balled and the private sector was forced to follow suit, even if it meant, as recognised by the ex-Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, that eventually there would be fewer jobs for even the unionists of the country. That, coupled with the Government’s tariff policies that I have mentioned, has led to the trouble that exists in Burnie. As I have said, we have yet to see the worst of the trouble that could happen there unless the Government changes its economic policies and the economic course of this country. I am not going to detail at the moment the other troubles that we have in Tasmania due to this Government’s policies- the State of the farming industry, the failing electrolytic zinc industry in Hobart and the likelihood -
- Mr President, I am constrained to take a point of order and invite you to bring the honourable senator back to Burnie.
– Order ! I did ask the honourable senator to confine his remarks to the Bill and I again request him to do so.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr President, is it not proper that farmers should have enough income to be able to buy some paper for themselves?
– Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I call Senator Townley, on the Bill.
-Thank you, Mr President. I may have strayed a little away from Burnie, but in Tasmania one tends, if one is like me, to go around it quite often.
– Order! Here you observe the Standing Orders and confine yourself to the Bill.
-I think you will agree, Mr President, that inflation is one of the things that has caused so much trouble in Burnie. I believe that in the beginning inflation was one of the policies of the Government. I believe that it encouraged inflation. I believe that the Government encouraged it as part of the general aims of the Labor Party, that is, its aim to bring in socialism, which in my opinion -
– Order! Senator Townley, I have requested you to confine yourself to the Bill. If you keep straying away, as you call it, from the Bill you will have to discontinue your remarks. Will you please confine yourself to the Bill.
– I was going to lead into this by saying that if companies are supported -
– I will be listening.
– I should have thought that if I could show that making companies like APPM rely on Government grants to keep going was going to lead to socialism, then I would have a right to relate this to the aims of the Labor Party. But if that is the way you see it, Mr President, I will move from that and point out that I do not think the Government has been over-keen to halt inflation because it helps to promote some of its policies. Unemployment, of course, is very closely linked to inflation, and if there is a high rate of inflation then, as surely as a dog will chase a cat, a high rate of unemployment will follow the high rate of inflation.
- Mr President, I am afraid I must take another point of order. Surely the honourable senator is abusing your ruling. A general dreary ill-informed lecture on the evils of inflation has very little to do with this Bill, nor has the example of dogs chasing cats. I suggest that the honourable senator, if he has anything to contribute to this specific debate, should be brought back to the points we are debating.
– I asked the honourable senator to link up his remarks and he assured me that he would do so. I am waiting for him to link his remarks to the Bill.
-Mr President, I find it rather strange that these points I am making about inflation and unemployment are objected to by the Minister. It seems to me very strange that he does not realise that unemployment in Burnie and unemployment in Tasmania, of which Burnie is a very important part, are due quite definitely to the policies of this Government.
– Nonsense. Absolute rubbish.
– It is rubbish in your terms but in mine it is a fact, Mr Minister, and it would not have been necessary to bring in the measures that are now before the Senate if this Government had not destroyed the economic situation in this country. I believe that this Bill is the kind of measure that will eventually destroy companies that have to rely upon it and therefore it will aid the Government’s aim of socialisation throughout the country. While I am very pleased to see this Government attempting to keep the people in Burnie in employment -
– Then vote against the Bill.
– Vote against the Bill and be honest with yourself.
– I am afraid that if I said the Government was doing this purely for electoral purposes I would be out of order, so I will not say that. I would like to see this Government take action that would really help the economy not only of Burnie but of all Tasmania. I would like to see this Government take action that would really put the private sector back on its feet. I would like to see this Government take action to develop confidence so that private industry will start re-employing people. 1 have yet to be convinced that this Government is serious in this endeavour. It is Government policies that have made the advance of this money to APPM necessary. I have not been able to understand the Minister’s reasoning in objecting to my saying that it may be a part of the Government’s aims to socialise the industry at some stage.
– I will explain it all in due course.
– If the Minister can explain that I will be very pleased to hear it. I believe, as I have said, that this assistance is necessary to keep this company going.
– Is it necessary or unnecessary? Make up your mind.
– It is necessary because of Government policies but it is something that should never have become necessary. It is something that the company itself may live to regret. I only hope that as time goes by the economic situation will become impressed upon the Government and it will straighten out the economy of the country if that is in fact what the Government really wants to do, and that we will not need more measures like this for Tasmania to keep that State and its companies buoyant.
-A short while ago one of my colleagues in this place approached me when he learned that I would be speaking in this debate and he counselled me against getting angry. I gave him the undertaking that I would not do my block, that I would keep my cool even though it would be pretty difficult in the face of the guff that was coming from the other side. For instance, at one stage Senator Wright was blaming the Governmentgiving the Government the credit, if you like- for knocking down the Hobart bridge. That was one thing that came from the other side. I have never heard in the course of a debate here- we have had many debates in this place on Tasmaniasuch irrationality and such illogicality as that which came from the other side of this chamber today. One would have thought from the tone and the general tenor of the debate up to this stage that there was a contest about this Bill, but in fact we are assured by the Opposition- we need the assurance too- that it is supporting the Bill.
To get back to the Bill, let me look at its main purposes. The question of assistance arose in the first instance because of the accumulation of stocks at the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd plant in Burnie, Tasmania, and the nonrealisation of the expectation of the sale of the product of that company. As a consequence a serious threat arose to the employment of people engaged in that industry. Alternative employment opportunities in the areas concerned with the operations of APPM were very limited, and the areas which would be affected by retrenchment in the industry are those which are heavily dependent on the company’s operations. I think that is principally the crux of the matter. At this stage perhaps I should correct Senator Cotton who talked of Burnie as a city. It is not a city; it is a town. It has not reached city status.
– It would be a city under our government because it would grow.
-Anything was likely to happen under your Government but I am dealing with the reality of the present situation and I think that is what we are mainly concerned with here. Burnie is not a city. In areas such as this with a relatively small population of 20 000- this would be appropriate I suppose in all centres throughout Australia- the situation is extremely difficult when there is virtually a one-industry town going through the difficult economic period that the APPM company in Burnie went through. The opportunities for alternative employment for people retrenched from an industry of this kind are extremely limited. I know that from my own close association with the activities of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd in the north-western region of Tasmania.
Of the contributions from honourable senators on the other side of the chamber, Senator Bessell ‘s seemed to be a quite reasoned one. I think he attributed to Senator Grimes a comment that the whole of the difficult economic situation of APPM at Burnie was due to the company’s mismanagement or something of that kind. I want to correct that statement. Senator Grimes did not say that at all. He said the company had acknowledged the fact that it had over-estimated the market. Generally, Senator Bessell, I guess because he lives in the region where the APPM operations are carried on in north-western Tasmania, has a better appreciation of the situation than his colleagues on that side of the chamber and therefore was able to make perhaps the only reasoned and rational obervation from that side about the whole question. I will agree with him in this respect: It must be terribly difficult for industries of the size and range of activity of APPM to be able to predict to any degree the future market forks products.
Over the last several years a number of instances have come to light of the extreme difficulty that faces people who try to make forward predictions relating to markets. I have had discussions on numerous occasions with officers of Government departments about this matter. Principally I am recollecting discussions I have had with officers of the former Department of Primary Industry which in more recent years has become the Department of Agriculture. It has not been possible in many instances, despite the high technical knowledge available to these people, to predict markets for any further than 5 months into the future. So it is not to be wondered at that in these troubled economic time throughout the world a company of the size and nature of APPM finds itself in a position where its estimations of forward requirements for its stocks are not realised. I think that puts the finger on the origin of the difficulty that arose with APPM.
I want to refer to a comment made by Senator Townley about the condition of employment in Tasmania. I am assured that in yesterday’s Press a report appeared somewhere to the effect that the unemployment level in the Launceston area was in the vicinity of 3 per cent or 3. 1 per cent of the work force. That is slightly under the national average so we cannot be going too badly. I also want to correct a misconception in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, who pointed out that there was an unemployment level of 2000 in the city of Launceston. What he did not realise, simply because, I suppose of his lack of knowledge of Tasmania, was that the figure he quoted included not only that area of the Bass electorate but also part of the Wilmot electorate. I believe they also included one of the islands offshore. I think the economic position could be summarised if I read to the Senate an article which appeared on the front page of ‘The Mercury’ today. The article relates to the problems of the economy.
– Are you referring to ‘The Mercury ‘ in Hobart?
– Yes. I was going to say in relation to ‘The Mercury’ that it is not only the fish in Tasmania which suffer mercury poisoning. A good deal of the population are similarly affected. Under a Canberra by-line on the front page of ‘The Mercury’, published in Hobart, it was stated:
Economic statistics released by the Treasury last nightpresumably that was yesterday, 10 June- show that the economy is on the road back to recovery. Consumer spending increased strongly in April for the fourth consecutive month while average earnings and consumer prices rose at a much lower rate in the March quarter than during most of 1974. The Treasury said the seasonal tightening in liquidity was coming to an end, with financial markets generally remaining liquid for this period of the year.
The article went on to say: seasonally adjusted unemployment has dropped in May, for the first time in 12 months.
The people who are talking in those dismal, gloomy terms about the condition of the economy fail to realise the trends in the economy at present and the prospect of a recovery at an early date.
– That sounds like what Mr Whitlam said last year.
– It came from the Treasury yesterday. I would not expect the honourable senator to have caught up with yesterday’s events yet. I just mention the article to point out the illogicality of what has been coming from the other side of this chamber. Anybody outside listening to this debate surely would have got the impression that it is the intention of a party or a group of people who spoke so strongly against what we are debating here at present to back up their words with their actions in due course and to vote against the proposal. But the plain fact of the matter of course is that honourable senators opposite are not game to do that. They are playing politics at present. They will not be game to put their vote on the line against this proposition when the vote is taken. The second reading speech on this Bill, which was made available to all honourable senators states:
Because of the very high level of stocks held by the company, it has reduced operations in the coating plant of one mill from a 7-day to a S-day week and at other locations is working 3 weeks in every four. This has enabled retrenchments to be kept to a minimum, but still results in production in excess of demand. To permit a reasonable level of operations to continue, it is proposed that Tasmania will reimburse the company for interest actually paid, up to a maximum of $650,000, on a loan necessary to finance the accumulation of additional stocks.
I anticipate that in due course the Minister for Labor and Immigration will answer some of the queries that have been raised in regard to the terms of the assistance and the interest rates applying to it and other questions relating to the measure. Near the end, the second reading speech states:
The financial assistance proposed by this Bill is exceptional in nature to meet exceptional circumstances. It is not intended to be a generalised form of assistance.
Senator Wright referred to the measure as a unique proposition. Of course it is a unique proposition. I think it is accepted that it is a unique proposition. I have mentioned that APPM is a very significant company in north-western Tasmania and is a very substantial employer of labour. It behoves anybody with any sense of responsibility at all to ensure that in these difficult times every effort is made to keep a continuity of employment for the people engaged in industry. When I go home from here I will be rubbing shoulders immediately with people who work for APPM in its Wesley Vale complex near Devonport and I will have close associations during the next few days with people who are similarly employed by the company in the Burnie region.
As far as we were concerned it was just not on to stand idly by and allow- because of the problems that had arisen partly due to the company’s miscalculations- as we have acknowledged and as has been acknowledged by the other side, a great number of people to go out of work, therefore affecting the whole socio-economic climate of the Burnie region. It was for that reason, largely at the instigation of Mr Ron Davies, that we developed this measure. Mr Davies lives at Burnie and has worked tirelessly in this regard. I think one ought to place on record the very great work done by Mr Davies in the course of this operation to ensure that the company’s problems were brought to the notice of the Government, by organising several delegations of Tasmanian members of the House of Representatives and senators to the Ministers concerned- to the Treasurer and to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry- and in being able to prevail upon those Ministers to take positive action to head off the problem that was arising and which would have been a very serious blow indeed to the economy of the whole region of north-western Tasmania. I should like to pay my own tribute to the untiring efforts of Ron Davies who worked in close association and collaboration with APPM to bring about this result.
Do not let us get carried away with the idea that what was being done did not have the agreement of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. I had discussions with the managing director and I was involved in a number of delegations to Ministers here in an endeavour to ensure that some reasonable prospect remained that people engaged in that industry would be able to earn some sort of an income. I also pay a tribute to the union organisations in the Burnie area who understood the problem as it affected APPM and who, very much against their inclinations, agreed to the proposal which prevented a great number of people from being thrown out of work. They accepted the one in four stand-down period.
It is known to those of us who are associated with the day to day affairs in that part of the world that a number of people in other industrial organisations were not prepared to accept the concept of a one in four stand-down and so a number of their members had to be dismissed from the organisations. That was the alternative which the unions accepted. This is no time for gloomy prophecies or attempting to make some cheap political gain out of the difficulties which arose in that area. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills enjoys a very high reputation in the northwestern region of Tasmania. It is a good employer. It is an organisation which is well and truly able to play its part in the affairs of the community, not only in its own immediate area of activity but in all sections of community endeavour. We who live in the region live with these people day by day and understand the problems which they have. This is one of the reasons why we have striven so hard to limit to the maximum extent possible the impact of the economic difficulties which have struck them.
I am not going over the ground which was traversed so well by Senator Grimes. He gave a run-down of what happened in 1961 when the Government of the day stood idly by and left things to take their course. We have taken positive action. This has been welcomed by the company and the community in north-west Tasmania. I suggest that is why, while the inclinations of the Opposition are against this proposal, it is just not game to vote against the Bill. I dealt with the vulnerability of relatively small areas when struck with a situation of this kind. I suggest that the action which has been taken by the Government has gone a long way to overcome the very distinct possibility of serious economic dislocation in that region. For that reason alone the action which the Government has taken to provide the Tasmanian Government through section 96 of the Constitution with an underpinning of the interest on the loan to be raised to see this company through its difficulties is a very wise move. It is interesting when honourable senators opposite get up and condemn the situation contributed to, to a very large degree, by the present very high interest rates. Every time they raise this matter of interest rates I wonder who are the people who are getting the rake-off from high interest rates. I suggest that largely the cop from high interest rates is going to people who traditionally support the Opposition. The Opposition has developed a unique facility for speaking with its tongue in its cheek about these things.
When Senator Cotton opened the debate this afternoon he said that his approach was in sorrow rather than in anger. I hope I do not misquote him. I guess the record will show that. I suppose his sorrow is due to the fact that although his Party is opposed to this proposition it will not say so. Almost every word uttered by spokesmen on that side of the chamber seems to confirm this. His anger would stem from the fact that he is not in a position, politically, to vote against the Bill. I suggest that the Bill is an excellent one. It helps the APPM company out of a very difficult situation. It goes a long way towards limiting the consequences of unemployment which would have occured to a very much greater degree than has been the case because of the Government’s action. I think the action taken by the Government and by all those associated in bringing this Bill to this point is to be commended. I commend the measure to the Senate.
-The Opposition supports this Bill but in doing so it expresses the view that it would not have been necessary for the Parliament to consider legislation of this character if it had not been for the folly and gross mismanagement of the economy by the present Government. The justification given by the former Minister for Manufacturing Industry, now the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) for introducing this Bill is riddled with confession of Government ineptness. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd is an Australian company which has a distinguished background and fulfills a most significant role in Tasmania. Yet because of decisions taken by this Government it finds itself in the position that in order to sustain employment in an area of Tasmania which is hard hit by unemployment flowing from this Government’s policies, it is accepting the payment of interest on outstanding moneys for approximately 6 months.
The Australian Labor Party Government which has set its face against giving assistance to the great monsters of the capitalist system now finds itself paying $650,000 to Tasmania, providing that the State pays that same sum to this company. That sum is to be put alongside the great sums of money, running into millions of dollars, which have been paid to the multinational corporation which produces the Leyland motor car and alongside the reductions in sales tax for the benefit of those monsters, often before criticised- the giant car companies which produce cars in Australia. If that in itself is not sufficient indication of how the Labor Party has departed from the standards which it set for itself before it came into Government, I will be interested to know for what further indications of double standards one could be looking.
This Bill is a States grants Bill. It is not the usual type of State grants Bill whereby money is voted by the Commonwealth Parliament to a particular State for a particular purpose. This Bill contains a number of curious clauses and it is quite apparent that the money is to be paid to Tasmania by way of a device. The device is a means of assisting this company to sustain itself in operations for 6 months and thereby to avoid the retrenchment of a number- an unspecified number- of employees who might otherwise be retrenched. Of course the Opposition supports such a measure. What we regard as blameworthy are the conditions which have brought about the necessity for a measure of this character. The bleatings which have come from members of the Government, who seek to create an atmosphere that Opposition senators are opposing this measure but are not prepared to come out and say they are opposing it, just represents the wishful thinking of some of the Government senators.
There is so much about this measure which ought to be said to demonstrate the folly of this Government that the opportunity is too great to be wasted. I propose to point out a few of these matters. In the first place the reason which has been given for this Bill is the plight in which APPM finds itself. Unfortunately APPM finds that it has on its hands too much of the fine paper which it produces and the orders from people who want to buy paper are not at the level which the company wants to sustain its operation. One might ask why it is that a company allows itself to get into these circumstances. I think it was Senator Grimes who said a little while ago, and I hope I do not do him as an individual an injustice, that it was the company’s folly because it made some bad errors of judgment in its assessment of what quantity of paper it should have supplied. But one of the reasons why there was so much paper on hand was the tremendous increase in imports in 1973-74. Ultimately towards the end of 1974 there was a significant drop in demand for fine papers and the Temporary Assistance Authority, a body appointed by this Government, examined this matter and reported earlier this year. For the information of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) I quote from page 19 of that report where it says:
The collapse in demand for fine papers coincided with a general downturn in the Australian economy, a sharp increase in the cost of financing large (even excessive) inventories, an easing in shipping which delivered outstanding orders at shorter intervals, and a fall-off in orders in the printing industry as users began to draw on their stocks rather than to place new orders and some merchants, at least, experienced liquidity problems as supplies from APPM and overseas mills have continued during the December quarter 1974.
The major concern to APPM has been the substantial decline in forward orders and the effect upon production and employment. The company said that on 12 February 1975 this had fallen to 5397 tonnes. The total domestic order intake during the 7 weeks prior to the public hearing averaged about 38 per cent of available capacity. APPM said that on this basis production levels would need to be reduced unless there is justification for putting the balance into inventory.
The basic cause for the decline in orders was seen by APPM to be the high volume of imports during 1974 and the equally high accumulation of stocks in Australia by users and merchants.
What was the reason for this? I have no doubt that any person who looked objectively at this situation would attribute this company’s plight, significantly and essentially, as Senator Wright earlier indicated, to the fact that on 18 July 1973 there was a sweeping across-the-board reduction of tariffs without any of that inquiry beforehand which should have been conducted before such a momentous change in our tariffs occurred.
– The Temporary Assistance Authority does not say so.
– I heard what the Minister said. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the then Minister for Overseas Trade made a statement when they announced the decision in 1973 and to go back to what was said then in justification of the reduction in tariffs is to indicate how sadly and tragically this Government has run this country for the last 2 years. They said in 1973:
The justification for the general reduction of tariffs is the excessive rate of inflation which now prevails. Inflation is harmful to every Australian. Action must be taken to reduce its harmful effects with the least delay. Inflation can be offset by an increase of supply of goods in Australia. The most readily available source of supply of goods is imports from overseas.
– Who was speaking then?
-That was the Prime Minister and Dr Cairns in 1973. What sound managers they have proved to be! What expert forecasters of what would happen to the economy! What grand competent administrators of the country that statement demonstrates them to be! Not only did the great imports which came in not cure inflation, because inflation has increased most significantly ever since that statement was made, but also in their train there has been unemployment and dislocation and throughout the economy there has been a downturn of such proportions that this Government appears to be at its wits end to know what to do. Three Budgets last year, 3 Treasurers this year, and still there is not a sign of economic improvement. The Minister said in July 1973:
The increased imports may affect production and employment in Australia. A tribunal is being established to immediately hear appeals from any firm or company which may be seriously affected by imports.
I wonder whether the Minister will tell us where that tribunal is. I wonder whether he is prepared to say what work has been done by it or whether in fact it exists. Then of course there is this significant statement:
While these changes can be expected to require some workers to move from one employment to another this must be seen against the existing high level of unfilled vacancies and rising employment opportunities.
The Opposition parties in Government, much to our chagrin, lamented the fact that in April 1972 some 70 000 Australian workers wanting jobs could not get jobs; but the present Government, which boasted that above all else it would maintain full employment, had to point to 280 000 people out of work in April 1 975. Rising employment opportunities indeed! Not only has this Government produced the worst inflation this nation has experienced; it has produced the worst unemployment it has had since the 1930s. These considerations have been the considerations which have led to the plight in which Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd finds itself and in respect of which action is now to be taken by the Government.
The way in which this legislation is cast raises some issues of principle- some issues which ought to be canvassed because of their long term implications. As I have said, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill, but it believes that certain matters must be pointed out, and it will not be deterred from exposing some of the features of this legislation just because the Minister would say: Go to Launceston, go to Hobart, go to Burnie and talk about these points of principle there. The argument which the Minister would like to raise is simply the argument that because this measure is going to help a company and because it is going to avoid some unemployment no question ought to be raised about the way in which things are done. The Opposition says that money of this character would be far better spent in preventing unemployment and in stimulating production than in being applied after this Government’s policies have taken effect. In short, money from the taxpayers’ funds is far better spent in stimulating the economy than it is in trying to rectify some of the errors which have been created. The Opposition will constantly hammer that theme because we at least have a record that in 23 years of Government there were constantly rising living standards and a sustained full employment so different from the miserable picture which 2 years of government under Labor has produced.
– The Government does not mind where it gets the money from so why should it worry about how it should spend it?
-This is an attitude which may appeal, as Senator Missen says, for a short time, but there is ultimately to be a day of reckoning and that day of reckoning is becoming more and more apparent to an increasing number of Australians. I only hope that sanity will come back to this nation and overtake the Government so that in some way it can ensure that for the future the heritage which we all have will not be squandered in the way it has been over the past 2 years.
The first point of objection I make on this piece of legislation relates to its wholly discretionary character. Some companies are favoured and others are not. Some employees are looked after; others are not looked after. Some areas will avoid dislocation and hardship and others will not. Some employees of APPM will find that they are protected, but not the 170 who were dismissed last year or the 2000 unemployed in and around Launceston. They are not served or protected by this measure. As I have asked, why are some being looked after in this way and others are not being looked after in this way? One might ask the Minister to explain why a particular company’s operations are preserved and the operations of other companies- smaller companies- are not preserved. The discretionary character of this measure is one of the features of it which I believe is not to the commendation of it or of the Government. There is no criterion or test on which these decisions are made. It is simply a matter of ministerial judgment as to which companies should get this benefit. As far as I can ascertain, the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia in Hobart received a substantial grant when the Minister was able to take to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of the day his plea that it should be assisted and they decided that that grant should be made. Here we have another company being the subject of a piece of legislation in order to justify the paying of some $650,000 to it.
The second point of objection is that what is being expended is the taxpayers’ money. It is being paid to assist a private company to, in this case, meet an interest bill. It is a direct payment and it constitutes a direct benefit. I appreciate that where there is a desirable ultimate objective to be served, questions of real difficulty arise as to how public money is to be expended. Should it be used to bail out a private company, even if the express purpose is to continue employment? We believe that as far as possible this should be based upon some principle.
Two years ago the Government had the same view because it indicated in words which I think were quite clear and explicit that the principle which the Opposition maintains is a principle which commends itself the Government. I refer to what the Prime Minister said in his second reading speech on the Bill establishing the Industries Assistance Commission. He said that the principle that favours claimed from the Government, and through the Government from the Australian public, should be publicly examined and favours granted by the Government should be publicly justified was a principle which commended itself to him. The whole purpose of the Industries Assistance Commission Bill, as I understood the Government’s case in 1973, was to ensure that the financial assistance which was given to industries across the board or to particular industries was to be done on a basis that could be scrutinised and assessed independently. I quote again from what the Prime Minister said simply to highlight the principle and to illustrate the enormity of the Government’s departure from principle in this Bill. He said:
Measures which assist particular industries constitute forms of economic discrimination which, at least in the short term, can be of considerable advantage to the industries assisted and to the disadvantage of those who compete for the assistance, namely, other industries, consumers or taxpayers. Such a process must be independent and impartial, and seem to be independent and impartial.
It is a principle of desirable application. If there are to be occasions, as we are seeing at the present time, when Government largesse may be usefully expended in order to ease the pressures of Government policies which create unemployment, then the way in which it is done should be seen to be fair. It should be seen not to benefit some and to disadvantage others. It should be seen on a basis that all who may be affected can reasonably expect to gain some benefit from what is being done. Yet that principle is lamentably absent from so much of what the Government has been offering in the way of alleviating measures as a result of its policies. I ask the Minister: How does this Bill and his action square with the terms of the Industries Assistance Commission Act? I ask that because it is quite clear- I remember the debate that took place in this chamber- that under section 23 of that Act if there is to be any assistance given to a particular industry it shall be given only after a reference to the Commission. No reference to the Commission has taken place on this occasion.
– What about the TAA?
– I will deal with that in a moment. No reference to the Commission has taken place. Accordingly, one would say that the Minister, contrary to the express terms of section 23, has acted in defiance of legislation which his own Government established and which at the time of its introduction he praised as being the type of legislation which ought to govern assistance of this character.
The Minister by way of interjection mentioned TAA, the Temporary Assistance Authority. If he looks at the provisions of the Bill which deal with the Temporary Assistance Authority he will find that they are limited to specific measures for specific purposes relating to duties. He would also find that the Temporary Assistance Authorityand he knows this fact because I think he adverted to it in his second reading speechreported that there was no occasion for the urgent steps which justify reference or consideration of matters by the Temporary Assistance Authority to be granted. I pose this only to raise once again a question of principle as to how far the Government is going to embark upon a policy of enacting laws for which it takes immense credit and then when the occasion arises just ignoring the law because it thinks that the purpose which is to be served is so good that it does not have to abide by the provisions of the legislation.
– That was applied rigorously in the case of the apple industry in Tasmania.
– I note what Senator Wright said. This is part of the difficulty. One might take the plight of rural producers and the difficulties with which they are confronted. The superphosphate bounty was for years one of the means by which production could be maintained at a level which at least gave some prospect of ensuring production equated with the cost of what was being put into a farming operation. The bounty was a great help. The Government, again with a quite arbitrary decision, removed the superphosphate bounty and is using the provisions of the Industries Assistance Commission Act to inquire into this matter. Who knows when the inquiry will be finished? But the Government has decided not to follow that procedure in this case.
A third question which is raised is this: For how long are payments of this character made under the circumstances contemplated by this Bill to continue? For how long is inefficiency to be subsidised, assuming that inefficiency is involved here? I do not say that it is because I am not sufficiently aware of the circumstances in which it arises. But I have not any doubt and I make this assertion -
– What are you questioning it for if you cannot make that assertion?
-Because I am about to make the real assertion, if the Minister will only listen. What I am saying is that whether or not efficiency or inefficiency is involved now, if a company can be dependent upon a government subsidy which is made without any inquiry beforehand it will not be long before the company regards that government subsidy as essential to the continuance of its operations. The ordinary efficiency which ought to govern its operations, if it is bound to operate against the test of market conditions, will disappear because irrespective of what the market conditions may be the Government is there with a hand-out.
– But you are against tariff reform. You are in favour of inefficiency.
-The Minister is trying to build up furphies which, with all respect, I suggest cannot be based on what I have said today. I believe in the function which the Industries Assistance Commission is to perform, that is to assess after examination objectively whether or not tariff assistance is required, and broad, sweeping statements by the Minister cannot alter that particular view that I hold, and in fact, it is a view which I have expressed before.
The fourth point which I think arises in consideration of this Bill is that dependence upon government is a potential threat to the independence and integrity of any company which is dependent upon government. It is an impediment to its ability to act as it pleases. A company ought to be able to make its decisions in the light of what the market in which it is operating requires. As far as this Bill is concerned, the payment of money is dependent upon assurances being given to the State of Tasmania which are satisfactory to the Minister. One of the conditions is that the company should be prepared to furnish to the Government any information which the Government wants. There is a menace in that particular provision, which I do not say is likely to be applied in this case, but any company which submits to the requirement that the Government, because it is paying out a sum of money to help it over difficult times, can require from that company any information which the Government wants is putting itself in a position where it cannot maintain its independence.
– Should we not be entitled to be told what the company’s stocks are while we are paying out this money?
– I quite agree that if the Government is paying out the taxpayer’s money it must ensure that it is paying it out on terms which are just and proper. I do not question that at all. I am simply saying that a company which receives the money exposes itself to the obligation to provide that information and thereby loses something of its independence.
Finally, I suggest that this Bill raises a very dangerous precedent of government patronage to particular companies. I believe that this aspect of government patronage is one of the vices which the Australian people must recognise as having been developed in fine degree by this Government, and it is one of those aspects of the Bill which does give the Opposition a great deal of concern. I appreciate that it is a Bill which is designed to secure a desirable objective. I hope that it is secured. The company is taking upon itself, I think, an onerous obligation in that, according to the Minister’s second reading speech, it will not retrench employees even if economic conditions should worsen in the period for which it is receiving this loan. I hope that position can be sustained to the benefit of the employees and to the benefit of the company which is taking the grant. But the fundamental question which I think is posed by the Bill is this: How do you overcome the problems which unemployment creates? Basically you overcome those difficulties by avoiding unemployment, and you avoid unemployment in our current situation by avoiding inflation. I can only say that I do not believe that this country is going to overcome either inflation or unemployment until it gets that boost which the whole nation needs and which can come only by a change of government.
– in reply- I make a brief contribution to Bass day, even though I also suffer from the handicap from which the Liberal candidate suffers in that I am a mainlander. This has been a curious debate. It began with a stern economic lecture from Senator Cotton. As is usual with his contributions, I found myself in agreement with much of what he said. At the outset, before dealing with his arguments and the other arguments that have been presented, I would like to answer a couple of questions which he raised. Senator Cotton asked what was the rate of interest on the loan and what was the duration of the loan. I can only say that the interest rate is a matter between the company and the relevant bank. The reimbursement is for interest actually paid up to 3 1 December 1975. If Senator Cotton reads clause 3 of the Bill, he will find that it is a simple calculation to work out the interest rate. The duration of the loan, I would suggest is irrelevant. All we are concerned about is providing money to pay. interest up to 31 December 1975. Speaking for myself, I must say that I do not know what the duration of the loan is, but I would suggest that it has got nothing to do with what we are discussing here.
– If I may intrude, the purpose of the query was to see whether we might have another one of these laying around after this one, if the loan were not repaid.
– I understand, but I can assure the honourable senator that there will be no further advances to this company, and I hope that there will be no further advances of this nature to any other company.
The pronouncements that we have had from various speakers on the opposite side of the chamber, varying from the wisdom that fell from Senator Cotton to the inanities, if that is not too harsh a word, that fell from Senator Townley, are irrelevant to this debate because, as Senator Grimes demonstrated and as Senator Bessell agreed, the difficulties and the problems confronting this company have little to do with anything that this Government has done or has not done. Especially they have almost nothing to do with the reviled 25 per cent tariff cut of which Senator Greenwood tried to make so much. He saw fit to quote from the ‘Temporary Assistance Authority report’. But I challenge him to find in the passage that he read or, indeed, in any other passage in the Authority’s report any claim that the difficulties of this company were due to the 25 per cent tariff cut. In fact -
– It is the whole basis of what the company claimed.
– What was put to the Temporary Assistance Authority was whether the difficulties of this company were due to the 25 per cent tariff cut because, if the Authority had said so, under various structural adjustment schemes that had been devised by the Government the company would have been entitled to relief of a different kind. It was because the Authority had found that the difficulties of this company were not due to the tariff cut that the Government, in its wisdom, decided to seek another method of helping it.
Senator Wright, with characteristic hyperbole, even implied that the company’s difficulties had something to do with dislocation of shipping and that that was our fault like bad weather, marital disagreements, the collapse of the Hobart bridge and cyclone Tracy; they are all, presumably, the fault of this Government. I suggest that Senator Townley said nothing which requires an answer. He gave us a curious little uninformed lecture about the nature of inflation. He even made one curious suggestion that to further the socialistic ambitions of the Government we were bent on some course of action designed deliberately to wreck the economy. I invite honourable senators to ponder this problem, this absurd allegation that pops up from time to time. It amounts to a suggestion that politicians deliberately set out to cut their own throats because there is no doubt that if we achieved that end, whether deliberately or accidentally, whether by design or by blunder, we would be assuredly cutting our own throats and sending our Party into the wilderness for many years. So I suggest to honourable senators that they forget for all time this absurd suggestion that any economic difficulties that the country may be in at this time are the result of some deep dark plot by the machiavellian socialists designed to bring the economy to its knees.
It is really a very curious exercise to listen to argument after argument advanced from the other side of the Senate which add up to reasons why the Opposition should be voting against this measure and to find in the end that it is coming down on the side of voting for the measure. What Opposition members are doing is saying that they support the Government’s action to save employment in Burnie, but they take this opportunity to blame on the Government the situation that this Bill is designed to solve. I think that this is something like the action of a man who is being rescued from the surf raining blows on the lifesaver and blaming him because he nearly drowned. I think that any real examination of what got this company into its present plight must lead any honest observer to conclude that the difficulties that the company got into were caused by its own miscalculations, by a combination of forces that had, as I said earlier, almost nothing to do with anything this Government has done or has failed to do.
What happened was that in 1 974- this is confirmed in conversations I have had with the management of this company- an idea became current that there was a looming shortage of paper. There was, as a matter of fact, a brief shortage of newsprint but there was not at any time looming a real shortage of the sort of paper we are talking about. But in any event those in the industry cashed in on this panic, and the result was a great stepping up in the production of this type of paper. I think that in 1 974 the APPM company actually increased its production by 20 per cent or 30 per cent. During the calendar year 1 974 the total amount of fine paper supplied to the Australian market was 268 000 tonnes, which was 33 per cent higher than that supplied in 1973. Of course the shortage did not materialise because the prediction was badly based, and the result was that stocks in the hands of merchants and consumers built up to some 88 000 tonnes by the end of 1974.
It is surely absurd to say that any government was responsible for this situation. The idea that it was caused by the 25 per cent tariff cut is put paid to by the careful consideration which the TAAthe Temporary Assistance Authority- gave to this claim. As a government we were confronted with a situation in which this highly vulnerable town of Burnie was about to be hit by the equivalent of a cyclone. Anybody who knows Burnie- and I have taken the trouble to go there and find out something about the place for myself- knows how heavily dependent it is on APPM. I was asked a question by Senator Greenwood as to the numbers involved in the threatened lay-offs by this company. I can tell him that the Government was informed that if the company throughout its enterprises- it has enterprises in other places; Shoalhaven in New South Wales and Ballarat in Victoria- were not given the relief of the type that we have given it, it proposed to lay off 2000 employees, HOO of whom would be in the town of Burnie. Now, 1 100 people in a town of 22 000 people- the figure only has to be mentioned for the implications to be readily available. That action obviously would affect directly, at a conservative estimate, I would say some 4000 or 5000 people. Suddenly that number of people would cease to be breadwinners. Of course the indirect results of those people not being breadwinners or not having a means of livelihood can be readily apprehended.
In other words we were dealing with a totally exceptional situation. We were dealing with a situation in which a town would have been temporarily almost wiped out. I suggest that to say that this was a piece of pork barrelling is to show a very inhumane attitude to the plights of human beings. This action went against our grain. I can assure the Senate that I, as the Minister rresponsible, received quite an amount of criticism from the ranks of my own Party for recommending a proposition which amounted to putting $650,000 into the hands of a heavily capitalised and hitherto prosperous company. As I think Senator
Devitt said, we took the view that this was not just a matter of an entry in a ledger or a concern with whether we were departing from our traditional attitudes towards companies. It seemed to us that this was an emergency for which we had to take exceptional measures, and that is what we did in this case. I would say that what we have done, far from being something that can be criticised, is an example of the Government’s concern for the prosperity of the private sector. We have been asked to give some illustration of that. It has been said that we are hypocritical in talking about the prosperity of the private sector, but the moment we take positive measures to show that we are serious in that assertion we are criticised for it.
Of course Senator Greenwood’s comment is riddled with just that sort of inconsistency. He says that this is an example of a discretionary use of power. He asked how, having taken this action in regard to APPM, can we reject claims by other companies. I would like to pursue the logic of that proposition. He says that he supports our giving assistance to APPM. Does he support the proposition that we should give it to every other company in difficulties? If so, it is hard to see how he can offer any criticism about our giving it to APPM. Is he saying that we should not have given it to APPM because we are creating a dangerous precedent and we will have a great queue of companies in difficulties lining up here? If his principles are as rigid as all that, let him manifest them in a realistic way by crossing the floor and voting against the Bill. But of course, as we all know, the Opposition speakers in this debate want to have the best of both worlds. They want to be economic purists, they want to be economic critics, but at the same time they do not want to do themselves any danger in the looming by-election in Bass. So all his transparent Simon Purity will not stand the light of day.
Senator Greenwood made one or two other points. For instance, the point I have just made, that all of this company’s difficulties were due to the action of the Government, has been refuted not only by what I have said but also by what Senator Grimes said and above all by what a very honest and fair member on his own side said. Senator Bessell, who knows the area well, did not go in for any histrionics or any extravagant tirades against the Government. He has to live in the Tasmanian community and he knows that that community does not want to listen to these abstract sermons. He knows that the community knows the facts of this matter. Of course, if Senator Greenwood would take the trouble to go to Burnie, as I have done, and to mix among the people of Burnie and of the neighbouring towns of Devonport and Wynyard, he would discover that allegations of the Government being to blame for the difficulties of APPM just will not stand up. The local population knows better, and the management of the company knows better.
I have had numerous discussions with the management of the company during the times that led up to the taking of the decision that we took. I talked to the Managing Director and to various leading executives of the company. None of them attributed their difficulties to actions or omissions by the Government. They were quite frank in admitting that they had made a business miscalculation. It is a little hard to have to bear the brunt of making an unpopular decision to help a company like this and then to be accused to having done the wrong thing by people who will not stand up to their alleged principles by voting against a Bill which they criticise so much.
Just by way of a diversion, I was interested to hear the little tariff lecture that we had from Senator Greenwood. As far as I was concerned, it merely established the fact that this is another one of the areas of vast ignorance which we have come to expect from him. The troubles that we got into as a result of the 25 per cent tariff cut- I am the first to admit that we got into troubles over the 25 per cent tariff cut, although it is irrelevant to this particular question- were due not so much to the mistaken idea of a tariff cut but were due largely to the fact that we do not have complementary powers to make a tariff cut achieve the purpose that we set out to achieve. Senator Greenwood poured great ridicule on the motivation for the tariff cut that he found in a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). That was that in a period of demand inflation it was a good economic move to introduce a little bit of competition for local industry by letting more imports into the country. Any intelligent economist will tell us that that was impeccable logic but it came undone for various other reasons -
– It sure came undone.
-Not the least of which, Senator, was that retailers who were supposed to ease the pressure of demand by giving the consumer the benefit of some of the cheap imports that came into the country chose to mark up those imports to extravagant levels, thereby negativing the ambition of the Government to provide this import competition. Of course, the reason we could not do anything about that was that we were denied the powers over prices that we sought in a referendum against which the Opposition campaigned so fiercely a year or so ago.
What sort of managers are we, Senator Greenwood asked. I should like him to take his mind back to the revaluation discussions that went on in his own Party some year or so before the Labor Government came into office, when the Liberals allowed themselves to be stood over and intimidated by their Party’s alleged junior partner. The revaluation, which any economist could have told them was necessary at that time, was postponed until we came to office and had the courage to revalue. It has been estimated that that absurd opportunist decision, or the refusal to take a decision, cost this country something of the order of $ 1,000m. Any errors that this Government may have made to which Senator Greenwood takes exception are piddling compared with what that total failure of couragethat fact of being the prisoners of a hillbilly sectional partner- wrought in this country.
If Senator Greenwood chooses to look back into history he will realise, if he is honest with himself, that a lot of the difficulties that this country is in today stem from what we inherited from his Government. I refer in particular to the instance that I have just given and, of course, the absurd miscalculation of the 1971 Budget. Many of the difficulties that this country is in at the present time can be traced back to the frantic efforts of the McMahon Government in its dying days to court popularity by taking economic steps that were hopelessly unwise, opportunist, ill-advised and designed to enable that Government to hang on to office at any cost. The troubles of this country did not begin in December 1972; they started before we came to office. If, as I have readily admitted on many occasions that it has, this Government has made mistakes, all of the blame is not to be attributed to us. As Senator Devitt has proved, we are beginning to recover; we have learned lessons from our errors, as the previous Government did not do; we confess to our errors; and we believe that, having learnt those lessons, we have now turned the corner and are on the way to recovery.
Another of the simplistic charges that were flung at us by Senator Greenwood was that we were using taxpayers’ money. Would Senator Greenwood have preferred that, instead of giving this $650,000 to APPM in an effort to keep it going and to keep up the morale of the work force and keep the work force in being in this town of Burnie and other places while it weathered this storm, we should have let the market take its course, let these men be put out on the grass and spend taxpayers’ money on sustaining them and their families? Is that what Senator Greenwood considers a legitimate use of taxpayers’ money, and does he say that another way of using taxpayers’ money is legitimate? These are the gross failures of logic that are to be found in everything that was put to us by Senator Greenwood and which, in my view, cut the ground from beneath his case.
In conclusion, I should like to point out that the action which this Government has taken to rescue the company, APPM, the workers of APPM and the town of Burnie from its present difficulties do not stop with this Bill. The Government has agreed also to make an advance placement of an order for 3000 tonnes of paper to help reduce the stockpiles of this company. Also, the Department of Manaufacturing Industry is monitoring carefully the imports of fine paper into this country and if these imports exceed a certain limit the Department will arrange to have the matter of assistance to the company on the basis of structural adjustment schemes referred once more to the Temporary Assistance Authority. Although we do not contemplate again making a payment of this nature to the company, if it becomes necessary at a given moment to afford the company some tariff protection, as recommended by the body set up to advise on tariff protection, this Government will not hesitate to take such action. This Government’s unorthodox and unprecedented action of making a section 96 grant to Tasmania to be devoted to keeping APPM in being and to keeping its employees at work, rather than have them face the demoralisation of unemployment, is defensible on many grounds. The Opposition, which seeks to avoid the displeasure of the people of Burnie and of Tasmania- a displeasure which would be particularly unwelcome at a time when an important by-election is loominghas, in my view, today given the Senate an exercise in hypocrisy. I think that the public, which will examine what the Government has done in this case, will have no difficulty in assessing which of the parties in this Parliament has more humanity and more concern for the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– We are approaching the end of a long debate upon a matter that has concerned all of us. I wish to refer to the comment of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) on interest rate charges. He suggested to me that in the time I had available I might look at clause 3 of the Bill. I have done that. The sum involved is $650,000, for a period of 8 months from 1 May 1975 to 31 December 1975. The yearly equivalent would be $975,000. It bears a relationship to a capital sum of $8m. Therefore it seems to me that the effective rate of interest in this loan, for the stock finance purpose of keeping employment running, is 12.1875 per cent. That is just to illuminate the financial scene.
– As I stated earlier I do not know the details of this transaction. They are confidential between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited. I had made a similar calculation. I think Senator Cotton has drawn a reasonable inference.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 June on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Telecommunications Bill (No. 2) 1975 is introduced by the Government to restore a number of amendments which were made in the Senate to Government legislation introduced earlier in this session to set up an Australian Postal Commission and an Australian Telecommunications Commission. The Senate will remember that in that legislation, the Government proposed that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission should be abolished and that the work and the staff of that Commission should be incorporated into what was then the proposed Australian Telecommunications Commission. The Opposition moved a large number of amendments to that legislation to remove all reference to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and to ensure that the OTC continued as a separate entity under its own Act. Those amendments were passed by the Senate and when the Government proceeded with the Bills in another place, it did not seek to restore to the Bills the amendments which were made to them in the Senate, but apparently accepted at that point the amendments that had been made. As a result of that, of course, the Bills establishing the 2 new Commissions were passed by both Houses of Parliament only a couple of weeks ago.
The Government, however, decided to persevere with its desire and its policy to incorporate the OTC in the New Australian Telecommunications Commission. In order to achieve this purpose by another means it has introduced this legislation. As far as I can see, the Bill, almost word for word, restores to that legislation the parts of it which were excised as a result of the Senate amendments on 20 and 2 1 May. So we are now simply discussing once again the selfsame question that we debated on those days in the Senate as recently as 20 May. I would not normally take up much time of the Senate in redebating a matter which was so fully debated such a short time ago. However, the Government has now advanced a few additional arguments in support of its policy, and I feel that it is encumbent on me to deal with some of those arguments, although I propose to do so as briefly as possible.
One of the more curious features of this determined Government policy in this matter is the fact that when the Vernon Commission reported to the Government in April 1974 recommending this major reorganisation of the Post Office and the establishment of independent commissions it also recommended, by a majority of 2 commissioners to one, that the OTC should be incorporated. The Vernon Commission submitted a very large and comprehensive report. Within a few days of that report being presented to the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made a public statement that the Government was accepting those recommendations, including the recommendation that the OTC should be abolished and incorporated into the new Australian Telecommunications Commission. It was months later before the Government completed its study of that report and it was not prepared to make it public until it had completed its study of it. Finally, I think in about July last year, the report was made public. So the Government did take a considerable time to study it and decide, apart from the major recommendations, what action it would take. But the extraordinary thing is that the Government, right at the time the report was presented to it and obviously before it could have studied the report, because it was 3 months later that it completed its study of the report, decided to accept and committed itself to the recommendation that OTC should be abolished. It does seem now that the Government’s obstinacy in proceeding with the abolition of OTC is largely dictated by the fact that the Prime Minister took up that rigid position before the report could be studied fully and is now proceeding, come hell or high water, to try to justify the position he took up.
The Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) told us in his second reading speech that it does not matter now what the attitude of the Opposition is, and that if the Opposition again defeats this Bill it will be brought forward at a later time. In view of the Government’s determination, the Postmaster-General made some observations of warning to the Opposition in regard to this matter. Presumably it is another one of the tired old threats that the Opposition has become accustomed to hearing that if we do not pass legislation the Government proposes, it will become another double dissolution Bill. The Opposition does not intend to be deterred by threats or warnings of that nature. If the Government is so determined, as it seems to be, to have a double dissolution, it has had ample grounds for a double dissolution for some considerable time. It has acquired recently further grounds for it. I can assure the Government that the Opposition intends to oppose this measure, to stick to its guns in its attitude to this measure, and in due course the Government will have another ground for a double dissolution. The Government is constantly making such threats but it is not prepared to proceed with them, and if these threats are going to have any influence on the electorate it seems to me that the Government should be making them good without any further delay.
The Postmaster-General in his second reading speech advanced a number of reasons- rather more detailed reasons than he had advanced before- why the OTC should be incorporated into the new Australian Telecommunications Commission. His first reason was based on the experience of other countries. The argument appears to go along the lines that internal and external telecommunications are all part and parcel of one system. He cited a number of overseas countries- the United Kingdom, New Zealand, West Germany, Sweden and Francewhere these services are under the control of a single authority. However, that argument does not carry the Government very far because in other sophisticated economies the services are in fact delivered by separate authorities. If the Government is going to seek support by referring to the countries I have already mentioned, it is just as valid for the Opposition to refer to the United States of America, Japan and Canada, and of course hitherto Australia, where these internal-external telecommunications services have been conducted under separate authorities, and have been conducted successfully under separate authorities.
It has of course always been at the very heart of the Opposition’s case on the matter in question here that OTC has been in operation since 1946 and has been a very successful institution over a period of nearly 30 years. In the absence of very sound and overwhelming reasons it should be permitted to continue to operate as it has in the past. As I have said, we have clear evidence of the experience in other countries such as the United States, Japan and Canada, each of which has a separate organisation to run the overseas telecommunications service. There is no reason to believe that the services in those countries are any worse than those in countries which have one organisation handling both services. Indeed, I have heard the argument presented that the separate organisations in Japan and Canada are in many ways more efficient than in most other countries. So the mere fact that the Government says that these services are combined in some countries, which they have cited, is no argument for disturbing the present satisfactory arrangement which has existed in Australia now for nearly 30 years.
Although the internal telecommunications system has to be used in order to make use of the overseas service there is a very clear line of division between the activities of the overseas service and the internal service. In the international sphere facilities such as satellites and cables have to be provided, and in order to operate effectively, or indeed even to operate at all, agreements have to be reached with other countries on the use of these facilities. This is an area in which OTC has developed a very special expertise and that expertise will still be required whether OTC continues as a separate body or not. In other words, the task that is performed by OTC in making the proper contacts and agreements with other countries and in maintaining and developing the facilities such as those I have mentioned is one which must continue. The Opposition’s case is: Why should that task not continue to be managed by the body which has successfully done it in the past? True enough, if the OTC is abolished and amalgamated with the ATC this work can be performed- indeed the Government says that it will be performed- by the people who have been doing it in the past. As I said, the fact remains that telecommunications is a special type of service for which special expertise is required and again the Opposition says: If it is being conducted perfectly successfully by the OTC now why should that situation not continue? Why disturb a perfectly satisfactory arrangement because of some theoretical adherence to a position which was taken up on the spur of the moment by the Prime Minister when he received the Vernon Commission report in April last year?
The Postmaster-General has also raised in debate- I think really for the first time- some criticism of the OTC. I might say that this appears to be the first criticism that has been made of OTC in debate on this legislation which has been going on for some time both inside and outside this Parliament. The criticism is surprising because the Vernon Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office and particularly into telecommunications services in fact not only did not criticise the OTC but went out of its way to praise the services that OTC had been giving, its organisation and its management. Now the Postmaster-General claims, I suppose in order to try and provide some weight for his case, that there have been difficulties between the OTC and his Department. He says that there have been difficulties in negotiations between the two bodies about planning and cost sharing. He claims that this led a former PostmasterGeneral, Sir Alan Hulme, to establish a special liaison committee. Nevertheless these negotiations have been very time consuming and difficult. Apparently it is suggested that all these difficulties will disappear if the two bodies are combined.
The fact is that although the Vernon Commission of Inquiry report referred to areas of conflict which had arisen from time to time between the OTC and the PMG, its general finding, stated at page 288 of its report, was as follows:
The responsibilities of the APO and the OTC are defined in their respective Acts and they work as separate and independent entities. Considerable liaison is required to ensure the smooth working of the total system in its planning and operational aspects. A good working basis appears to have been established for the joint operation, in token of which the international services available in Australia are adequate in capacity and of high technical standard.
Naturally there are going to be some areas of conflict of interest as between the international service and the internal service. These conflicts are presented in any event by the nature of the problem and they do not disappear simply by setting up one organisation. That clearly was recognised by Sir James Vernon in the views he expressed in his report. I quote again from the report the views of Sir James Vernon in regard to this matter. At page 298 he said:
Planning and co-ordination will always be necessary however as between national and international networks and the study group approach referred to previously would seem to be an effective way of exposing differing viewpoints and resolving complex issues. The Chairman does not believe that problems disappear and that planning is necessarily optimised by the creation of a single central planning authority.
That was the view of Sir James Vernon, the most experienced man in the management of large business undertakings.
The Postmaster-General himself indicated that these problems remain whether or not there is a single organisation. His case apparently is that instead of having the problems resolved by liaison between the two separate bodies they should be resolved at the managing director level. There will be a managing director under the Government’s proposal to have one Australian telecommunications authority. The danger the Opposition sees in this respect is the fact that this body will be particularly concerned and dominated by the needs of the internal telecommunications network. Largely its management, indeed its managing director, will come from the present Postmaster-General’s Department. The presently existing OTC will be not simply merged but completely submerged in this new, vast organisation. We are concerned that in that event it will not have the same position from which to bargain and to establish the case for the international service which it would have and which it has had as a separate entity. The Government has made appointments to the OTC board and this will mean that there will be virtually a common board between the OTC and the ATC. Therefore, if there are to be any difficulties at all in the resolution of these conflicts they can be easily resolved as a result of the virtually common board of the 2 organisations.
Surprisingly in view of the arguments which the Postmaster-General has used, he went on to emphasise the fact that the present OTC organisation will remain as an identifiable group within the ATC. But as I have said, although it may start off that way nevertheless we are concerned that it will soon in fact be absorbed and the traditions and the esprit de corps which it has had will soon be lost as a result of its organisation being completely dominated by the internal service and the management of that part of the whole operation.
The only other matter in the speech of the Postmaster-General to which I should like to refer is his attempt to throw some doubt upon the claims made for OTC’s efficiency. It had been said all along that OTC is a very highly profitable organisation. In fact, unlike other telecommunications services it has been able to make some reduction in its charges and it certainly paid some adequate dividends to government over the years. The Postmaster-General seeks to claim that this was because it was able to operate in a very profitable area. As I said, he threw doubt on the claim which previously had been accepted on all sides that this body has been highly successful and highly efficient.
The OTC does not operate exclusively in the provision of these profitable services. In addition to providing the overseas telecommunication links it also provides Australia’s coastal radio service to ships at sea through some 14 radio stations around the coastline. In evidence which its General Manager, Mr White, gave before the Vernon Commission, to be seen in the transcript of the proceedings at page 3 10, he said:
I suppose the first thing I should say is that of the 200-odd places to which we provide a service, only about 70 are profitable. The balance we provide in order to provide a service to the Australian community so that they can communicate with these places.
He then went on to make reference also to the coastal radio service and the link with the ships at sea. In fact, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Post Office, which in future will be a commission, have to provide a mixture of profitable and unprofitable services. That is part of their task. We debated this matter very fully before. We suggested that this was a necessary responsibility of such organisations. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission has to take the rough with the smooth. The fact of the matter remains that it has been highly successful in carrying out its operations. I think it is unfortunate that at this late stage of the debate there should be for the first time any reflections cast on the OTC.
As I have said, the Opposition’s case in this matter has already been put, but I will conclude by stating it again. I cannot do better than to cite the reasons which Sir James Vernon had for taking the view in his report that the OTC should not be abolished and incorporated into the new commission. The report states:
It is a well developed and compact organisation, strongly market-oriented, showing good performance and with established relationships in the international field. It has developed its own career service and its corporate morale appears to be good. In the Chairman’s view OTC, a wellestablished, going concern, should not be destroyed unless or until overwhelming advantages can be shown to attach to its merging with the very much larger ATC; on the basis of the evidence, only fringe advantages can be seen.
That is the view of Sir James Vernon. It is true that the other 2 commissioners took another view. Therefore, by a majority of two to one, the
Commission of Inquiry favoured incorporation. However, I believe that the weight of the argument and certainly the better argument all through this debate must rest with the view as expressed by Sir James Vernon, namely, that where a successful organisation is operating efficiently and with excellent morale among its staff, why destroy it. The Opposition ‘s case in this regard is simply that the Government has not established a good enough case for destroying a successful organisation.
It may be in the future, as Sir James Vernon contemplates, that the matter can be reviewed after the Australian Telecommunications Commission settles down and one sees how it is operating. But until really overwhelming advantages are shown the Opposition is not prepared to take the risk of destroying this very successful organisation. As I have said before, we have seen concern that this amalgamation should occur expressed not only by the Opposition but also by the users of the service who are virtually unanimously opposed to the Government’s proposition. In addition, we have the views of the staff of the organisation. Although the PostmasterGeneral has given some warning to the Opposition that the interests of the staff will be better served if incorporation takes place, the fact of the matter is that the staff do not believe that. For all these reasons the Opposition will oppose the Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-When the Postal Services Bill 1975 and the Telecommunications Bill 1975 were before the Senate on 20 May 1975 the Opposition supported the establishment of 2 commissions. But it amended the legislation so that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission would not be incorporated in the proposed Australian Telecommunications Commission. On that occasion the Opposition advanced certain arguments and took a certain stand. Its attitude on this occasion is no different from its attitude then except that it is probably not so lengthy and is less enthusiastic. On 20 May and again this evening the Opposition supported its stand by saying that the Government did not follow the opinions or the wishes of Sir James Vernon. Technically the Opposition may be right because Sir James Vernon was the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry and he recommended against the incorporation of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission into the Australian Telecommunications
Commission at this time. But we should examine just what that decision was.
There were 3 members of the Commission of Inquiry- Sir James Vernon as Chairman, Mr J. J. Kennedy, who was possibly the best qualified of the three because he is a Queenslander, and Mr B. J. Callinan. They were the 3 commissioners who inquired into the Post Office and its restructuring. The majority of the commissioners said in the report that the OTC should be incorporated into the Australian Telecommunications Commission. The minority opinion was that of the Commission’s Chairman. On a closer examination of the Chairman’s opinion one can put on it a different complexion from that which was put on it by Senator Durack. I suppose it depends on the way that one looks at the matter. In commenting on whether the OTC should be incorporated in the Australian Telecommunications Commission, Sir James Vernon said:
The situation will be seen in proper perspective only when the new corporation is properly established and when the Boards and managements of the two corporations have been able to study the practical inter-working of the national and international systems.
All of us will submit that this is a reasonable point of view- there is no argument with thatbut the main difference between the opinion of Sir James Vernon and the opinion of Mr Kennedy and Mr Callinan seems to me to be about timing. In his statement of opinion Sir James Vernon said that it may be more prudent to wait until we see the working of the managements of the 2 commissions, but he has never come down firmly with the opinion that at no time should the OTC ever be included in the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
I return to the point in question which is simply one of timing. Sir James Vernon offered his opinion more than a year ago. The matter has received, as one would expect, a great deal of attention and study. One would have expected that those responsible for preparing the commissions, by anticipating the support of both sides of the Parliament, would have done a lot of preparatory work; and we find that a lot of preparatory work has been done. The opinions of those people who must make the commissions work- the interim Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Governmentshould be valuable in this instance, and those who have the responsibility for making it work consider that the correct time for the amalgamations is right now. The majority opinion of the Commission of Inquiry was that the time to do it is now and the Government and the Interim Commission are saying that the time to do it is now. One might say ‘It’s time’ for the OTC to be included in the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
Let us look at the OTC- the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. It is a Government statutory authority and of course it is a profitable concern. There is no argument about that and no one has any criticism of this corporate body. The only argument that has taken place in this chamber is as to whether it should remain as a separate corporation or be included in the new Australian telecommunications system. The Government is not disputing that it is a profitable concern. It is the first to recognise that fact. We know that it made a profit in 1973-74 of $ 13.6m and we know also that it paid taxes of $ 1 1.8 m in that year. This money came from telephone subscribers, the same people who make local calls in this country, so the question I pose to the Senate is: Why should Treasury get this money? Instead of this money being paid to Treasury by way of taxation it should have been used for the benefit of subscribers to improve the internal service.
We heard claims this afternoon, as we heard them when the Bill was before the Senate on 20 May, that the OTC is efficient. We are not disputing that fact. We know it is an efficient oganisation, but this is not one of the points being debated now. The fact is that it could not connect international calls if there were no internal service to help it. It could not connect an international call if the Post Office had not established the internal service here. We submit that the 2 services should work together; they supplement each other. They should not and do not compete with one another. The claim was made so eloquently by the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) in his second reading speech that both these organisations should work together for the Australian people and in the interests of the Australian people.
Looking at it from a more practical viewpoint, why should there be 2 commissions, one the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the other the Overseas Telecommunications Commission? Why should commissioners on both Commissions be paid service fees? This seems to me to be in striking contrast to the stance that has been taken by Opposition senators over the past few weeks when their new economic philosophy has been: ‘We have to chop down on Government expenditure’. The Opposition says that Government expenditure has to be sliced at all costs. Yet in the next breath, just because it suits the Opposition’s argument, it is advocating that there should be 2 commissions. The Government says that one commission not only could do the job more efficiently but also could do it more economically. The Opposition’s argument has been that we must at all costs cut down on Government expenditure. It has been against the proliferation of corporate bodies yet, just because it suits its argument this afternoon, it is advocating the existence of 2 commissions.
This brings me to the conclusion that honourable senators opposite are consistent in only one thing- they are consistent in their inconsistency. Senator Jessop, who made a contribution to this debate on 20 May, is reported at page 1586 of the Senate Hansard as saying:
The OTC paid 93.75c to the Post Office for the use of its facilities. Senator McAuliffe made an incorrect statement in his speech when he said that the amount of money paid by the OTC for the use of Post office facilities was 30-odd cents a call. It is in fact in excess of 40c a minute and as overseas calls average more than 7 minutes Senator McAuliffe ‘s assessment is incorrect by about 1000 per cent . . .
He went on to use some extravagant language and to say that he completely exploded any argument that I had put in my speech. In fact what I said, as recorded in Hansard of the same day, was this:
Yet the Australian Post Office, which supplies the telephones, the wiring, the switching gear, the cables and everything that makes an overseas call possible, gets a mere 33c from the OTC for each call. It is unbelievable. I nearly fell off my chair when I read that the only recompense which the Australian Post Office receives from OTC for initiating a call throughout Australia was 33c.
If I were to be forced to cross every t and dot every i, it would be fair to say that Senator Jessop was right in correcting me. I said that the amount received by the Post Office was 33c for each call when in fact it is 36.9c per paid minute. So for a 3-minute call to the United Kingdom, which costs $6, the return to the Post Office would be $1.1 think it receives in the vicinity of 35c per paid minute. If I had wanted to pursue the argument further with Senator Jessop no doubt I could have reminded him of the point that was made very effectively by Senator Drury. Referring to the future introduction of subscriber trunk dialling facilities for international calls he asked what reason there was for the continuation of OTC because its functions would be incorporated in the machinery and the framework of the ATC. No doubt when STD international calls are available and one-minute calls become permissible, and possibly fashionable, the amount that the Post Office will receive from the OTC, based upon present costs, will be 35c and not 33c, as I said on a previous occasion when Senator Jessop responded with such extravagant language claiming that he had exploded all my arguments.
We have traversed all this territory before. We argued the pros and cons of this matter in the Senate on 20 May, as we have argued the pros and cons of 15 other major Bills. One gets giddy and tired from the tedious monotony of repeating the same old arguments for and against. However there is one point to which I should like to advert before I conclude. Where does the staff of the OTC fit into this argument and debate? We know that there are 2000 staff members in the OTC. In the Australian Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission there will be over 120 000 employees. Those of us who have read the Bill and who debated this issue previously know that in the Telecommunications Bill (No. 1 ) arrangements were made for a 5-year period. Arrangements and provisions were also made in that Bill whereby staff in one of the Commissions could apply for promotion in the other Commission. Now, thanks to the Opposition’s rejection of Government measures, the staff of the OTC will have only 2000 jobs for which to bid as against the 120 000 positions that they would have if the proposal before the Senate were adopted. I do not need to tell the Senate of the better job opportunities that would be available to members of the OTC if there were only one commission responsible for telecommunications. There would be a wider field of promotion and better opportunities for development of staff members as people. All these things are now denied the people who work in the OTC, not to mention the uncertain future that must undeniably be hanging over the heads of employees of the OTC if this legislation is defeated.
As sure as day follows night, if this measure is defeated, as the spokesman for the Opposition has indicated that it will be, the Government will wheel the legislation back to the Senate in the budget session and it will be established as a double dissolution measure. However let us forget about a double dissolution. I am not mentioning this Bill in the context of a double dissolution. I am mentioning it because of the uncertainty that will hang over the heads of the employees of the OTC. Surely it must damage the morale of the members of the staff to have this terrible uncertainty hanging over their heads.
One wonders just how sincere the Opposition is in its opposition to Government measures and the attitude that it adopts towards the progressive legislation that the Government continually brings before the Senate. The members of the Opposition must not have a spark of humanitarianism in them. Forgetting the nuts and bolts of the organisations of the Commissions, surely they must have some consideration for the welfare and future well-being of the 2000 people who comprise the staff of the OTC. Surely that must be worthy of some consideration by honourable senators opposite, but so far no consideration has been given by them in their contribution to the debate to the welfare or wellbeing of the staff. Surely the continual obstruction of Government legislation by members of the Opposition, the campaign of pretence and pretext which they are conducting, and their attitude of being consistent in their inconsistencies, must have only one fate. The day of reckoning is coming. The electorate will again show the members of the Opposition, just as it has done twice in less than 3 years, how much it is opposed to the attitudes they adopt in this place.
In conclusion I say that I have not heard any valid argument that would make one think twice about whether the OTC should be incorporated in the Australian Telecommunications Commission, except that it is not the time. But we of the Government who have been members of this Senate for some time, and who have seen the attitude adopted in this chamber by the Opposition towards legislation, know that it will never be time for anything that the Government wants to do. Until honourable senators opposite change their ways and get behind the Government and support the progressive legislation that is coming before this chamber they will have no chance whatsoever of ever again occupying the Treasury bench of this Parliament.
– I rise to support the view of the Opposition that the time is not right for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission to be incorporated in the proposed Austraiian Telecommunications Commission. I am somewhat surprised that Senator McAuliffe has drawn attention to the fact that the Opposition’s attitude has in fact not changed. I believe that that is perfectly normal. In the present circumstances it is unlikely that it would change in the passage of perhaps 3 weeks. An attitude which we believe was well founded at that time is certainly not going to change in the course of 3 weeks.
It seems to me that the suggestion that we are opposed to the incorporation of the OTC at any time is not necessarily based on a correct assumption. We are saying, and saying quite specifically, that there does not appear to be a proper reason for incorporating the OTC in the Australian Telecommunications Commission at this time. We say that basically for the reason that the OTC is a highly effective and efficient organisation in its own right, and the Australian
Telecommunications Commission, which it is hoped will become a highly efficient and effective organisation, is in its absolute infancy. Consequently it seems irresponsible to say that one should in that circumstance and at that time involve the merging, which would be the submergence, of the OTC into an as yet relatively untried Commission which has an enormous responsibility, which is of an enormous size and which has an enormous management problem. Those are basically the reasons why we think that for the time being at least there is no proper and substantial reason for the submergence- I was going to say subjugation but that is probably too tough and unnecessary a term- of the OTC into the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
Senator McAuliffe also referred to the uncertainty that was being created amongst the staff of the OTC, which is extremely efficient and which has extremely high morale. Well it should have high morale. But I cannot quite follow the logic of the uncertainty. In our view it is improper that the staff should be under challenge at this time. Senator McAuliffe said that if the OTC is incorporated in the Australian Telecommunications Commission the position of its staff will be better than ever. If the staff of the OTC has been highly satisfied with its position over the last 30 years it should be extremely happy, if it has any confidence at all in the attitudes promoted by Senator McAuliffe.
I believe that when the postal and telecommunications Bills were before the Senate some 3 weeks or so ago there was a very great measure of success and co-operation. The Bills which proposed the establishment of the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission contained some important built-in additions which the Government and the Opposition believed were necessary. Probably the most significant of these related to a policy guideline to enable the Minister, and naturally the Government, to act in the event of the Australian Telecommunications Commission being guided to too great an extent by the objective of making a massive profit. If this should become the total objective of a public utility- and it could be if viewed from an ivory tower- communications in Australia would perhaps be confined to the densely populated areas and to some extent the areas between them. Obviously it is in these areas that communications can and must be extremely profitable, but I do not believe that sheer profitability should be the total and only yardstick of a communications system in a country in which the capacity and standard of communications is of basic importance to every member of the community. Therefore it is immensely important that the Government and the Opposition should be in agreement on practical policy guidelines for the operation of the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
It is important that attention was drawn to the fact that the establishment of the Australian Telecommunications Commission could well involve the Australian people in very greatly increased costs. It is important that this should be noted because it is something to which the Australian people and the Australian Government must be alert for in the operation of communications organisations. Obviously in this case, where the Australian Telecommunications Commission is to be responsible for finding half of its operating capital from its own capacity to earn, there is bound to be a significant increase in the cost structure. The cost structure is also going to be affected by the circumstance which makes it necessary that the Government shall reimburse the Commission for any losses that it may suffer as a result of its recommended tariff not being accepted by the Minister. This is a circumstance which could involve very large amounts of money and these would be referable to the Australian taxpayer in the final instance, of course, and not to the user. Very often this Government has insisted that the people who pay should be the people who use, but where there is to be reimbursement of moneys that may be lost because of the difference between the proposed tariff of the Commission and the tariff allowed by the Minister, by the Government, indeed it is the Australian taxpayer who is paying and not the user.
I want to make it quite clear that I believe that there is in this sort of circumstance a need for a proper measure of subsidy, but surely that subsidy must be related to efficiency. That has to be the yardstick in the operation of the Telecommunications Commission, as in the operation of any other commission. But that efficiency must take the total view of the development of the socio-economic circumstances- that is, of the total Australian community. It is terribly important that an organisation of communications should be concerned with the need to provide a first class communications service in those remote areas of Australia just as much as it is concerned with providing that type of communication facility in the populous areas which basically and in the main cover the coastal areas of this country. As I said, it seems to me a shame that, having come to a reasonable amount of agreement on the 2 major commissions, we should be involved in an argument again concerning the position of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, which is a small but extremely efficient organism in the communications set-up in Australia. That is the argument in which we are involved. Once again the Opposition has determined that at this time it is of the opinion that the merging of the OTC into the Australian Telecommunications Commission is not a proper and necessary operation. Indeed, it is hard to see who is to be the beneficiary. It is certainly not to be the users of these telecommunications facilities; they are not going to get any better facility. It is certainly not going to be the Australian taxpayers, who may be involved in a still greater payout in subsidy. It is certainly not going to be any identifiable person or group of persons, employees or staff. It seems that a real reason has not been established for submerging an efficient, small organisation in an enormous organisation which unquestionably will have a very great number of problems to solve in the very near future. So neither the taxpayer nor the OTC itself will be the beneficiary. Nor will Australia be the beneficiary, because Australia could be the beneficiary only if it could be guaranteed that the operation of the OTC within the ATC was going to provide a better service for the consumers of telecommunication services around the world. In that area Australia stands in very high regard at this moment and has done for the past quarter of a century. If this sort of circumstance is not going to guarantee an improvement in that area, then it has virtually nothing at all to contribute if the merger should be brought about.
I wish to look just briefly at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission itself. The OTC has been and is a most effective, small, wellorganised and managed, efficiently staffed communications entity. It has been so for some 30 years. As I have just said, it is held in very high regard in world communications circles. It was Sir James Vernon himself who said in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office- his, of course, was a minority report- that the Australian Telecommunications Commission should have time to settle down before the overwhelming advantages of the OTC as a single entity were to be jeopardised.
– That was 12 months ago.
– Twelve months is a relatively short time when we are talking in terms of the 30 years during which the OTC has been such an efficient and effective organisation. I believe that Sir James Vernon was probably quite right when he suggested that the effectiveness and the efficiency of the OTC could be jeopardised if it were to be submerged too quickly into the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
Let me make one or two references to the OTC operation because I believe it is important that we should be aware of the orgnisation with which we are concerned. It is really only this organisation that is the subject matter of this debate. It is a question of whether this Commission should be merged with an enormous entity or should remain as it is, that is, a single well identified and efficient entity, at least in the foreseeable future. I believe that it is quite significant to realise that an analysis of the consumers in the telecommunications sphere reveals that some 90 per cent of the consumers want to see the OTC remain as it is, that is, as an individual identity. The other 10 per cent of consumers merely have suggested that there should be time for them to analyse the performance of the Australian Telecommunications Commission in order to make a decision as to whether it is necessary and advisable that the OTC should be submerged in the larger body. It would be submerged because we are talking of 2 entities which employ 90 000 and 2000 people. In other words, the staff ratio of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and Australian Telecommunications Commission would be one of the order of one to forty-five. It is difficult to imagine that in that circumstance the OTC could in any real sense retain its entity, and to retain its entity is to retain in all probability the morale and the efficiency that it has built up over the years.
The OTC has a remarkable record. It has an annual growth rate of 14V4 per cent and statistically it has achieved quite an enormous performance. I wish to cite its performance during the last year of its operation. It handled some 25 million minutes of telephone calls, some 12Vi million minutes of telex messages and about 141 million words by way of telegrams. Whilst statistics do not prove all things, those statistics would tend to indicate that this is an immense organisation to be effectively and efficiently operated by 2000 people.
The OTC was formed originally with a Treasury advance. It has been so successful that it has, since 1970, been paying to the Government interest at 7’/i per cent on consolidated capital of $35m. In 1973 its rate of interest increased to 8 lA per cent. In 1974 the capital increased to $50m. On that amount the OTC paid interest at the rate of 10 per cent to the Australian Government. So, it has indeed been an effective and continuingly efficient organisation.
In the course of this process it has been able, quite remarkably, to reduce its charges. That is a remarkable achievement almost anywhere around the world in these days. If the OTC were to be submerged in the ATC it would make a difference of about 0.4 of one per cent in the profit before interest of the ATC. That is on the assumption that the OTC in its merged state remained exactly as efficient and effective as it has been as an individual organisation.
In closing let me once again record the view of the Opposition that the OTC has had freedom of action and with that freedom of action it has proved a most efficient and effective organisation. No possible reason has been advanced to this point to support the view that its performance would become better if it became part of a vast organisation such as the ATC. It may well be that at least in the foreseeable future this country would be well advised to leave this extremely efficient though small organisation as it is and let the 2 major and massive commissions develop into the expert communications organisations that we all hope they will be.
– in reply- I shall start by referring to the remarks of the last speaker, Senator Scott. He placed a lot of reliance upon what Sir James Vernon said. Everybody accepts that the Vernon Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office made a great contribution. Its contribution has never been doubted in any respect. It made all sorts of investigations which are recorded. It gave the Post Office a clean sheet except in the area of industrial relations. The majority decision of that Commission was this: Commissioners Callinan and Kennedy recommended that the Overseas Telecommunications Act should be repealed and the present overseas telecommunications organisation should become a division of the Australian Telecommunications Commission and be responsible to the Managing Director. The Commissioners saw no justification for a separate corporation for overseas telecommunications and recommended a merger of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission with the ATC. They observed that so long as there were 2 separate authorities involved in the nation’s telecommunications systems problems as to division of functions would arise, but if a merger takes place no division of functions would be necessary.
Other speakers from the Opposition have quoted what they consider to be Sir James Vernon’s hesitations about a merger at this time. Everybody knows of course that there have been difficulties in the negotiations- they are recorded in the Commission’s report- between the Post Office and the OTC. Senator Scott talks about the ATC as a juvenile organisation. Everybody knows that the ATC is, in fact, the Australian Post Office, and that is where the ability, the techniques and experience resides. That experience will be divided into 2 new commissions. The 2 new commissions have been charged not only with the responsibility of perfoming efficiently but at the request of the Opposition and with the Government’s acceptance, the commissions also take on a certain obligation in the public interest. We agreed to accept a prescription, which was finally worked out in agreement with Senator Durack, that clause 7A ( I ) should state:
The Minister may, after consultation with the Commission, give to the Commission, in writing, such directions, with respect to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers, as appear to the Minister to be necessary in the public interest.
Separately it designates some of those things which might be done. But there is no such obligation in relation to the Overseas Telecommunications Act. In fact, if it wanted to, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission could tell the Government to go and hang its hat somewhere.
So it was not unusual- Senator Durack said that it was extremely unusual- that when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) received the report of the Vernon Commission in April 1974, almost immediately he said: ‘We will see that the recommendation in relation to the OTC is accepted.’ The Government’s committees and Cabinet decided to apply the recommendations. It is no mystery because it ought to be selfevident after examination of the Australian Post Office- which everybody agrees is too big anyway and which has 2 functions which the Opposition has agreed should be separated- that the small incidental service which concerns itself with the international sphere should become a part of it and should not be submerged. In the organisational chart which was prepared assuming that the Opposition would accept the recommendation, the position of the General Manager (Overseas) is a very senior position. He is on the highest level of the administration, as he should be. But he should not be in a position where he can act separately and where the OTC can act separately from the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
So we have a recommendation from specialists who looked into the question. The majority said that it should be merged with the Australian Telecommunications Commission. We have now seen a great campaign by the so-called users of
OTC, no doubt generated within the OTC itself, which has cost the Australian taxpayer millions of dollars. My colleague in the other place estimated that nearly $lm has been spent in a campaign to frustrate what should be a most logical step. I hope that the Opposition will still consider its position on this matter. In my opinion, its acts of frustration have been arranged largely on information sent to Opposition members by people who are not concerned with the national interest. The logical thing to do, the rational thing to do, the right thing to do for Australia is to merge the OTC with the ATC on a basis of sharing, not on a basis of competition. The staff were logged for all sorts of activities. I have no doubt that the time spent by certain staff members trying to generate activity against the merger has cost the Australian taxpayer a lot of money.
Let me refer to the main unions with members in the OTC. It is well established that they took part in what was known as the joint union group. They went along, resisting the idea at first and later accepting it. They went along with the recommendations of that group which made all the provisions necessary for the transfer. From the time the Vernon Commission report was accepted by the Government and later transferred to the basis of staff organisations, all the staff organisations have worked with management. The staff groups, the union groups and the management groups worked together to thrash out a new form of administration, which will give the staff a new identity. For the first time ever in the Australian community we have, as a part of the organisation, a trade union or staff representative as a member of the Commission. We have an acknowledged system of consultations with the staff which is the best ever. In anticipation of this and in anticipation of the Opposition accepting the recommendations of the Government and of the Vernon Commission, I recommended to the Prime Minister that a union delegation should go overseas to look at the best practices and techniques of telecommunications and post offices. I recommended that a unionist from the Professional Radio Employees Institute be a part of that delegation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I stated that, with the approval of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), I intend to notify a number of trade union people, including a unionist from the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, to go overseas to look at postal and telecommunications organisations and to bring that experience back to the 2 new Commissions. I feel that what is required in this new situation is a new co-operative effort from the work force in the postal and telecommunications areas and the management, which might bring them into a new arrangement which would, of course, profit the Australian community. If the Opposition continues to oppose the merger of OTC with the Australian Telecommunications Commission it will mean that the union side of the OTC will not have that international experience. I appeal, at this late stage, to the Opposition to reconsider what it is doing.
This matter has been argued for a long time. We have said that nationally what the Government is proposing is correct and I do not only say that as a Labor Government Minister. I would hope that in any change of government a Minister occupying my position might support the same point of view, because we cannot have a fragment of an organisation taking an independent role and, in addition, having obligations that are different from those contained in the 2 new Acts, by agreement between the Government and the Opposition. We have placed on the new Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission an obligation to do things in the public interest. No such obligation is contained in the Overseas Telecommunications Act at the present time.
What I say is this: The position of the G overnment proposing that the OTC should come within the Australian Telecommunications Commission is based on the principle, firstly, that it would avoid conflict of functions and responsibilities, evidence of which is contained in the Vernon Commission report which is available to all honourable senators for them to read; secondly, that there is growing convergence of technologies in national and international communications and there is a need for avoidance of duplication of equipment and resources, which exists presently; thirdly, the OTC is a small organisation of 2000 people and if it does not come within the Australian Telecommunications Commission its staff would be in a vacuum and would not have the opportunities of getting into the larger framework of career opportunities, where there is an organisation of 80 000 people; fourthly, there would be better career prospects for the staff; and, fifthly, overseas practice supports what we are proposing. The cases mentioned by Senator Durack instance only the position where, as in some countries, there are both private and public organisations. In our country we have no such private organisations.
To wind up, I say this: It may be that the new Commissions will face a situation not unlike the British corporation which, in its infancy, faced some economic problems, which did not demonstrate the advantages of having a corporation and maybe our own 2 Corporations will enter an economic climate which might not be favourable to their commencement. But I know that an organisation which combines representation of both the work force and the management is the best thing for our country, and I suggest that the Senate Opposition might reconsider the arguments it has put up which, I think, are based on purely small considerations. The arguments are put forward mainly because some people who have a job at the present time think they will lose it. We can guarantee that the people in the OTC will be properly catered for. I suggest, Mr Deputy President, that at this stage the Senate might take a vote on the matter.
That the BUI be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Racial Discrimination Bill 1975. Children’s Commission Bill 1975.
Debate resumed from 5 June, on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is the fourth occasion upon which the Government has presented the Superior Court of Australia Bill to the Senate. The Government is in no doubt as to the attitude of the Opposition to this proposal. The Opposition has in the past on each occasion when the matter has come for debate, voted against the proposal to establish a Superior Court of Australia. The Government, I am sure, anticipates that on this occasion the Opposition will vote against the Bill and that the second reading will be negatived. It is not unreasonable to ask therefore: Why is it that the Government persists in sending these measures before the Senate when it knows that the result will be that the measure will be rejected? The Superior Court of Australia Bill is not the only measure in respect of which the Government has adopted this course. I think there have been countless measures where the Government, knowing the Opposition’s attitude and knowing the ultimate fate which will attend its own measures, has persisted time and time again in bringing up these measures to the Senate.
– But you are the obstructionists senator.
– I hear what Senator Mulvihill says- that we are obstructionists. Of course if there might be any doubt in people’s minds as to whether the Senate is an obstructionist Senate or is merely expressing a legitimate point of view, which those who hold a different opinion in this country ought to be able to hold, then the best way to demonstrate this so-called obstructionism is to point to a record of countless Bills rejected. In the fray of debate, one is not called upon to say: ‘Well, what are these Bills which have been rejected?’. It does not matter if the same Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has been rejected 4 times; it does not matter if the same Superior Court of Australia Bill has been rejected 3 times; and it does not matter if a referendum Bill has been rejected 3 times. You just total up all the rejections and in the manner which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) demonstrated he is capable of exhibiting on television barely 12 months ago, you say: ‘This is a dreadfully obstructionist Senate ‘. It is not the quality or the identity of the opposition which has been expressed by the Senate which the Prime Minister thinks is important. All he is concerned with is the number of -
– I rise to order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Senator Greenwood has been speaking for quite a few minutes now and has not once referred to the Bill that is before the Senate. I suggest that under the Standing Orders it is required that he speak to the Bill that is under discussion. He is ranting and raving, but not talking about the subject matter.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to address myself to the point of order. I start off with the simple observation that Senator Poyser has raised no point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Thank you for your observations, Senator.
– I now go on to elaborate on the premise on which I rose to address myself. What Senator Greenwood was doing, which is perfectly in accord with the proprieties of the Senate in a second reading debate, was addressing himself in the first instance to the matters that are before the Senate, and I am sure you will agree with that, Mr Deputy President. I know you will because I have sat under you at odd times and observed that you are a Samuel come to judgment. The second matter is that what Senator Greenwood was beginning to elaborate upon was perfectly proper within the province of his opening remarks in a second reading debate, that is, that there is an attempt by the Government at the present moment to create a numerological system of deciding politics. It goes further than that.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator, just a moment.
– I am addressing myself to the point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! It would be better if you kept to the point of order.
– I am addressing myself to the point of order and to Senator Poyser’s observations and rather stupid interjection. He did not even point to the standing order of the Senate by which he could sustain his point of order. In the Senate in the last 3 months we have not only suffered a system of numerology, we have even got to the stage of creating a numerological system of divisions by which the Opposition can be pilloried in the community, I make this earnest observation to you: In the interests of the Senate, the proprieties of the Senate, the rights of senators, the rights of the Opposition, which I think on many occasions over the last 20 years I have upheld, you should overrule Senator Poyser.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTThank you for your observations. I do not uphold the point of order raised by Senator Poyser, but I would suggest to Senator Greenwood that he was wandering a little from the central theme of this debate and he should endeavour to tie up his remarks with the Bill now before the Senate.
-Mr Deputy President, I am addressing myself to the question whether or not the Senate should give a second reading to the Superior Court Bill. One draws some slight comfort from the point of one’s remarks when Senator Poyser rises on a point of order, particularly the sort of point of order that he raised tonight, because one senses that to people like Senator Poyser the point is really being made. Why is this Bill -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! I ask you to address yourself to the Bill. The point of order has been disposed of and I think it would serve the purposes of the Senate much better if we were to get away from that now and get on with the discussion of the Bill.
- Mr Deputy President, I am truly indebted to you for that encouragement. I ask the question: Why is this Bill being introduced again into the Senate? Why is the Senate for the fourth time being asked to give this Bill a second reading? The basic reason that I can see is that the Government wants to show that here is a further example of the Senate rejecting a Government Bill. It does not matter how many times the same Bill is introduced, if the Senate rejects it in the total it is a mighty impressive record of obstructionism. That is the way this Government thinks. But because the nicities of the Senate, if not your directions, require that one should direct oneself to the Bill, let me talk about what is contained in the second reading speech, because I think it is to be remarked upon more for the absence of reasons than for its justification of this Bill. I look in vain to find why it is that on this umpteenth occasion the Bill is introduced again.
– It has got some lovely titbits.
– I suppose that titbits is a fair description of some of the uninformative short sentences which are contained in the Bill. All I say is that the second reading speech does not give any reason at all why this Bill has been introduced again. It sets out a very short chronology of how the Bill was introduced in late 1973 and how it lapsed; how it was introduced in early 1974 and how the Senate defeated it; how it was introduced in the latter part of 1974 and, after the Government let it lie on the notice paper for almost 6 months without any concern for whether it was passed or not, how it was then presented to the Senate for debate in the early part of 1975 and defeated. Once again it is presented, but why? The Government does not give any reason at all. The ubiquitous Senator James McClelland is with us once again. I would be grateful if he would explain why it is that the Bill has been introduced on this fourth occasion. I look at some of the reasons which were advanced by Senator James McClelland in his second reading speech. He said:
Developments in the past decade have seen the Industrial Court invested with an increasing load of jurisdiction for which it was not designed. The content of federal jurisdiction of a specialised character will continue to increase.
In some way that is argued as some justification for this Bill. The Industrial Court is a tribunal quite separate from the Superior Court. If it be intended that the Industrial Court should be incorporated in the future Superior Court, why must there be a Federal jurisdiction of a specialised character? No reason is given for that concept and I would have thought if one were to try to analyse it it would be difficult of analysis.
The ordinary courts- the superior courts, the county courts, the district courts and the courts of petty sessions, which are the courts before which the people in this country have occasion to appear from time to time- have to deal with matters of great diversity and in those matters of diversity some specialist ability is developed. As the magistrates and judges who preside in those courts have developed that specialist ability, the ordinary courts of the land are not lacking in the expertise necessary to enable them to adjudicate fairly and with justice in the matters which come before them. There is no need for a Federal court on some unsubstantiated supposition that a Federal court will be a better court than the existing courts of this country.
What is the next reason which the Minister advances in some curious way to justify this legislation? He says that there are to be family courts following upon the passing of the Family Law Bill. I think the Senate is familiar with the terms of that Bill which passed through the Parliament recently. As I recall the argument which was advanced in the Parliament at the time, the argument was that these courts would have a particular function to perform which would set them apart from the ordinary courts of the land. I should have thought therefore that the family courts are not truly to be regarded as part of any Superior Court structure. Indeed, the Family Law Act, as I understand it, leaves open the possibility of State family courts existing alongside or in substitution for a Commonwealth family court, and that is a matter still to be finally determined. It is also stated by the Minister that there have been difficulties because States have been invested with Federal jurisdiction. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
These difficulties -
These are the difficulties which have been experienced in countries like America which has a duplicate system of federal courts and State courts- have been avoided in Australia by investing State courts with Federal j jurisdiction
The Bill does not attempt to deprive State courts of Federal jurisdiction where the need might arise to have part of a case dealt within State jurisdiction and part of it in Federal jurisdiction.
But it is a very curious concept to suggest that this Bill does not divest the State courts of a jurisdiction to deal with Federal matters which they already have. The fact is that if you create a system of courts which can deal with matters of Federal law then the ultimate result is that you will have competition, competing jurisdictions. Those who understand their legal history know that where you have courts of competing jurisdiction various devices and practices are availed of to attract jurisdiction to the courts which have a particular jurisdiction to administer. These are matters which I believe are inadequate if superficial reasons for the creation of a Superior Court.
I believe that the wealth of experience and the strength of argument is against establishing a duplicate or dual system of courts in this country. I think Australia would rue the day if alongside the supreme courts of this country we were to establish Commonwealth courts, superior courts, with all the problems and complexities and difficulties of competing jurisdiction that that must necessarily involve.
I sense that in addressing myself to these arguments I am going over ground which has been traversed previously in this Senate. I suppose it is the feeling I have in that area, Mr Acting Deputy President, which prompted me to embark earlier on some inquiry as to why it was that this Bill was being introduced again. It has been said in times past, and the Minister for Manufacturing Industry seemed to incorporate all the earlier arguments which had been advanced by his predecessors when he introduced this Bill, that areas of major Federal law should be administered by a Federal court established under legislation enacted by this Parliament. It was said that Federal law should not be left to be administered in State courts. This is an argument without any real logic or justification behind it. Law, whether it is a State law or a Federal law, is administered in the courts. There is no ground for treating State courts as inferior or incapable of deciding issues which arise under Federal law. The State courts have been doing it for 70 years. I have not heard it argued that they have been doing it in any way which denies justice to litigants. If it has been so argued then the defects are in the legal system itself and the system is always capable of being looked at with a view to reform. It is not due to the fact that it is State courts as distinct from Federal courts. Indeed, the use of the word administered ‘ by previous Attorneys-General of this Government is curiously inappropriate. Laws are not administered in the courts; they are enforced in the courts, and they are implied in the courts. The reason given is one which implies some unfairness or impartiality against the Commonwealth.
– Would you listen to me for a moment while I ask you a question in accordance with the courtesies which exist in the Senate? Do you mean that an AttorneyGeneral or a Parliament can administer justice and not the courts? Is that what you are suggesting?
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack invites me to move into an intriguing area but I am one who holds to the view that in the courts you find justice. You do not find justice, unless you are exceptionally fortunate, in the way that bureaucrats, officials or Ministers decide what the rights of people are. Justice depends upon having a system of courts, upon having a rule of law and upon having courts as the place in which the law is administered. It is only in that way that equality, which the law embodies, can be enforced. I was suggesting that the argument advanced in favour of this Bill is an argument which suggests that there is some partiality against the Commonwealth if its laws are to be the subject of decisions in the State courts. That, I believe, is a quite unwarranted implication; one that whatever be the examination attempted could not be substantiated.
It is said- to develop another line of attack upon the existing system- that a Superior Court will permit specialisation in some Federal law matters and that the Government should be able to sue in its own courts and that administrative law expertise should be built up. But specialisation can exist, as I have suggested it does exist, in the existing courts. There is no need for the establishment of Federal courts to permit specialisation. It is said by some that the Federal Parliament is excluded from considering reforms in practice and procedure of courts if it has not its own set of courts. But this is not so because if it wished, this Parliament could determine many aspects of the practice and the procedures of courts for when the State courts are dealing with Federal matters. But in practical terms the Commonwealth Parliament would not wish to do so. Why should the rights of litigants and the procedures which they have to observe differ according to whether they are suing upon or being sued upon matters which arise under Federal laws or under State laws?
It is said that the present system allows the rights of persons under Federal law to vary from one State to another. The example is given- it was given by former Senator Murphy when he was Attorney-General- that in some States persons can have a jury trial and in other States they cannot. But that is a difference which is not made by Federal law; that is a difference which is made by State law. In my own State of Victoria we have jury trials, I think, in greater degree than in other States. I for one would regret to see the disappearance of jury trials. I should like to see them extended into further areas than the areas in which they are used at present because I think that the existence of jury trials indentifies the people who are called on jury service with the way in which the system of justice is administered. The more people who are identified in that way with the administration of justice the greater will be public satisfaction with our system of law. I think it is a matter for regret that in some States the jury trial is not given the frequency of application and use that it is given in my own State, even though I should like to see jury trials given more use in my own State.
To me it is absurd to use this in some way as an argument in favour of the establishment of a Federal court, a Superior Court. I must say that I have never seen a jury sitting in the High Court or in any of the Federal courts. I know that there is a right for juries to sit in Federal courts because some trials can be heard on indictment before Federal courts, but I have never seen it. I think it is absolutely absurd to believe that if we establish a Superior Court in some way that might promote a greater use of the jury system. It is said that if the Superior Court were established the High Court would be able to concentrate upon its task of interpreting the Constitution and acting as the ultimate court of appeal. I do not object to that argument but I fail to see how the Superior Court is likely to advance that prospect. If the Parliament desires to limit the number of other matters which go before the High Court the Parliament has power to do so.
Chapter III of our Federal Constitution lays down the functions and powers of the High Court and the matters on which the High Court is to have original jurisdiction. Section 77 of the Constitution provides:
With respect to any of the matters mentioned in the last two sections -
Those are the sections which define the original jurisdiction of the High Court- the Parliament may make laws - According to sub-paragraph (iii)Investing any court of a State with federal jurisdiction.
Any of the original jurisdiction matters of the High Court are matters which are capable, if this Parliament determines, of being heard by a State court. All that is required is for this Parliament to pass a law investing the State court with Federal jurisdiction. But if it is thought that the High Court’s jurisdiction to hear appeals is so extensive that it prevents the High Court from giving appropriate time to the matters which are before it or which prevents the High Court from giving judgments with reasonable dispatch- I know that we in the Senate are waiting with interest for some judgments which have been awaiting delivery for some time- the Parliament has the power to make such exceptions as it desires with regard to the general power of the High Court to hear appeals. That argument which has been advanced is not relevant.
What do people who have interested themselves in the concept of a Superior Court have to say? I refer to the fact that over past years successive Attorneys-General who have been attracted to the concept of a Superior Court have examined what was involved and, finally, have come down against the proposal. Sir Garfield Barwick, Mr Snedden, the present Mr Justice Bowen and Mr Hughes are all previous Attorneys-General who have interested themselves in and supported the concept of a Superior Court until they have seen what was involved. After they had examined the proposition they decided against the concept of a Superior Court. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other Ministers of the Government look back into the ages and say that Sir Garfield Barwick favoured a Superior Court, as did a lot of other people. But what they ignore and will not give sufficient weight to is the fact that the greater the study which was made by all these individuals whom they have enumerated, the clearer was the conception which these people had of what the judicial system in this country should be. They were opposed to the idea of a Superior Court.
I have a submission which was delivered to me from the Law Council of Australia. It represents all the constituent bodies of the legal profession throughout Australia. I simply read what is contained in the first paragraph of the report:
Submissions have been received from four constituent bodies about the proposal to establish a federal superior court contained in the Superior Court of Australia Bill. The Law Society of New South Wales -
That is the largest professional body of lawyers in Australia- a committee of the Victorian Bar and the Bar Association of Queensland all recommended that the Superior Court of Australia be not established. The Law Society of the Australian Capital Territory is generally in favour of the concept but recommends improvements in the Bill in certain matters.
From the Commercial Law Association I have received a similar, tremendously well documented and reasoned case. The Commercial Law Association is a voluntary organisation of a wide and representative group of business men and lawyers engaged in the practice of commercial law. It is likewise of the view that the advantages suggested by the Government for the Superior Court are far outweighed by other serious practical and constitutional problems. I know my time is almost up and I do not wish to intrude beyond the time which I have been allocated. The arguments which have been advanced are arguments of weight. They are the arguments of people who have experience in the consideration of the proposals for a Commonwealth Superior Court. On this issue I speak for the Opposition Parties on whose behalf I am leading this debate.
We are looking for a system in which justice is simply administered and readily available to people in this country. We want people to feel that if their rights are affected they can go to the courts readily and easily without impediments of distance, confusions of jurisdiction or lack of means. This is a view which the Opposition has persisted in maintaining. We will continue to maintain it. We do not believe that justice in this country will be advanced by creating alongside the existing system of courts which have served us well over the years a completely new system which must be involved- in the creation of a Federal Superior Court. For those reasons we reiterate for the third occasion, no matter how many times the Government introduces this Bill, that we believe in the supremacy of the ordinary common law courts of the land. We do not support the concept of a Superior Court of Australia.
-I rise without much enthusiasm again to address myself to the Senate on the Superior Court Bill, but I feel it my duty to do so inasmuch as it has not penetrated the Government yet to realise how stupid it is in putting forward this proposal because it has repeated the proposition now, as Senator Greenwood has said, for the fourth time. It is a proposition which concerns the public generally, particularly in relation to the spawning that is taking place with regard to all sorts of newfangled ideas from the web of this Government. I refer to legal aid. We will soon have a system whereby we will have a drove of medicos for our health and a drove of lawyers to engender endless litigation throughout the country financed by the Government.
– The taxpayers.
– Financed by the Government using the taxpayers’ money. Here we are being presented with still more tanglefoot- a proposition that inevitably leads to complication, division and expenditure of useless money upon jurisdictional questions which are notoriously arid and barren and of no practical purpose to the litigant.
I put forward these ideas on the basis of criticism that has come from the highest authority. Recently I have been glancing at the report of a royal commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Beeching, that sat in England from 1966 to 1969 to inquire into the question of modernising the system of courts in Britain. After going through the disjointed system of courts, in the foreword of that report the commission said:
What is wanted in the legal system of Australia today is a simplification of the law and not a multiplication of all the complexities that are engeneered by the complex legislation that is manufactured here. Secondly, a speedy attitude to the disposal of cases is wanted. If the present number of judges is not sufficient, the number should be increased, but the energy of the judicial units, the judges, could be more manifest. Finally, the cost of litigation is out of all reason.
Those 3 propositions should be considered by a purposeful Attorney-General of this country.
But what do we have? We have here a proposition to create yet another court- a comprehensive federal court- to perpetuate a dualism in our judicature for all future time. We have well established since the beginning of settlement a system that has commanded the respect of judicial administration in the States. The judges of the supreme courts of the States have earned a reputation of high regard for their performance. Now the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) seeks to establish an entirely separate system of federal courts. As a result we would have in the country a dual system of courts aping the American system, which I suspect he either does not know or certainly does not understand because anybody who had dipped into that system even superficially would avoid it like the plague. It is not merely dilatory; it is expensive and it is entirely subversive to the true administration of justice, so much so that convictions won in the State court after being appealed through two or three courts can come up anew in a Federal court four and five years after the original conviction. Then if some lawyer can spot a federal issue- for instance, if the police constable on arresting has not advised the accused of his right to counsel- Federal courts have been known to quash the conviction years after- 6 years after- its original imposition. What respect can be gained for a system of law so dilatory, so contradictory and so weak as that.
There is not a symptom coming from the speeches which have been written in relation to the Superior Court that any of the advisers or the Attorney-General has turned his attention to that matter and heeded the pitfalls that would beset us if we tried to ape that system. Certainly it is a matter of some encouragement that a consciousness of that danger is growing, and I quoted to the Senate on the last occasion an utterance by the Chief Justice of New South Wales warning us of the pitfalls of creating a dual judicature in Australia, one Federal and one State. We commenced along this road when our Constitution was written and we took the precedent of the American Constitution. Everybody who knows the history of the drafting of the judicature section of our Constitution knows that it took place aboard the ‘Lucinda’ on the Brisbane River one weekend and Chief Justice Griffiths, who was chiefly responsible for it, paid too much attention to the American precedent. He said that there shall be a Federal judicature consisting of the High Court and such other Federal courts as the Parliament shall create.
Then he went on to invest in the High Court an enumeration of six or seven items of litigation. They are all out of date, have never been expounded in reality and are very much out of touch, but anybody who reads the criticism to which they were subjected in the submission of Mr Owen Dixon K. C, as he then was in 1 929, to the Royal Commission on the Constitution will see at once how completely inappropriate and unwise it is to persist with that demarcation of original jurisdiction in the High Court. However, so far from heeding that most salutary advice, we have those provisions copied into this Superior Court Bill giving exactly the same terms for the original jurisdiction of the High Court- matters arising under a treaty, matters affecting a consul and that sort of nonsense which was appropriate to the American colonies in 1776. But it is just gibberish in relation to the life of Australia in 1975. 1 am appalled to think that we have such a purblind attorney-generalship as to put into this Bill as the main sub-stratum of the Court’s original jurisdiction a copy of those things that the Australian Constitution of 1900 copied from the American Constitution of 1 776.
Then we have the great conception of the dictator who caused chaos among his Cabinet last week and who is perfectly portrayed in the epigram of the cabinet maker presiding with a hammer and the last nail over a coffin. There he was scattering the Cavanaghs, the Camerons and the Cairnses to the 4 winds, and not a word from them. They were all prepared to come into the fold. This gentleman is the architect of the great conception of the new Federal jurisdiction. Why? He said in the John Curtin Memorial Lecture that all the State parliamentarians, Labor especially, would do their country a great service by scuttling themselves and abolishing their positions. So the great idea now is to get a federal court.
He has the churlish impertinence to think that he can get a group of judges who will man this court and be as obedient to him in administering justice as the Cavanaghs, the Camerons and the Cairnses, but judges have an independence more durable than that. God forbid. He would gather unto this court the industrial jurisdiction and the bankruptcy jurisdiction. To show what garbage we have to discuss in this place, the can has not been cleansed since last it was carted into the chamber. The Government had in it a division of the Superior Court, the Family Court. Since then this legislature has passed the Family Law Bill. God have mercy on its soul. How it could do so, I do not know, but it has passed it and has created what the Government calls the Family Court. Do you spell it c-o-r-t or c-a-u-g-h-t, or is it a court of justice? I would think it is expected to go into the nursery and preside over the juveniles and poor women who have been deserted by their husbands. The garbage can that is kicked into the Senate has in it the Superior Court which still has as one of its divisions the Family Court. Well, I ask you.
But forget about the court’s original jurisdiction. It will have appellate jurisdiction that will enable it to hear appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States exercising federal jurisdiction and from the lower courts of the States exercising Federal jurisdiction. That provision is being made exclusive so as to ringbark the State Supreme Courts and so the great panjandrum down below thinks he is going to have a judicial umbrella in a comprehensive Federal court and that that will create a judiciary that will interpret his laws according to social democracy. It is pathetic that such transparently superficial politics can be paraded before us under the name of legalism.
These things are very serious, because the idea of a dualism in jurisdiction was commented upon by Mr Justice Dixon in the advice he gave to the royal commission in 1929. In respect of the provisions to which I have been referring he said:
However effectual such provisions may be for ensuring that the High Court retains an almost exclusive authority to declare the meaning and effect of the Constitution, no one can fail to see that this is done at the expense of rendering almost futile and impossible the practical administration of justice for the purpose of adjusting the real controversies between subject and subject, or redressing real grievances which a subject may have against the Crown.
In a later contribution that same most notable authority had this to say:
The observations we have made represent criticism instances of which might be multiplied almost indefinitely. Broadly, they arise from the fact that jurisdiction has been conferred upon a court on certain very limited matters by reference to considerations or criteria which have no relation to the practical administration of justice, but to circumstances that arise or features which are exhibited only accidentally or incidentally in the ordinary administration of justice and this has been done-
Note these words - from motives which ignore the efficient, speedy and orderly administration of the law, and-
Again note these words - concentrate upon the political expediency of a particular tribunal retaining control over particular questions which may be expected to arise, or dealing with particular persons who it was thought (why, we do not know) might be subjects of injustice in State courts.
He concluded his submission with a most pregnant passage in which he said: . . ‘Federal jurisdiction’ forms a grave impediment to the practical administration of justice. We think this confusion and all the difficulties which attend it ought to receive the serious attention of those interested in maintaining a Federal system of justice which is speedy, efficient and practical.
To get that sentence riveted in terms of brass -
– Quick and certain.
– Yes, as a monument in brass, I have repeated it again. I trust that Senator Button will not only laugh but also listen. Those who have put forward this proposal for the establishment of a Superior Court forget that we have had incorporated in our Constitution 2 provisions which make all this surplusage and subversive. The 2 provisions that we have had incorporated in our Constitution in contradistinction from the United States are that the High Court has been made a court of general appeal not merely from Federal courts, as is the case in the United States, but from both Federal and State courts. That has given our High Court sufficient jurisdiction to ensure that in the orderly administration of the law the mistakes that arise in the State sphere as well as the Federal sphere can be corrected on appeal and you can develop a uniformity of doctrine in both the Federal and State law under the guiding hand of one comprehensive general appeal court.
The other innovation that was included in our Constitution which makes this proposal complete nonsense and which makes the apeing of the American system most unwise is that it has been provided in our Constitution that this Parliament can invest the State courts with Federal jurisdiction. That is not possible in the United States. Hitherto governments in Australia have in the generality of things been wise enough not to go for the creation of special State courts. In one or two cases they have- the very special field of the Industrial Court and the Bankruptcy Court. But in the main they have adopted the general attitude for the adjudication of Federal issues and investing federal jurisdiction in the State courts which are appealable to the High Court.
If one maintains the unity of the judiciary one escapes the awful gap where arguments exist endlessly before the case begins as to whether it is proper to go to the Federal court or to the State court. That has to be determined by the way the litigation develops from time to time and it may be competent to start one case in a State court and because of the argument put up by the adversary it immediately swings to the Federal court. As a result costs are wasted. All this argumentation takes time, bedevilling the whole of the prospect of getting justice for the litigant.
This should not be a Party matter at all. It should be a matter that impels each member of the Senate to study the merits of this proposal from the point of view of having a system of judicial administration that can cope with the actual needs of ordinary people, people who are not interested in dispositions of academic lawyers as to jurisdictional matters between State and Federal courts. They are interested though in one system of judicature in which all judges are bound according to the common law conception of England to be obedient to the law whatever it is, whether it is Federal or State, and give justice to the litigants, administering the whole system of law then and there as inexpensively as possible and eradicating these needless jurisdictional disputes that are so barren and unproductive. I hope that the 13th time this Bill comes before this Senate there will be some on the Government side who begin to show a glimmering of understanding of this proposition and join us in condemning such a futile and fruitless measure.
-Once again this hoary old Superior Court Bill has been brought sashaying into this Senate to be ejected and rejected like a punch drunk sailor. One is tempted to wonder why because with the proposed rejection, of course, the Bill will go into a double dissolution situation. Once again 1 notice that I am the only non-lawyer on the speakers’ list. I notice that there are no speakers at all listed on the Government side, and there are a few lawyers over there. How a lawyer can be a socialist, I do not understand.
I rise to lend the support of the National Country Party to the rejection of this Bill, a Bill that has been rejected by successive AttorneysGeneral over several generations on the basis of the mass of evidence that they must have had before them to consider. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) in his latest second reading speech has given no new reason for the introduction of this Bill. If my memory serves me aright, the first reason given for the introduction of the Bill is that the establishment of the Superior Court is Labor Party policy. This is hardly a reason that commends itself to me and at least half the people of Australia because, after all, the Labor Party’s policy is a socialist policy. Socialism is the sole objective of the ALP constitution, and every member of the Parliamentary Labor Party has had to sign a pledge that he or she will socialise this place. So the first reason for introducing the Bill is not a good one.
I think that the second reason was that there are large areas of Federal jurisdiction that the Government felt had to be handled by federal courts, areas such as bankruptcy, taxation, family law, trade practices, industrial property and matters arising out of parliamentary law. All of these areas have been competently handled through the State courts since 1903. There is no question that they have been handled in anything other than a proper manner. The third reason given by the Government was that the Government should be able to sue and be sued in its own courts, and it added the rider that at present the Parliament was excluded from considering reforms on practice and procedure. It said that that had important effects on the rights of individuals in that it caused delays and increased costs, that there were inequities in the manner of the execution of judgments, and that the rights of people varied from State to State.
Once again I would like to state the reasons why we are rejecting this Bill. The main one is that none of the reasons given for the introduction of the Bill is concerned with what sort of court system the people want and what suits the people; and that is the only proper question to consider. An effective judicial system must satisfy a few criteria. Firstly, it must be independent of any outside power. Secondly, it must be accessible both financially and geographically to all the people all the time. Thirdly, it should be simple, not complex. The ordinary citizen should be able to understand it, how it works, where to find it, and the types of judges who sit in it. Next, it should be able to enforce all the laws of the land and enable the citizen to have all his rights determined in one court, whatever the source of the law, State or Federal. In a Federal system, such as that which we still have, the judicial system should be a cohesive force for the whole nation.
As I see it, the establishment of a large powerful Superior Court would divide the country into 2 court systems, State and Federal, with the emasculation of the State Supreme Courts. That would add complexity. The 2 systems would be explicable only by an expert in constitutional law. Technicalities would abound. There would be judges of different tenure. There would be a diversity of decisions between the State and Federal courts. Inconsistencies in criminal law would abound. There would be divisiveness in administration of the law between State and Federal judges. There would be different law enforcement officers- Federal marshals and State sheriffs. One can just imagine the confusion.
People would not be able to have their rights determined in one court, irrespective of the origin of the law. In addition, the implementation of the provisions of this Bill will cause friction between Federal and State judicial systems and between the judicial officers of those systems. None of the reasons given for the introduction of the Superior Court is worth the price that we will have to pay fork.
I remind honourable senators of the main provisions in the Bill. It is to be a Superior Court of record. That is to say, it will be the highest type of court. It will have power to fine and imprison and to enforce its own orders. It will have the power to fine for contempt. It will consist of a chief justice and other judges appointed from time to time. There will be 6 divisions, with a chief judge for each division. The divisions are administrative, bankruptcy and insolvency, commercial, family, general and industrial. There will be an unspecified number of districts with a chief judge for each district. Since there is specifically established an Australian Capital Territory district and a Northern Territory district, one assumes that there will be at least one district for each State. That is, in all, there will be at least 8 districts, each with a chief judge. If one adds up the numbers of chiefs, one finds that it comes to fifteen, I think. Heaven alone knows how many indians they will be in charge of. As has been stated, it is a Court of both original and appellate jurisdiction. A great deal of its work will come from matters arising from laws made by the Parliament. So it will be a court of very wide jurisdiction.
Clause 23 of the Bill is a dragnet clause aimed at giving the Court jurisdiction in matters which are not matters of Federal jurisdiction. There are also provisions to transfer existing jurisdiction from existing courts- for example, the State Supreme Courts, the High Court, the Supreme Courts of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, the Federal Bankruptcy Court and the Australian Industrial Court. There will be a registrar, registries and marshals to enforce the law- much the same system as exists now in the United States of America with all the inadequacies and dissatisfaction that they experience in that country. More importantly, practice and procedure are to be removed from the jurisdiction of judges and left to politicians. The Bill discloses the scope and size of the proposed court. It will be the largest in the country and its writ will run throughout the Commonwealth and its territories.
The Court will exercise tremendous power over our citizens and it will be expensive. It will need many judges and their staffs. It will require the provision of courts, registries and jury facilities in every city of the Commonwealth. It will involve the employment of law enforcement officers, the construction of gaols and, as I said once before, perhaps even re-education communes. There is a third reason for the establishment of the Court put forward by the Government. It is that the Government feels it ought to be able to sue and be sued in its own courts. I say that in a parliamentary democracy no government is above its people and yet this Government wants to be above its people. I submit that where the people sue and be sued it is proper for the Government to sue and be sued. The wisdom of our founding fathers who wrote the Constitution has been challenged heavily lately. They considered the establishment of a Federal court or a Superior Court and rejected both ideas on the grounds that it was totally unnecessary, that it was a tremendous expense and that our law could be handled quite suitably through our State courts. The use of the State courts was seen as a means of maintaining a simple court system handling both Federal and State law, with the High Court acting as the Supreme Court of Australia. The same argument is valid now. There is no suggestion from the Government that Federal law is not being properly administered under the present system.
There is no need to construct this big and expensive Court. The State courts have been handling taxation, industrial and property jurisdiction competently for years. Any specialised Federal jurisdiction that requires a special court could be vested in the Industrial Court, as could jurisdiction under the Trade Practices Act, resale price maintenance and administrative review appeals. The proposed Court would degrade our supreme courts. They would be stripped of jurisdiction in matrimonial causes, company matters, consumer affairs, accident insurance, jury cases, motor vehicle cases, industrial accidents, workers compensation, taxation and industrial property cases. What would be left of our State courts? They would be nothing but property courts of an inferior status. In other words, this is a centralist Bill. It is designed to transfer power from the States to Canberra at a high cost to the taxpayer. It is an entirely unnecessary Bill. The Opposition is convinced that the adoption of this Bill by the Senate would be a retrograde step. It would remove the creative opportunity to improve our judicial system. It would seriously weaken our State courts, divide our judiciary and confuse our people. Mr President, we oppose the Bill.
– I propose to speak but briefly on this Bill because I feel that to speak at any length on it would give it a credit and a justification which it does not, in any way, deserve. I suppose I may almost criticise my 3 colleagues who have spoken already. They are decent, honourable and generous men and they have gone to some lengths to find arguments to rebut. I have no intention of pursuing any that are left because one would have to descend into the ragbag to find them.
This Bill is an old harridan. It has been around the Parliament for many years. It has been before the Senate either 4 times or 5 times. It has been coming backwards and forwards from the House of Representatives because it is one of the pet subjects of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who sees in it some type of logic which he thinks should be pursued at all costs.
This Bill has been debated in the Senate before. It is aged. It is not dignified by age. It has, in fact, no greater justification now than it ever had; in fact, as I will demonstrate, it has much less justification now than it had when it was first presented to the Senate. I noticed that when Senator James McClelland made his second reading speech he was very kind to propose not to repeat arguments he had made previously in support of this Bill, but he drew our attention to his earlier second reading speeches and the speeches of the previous Attorney-General. I feel like returning the compliment. If honourable senators opposite who are not speaking in this debate tonight but who are remaining silent except for occasional burblings should like to read anything about this Bill I refer them to my speech at page 466 of Senate Hansard of 26 February 1975 where I think they will find my arguments along with the arguments of my colleagues who on that occasion successfully demolished the Bill.
– Why do you think the Government is not prepared to have any speakers at all supporting this Bill?
- Senator, I think we must pay credit to the Government for sensibly having no speakers in favour of this Bill and thereby recognising the logic of its position. I think it is quite satisfactory that Government supporters should not want to speak on this Bill which is now in a state of decay.
There is a certain idiocy about the representation of this Bill. One recalls that on the occasion when it was last presented to the House of Representatives no less a person than the Prime Minister spoke in the debate and tried to reply to the honourable member for Wentworth, Mr
Ellicott. The Prime Minister was met with a certain difficulty insofar as it was suggested that there was something out of date about the Bill. In reply to Mr Ellicott he said:
He made 2 points in saying that this Bill was now antiquated. He said that it was referring to the Matrimonial Causes Act. He also said that it set salaries for judges, and that the Matrimonial Causes Act and the judges’ salaries have been overtaken by events. Of course they have.
I ask honourable senators to note that.
Of course they have. Most pieces of legislation which were introduced, as this was, 18 months ago and which have had to be introduced S times, as this has had to be introduced, may be overtaken by some intervening legislation, but it is not our fault that the Bill did not go through 18 months ago. It is not our fault that the Bill has had to be introduced 5 times. What the honourable gentleman is wanting to do is to incite senators to reject this Bill or to fail to pass this Bill.
I assure the Prime Minister that it takes no incitement on my part to reject this Bill because I have at all times felt that it was an absolute red herring and a highly undesirable piece of legislation in this community. If I may add to the idiocy of the Prime Minister in respect of the type of attitude that because a Bill is out of date he will still press on with it, I refer to the second reading speech of Senator James McClelland. After he told us that the Bill had failed in February, he said:
To meet the requirements of section 57 of the Constitution, the Bill was re-presented in the House of Representatives on 28 May in the form in which it was previously passed by the House.
Had it not been for those requirements, some changes would have been made now to the Bill, to take account of the creation of the Family Court of Australia under the Family Law Bill.
Senator Wright and I find ourselves in a happy alliance tonight on the Family Law Bill because here we have a Bill which is admittedly out of date, which tries to create a Family Law Division in this Superior Court, well knowing that this Parliament and every member of the chamber on the opposite side has voted for a Family Law Bill which creates a completely separated court, a court in which the whole idea of a Family Law Division of the Superior Court was anathema because we did not want judges jumping from one jurisdiction to another. We wanted a separate court. That was the thing that the members on the other side voted for.
We all agreed that what we needed was a separated court- a family court which would deal separately with this- and yet before us on this occasion is a Bill which repeats the nonsense, which in clause 20 once more refers to the Matrimonial Causes Act, shortly to be put to its last resting place, and wants to resurrect it and create a Division in this court.
We are told that because the Government wants to have a double dissolution issue- that is all there is in this Bill- it wants to inflict upon this Parliament and upon the people of this country a Bill which none of us wants, which in regard to family law is not the desire of any members of this Parliament, Senator Georges wants to interject.
– Yes. I will get up and say something on this.
– I am so glad that I have at last induced the honourable senator to come from his recumbent posture. I am so glad that he is now going to rise to his feet and defend this Bill because to this date, I suggest to honourable senators opposite, it has been indefensible.
In fact what Senator James McClelland said in his second reading speech is even more of a nerve than I have ever struck. He said:
New areas or Federal Law are rapidly developing and the Parliament must concern itself with how these laws are to be administered in the courts. In family law there will be the choice between establishing special procedures, with judges specially selected for their aptitude for and interest in this field of law, or of leaving the administration of the new family law to the vagaries of 8 different systems of courts, only some of which have begun to move towards specialised family law prodecures
Bear in mind that this is part of the argument for the Superior Court. There, with the greatest nerve- he has some excellent nerve, I must admit- Senator James McClelland tells us how we are going to have these separated courts yet he is asking us at the same time and in this document to vote for a Superior Court Bill which goes in the opposite direction and which would destroy the provisions we made for the family court in the Family Law Bill.
I have said before that I reject the idea of apeing the Americans in their worst possible sphere, in trying to create this duplicate jurisdiction, in trying to take away from our State courts instead of putting into our State courts jurisdiction, a greater amount of which should go to them and with which they could satisfactorily deal.
Let me refer to the one serious part of this aspect because this is really a ludicrous Bill that we have before us. The Commercial Law Association has studied the Superior Court Bill in detail and has come up with what I think are excellent answers to it. In its report it made comment on the whole idea of a Superior Court.
The creation of the proposed Superior Court would bring confusion to the existing judicial system. Reform should be directed rather to simplifying and unifying the Australian courts system. Heed should be given to Sir Victor Windeyer ‘s advice that we should ‘avoid anything that would emphasise a division between Commonwealth and States, anything that could create jealousies and create further complexities’. Artificial divisions between federal and state jurisdiction could be as divisive and as hard to remove as the distinction between the common law and equitable jurisdictions which took so long to abolish in New South Wales.
The creation of the Superior Court would perpetuate the 2-tier system of courts, rather than alleviate the distinction between federal and state jurisdiction:
The report included the following:
The biggest single disadvantage of the proposed Superior Court is that constitutional questions of jurisdiction will necessarily loom large in the Court’s deliberations, resulting in considerable uncertainty and expense to litigants, unproductive use of the Court’s time, and consequent damage to the quality of justice.
Those people who had experience and who know what they are talking about are those who can conclude that this Bill is a mischievous Bill, one which will create danger, one which will create cost, one which will create an unnecessary number of lifetime judges- because that is what the Federal judges will be- at great cost to this community.
There is no doubt that this Parliament should not submit itself to the megalomania of the Prime Minister, who wants to build up this system. He wants to create new courts; he wants the neatness of it. He wants, as in so many other fields, to build empires for his own benefit. I trust we shall reject this Bill and the nonsense that it is.
-At least we have seen Senator Missen excited. Perhaps the place is beginning to corrupt him as it has corrupted other people here, who seem to drift away from reason as Senator Missen has done tonight. The reason why so many Bills come into this place- perhaps not improved and not able to be improved- is that the Opposition is forcing us into governing by joint sittingsgoverning by double dissolutions. So we have Bills which come into this place and which must return to this place unimproved for that particular reason. Senator Missen knows that, and he knows also the reason why senators on this side of the chamber have to remain silent time and time again; it is because of the need to get legislation through and to overcome the obstructionist tactics of the Opposition.
Senator Missen has no right to make the accusations he has made tonight. It is the method which the Opposition has used to obstruct legislation which forces legislation to go back to the other House and to come back again in exactly the same form. This applies not only to this legislation but also to other legislation which will be treated in the same way for this reason and this reason alone. Senator Missen, Senator Greenwood and other members of the Opposition must accept this as being the result of the methods that they have used to stop legislation in this place. Members of the Opposition should look at the legislation which they have stopped from passing through this place. They were not important Bills. Bills that should have been allowed to go through were stopped by the Opposition in this Senate. Those Bills will go back to the House of Representatives and, in spite of the arguments of the Opposition, in order for some of that legislation to go through and in order that some of the benefits of the legislation may be achieved, the Bills must come back from the other place unchanged; and for that the Opposition must accept the responsibility.
– in reply- With varying degrees of eloquence, ranging from the banal to the ludicrous, the Opposition has pointed out that this is a Bill which has been debated so frequently in this place that there is almost nothing more to say about it. I do not propose to add anything to what has been said; to do so, I suggest, would be supererogatory. With respect, I would never differ from my good friend Senator Georges, but I should not like to see too harsh strictures passed upon Senator Missen who, I think, has played a very progressive role in this place in matters going to legal reform. But I must join issue with him on this Bill, especially when he suggests that it is some sort of an act of idiocy to keep bringing the Bill before the Senate. I point out to him -
– He also used the word megalomania’. Would you take exception to that?
-Who used the word ‘megalomania’?
– I did.
– He used it in respect of your Prime Minister.
-Senator Missen did? Did you really, Senator?
– Yes, I did.
– You are not altogether jumping to the Prime Minister’s defence with alacrity.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! I call the Minister.
-There are certain matters to which one turns a blind eye or a deaf ear. But I was suggesting that the word idiocy’ as applied to this Bill is carrying things a bit too far because, at one time or another, such distinguished non-Labor figures as Sir Garfield
Barwick, Mr Nigel Bowen, Mr Tom Hughes and even Mr Ellicott, had nothing but praise for the idea of a Superior Court.
I do not propose to regurgitate the arguments in favour of a Superior Court. I commend to honourable senators a re-reading of the speech which I made in reply to the arguments that were advanced on the last occasion this Bill was before the Senate. I feel that honourable senators, especially members of the legal profession who are really interested in this Bill and who have not been snowed by the Supreme Court judges’ lobby, might still find persuasive arguments in favour of introducing a Superior Court. I suggest that the real reason the Supreme Court notion has gone out of fashion is that there has been a great gathering of the freemasonry of the Supreme Court incumbents. I have been pushed into a corner sometimes by Supreme Court judges. As I said the last time this Bill was before the Senate, it is quite illusory to imagine that elevation to the bench automatically wipes out interest in legal politics by incumbents of the bench. I have found myself being lobbied by Supreme Court judges who are not activated by lofty principles but by what can only be called the territorial imperative. They see the Superior Court Bill as an attack on their territory. They feel that what they have they should keep. This always mystifies me; I cannot imagine why a man, having been promoted to the oasis of a judicial appointment, should care very much whether he has a large oasis or a small oasis. But the human ego appears to be such that people will fight for things such as that.
The real reason why a proposition which was once respectable and admirable- the idea of a Superior Court- has suddenly become reprehensible is that judges who once thought there was something in the idea now find that it constitutes some inroads on their territory. Let us not get too carried away by the proposition put by such distinguished constitutional lawyers as Senator Sheil that this Bill is in some way a retrograde step. The question has been asked: Why are we bringing this Bill back again and again? It is like the question: Why is a man faithful to his wife? Does it occur to honourable senators that the simple explanation may be that he loves her.
– Come, come! He does not show his faith to the Senate by subjecting the Bill to rejection time and time again.
-Like all Senator Greenwood ‘s logic, that is a curious and vulnerable logic. Surely love will survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The fact that our beloved Bill, the Superior Court Bill- I say this with my hand on my heart- has been rejected 3 times does not diminish its worth in our eyes. So we put our arguments to honourable senators opposite again, probably for the last time, in the hope that our logic and the intrinsic merits of the idea will have come home to them and will have converted them and that tonight, despite the errors of their past, when it comes to the crunch they will find it in their hearts to cross the floor and vote for the Superior Court Bill.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I seek leave to give a notice of motion relating to the participation of the Australian Parliament in the Constitutional Convention and the membership of the proposed Australian parliamentary delegation.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate affirms the decision taken by resolution of the Senate on 31 May 1973 that the Australian Parliament join with the Parliaments of the States in the Constitutional Convention to be convened to review the Australian Constitution in September of that year, and at such subsequent times as the Convention from time to time determined, and agrees:
1 ) That, for the purposes of the Convention-
a Delegation from the Australian Parliament consisting of sixteen members of the Parliament take part in the deliberations of the Convention, of whom six shall be members of the Senate and ten shall be members of the House of Representatives;
the six members of the Senate comprise three members of the Australian Labor Party, one member of the Liberal Party of Australia, one member of the National Country Party of Australia and the Leader of the Liberal Movement.
three Senators, being members of the Australian Labor Party, nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;
one Senator, being a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;
one Senator, being a member of the National Country Party of Australia, nominated by the Leader of that Party in the Senate; and
the Leader of the Liberal Movement, be members of the Delegation.
That the Prime Minister be the Leader of the Delegation, and the Leader of the Opposition be the Deputy Leader.
That a member of the Delegation cease to be such a member if-
he ceases to be a member of the Australian Parliament;
the House of the Parliament of which he is a member terminates his appointment; or
he resigns as a member of the Delegation by writing addressed to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case requires.
That where, because of illness or other cause, a member of the Delegation is not available to attend a meeting, or part of a meeting, of the Convention, the Leader or senior available member of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate an alternate member (being a member of the House of which the first-mentioned member is a member) and the member so nominated shall be a member of the Delegation for that meeting, or that part of that meeting:
That, in the event of a member of the Delegation ceasing to be such a member, the Leader of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate another member (being a member of the House of which the first-mentioned member is or was a member) to replace the first-mentioned member:
That the Leader or the Delegation from time to time make a report for presentation to each House of the Parliament on matters arising out of the Convention, and that the Deputy Leader of the Delegation may make an accompanying report.
Consideration of House of Representatives message.
No. I- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 2- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 3- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 4- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 5- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insen’65 years’.
No. 6- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 7- In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 8- In clause 7, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 9- In clause 9, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 10- In clause 9, sub-clause (2), paragraph (d), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 1 1- In clause 9, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 12- In clause 9, sub-clause (4), paragraph (b), leave out ‘60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 13- In clause 9, sub-clause (5), paragraph (b), leave out ‘60 years ‘, insert ‘65 years ‘.
No. 14- In clause 56, sub-clause ( I ), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 15- In clause 57, sub-clauses ( 1) and (2), leave out the sub-clause, insert the following sub-clause:
1 ) Where-
a person is entitled to standard age retirement pension by virtue of section 56; and
b) his period of contributory service is not less than 30 years. then the annual rate of that pension is 50 per centum of his final annual rate of salary’.
No. 16- In clause 59, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out’60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 17- In clause 59, sub-clause (2), paragraph (b), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 18- In clause 59, sub-clause (3), leave out’60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 19- In clause 59, sub-clause (3), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 20- In clause 61, leave out’60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 21- In clause 61, leave out ‘60th anniversary’, insert 65th anniversary’.
No. 22- In clause 62, sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (a), leave out’60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 23- In clause 62, sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60th anniversary’, insert ‘65th anniversary’.
No. 24- In clause 62, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘60th anniversary’, insert ‘65th anniversary’.
No. 25- In clause 62, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 26- In clause 67, sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out ‘60 years’, insen’65 years’.
No. 27- In clause 67, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 28- In clause 67, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘60 years’, insen’65 years’.
No. 29- In clause 68, sub-clause (2), leave out the subclause.
No. 30- In clause 69, sub-clause (3), leave out the subclause.
No. 31- In clause 75, sub-clause (1), leave out’60 years’, insen’65 years’.
No. 32- In clause 77, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), leave out ‘60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 33- In clause 79, sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out ‘60 years’, insen’65 years’.
No. 34- In clause 82, sub-clause ( I ), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 35- In clause 86, sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out ‘60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 36- In clause 86, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out’60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 37- In clause 98, sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (a), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 38- In clause 99, sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 39- In clause 100, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 40- clause 101, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 41- clause 102, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), leave out’60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. 42- clause 103, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 43- clause 103, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years ‘, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 44- clause 104, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 45- clause 104, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 46- clause 105, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 47- clause 105, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 48- clause 143, sub-clause (2), paragraph (d), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 49- clause 143, sub-clause (6), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 50- clause 144, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘60 years’, insert’65 years’.
No. SI- clause 145, sub-clause (1), paragraph (b), leave out’60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 52- clause 149, sub-clause (9), leave out ‘60 years’, insert ‘65 years’.
No. 53- clause 149, sub-clause ( 10), paragraph (a), leave out ‘ 60 years ‘, insert ‘ 65 years ‘.
No. 54- clause 151, sub-clause (1), after ‘pension’ (second occurring), insert ‘ , additional age retirement pension by virtue of section 58, additional early retirement pension by virtue of section 62, or spouse’s additional pension by virtue of section 84’.
No. 55- clause 1 53, leave out the clause.
No. 56- after clause 185, insert the following new clause: 185a. (1) Any eligible employee referred to in the last preceding section who immediately preceding the commencement day would have been entitled to benefits under the superseded Act upon his retirement on attaining the age of either 60 or 65 years may elect or continue his contributions under that Act and to receive benefits in accordance with the provisions thereof.
) The contributions of any eligible employee making an election under sub-section ( 1) who would have been entitled to benefits under the superseded Act upon attaining the age of 65 years shall be increased to the level of contributions applicable to persons who have been entitled to benefits under the superseded Act upon attaining the age of 60 years.
An election under sub-section (1) shall be made by notice in writing served on the Commissioner within such period as is prescribed.
An eligible employee who makes an election pursuant to this section and who complies with the requirements of that Act shall be entitled to receive benefits under the superseded Act and the superseded Act shall continue in force and apply in relation to such requirements and entitlement as if this Act and the Superannuation Act Amendment Act 1975 had not been passed.’.
No. 57- Schedule 1 , leave out the Schedule.
No. 58- Schedule 3, leave out the Schedule.
House of Representatives’ amendment to Senate’s amendments-
That the Senate ‘s amendments be disagreed to.
– I move:
As honourable senators will recall, the amendments, which were moved by the Opposition, make the following changes in the new superannuation arrangements provided in the Superanniation Bill 1975. Firstly, the full retirement pension benefit would be available only on retirement at age 65 with reduced benefits for retirement before that age; secondly, the Vi per cent of final salary Governmentfinanced supplementary pension for each year of contributory service in excess of 30 years before reaching age 60, subject to a maximum supplementary pension of 5 per cent, would be eliminated; thirdly, the one times consumer price index post-retirement updating of new pensions would be confined to the Government-financed element; and fourthly, present contributors would be allowed to continue under the conditions of the present scheme providing they were prepared to contribute on an age 60 retirement basis.
The amendments are unacceptable to the Government. For many members the amendments would make the benefits of the new scheme, overall, clearly inferior to those of the present scheme. In this regard it is estimated that, overall, existing pension scheme contributors would be 9.8 per cent worse off. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard estimates prepared by the Treasury of capital costs of the new superannuation scheme, as amended by the Senate, compared to present scheme costs.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The new scheme is already, overall, only marginally beneficial- 4.8 per cent- for existing pension scheme contributors. This is because improved benefits such as the 5 per cent pension supplement for long service, the higher proportion for the spouse’s benefit and making it easier for contributors to obtain the full Government-financed benefit on retirement at age 60 are largely offset by reductions in existing benefits, namely: one times consumer price index updating of the total pension, subject to certain conditions, instead of the present 1.4 times consumer price index formula applied to the Government-financed element; and restricting the payment of the more beneficial invalidity and death pensions to invalidity retirement or death before age 60.
Extending the qualifying period for the standard full retirement pension from the present 20 years to 30 years for new contributors will also tend to lower costs in the longer term. The new scheme, if amended as proposed by the Senate, would compare unfavourably with the superannuation schemes maintained by many of the State governments for their employees. The amendments would also require the maintenance of 2 separate schemes- the old and the new. This would result in complex and difficult administrative arrangements.
I think it appropriate that I should restate briefly the main. reasons why the Government has been unable to accept any of the 4 changes to the scheme that the 58 amendments made to the Bill by the Senate would achieve. The first change would have the effect of denying full superannuation benefits at age 60- the age from which retirement can take place under the Public Service Act. Retirement at age 60 on full superannuation benefits, subject to the payment of the necessary contributions, has been available to public servants since 1922. The amendments would take away that right. For the bulk of members a 70 per cent of final salary pension 50 per cent of final salary Government element- has been attainable on retirement at age 60 since 1954. The penalty proposed by the amendments for retirement at age 60 would reduce the maximum Government-financed pension available at that age to 40 per cent of final salary against the present 50 per cent, a reduction of one-fifth. This is, as I said on an earlier occasion, a serious erosion of a long-standing benefit.
There is a significant number of members of the present superannuation scheme, such as police, who are compelled to retire at age 60. The reduced benefit available at age 60 would impose a severe penalty on them. The benefit available at age 60 would also be below that available under every State public service scheme. The second change would remove the supplementary pension of up to 5 per cent of final salary that the new scheme would provide to those employees whose contributory service before reaching age 60 exceeded 30 years. The supplementary pension provision was designed to place much greater emphasis on length of membership than does the present scheme and to reward long and valuable service.
The third change would remove from the scheme the updating of pensions financed by members’ contributions. The updating of the whole pension in accordance with consumer price index changes is, over the longer term, less beneficial to the pensioner than the present scheme formula of 1.4 times the consumer price index or the percentage change, if less, applied to the Government element of pension. This further variation in the scheme, which would confine the one times consumer price index updating to the Government-element of pension, would be even less beneficial and would put the Australian Government scheme well behind State public service schemes. The fourth change would allow present contributors to remain in the present scheme, providing they were prepared to contribute on an age 60 basis.
For the older age 60 contributor, the choice would be either to accept the lower overall benefits of the new scheme or to condemn himself to penury by remaining in the present scheme and trying to meet rapidly escalating contributions in his last years of service. The older age 65 contributor would be faced with an immediate substantial increase in his contributions to the age 60 basis if he elected to remain in the present scheme, in most cases far beyond his capacity to pay. Older contributors therefore would have little alternative but to accept transfer to the new scheme. To them the option would be largely worthless.
Younger contributors, particularly age 60 contributors, faced with higher immediate contributions under the new scheme and not attracted by the lower overall benefits of the new scheme would be most likely to elect to remain in the present scheme. This would ensure the need to keep the present scheme running for many years into the future with all the attendant administrative problems and complexities. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement providing 34 examples, calculated by the Australian Government Retirement Benefits Office, of the immediate increases in contributions, expressed for convenience as percentages of salary, that would result upon members of various ages, salaries and lengths of service changing from age 65 to age 60 contributions.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– Might I say in conclusion that the new scheme, as amended by the Senate, would not amount to a reasonable solution to the problem of superannuation for Australian Government employees. An already difficult situation would be aggravated and widespread dissatisfaction throughout the Public Service and the other areas of Australian Government employment already covered by the Superannuation Act would surely result. I therefore urge the
Committee not to insist on the amendments to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.
– I will put the question that the Minister has moved. The question is: That the Committee does not insist upon the amendments of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.
– I understand what has been put to the Committee. I take it that we can deal with this matter in globo. We would not want to go through the exercise of considering another 94 amendments at this late stage in our lives. The Opposition takes the view that it is not prepared to accede to the request of the House of Representatives that has been transmitted to us by the Government. We are sympathetic to the cases set out in the statement presented by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). This is an exercise that interests one very greatly. The Minister’s prepared statement on this matter we see for the first time. Had the Government any wish to get the Senate to take this matter seriously and objectively perhaps it might have given us a chance to look at the statement for a little longer.
I am also interested to see the . rapidity with which answers can be prepared by people when they have a self-interest involved on their own account. We are still waiting to hear from the Government why we cannot have figures that are more up to date than those for the year 1 972. It is still the same proposition. We are still in the same situation as we were in before. Much as we might regret the reluctance we have on this side of the chamber to open the public purse so that money can flow out at an ever-increasing rate, we are still in the same position; that is, that we feel Australia is at the stage when, while it might be very nice indeed to grant greater and increased benefits, a halt must be called. The time has had to come. We understand from what we hear around the place, despite the Minister’s statement, that in the Government’s ranks and in various areas of government it is thought that the Senate taking the stand it has on this issue has been a good thing. No one has said so publicly. A lot of private comments have been made to people like myself and others. We are also told, 1 believe objectively, that were this scheme to be allowed to go through as it is proposed by the Government, the estimated flow-on cost to the whole community of Australia would be of the order of $5,000m as a minimum. There are some sources putting the minimum as high as $8,000m.
– Why do you not cite your sources?
-Senator Poyser can answer to the taxpayers in due course, if he wants to do so, for his great willingness to spend their money on their behalf without any reference to them. I am just giving the figures that were given to me.
– You did not refer to them when you contracted for the F 1 1 1 s, did you?
-That is a fascinating observation of irrelevancy, is it not? The best case I can make to honourable senators is the same case that was made before. Much as the Government likes to throw money away, much as it likes to spend other people’s money, much as it likes to toss it up in the air, the Opposition cannot feel itself disposed to accept these propositions put to it by the Government. We, regrettably in many individual cases, find ourselves in the public interest having to stand where we stood before. I do not see any ability on our part to make the changes that some people would like us to make. Therefore we are saying to the Minister that we are not able to accede as an Opposition to the requests of the Government, despite the protestations of my friend Senator Poyser.
– I am disappointed that the Government has not dealt with the larger question which I think was mentioned in the debate on the original Bill, and that was the general approach to equity throughout the whole community. In explaining the way I voted on this matter to people who have been quite irate because they as public servants will not be able to enjoy the total benefits of the Bill as introduced by the Government, I have done so on equity. That is, the Government owes some explanation to the public and to Parliament as to where it stands on a national superannuation scheme for all Australians and where it stands in regard to the application of a means test free pension.
I should have thought that if the Government were serious about having the Senate reverse its view on the amendments which it has already proposed it would have said something on the matters I mentioned in re-presenting the legislation to the Senate. But it has not. So we deal with more supportive detail. I must say that I believe it is excellent detail. I am sure there is nothing wrong with the examples the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) used. But he did not deal with the most important of all questions. He dealt with the detail of the scheme, which he has not justified in the totality of the Australian community. I feel very disappointed on behalf of those people who work for the Government in its various aspects that they have been denied the general provisions which have been agreed to by both sides of the Senate. As I have said when I have explained my position to them, I believe the Government is at fault. It is the Government’s responsibility that it has not dealt with the equity questions, that the desirable parts of the Bill are not being accepted or will not be implemented by the Government because of the amendments which have been moved.
I believe, as everyone should know, that the Bill will now fail. The Government, judging by the attitude expressed by the Minister, will not proceed with the Bill. Something will have to give. I suggest that the Government would be advised to take the Bill away and to bring it back in an acceptable form. It should leave those matters which cannot be agreed upon between the 2 major parties of politics and bring in a Bill which can be agreed to. In that way it will achieve the desirable aspects which are required and which are not contentious. But to present these amendments without meeting the obligation to the general community to treat them as sectional benefits is to ensure that they will not pass the Senate as it is now constituted. On behalf of all those who are looking forward to an improved superannuation scheme I respectfully ask the Government to work out a scheme which is acceptable in light of the amendments which have been proposed by the Opposition.
-I rise to reinforce what Senator Steele Hall has said. It amazes me that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, who represents the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) should come in here and, in asking for consideration of the House of Representatives rejection of our amendments, read 3 pages of most intensively written calculations produced by his expert actuaries and expect that to provide a basis for debate. One of the main themes which the Minister puts forward is that in some respects the scheme as amended by the Senate would be less favourable than some of the State schemes. We have all examined the benefits in the States. The claim by the Minister is highly questionable. Another claim which he puts forward is that if we insist upon the retiring age of 65 it will leave no alternative for the heavily laden public servants who have undertaken large contributions by way of units to catch up with inflation- improving their benefits and paying 20 per cent, 30 per cent or 40 per cent of their salary. They will have to remain with the present scheme. What an argument! If the public servants have voluntarily undertaken those burdens to earn the benefits of the present scheme -
– What about those in their last 12 months of service?
– I want to be heard in a very complicated matter by people who will understand. If those public servants have voluntarily undertaken those obligations it stands to reason that they think the benefits which they are purchasing are worthwhile and that the benefits of the new scheme are not worthwhile. We were told the other day that the figures had been worked out on the basis that 60 per cent of the contributors would be opting to go out of the old scheme and take cash under the new scheme. That does not do justice to the formulation which the Minister’s advisers have put before him and which he read to the House, but we will come back to that a little later. It only goes to show that the Government is contriving to achieve the defeat of this Bill. The Government has not given really serious consideration to the Senate’s amendments; otherwise it would never come back here and face rejection of its proposals.
The position is that the scheme as amended by the Senate will be responsible, on a capitalised basis, for an improved cost and therefore an improved value of benefit to the scheme of about $ 1, 500m- $ 1,478m as calculated by independent actuaries who have provided the information for us. For the benefit of the record I point out that full benefits at age 65 will cost $58 lm. Increased widows pensions will cost $ 1 48m; provision for widower pensions- I emphasise the words ‘widower pensions’- will cost $106m; increasing children’s pensions will cost $30m; giving an option on death and invalidity will cost $464m; the improved option on early retirement will cost $30m; and improved options on existing schemes will cost $97m. That makes a total of $ 1,456m. I have omitted one item which is doubtful. That total is near enough to $ 1,500m on a capitalised cost which actuaries have computed as the equivalent of benefits included in the new scheme to which the Senate agreed.
True it is that our amendments have been responsible for saving approximately $ 1 ,022m. We removed the discount for early retirement at 60 years of age- a saving of $500m. We cut out the 5 per cent supplement- a saving of $350m, and the index linking of the employees’ share- a saving of $225m. I have cited those items so that the Minister’s advisers, if they have any criticism of them, can put their criticisms before him. But the stark fact is that the Senate amendments reduced the benefits by $l,000m-odd but allowed benefits of $ 1,500m. This Government is handicapped in 2 respects. Firstly, it has not provided a scheme that it is capable of adapting before 1 July to the amendments that the Senate introduced- Secondly, it has no figures more up to date than 1 972 and therefore cannot bring in a basis which would truly reflect the cost calculated on today’s figures. It is a shambles for which the Government must take the responsibility of depriving the Public Service of the increased benefits which the amendments made in the Senate would allow.
The enormity of the claim made by the Minister can be put by me in two brief but substantial arguments. It will be remembered that we arrived at a figure of $35,000m or $36,000m for the present annual payroll of wages and salaries in the private sector. We have the Treasury’s own statement as reported at page 2940 of House of Representatives Hansard of 28 May that if the Government-financed element of benefits payable under the new scheme were to be funded by the private sector method, a contribution equal to 23 per cent of the salary of each member would be payable during the period of his contributory membership of the scheme. On the basis that the private sector paid 23 per cent of their salaries to establish a comparable scheme, the cost to the private sector would be $8,000m. But actually if we take into account those people who will join this scheme, independent actuaries claim that that figure underestimates the cost and they advise that it will really require about one-third of the wage bill to match the Government’s planned handout of about $ 11,000m,
We argued on the basis of the Treasury figure of 23 per cent, but independent actuaries advise that it will probably cost 33 per cent to get a private funded scheme for all sections of wage and salary earners outside the Public Service with benefits comparable to the proposed new scheme. The magnitude of that figure ought to daunt even the most purposeful and persistent members of the Public Service who are plugging for this scheme. To give the private sector a superannuation scheme comparable with that of the Public Service would mean imposing on this community in a period of high inflation, high taxes and unemployment a further wage cost of $ 11,000m.
There is another matter to which I want to refer. I have disclaimed on a previous occasion any authority to speak from any actuarial experience of my own. I meet actuaries with actuaries; one technicality is good to meet another. Therefore, if I get confronted with actuaries I lead in defended by actuaries. It will be remembered that in the accompanying statement to the Bill the former Treasurer was good enough to put out the itemised estimated capital costs and one of the matters for which he took credit was an adjustment off the price of the scheme for the present updating on the basis of one times the increase in the consumer price index. Honourable senators will remember that in 1973 this Government brought in a provision whereby the benefits were to be updated annually on the basis of 1.4 times the increase in the CPI. So if, as in this Bill, it is proposed that the benefits be adjusted not on 1.4 times but back to one times the CPI increase, it was claimed that it would represent a saving in the cost of the scheme of $ 1,204m.
It has been pointed out to me that the public did not know that the excess of 1.4 times over one times the CPI increase represented a capital cost of over $ 1,204m. The cost of automatic adjustments was over 19 per cent greater than it ought to have been. That is now seen to be reasonable and, so, in all reasonableness the proposed scheme should be compared with the existing scheme with pension increases not at 1 .4 times but at one times the CPI increase because nobody would ever claim, not even the author of this new scheme or any actuary who has studied it since or anybody who has taken a part in this debate, that an adjustment based on 1.47 times the CPI increase was reasonable. So, on the basis of one times the CPI increase, the capital costs of the existing scheme would be $6,4 13m and of the proposed scheme that we are considering 8,660m, an increase of a cool, calm sum of $2,247m which represents a 35 per cent improvement in the benefits.
Of course, the former Treasurer claimed that the overall improvement in the scheme was only 13.7 per cent. Tonight the Government has gone back into reverse and found that it is a minus quantity. However, on the figures that have been put before me by actuaries who have contributed to the public Press, the actual comparison of the new scheme with the old scheme should have been computed on the basis of one times the CPI increase and never 1.4 times, shows that the improvement to the new scheme is an increase of 35 per cent not 13.7 per cent which the former Treasurer put before us on a previous occasion. So assessing the old scheme at one times the CPI increase, surely nobody could be regarded as unreasonable in saying that that was a fair beginning basis of comparison. Compared with the cost as computed by the former Treasurer the increase is not 1 3 per cent but 35 per cent. That is not a bad bid for a total overall improvement to this scheme. We should have regard to a bid of 35 per cent for improvement overall and, secondly to the cost of its being translated into the private sector. Last time this matter was debated I said modestly that that cost would be $8,000m; I am advised by actuaries that it would be more like $ 11,000m. Either one of those arguments ought to dismay those who claim that the Bill as amended by the Senate is not a fair proposition.
For the reasons I have stated I suggest that the Opposition has been quite fair in allowing improvements to the scheme to the extent of about $ 1,500m and denying and clipping off benefits under the scheme amounting to about $ 1,000m. In that perspective I suggest that anybody in the Senate would be persuaded of the reasonableness of the amendments that were made.
– We have reached an unfortunate impasse in connection with this matter. Some little time ago Parliament decided that the Australian Public Service superannuation scheme should be upgraded. I think that was the unanimous opinion of all members on both sides of the House. Actuaries were called in and made certain recommendations. Those recommendations were submitted to the Parliament by the Government in legislative form and were not acceptable to the Opposition. Now the Opposition has been informed by the Government that its thoughts and ideas are not acceptable to the Government. Legislation which public servants en masse decided to support in order to bring their superannuation scheme up to 1975 standards has been thrown overboard. The people whom this Parliament generally wanted to assist fairly and squarely are now placed in the position where their claims have come to a standstill and the present scheme will remain in being. I do not give either side of the House very much credit for the way in which this matter has been handled.
– How are you going to vote? Are you going to vote to give public servants the benefit or to deny them the benefit?
-Senator Cavanagh knows how I voted when this matter was before the House a week ago. The Government has turned down amendments made to this Bill by the Opposition, but it does not give the Opposition sufficient time to have another look at the matter. It was decided to upgrade the pension schemes for public servants, but this has not been done and as a result there will be a deal of discord amongst people in whom we have the greatest faith. The Public Service of this country is a wonderful service indeed. We will not enjoy the confidence of public servants when they learn that the Bill has not been passed and both parties have come to a standstill whereby nothing can be done.
When this matter was before the Parliament last week I supported the Government generally and more particularly in 2 important phases of the legislation. I supported the retention of retirement at 60 years of age, which was going to cost the Government a lot of money- and so it should have. I supported the Government also in the suggestion that the amounts payable to widows should be increased. I supported the Opposition on 2 minor amendments which did not matter a great deal. We now find that a scheme which came into being in 1922 and which has been amended in very slight manner since then is not good enough in 1975. The Parliament generally has decided that it was not good enough by causing an inquiry to be held and calling in actuaries to make a summary of the position without perhaps telling those actuaries where the improvements should be made. We have now come to an impasse, which is not in the best interests of government generally and which is certainly a retrograde step as far as the public servants are concerned. I maintain that the amendments which were put to the Parliament were not fair. The original recommendation by the actuaries as submitted by the Government was perhaps unduly fair; I do not know about that. But surely a happy medium could have been reached in advance of what the amendments provide.
When I spoke on this matter before- I maintain that position now- I laid emphasis on the point that what we have before us in connection with the optional retiring ages of 60 and 65 years is a repudiation of policy. I have said before that my mail box has been filled with letters on this subject. I have had several such letters since then. What has been stated tonight by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) agrees with many of the examples which have been sent to me. There is a real disquiet amongst the people who were considering retiring at the age of 60 years. I maintain that the accepted age of retirement in this year, 1975, is 60 years. If there were an optional consideration -
– What are you doing in here? Why did you accept Mr Lewis’s nomination? You are speaking against yourself.
-That is all very well, but some people are old at 50 years of age and others are young at 70 years of age. The fact that I am a member of this chamber has nothing whatsoever to do with this subject. I say without reservation - (Government supporters interjecting)-
– Order! The Committee will come to order.
- Senator McLaren can speak up if he so desires.
– Address the Chair, Senator Bunton.
-The position from my point of view is very clear. If when this scheme came into being in 1922 there was optional retirement at 60 years which many people accepted, that provision should not be removed at this time because it is much more important now that people who desire to retire at 60 years should be able to do so. Previously I have said that our years are three-score and ten and if by reason of strength they be four-score, those people who desire to spend the last 20 years of their normal lives in retirement should be entitled to do so. That is one section of the amendments to the Bill to which I have objected strongly. In view of the circumstances I am not prepared to repudiate a policy which has been in existence for all that time. It may interest the Government to know that I intend to support the Bill. 1 supported it a week ago and I am again going to support it.
– in reply- I wish to deal firstly with the comments that were made initially by Senator Cotton. I agree with him that this is hardly the time at which to go through an in-depth argument again about this legislation. We went through it tediously last week. I would have thought that the principles had been quite clearly stated. It is quite evident that the Opposition is going to stand by its original position and reject the original legislation. I must say in passing that I was surprised to hear Senator Cotton’s reference to the Government’s advisers when he noted how quickly answers can be obtained from people who have a personal interest in this matter. It was the sort of reflection that I would not expect from Senator Cotton and it was in direct contrast to what he said in the
Senate the other week; it was of a completely opposite nature. He maintains, of course, that this scheme will now cost an additional $5,000m. But when asked to quote the source of his information he is not able to do so. I said in this chamber last week that none of us are actuaries, and I was very pleased tonight to hear Senator Wright admit that he is not an actuary, because I thought from his performance last week that he thought he was an actuary as well as a lot of other things. But for Senator Cotton to suggest that this figure of $5,000m is an authentic figure is not sound reasoning. It is not a statement that one would expect to come from a senator who normally makes a reliable contribution to debates.
Senator Wright’s contribution, of course, was essentially a restatement of all that he said last week with the exception that he introduced what he considers to be new material based purely on a letter from Mr W. D. Owen of PTOW Consulting Actuaries, Melbourne, which appeared in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’. I have some comments which, in view of the letter which appeared in the ‘Australian Financial Review ‘ and which is now being used by Senator Wright to further convince us of his excellent sources of informantion, I believe should be read to the Senate. Mr Owens argues from an invalid base. He first of all reduces updating in the present scheme from 1.4 times CPI to one times CPI applied to the Government element and adjusts the estimated capitalised cost of the present scheme on this basis. The estimated costs of additional benefits under the new scheme have then been compared to this reduced figure for the present scheme which for comparative purposes is incorrect and misleading. A comparison of the increase in costs of the new proposals could be made only to the estimated cost of existing liabilities under the present scheme, including updating, using the 1.4 times CPI formula. The Opposition’s attitude in retaining that formula for members of the present scheme who might choose to remain in the present scheme under the Opposition’s option proposal supports that view. Employee associations claim that the change in the existing updating formula from 1 .4 times CPI to one times CPI under the new proposals was part of the package under which the membership accepted a reduction in updating in exchange for improvements in other benefits.
It seems pointless for us to try to debate in this chamber matters which it was agreed last week none of us here is competent to deal with. As Senator Wright has to call upon, as he claims, competent actuaries outside of this chamber, naturally all of us have to do the same. But I am not convinced, and I am sure that Government supporters also are not convinced, of the arguments that were put forward by Senator Wright tonight based on the letter to which I have referred which appeared in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review ‘.
I would accept the question raised by Senator Hall as being one more in the nature of a matter that should be part of this debate tonight. He referred to the question of equity. I must disagree with him when he says that the question of equity has been disregarded by the Government in the statement that I made to the Senate tonight. It is strictly correct that the question of equity has not been dealt with in the statement. But surely this argument was well canvassed during the debate that took place last week. At that time references were made to the national superannuation scheme, to the complexity of the introduction of such a scheme and to the fact that the Government has moved, as no other government in Australia has attempted to do, to look at the possibility of implementing such a scheme.
We know that the proposed superannuation scheme cannot be implemented quickly. But that is no reason why people who are employed by the Australian Public Service should be denied additional benefits which would normally accrue to them in the updating of any superannuation scheme. Why should they not be able to maintain the position that they have had relative to other employees in the community? Senator Wright interjects, but only a few minutes ago he was violently objecting because someone was interjecting when he was speaking. I do not doubt that in the final analysis the concept of the national superannuation scheme, which will provide the needed benefits to all sections of the community, is the most desirable end. However, we are, I believe, some way from achieving that end. No government is going to implement that type of scheme hurriedly.
If the Senate determines tonight that my motion be defeated, that presumably will mean the end of this legislation. It will be a great pity, of course, for many members of the Public Service who will be affected by that decision. Senator Bunton has, I believe, taken a wise stand in relation to the legislation. He sees that there will still be problems with the present legislation but he opts for the fundamental thing. He does not want to see people deprived of something which they have enjoyed for many years, and that is a sound principle upon which to make a judgment. I am sorry that apparently Senator Hall does not see it that way. I would think that the proper thing now is to put the question to the vote. In the defeat of this motion, if that is to be the case, I say that the responsibility lies entirely with the Opposition Parties.
– I will be extremely brief, as the Minister ibr Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) suggested that we all should be. I just want to mention that Senator Wright has covered quite adequately the matter of the source from which the information came to enable us to estimate that the total flow-on cost would be of the order of $8,000m. There is no need for me to go over that ground again. The Minister has made some observations. One might observe that other views could be taken, such as that there is an element of sour grapes by the Government which could have given the Public Service quite some massive benefits had it decided to do so. I would like to say also to the Minister that, having now got this information from him at this late stage, the Opposition will put out to study by our independent advisers the details given to it tonight. No doubt in due course a Bill will again be presented. We will have the benefit of having had time to consider these new ideas of which we have been told tonight for the first time.
That the Committee does not insist upon the amendments of the Senate disagreed to by the House of Representatives.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator D. M. Devitt)
Teller. Poyser, A. G.
Teller Chaney, F. M.
Question so resolved in the negative. Resolution reported; report adopted.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement in respect of the 2 consequential Bills that follow the Superannuation Bill on the notice paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-As the Senate had decided to insist on its amendments to the Superannuation Bill 1975 to which the House of Representatives has disagreed and that Bill will return to the House of Representatives, a quite impossible situation would arise if the Superannuation Act Amendment Bill and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Bill were now to be passed by the Senate. Both Bills provide for important provisions, which are consequent upon the passage of the Superannuation Bill 1975, to come into operation on 1 July 1975.
The main purpose of the Superannuation Act Amendment Bill is to cease the operation from 1 July 1 975 of most of the provisions of the present Superannuation Act, other than those relating to existing pensioners. In particular, passage of the Amendment Bill now would prevent any person contributing to the present pension scheme or the Provident account after 30 June 1975 and no new pensions would be able to be granted after that date. The Superannuation Board and the position of President of the Board would also cease to exist. That part of the present Act relating to the existing Superanuation Fund and the investment of the Fund would be repealed and there would be no legal provision for the continuing existence, operation and management of the Fund. Clearly the Superannuation Act Amendment Bill 1975 cannot be allowed to pass at this stage and it is appropriate that consideration of the Bill should be postponed.
The President of the Superannuation Board is, ex officio, Chairman of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority and of the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Board. Amongst other things, the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Bill 1975 provides for the Commissioner for Superannuation, a position provided for in the Superannuation Bill 1975, to replace the President as Chairman of the Authority and of the Board from 1 July 1975. The Bill also changes references in the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973-74 to the Superannuation Act 1922-1974 or its provisions, and to the Superannuation Act 1975 or its provisions. Because the Superannuation Bill has not been passed, provisions in the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973-74 so changed would become inoperative from 1 July. For these reasons consideration of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Bill 1975 should also be postponed. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 May on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We have on the notice paper Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Bill 1975, the Customs Bill 1975 and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1975. Is it the Minister’s intention that these Bills be taken together?
– I have no objection to that.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
-This Bill arises from the Government’s decision in 1973 to adopt the antidumping code drawn up under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The decision to adopt the code followed a review of the existing anti-dumping legislation by an interdepartmental committee. That legislation has been shown to be at variance in some instances with the requirements of the GATT code. This Bill is aimed at rectifying that situation. Having studied this, it seems to be the proper course to take providing that the new legislation does not prevent the Government’s taking anti-dumping action which would avoid harm to Australian industry. The interdepartmental committee’s report pointed out that its recommended changes could be effected without restricting anti-dumping action. It appears that the Bill sets out to achieve that purpose. I certainly hope that there will be no penalty on industry, either as a result of the legislation itself or as a result of the administrative interpretation. I would like the Minister for Police and Customs (Senator Cavanagh), who is in charge of the Bill, to assure me that the administrative intent will be appropriate to the legislation.
The Bill empowers the Minister to take antidumping action without reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. This represents a significant change in the existing system. I believe that it is a desirable change which should result in prompt action when action is necessary. I feel quite sure that industry will welcome the change, and because of that the Opposition has no problem with that Bill. The Customs Bill 1 975 restricts from 3 years to 3 months the time in which Customs may hold cash securities taken for anti-dumping protection. It merely brings the Act into line with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade anti-dumping code, and the Opposition does not oppose that measure.
The Customs Tariff Validation Bill validates until 31 December the collection of Customs duties in accordance with tariff changes introduced in September last year. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation. It is not my wish to dwell at length on this matter at such a late stage in the session but it should not pass without comment that this Bill emphasises the Government’s lack of clear policy for Australian industry. In particular it confirms the validity of the Opposition’s objection to the Government’s 25 per cent across the board tariff cuts in July 1973. The tariff cut policy was implemented as a means of restructuring industry and to make it more efficient. It did not matter how many industries might go to the wall in the process. It mattered not that industry profit could be squeezed to a degree which brought expansion and investment virtually to a halt, with devastating effects on the economy. It was not a matter of concern that the decision contributed significantly to mass unemployment.
The Government did not say so at the time but there is no doubt that tariffs were lopped to curry favour with consumers who would benefit by the availability of cheap imported goods. It overlooked the fact that consumers are also employers who provide jobs which bring in the money to buy consumer goods, whether cheap or expensive. The effects of the 25 per cent cut combined with some other notable and regrettable economic decisions are now history. The tariff duties validated by this Bill embrace the recommendations submitted in 19 Industries Assistance Commission and Temporary Assistance Authority reports. One IAC report deals with the motor car industry. So disastrous was the effect of the tariff cut on the car manufacturing industry that within 16 months of its introduction the Government had to mount a massive rescue operation costing more than $300m a year. Surely this is all the evidence the Government needs to convince it that whilst low tariffs might do good in theory they are destructive in practice. The Opposition does not oppose any of the Bills but merely passes those comments.
– I wish to direct my comments to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill. I regret the rather sloppy way in which Parliament deals with Bills of this kind. In saying that, I do not point to the present Government. It seems to have become the practice over many years now to introduce this type of legislation towards the end of the sitting, although I recall some years ago that we used to have some very detailed debates on tariff policy in the Senate and in the Parliament, and unfortunately we no longer seem to deal with this important matter in the manner which I believe it warrants. The issues involved are complex and affect, in one way or another, many sections of the community. They also affect the livelihood of many people, not only in Australia but also outside Australia. They affect the development of the economies of developing nations, and we should not be unmindful of this fact. World trade policies, including Australian trade policies, are important to the welfare of developing nations.
This Bill covers some 20 reports ranging from mushrooms to motor cars and covering the production of a wide range of industries in Australia- textiles, diesel engines exceeding 1500 kilowatts, food processing machinery, foundation garments and so on. The Bill also covers reports by the Temporary Assistance Authority, covering again a wide range of goods. Yet Parliament has had no opportunity to examine these Bills or to discuss the reports. I believe that Parliament should have this opportunity. We are being asked tonight to validate decisions that confer great advantages upon some sections of industry and great disadvantages upon others.
For example, the motor car industry has a consumer subsidy of some $300m and a great deal of time was spent, both in the other place and in the Senate, discussing a system for an industry in Tasmania to receive a grant of some $650,000.
I am not arguing whether the recommendations which have been accepted by the Government are right or wrong; this is not the point in dispute. But I am arguing that Parliament should discuss these decisions because they are important and every decision in these reports has an important effect upon the economy of Australia. Having taken part in tariff debates over the years I realise that they are sometimes occasions for heated argument. This, of course, is understandable. I think I am on record, over many years in this Parliament, of having been critical of the tariff policy followed by the Government that I supported and, to some extent, the tariff policy of the present Government although I have some difficulty in understanding what the tariff policy of the present Government is.
I noted that Senator James McClelland, when he was Minister for Manufacturing Industry, was putting forward a point of view with which I would not find myself in great disagreement; but I do not think his view was necessarily the view of the Government. I disagreed on many occasions with the policy of the previous LiberalCountry Party Government and I am on record as having expressed my view quite clearly in the Senate.
I have argued in the past against high levels of protection because I believe that in many cases they have distorted investment in Australia. We have always had scant resources and the protection has been directed into high cost industries and has often caused the fragmentation of many industries. I well recall in 1966 opposing decisions of the then Government in relation to the motor car industry. I recall on that occasion having argued that the Government’s decision inevitably would mean the fragmentation of the industry- we would have too many manufacturers producing for a small market. Indeed, I believe the troubles that the motor car industry has suffered since then, particularly in recent times, to a great extent has been due to the decisions made in 1964, 1965 and 1966.
One of the great problems with tariff policy is that the Parliament has never really influenced it and that insufficient members of Parliament have been interested. I think that in the Senate in former days ex-Senator Bull and myself were really the only two on my side of the Parliament who were interested in the matter. In the other place, Mr Kelly had been for many years a strong fighter for a moderation of tariff policy. He has support from time to time from Mr Street, Mr Maisey and a few others. There has never been a real interest in the Parliament in tariff policy and its effect upon the economic health of the nation.
I was rather interested to read that in the debate in the House of Representatives Mr Kelly put forward a proposal that a standing committee of the House of Representatives be appointed to examine tariff proposals. It may well be that a proposal of this type is the answer to the problem of the Parliament examining thoroughly these rather boring, complex and tedious reports on tariffs and protection generally. I certainly believe that the Parliament has a responsibility to examine these reports and to be satisfied that they are in the national interest. I have no desire at this stage to enter into areas of controversy. I have never believed that the decision of the Government to reduce tariffs by 25 per cent was responsible for all our ills. I have been critical of the suddenness of the decision, I have been critical of the fact that no opportunity was given to sections of industry to adjust, and I have been critical that the cut was a general cut which affected many industries which did not deserve to be affected. Those industries may well have been in a weak position and may have been in need of continued assistance. Although I have always advocated moderate and low areas of protection and the encouragement of investment in industries, I have never argued against reasonable protection for Australian industries.
I believe there is a strong argument for restructuring of industries, where justified, after proper investigation and that such a move should not be resisted. High cost industries and inefficient industries have a major effect upon the cost structure of Australia. Primary industries have had to face up to the problem of restructuring. I see no reason why secondary industry should not face up to this problem also. Other nations have faced up to it to meet changing economic conditions. Japan is a striking example. The great textile industries of Japan are being phased out today because they have become high cost industries and Japan is finding itself unable to compete with low cost countries such as Korea, Taiwan and South-East Asian countries. The Japanese textile industry is investing in these countries. It is not affecting the sale of Australian raw materials to Japan, because there is increasing Japanese investment in other countries. I repeat that Japan is phasing out its textile industry and other high cost industries to meet changing positions. Japan is doing this with the customary realism and economic realism of the Japanese.
Finally, I return to the effect of high protection on economic development because I believe the national interest is best served by a realistic approach to the problems facing the developing nations. I conclude on this note because I want to finish by 11 p.m. Internationally -Australia has always been critical of restrictions imposed on overseas trade by other nations. I refer to statements on this matter by Sir John McEwen and the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who was recently highly critical of the restrictive policies followed by the European Economic Community. I wondered with what bemusement these countries must have considered the criticism by our leaders, because in trying to trade with Australia they have been met with restrictions. They have great difficulty in penetrating our market. I conclude on that note. I do not. oppose the legislation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- 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 apologise for taking up the time of the Senate to speak on the motion for the adjournment this evening. We are getting towards the end of the sessional period and honourable senators will probably give me no marks for delaying them at this stage of the sitting. But the matter that I bring to the attention of the Senate this evening is one of grave concern to me. On 5 June, approximately a week ago, we debated in this chamber the Australian Heritage Commission Bill. Some very fine speeches were made by people on both sides of the chamber. I commend them for their concern in this area. I, myself, felt that I should put in my tuppence worth and I spoke for a very short period, bringing to the attention of the Senate the fact that we, the Aboriginal people, too, have a heritage that we would like to be preserved with the rest of the Australian heritage. There is much that we want to preserve and I believe that it behoves the people of this nation to give us every assistance to do this.
This evening, I shall refer to Ukerebagh Island, New South Wales, just off the Tweed River. I am speaking on behalf of Mr Cedric C. Morgan, President of the Tweed Aboriginal and Islanders Entitlement Scheme; the Secretary, Mrs Noelene Lever; the Treasurer, Mr Noel Browning; the Senior Vice-President, Mr Earl Budd; and the Junior Vice-President, Mrs Joyce V. Summers. In turn, these young people speak on behalf of all we islanders and Aborigines who are from the Tweed, especially those of us who were born on the Tweed and more especially those of us whose roots are firmly embedded in Ukerebagh Island. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that these young people to whom I refer some time ago formed themselves into a movement termed the ‘Aboriginal and Islanders Entitlement Scheme’. We claim Ukerebagh Island as our entitlement. Ukerebagh Island comprises approximately 1 50 acres of high good ground and approximately 100 acres of lower swampy ground. It is uninhabited except by the ghosts of Aborigines and islanders who lived and died there- victims of the white man’s greed. You came, you saw and you conquered as you proclaimed in those days that our land was your land. The white people of that era herded my parents and my grandparents and their contemporaries on to Ukerebagh Island to live and to die in the blacks’ camp there. Your crime in those days was hideously cruel; ours was that we were of black skin and therefore presumed savages and unintelligent. Yes, many, many, did die through insufficient rations, your exotic diseases, heartache and the cold- that unforgettable cold that I knew and suffered as a little boy on Ukerebagh Island. You introduced grog. But equally as many people lived, and I stand here this evening, Australia, as your ghost, your conscience, your demand to right what was wrong on Ukerebagh Island 53 years ago.
Ukerebagh Island was declared a reserve and given to Aborigines in 1927 but Aborigines lived there long before that- many, many years before that. On 24 December 1861 it was declared a water reserve, but on to that water reserve were herded the Aborigines and Islanders those many years ago. On 4 December 1927 the island was gazetted, No. 59497: ‘Reserved from sale for use of Aborigines’; on 26 October 1951 it was again gazetted, No. 74549: ‘Reserved from sale for future public requirements’. The papers referring to the above revocation are PKS5 15906, and for some strange and unknown reason, despite the efforts of the young people of whom I spoke, those papers cannot be found. I am asking this evening why they cannot be found, because I want them found. I want them located so that we, the Aboriginal people, will know the reasons for this sudden change.
The last Aborigines left Ukerebagh Island and moved to the mainland, but they did not do that because they no longer desired to live there. They did it because they were forced by the authorities to leave, since by that time it was felt that Aboriginal children should be educated. There were 2 ways to leave or to go to Ukerebagh Island- swim or row. Honourable senators can imagine what it was like in those days, without the kind of money and job opportunities that are available today, and the parents of those children could not provide even the rowing boat so they could not get their children to school. They were told by the authorities that if they did not send their children to school then they- the parents- would be gaoled and their children would be taken away. So they left the island. Then the Government decided that it would revoke what had been done in 1927. It contacted the welfare department and asked if the department required the island for an Aboriginal reserve. The answer was no, that the Aboriginal people were not living there. So without consultation with Aborigines and without ascertaining the reason why the Aborigines left the island, the reserve was gazetted and reserved from sale for future public requirements.
Today, it is not inhabited. As I said, I have returned there a couple of times in the last few years and my latest return was last weekend. It was on that island 53 years ago, under a palm tree that still stands and among the lantana bushes in the blacks’ camp, that my mother gave birth to me on the ground on a government blanket. The Tweed Shire and the New South Wales State Government- I regret that I have not been able to contact the Minister for Lands in New South Wales because he has been awayhave decided now that the island should be opened up for development. There are extensive plans, and I have those plans with me. They show that there now will be a road going right across to Ukerebagh Island from the town of Tweed Heads, to link up with the sand spit of Fingal Point. So the area will be opened up. I am given to understand that Markwell ‘s fish factory has been promised 40 acres of the Aboriginal reserve. That again will be taken away from the Aborigines for use as fish markets. There will be other development there.
I am led to believe that developers are saying today that they think the Island is worth about $10m. I am not concerned with what the white man’s value of Ukerebagh Island is. What I am concerned with is that there is a group of the descendants of those people who many years ago were forced to go to live on Ukerebagh Island, because of the white man’s greed, and who died there. The descendants of these people want to retain this land. They want to retain it as an Aboriginal reserve. They are desirous of putting on the island sporting facilities for the Aboriginal community. They want to build a football field on the island. They want to put up huts on the island. They want to develop playing areas for the Aboriginal children and they also want to use part of the land for an animal sanctuary.
In the Tweed area there are many koala bears but unfortunately, again because of the white man’s greed, these animals are dying out fast. I looked at an area alongside the road where 100 acres ,of beautiful gum flats were completely dozed out and turned into desert. If anyone knows anything about koala bears he would know that it is this type of tree on which they live and thrive. Here again is something that the Aboriginal people want to preserve. They want to preserve this area for the animal life that is fast dying out, again because of the white man’s greed in developing this area and making the place look like a desert.
The present Government- I have said this on many occasions and I make no retraction from what I have said- has implemented some very good policies in relation to Aborigines. Despite what the Tweed Shire Council or the State Government of New South Wales want to do with this place I maintain that the Australian Government can do something about it because I am given to understand- I think I have seen reports of this in the Press- that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has said that the Government will be introducing into this chamber legislation to enable the purchase, at a cost of about $ 193m, of some 7 1/2 million acres of land from the Queensland Government and the handing over of this land to the Aboriginal people. Let the Government put its money where its mouth is and do the same for the Aboriginal people in the Tweed River area, in relation to Ukerebagh Island.
I have previously been accused of making emotional speeches in this chamber. I make no apology for any emotional speeches that I have made in relation to the Aboriginal question because it is an emotional issue, it is a very complex issue and, to some people on both sides of the chamber, it is probably a vexed question. But it is a question which this nation has to face up to sooner or later, and let us hope that it will be sooner than later, particularly in relation to Ukerebagh Island and to the wishes of the descendants of the Aboriginal people who were herded on to that island to die out of sight, out of mind. I hope that the Government, through the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, will make a thorough investigation into this matter because things are moving very fast on the Tweed. I looked at the island last weekend and there are survey pegs all over it. There are survey pegs that have been put in only in the last 12 months. They have also started pumping sand to reclaim some of the swamplands. I am sure that very shortly they intend to develop Ukerebagh Island, again for the greed of the white man in that area.
– It is not often that Senator Bonner and I fight on the same side of the fence. I want to make a few remarks about this episode because I raised it with the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Australian Government some considerable time ago as a result of representations from basically the same group of people who have been in contact with Senator Bonner. Instead of being rather emotional about the matter, as Senator Bonner was, I am afraid I am going to be brutally political. This area of some 250 acres is basically as Senator Bonner described it. A lot of it is swamp area. It was used as an area into which to herd Aborigines and Islanders many years ago and there they did die of malnutrition and diseases they caught from the white man. There is a tribal tie on the part of the Aborigines and there is a residential tie so far as the South Sea Islanders are concerned.
This instance is a further example of the exploitation of Aboriginal people by those involved- the developers, the land sharks and others who ruthlessly cut across the rights of Aboriginal people. I have a document dated about 1941. It is one of the original documents associated with the handing over of this area. There was no consultation with the Aboriginal people, there was no discussion with them and there was no warning. It was an ideal site for development and white people moved in and developed it with the total backing of the New South Wales Government and the New South Wales Premier. Let us be quite frank about this. I believe an approach was made at some stage to Mr Anthony, the Leader of the National Country Party in another place.
– He is the member for that area.
– He represents this area and he washed his hands of the matter. That is not good enough. One does not want to make these things political issues but let us face facts. If an approach is made to the local political representative for assistance in preserving rights and land titles then it does not matter what the political party is. The so-called Aboriginal problem is a white man’s problem and it is a problem that faces every political party in this country today, regardless of who is in Government and who is in Opposition. A statement has been made that the papers under which the title was granted in 1927 cannot be found. This is not the first time that papers relating to tribal reserves cannot be found. There are documents associated with Weipa in Queensland that have never been seen since the dirty deal was made with the mining companies many years ago. There are documents associated with Aurukun, where the miners want to go with the aid of the State Government, that cannot be found. There are agreements that were made relating to the handing over of Palm Island. There were no documents in that case because they were suppressed. All of these areas rightly belong to the Aboriginal people and they ought to be handed over to them by means of proper association and agreement between the Australian Government and the appropriate State government. In the same way this particular island area ought to be retained by the Aboriginal people.
I do not know that there is a great deal of responsibility on the Australian Government, but there is a moral responsibility on it to endeavour to negotiate with the New South Wales Government to see that these people get their rights. Whether the Aboriginal people were forced on to the island area as a result of the machinations of the white man in past years or whether they had tribal associations with it, it is their land and there is a responsibility on the Australian Government to negotiate, to see that this development project is stopped and to see that the black people in that area get their rights in accordance with the traditions of their tribal customs. That is all I have to say about the matter. I do not want to go to great lengths. Unlike Senator Bonner I get a bit wound up about these things. I could go on for another hour or so about lands that have been stolen from various tribes. I appeal to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Les Johnson) to investigate the whole background of this matter. I have supplied a lot of the material associated with it and I have more information available if it is required. I hope that in this case the developers are outsmarted and that the people concerned get their land back.
- Mr Deputy President -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Perhaps you could wait a moment Senator Missen. It might be appropriate now for the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to reply, if he wishes to do so.
– I wish to speak on the same subject, Mr Deputy President.
– I do not want to reply now if there is to be more discussion on the subject.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I shall call Senator Missen next because his name appears on the list which is a guide to the Chair in these matters. I thought the Minister might want to address himself to this particular subject.
– I wish to speak on the same subject, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- We follow a practice here. It has been the custom -
– Am I to understand that the State Government cannot have any words entered in its defence, Mr Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- We have followed a procedure in the past. I do not want to cut the honourable senator out of the debate. Perhaps I can leave it to the Minister to reply after the conclusion of the contributions to be made. At this stage I suggest that if honourable senators want to speak in the adjournment debate it helps the Chair if they are good enough to do what most others have done up to this stage, namely, to register their names with the Chair. I know that honourable senators do not have to do that but it is a guide and it does help. If we follow that sort of procedure I think it facilitates the proceedings of the Senate. I shall now call Senator Missen, whose name appears next on the list of speakers.
– I desire to raise a matter which I think is of great importance to Australia and one which, so far as I am aware, has not yet been debated at all in this Parliament. I refer to the threatened rape of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the possible destruction of that organisation, which is one of the most successful of the bodies run by the Australian Government for many years. This matter arises in the lee of the recent changes of Ministers. It arises out of a change of portfolios of Ministers as announced in the Press statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 5 June. According to that statement the Department of Science will now be the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs. The statement concludes:
The Department of Minerals and Energy will take over responsibility for the Minerals Research Laboratories and the Solar Energy Studies Unit.
This has already been a matter of considerable concern not only to the persons who work in the CSIRO but also to many people in the community. They are only starting to realise the significance of the changes. This morning I endeavoured to ask a question on this subject. Due to the vicissitudes of which we are aware I was not able to do so, but I propose to raise the 5 different points I was going to mention in that question as the basis on which I comment. I trust that we will hear that some movement is developing.
The only thing that has happened so far as this change is concerned is that following the Prime Minister’s statement on 6 June, that is, last Friday, certain ministerial arrangements were gazetted. Among them was a notification stating that the Governor-General had approved that units of the CSIRO, namely, the Minerals Research Laboratories and Solar Energy Studies Unit, be transferred to the Department of Minerals and Energy. The Department of Science and Consumer Affairs is described in a schedule in the Gazette as administering the Science and Industry Research Act 1949-1973 except insofar as it relates to mineral and solar energy research. It is on the basis of that statement and discussions which members of the CSIRO Executive have had with Ministers that the alarm is now felt.
The first question I propose to ask about this subject is: Has the Government received any advice that it is able, under existing legislation, to dissect the CSIRO in the manner proposed? If so, will the Government table such advice in the Senate? If not, does the Government propose to introduce legislation for this purpose? I do not propose to deal at great length with the legal situation, but I must say that it is my opinion, based on some discussion and research, that the Government has not yet taken this step in a way in which it could do so and I doubt whether it can take this step successfully. Of course this matter will be given much closer consideration in the next few days by those who are concerned. If the Government is endeavouring to take this drastic step, which is in effect to take 10 per cent of the staff of the CSIRO, 500 people, out of that organisation and place them within a Public Service department- they are not members of the Public Service at present- it may be that the Government is endeavouring to rely on Division 9E of the Public Service Act. That was put into the Act in 1948 for the purpose of enabling some persons who were engaged in wartime service to be transferred to the Public Service. If this is to be done under section 81ZI then it is necessary for the Governor-General to publish in the Gazette a declaration: . . that any work or class of work specified in the notice which is being performed under the control of the Council is work which should, on and from a date specified in the notice, be performed under the control of such Department of State . . .
It is quite clear that the Government has not done that. No date is specified. No class of work is specified. In any event, I suggest the Government has not yet taken that step. On the other hand, if it is relying on Division 9f which was inserted in the Act by the Parliament this year then similarly there must be a declaration: . . this Division shall apply in relation to a class of persons specified in the declaration . . .
It then declares those persons and gives them the option of joining the Public Service. It does not appear to me that the Government has done that either. Consequently one must come back to what I suggest is a very dubious proposition that the Government can do what it is doing. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was made a body corporate under the provisions of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949. That Organisation took over the offices and employees of the existing Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The employees were to continue to hold office and appointment under the CSIRO which was created as an Organisation by an Act of this Parliament. The CSIRO was given power to carry out scientific research and investigation. Its executive was made the governing body of the Organisation. In that sense it is a powerful, independent corporation. When one comes to the provisions of that Act, which I submit have not been overridden by other legislation, one finds that section 2 1 provides:
Employees are not part of the Public Service but the Public Service can make requirements in regard to appointments and their terms. Section 22 is the only other section I shall read. It is specific. It states:
Officers shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1948 but shall hold office on such terms and conditions as are, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by the Executive.
I merely summarise by saying that those powers appear to me to be not controvertible in the way in which this Government proposes to act. I would be very interested to hear any argument to the contrary. The second question I raise is this: Apart from the legality of this decision, has the Government received protests and threats of resignation from the executive and staff of the CSIRO against this disastrous decision which may severely damage the effectiveness and the national and international repute of this institution? I do not think I need argue the repute of the CSIRO. I think it has been demonstrably a great success. A large amount of that success is due to the fact that it has been able freely to appoint people who may be unconventional and who are not the sort of people who go into the Public Service and wait for appointments slowly, piece by piece. They are people who do not want to become administrators. They want to stay as scientists. Consequently, this decision is one of the greatest unwisdom. It is unnecessary.
The protest today was led by Doctor Price who is the head of the organisation. He made a public statement. He had to make it in the interests of his staff. I trust that he does not suffer for that. I think that is a demonstration of the strong feeling which the members of that organisation have. This proposed take-over is unnecessary because we do not want people who are doing research to become an appendage of a Government department. I have before me a Press release of 1 1 September 1974 which is a record of a joint statement by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the former Minister for Science (Mr Morrison). That Press release in part states:
The Ministers said CSIRO would continue its research into the use of solar energy for the production of heat such as was needed for the production of domestic hot water, for process water in industry, and for industrial drying applications such as the kiln drying of timber.
The Ministers also said that CSIRO was pursuing research in many areas which could bear on the utilisation of solar energy. The Department of Minerals and Energy would take over the development phase of those CSIRO research results which were approaching practical realisations.
So there has been a recognition that under its own charter the CSIRO must co-operate with other bodies and with departments. There is no need for part of the organisation to be taken over, as has happened. I ask: Has not this protest been made and has not this damage been threatened to this organisation?
The third question which I ask is: Is this action the first of other proposed attempts to destroy CSIRO by transferring its component parts to various Government departments and bringing its officers under Public Service control? I ask that question in no sense as a by-the-way question. I believe there has been reason for fear that this situation would develop and that this organisation may well be whittled down. It is obvious that there are departments that could well have this desire in mind. The Department of Urban and Regional Development or the Department of Housing and Construction may have some reason for thinking that they would like to have under their aegis and control the building research which is done by CSIRO. The National Library may feel that it ought to control the central science library of CSIRO. Perhaps more importantly the Department of Agriculture may seek to have some claim on the wheat and wool research in which CSIRO is involved.
The fourth question I ask is: Is it a fact that neither the former Minister for Science, the new Science and Technology Council nor CSIRO was consulted as to the advisability of this move? One of the most significant facts about the move is that none of those people, including the Science and Technology Council, which met for the first time I believe last week, has been asked whether it was a desirable course. Presumably neither the former Minister for Science nor the present Minister for Science (Mr Clyde Cameron) has been asked. The consequence is that one sees this move in a most sinister atmosphere because it was not done after consideration.
The fifth question then comes automatically to mind. It is: Was the move undertaken in defiance of the Australian Labor Party federal platform to satisfy the aggrandising demands of the Minister for Minerals and Energy and his ambitious permanent head, Sir Lenox Hewitt? I ask whether it was done in defiance of the Australian Labor Party platform because I hope that this will be a matter of consideration for the members of the Australian Labor Party here. The ALP platform contains quite a deal of interesting and useful information. I wish to read to the Senate parts of it which have been flouted by this decision. The general statement reads:
Surely that part of the platform is being flouted by putting 10 per cent of these scientists under the control of a department.
– It is sounding apocryphal now, is it not?
– Let us hear the rest of it, because under the heading ‘Organisation’ the Party stands for-
That is the Minister. Mr Clyde Cameron is the Minister. It is hard to see why we should start to have a number of Ministers with varying controls, and why it should be taken from the area of science in which scientists together decide what should be done and what areas should be explored so that we have a position in which the organisation becomes merely part of the working machinery doing only what some other Minister requires.
Paragraph 1 1 of the platform states:
To amend the Science and Industry Research Act where necessary to strengthen CSIRO ‘s involvement as a research organisation in new fields, particularly in consumer standards, safety, transport and environment research.
There is no mention of taking away the idea that this organisation is worthy of greater involvement, with which I think we all agree. The last objective is to maintain the CSIRO free from Public Service Board control- the last and obvious breach of the Labor Party platform which has been made in the last few days by this attempt to manipulate.
I suggest that the real danger in this move is that, to give to a Minister some increased power, you are fiddling with and perhaps destroying an organisation with an international and national repute. It is of course, consistent with things that have been going on in respect of that Department and that Minister. Most of us read in the Bulletin’ last week an article by Peter Samuel headed ‘Lenox Hewitt faces the fight of his life’. It describes the development which that Department of Minerals and Energy has undergone. The article says:
Hewitt inherited in December 1972 a department which contained according to the 1972 Commonwealth Directory one full division and six branches, and only second division staff . . . That was what was left of the old Department of National Development . . .
There are now nine divisions in the department and the number of second division . . . positions has grown to 3 1 . There are 1 9 branches, headed by these fat cats as Labor Minister Cameron would call them.
That is perhaps an interesting description, but who else would call them that? That is the situation with respect to the growth of this Department and also in that article, which I will not describe at length, are details of the correspondence, the wheeling and dealing and the methods by which Sir Lenox Hewitt obtained from the Public Service Board that increase in staff. This move, which is now gilding the lily, is objectionable because it is so dangerous to an organisation.
It is not just a matter of getting more staff, whatever that might do, but of taking away and shocking an organisation and, I am sure from my discussions today with members of the CSIRO, driving from this country people who will not submit themselves to Public Service conditions in the field of science. I urge the Government to give very heavy consideration to this matter. I think there will be a long fight ahead if the Government proceeds with this move. I hope that the CSIRO will emerge from this successful and in one piece. I urge the Government to reconsider this move before it is too late.
– I will not keep the House long on the adjournment debate. I am afraid the matter I wish to raise is perhaps not as important as the matters raised by Senator Bonner and Senator Missen in the wide sphere, but to the people in my area it is important. I am moved to speak because on Friday and over the weekend in Launceston there was delivered to homes an election pamphlet on the front of which appeared the words: ‘Kevin Newman. Your endorsed Liberal candidate for Bass’. On the first page inside the pamphlet the following appeared:
I have resigned from a successful and challenging career in the Army because I am deeply concerned with the present situation and I cannot stand by without doing something constructive about it.
A little further on it says:
I believe I have not sacrificed my career in vain . . .
This statement is consistent with statements which have been made since 10 May that LieutenantColonel Newman has resigned from the Army for a particular reason. I quote from what he said on the radio program ‘PM’ on 12 May 1975:
The real thing that has triggered off the resignation is the failure of Mr Barnard in his Defence portfolio.
In the ‘Examiner’ on 10 June Mr Chipp was quoted as saying of Lieutenant-Colonel Newman in Launceston on Monday:
He was an extremely high-ranking Army officer who had made a sacrifice of resigning to contest Bass.
The first thing that amused me somewhat was the suggestion that the Colonel was making a sacrifice in leaving the Army to contest Bass. I am sure we all realise that under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund legislation introduced by the former Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, Lieutentant-Colonel Newman would receive a lump sum of about $23,500, if he wished it, plus approximately $5000 a year which would have been a help if he was defeated in the election and retired to the farm that he already owns in Tasmania and would have been a very healthy addition to his parliamentary salary if he was elected. However, to the surprise of all of us, it has become obvious in the last week that Colonel
Newman in fact has not resigned from the Army but has taken advantage of the provisions of the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act 1965. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 10 June 1975. This means that if he is defeated he can return to the Army after the election.
It was suggested this morning by Senator Marriott that this action was taken because there was no time to process his resignation before the day on which nominations closed. His resignation was submitted on 10 May, and nominations close tomorrow. I find the matter rather strange. I asked the Minister to find out that what I have alleged is in fact true. I would like to know whether the resignation had been put through any of the processes through which such resignations must go. I would Uke to know, and I am sure other people would like to know, whether the Minister approved it, whether the Military Board approved it, or whether the Executive Council approved it and whether it was ready for the Governor-General’s signature. I would also like to know whether Colonel Newman asked the Minister or the Department to expedite his resignation. I would Uke to know whether the Colonel ‘s transfer to the reserve list was made at his request, as was stated. The gist of what I am saying is that we should know whether the claim of resignation was only a political stunt to set up the Colonel as a man of principle who resigned because of the views he held. If that was so, I would respect him, but it would seem to some of us that now he is having 2 bob each way, that he has got his publicity and that now he has transferred to the reserve list, and if he is unsuccessful he can resume the career from which he claims he has resigned.
– Like Senator Grimes, I will be brief. My contribution is really a postscript to what was said by Senator Bonner and Senator Keeffe on the land policy of the New South Wales Government. Senator Bonner rightly referred to the untrammelled land development. Even if he is able on behalf of his people to retain the land- in relation to which Senator Keeffe supported him- he is still faced with the dust bowls adjacent to it. That is the point on which I come into this debate. As a corollary to what has been said by Senator Bonner and Senator Keeffe it should be said that since the last Whitlam Government Budget $9m has been set aside to be divided 6 ways to acquire additional bush land for the benefit of Neville Bonner’s people or Australians at large. Dr Cass, when Minister for Environment, was ultra scrupulous. He insisted that I did not speak in the Senate about certain matters because of the possibility of jeopardising relations between the States and the Australian Government in relation to the acquisition of land and the spending of the $9m.
I have remained silent until tonight, but as a New South Wales senator I should say that the New South Wales Government has been extremely remiss in that it has not adopted a more up to date, efficient land policy. The criticism that Senator Bonner made is compounded by the wall of silence as to what New South Wales is doing with its share of the $9m. We are unable to find out what is happening. The agitation of Senator Bonner and Senator Keeffe against land devastation and any role that Senator Cavanagh can play in this matter will not be successful unless the $9m set aside for the acquisition of wildlife habitats is used. That is the criticism that I make. I differ slightly from Senator Bonner and Senator Keeffe. They were attacking one facet of land policy. I believe that what I have injected is an essential ingredient of the whole plan. I know that it is late in the evening to be getting provocative, but some of us become exasperated, because of the lack of goodwill on the part of the States, when we are trying to do the right thing and we get the sort of situation that was epitomised by Senator Bonner tonight, supplemented by Senator Keeffe and again emphasised by myself.
– I wish to speak about the subject raised by Senator Missen. In the events of great moment that have occupied the attention of the nation and the Parliament over the last few days it has been very unfortunate that the Government’s move in relation to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been paid so little attention by the public, the Press and the Parliament. It has been a very serious and very unwise move, and the Parliament should look at it. We should be thankful to Senator Missen for taking the trouble of raising the subject this evening.
One may well ask why this has happened to the CSIRO. The Government has made a very tragic mistake. Those of us who have had any sort of contact with officers of the CSIRO over the last few days are aware that the morale of that organisation is rapidly plummeting. People who thought that they had no particular stake in the political area now find themselves the unwitting victims of the internecine strife of this Government. They have found that an organisation which has been working well in relation to the whole community, as well as the scientific community, over recent years has suddenly become a casualty through no fault of its own. Senator Missen made some comment about the effect on the morale of the CSIRO. Those of us who care about real progress being made for all Australia should be concerned that an organisation such as this, which is so well developed, which has contributed so much and which has so much to contribute, should be placed in this terribly dangerous situation.
Whoever in the Government was responsible for doing this should do his homework, because the key to all this sort of scientific research in Australia today is that there should be an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary approach and the approach to the development of our tertiary institutes of research. Certainly the heavy emphasis on purely scientific research organisations, such as the CSIRO, has been to build up organisations in which scientists from different disciplines of research can work with one another. Indeed, the CSIRO has worked very closely with other scientific and academic research bodies. It has had a unique, very close and very valuable link with the universities. The universities and the CSIRO have co-operated in all their areas of research. They have lent their particular expertise and the particular assets in terms of equipment and brains that they bring collectively onto very important scientific problems in Australia.
The effect of the Goverment ‘s snatching away of part of the CSIRO has to be one of very real significance through all these other instituations Working relationships which have taken years to build up- at a high cost to the nation, but it has been a worthwhile investment- and which have been extremely valuable suddenly have been imperilled in a very real way. Once again I ask: Why? On what rationale can the Government justify the breaking down of such an important and carefully built scientific research structure? It would be just as ludicrous if the Department of Agriculture were to snatch away the agronomy, the animal husbandry and the horticulture sections of the CSIRO. It would be just as ludicrous if the Treasury were to snatch away certain sections of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.
We have set up these groups as a way of keeping in Australia the scientific brains which have been born here, which have been trained here and which we need. It is not so many years agoabout 20 years ago- when a big item of public interest was the so-called brain drain from Australia, whereby scientists in Australia found that they did not have the opportunity to participate, in the way in which they claimed they wanted to participate, in the development of the
Australian nation. It was the development of organisations such as the CSIRO which enabled very important and very valuable people to stay in Australia. It also enabled many of them to return to Australia. Very many important, significant scientific researchers from overseas have come to Australia to participate in research programs which have been initiated by organisations such as the CSIRO, particularly those programs initiated in conjunction with other organisations such as universities. We are losing a valuable and a working scientific structure.
If there is one charge that could never have been laid at the door of the CSIRO it is that of the ivory tower approach. The CSIRO has always consistently and conscientiously directed its efforts towards overcoming real practical problems in the community. It has taken the trouble of communicating very effectively with all those sections of the community with which it can have communication, just exactly what it is doing at any time- what has been the produce of the research. It has been able to convey this in a way which is useful particularly to the farmers. It has had mobility and ability because it was not directed from outside but directed according to the response to community needs. It has had the ability to shift quickly its areas of research or its emphasis as new needs have arisen. It has worked well and made very valuable contributions, for example to the wool industry in recent years when it was in very serious trouble. It is now shifting very effectively to research into the beef industry which is a current and fairly recent area of need in the community.
This organisation must maintain its independence and above all it must maintain its own faith in its academic and scientific integrity. The community which is in contact with the CSIRO has had faith in it. It must continue to have faith in the organisation. Senator Missen has questioned whether the Government has the legal right to move the Organisation but to take this Organisation away and to make it part of the Public Service, especially a part of a very controversial area of the Public Service and Government endeavour, would be to destroy wilfully, needlessly and unforgivably an organisation which has been well motivated towards the advancement of our nation.
– I am glad that Senator Missen has raised the subject of the change to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation because concern has been expressed to me by people who are employed by the CSIRO in South Australia over the decision by the Government that this Organisation be absorbed into the Department of Minerals and Energy, or whatever that Department may be called at this time. I believe that this action has been taken in flagrant disregard of the wishes of the staff of the Organisations. I can understand the apprehension of the people who will now be embraced by the strangler, as the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has been aptly described.
– I rise to a point of order. Standing Orders indicate quite clearly that no reflection on a member of another House can be made in this House. A most offensive remark has been made by Senator Jessop who did not have the courtesy to let us know that he intended to speak on the adjournment. I want a withdrawal of the remark he has made.
-Mr President, I did notify -
– Do you want to speak to the point of order?
-Yes, Mr President, I will speak to the point of order. I was using the word strangler ‘ as a term of affection.
- Mr President, I ask for a complete and absolute withdrawal of the word.
– It has been a long standing custom in the Senate to refer to the members of another place with a certain amount of respect. Senator Poyser has taken exception to the way in which Senator Jessop has referred to a member of another place. He has asked for a withdrawal. I will leave it to Senator Jessop to take the appropriate action.
- Mr President, as you put it that way I will withdraw that reference. I simply say that I sympathise with the staff of the CSIRO who will be subjected to the strangulation of the -
– I rise to a point of order. The withdrawal should be unqualified. Senator Jessop should not say the same thing in another way. I require that Senator Jessop make an unqualified withdrawal.
– I take a point of order. It seems to me that the point of order taken by Senator Poyser is quite baseless. It is a rather odd custom in this chamber and the other House to accept that one cannot call a man a liar but can say that he is telling an untruth. If we are prepared to accept that fine distinction I think that
Senator Poyser ‘s point of order is clearly baseless. To suggest that a group of men or an institution is to be subject to strangulation is an accepted use of the English language and in my view is in no sense objectionable.
– I accepted Senator Jessop ‘s implied withdrawal in order to conform with the traditions of the Senate. I think I am quite correct in interpreting what he said as a withdrawal. I ask him to continue his remarks.
-Thank you, Mr President.
– You will not keep the Senate very long, will you?
-No, I will not keep the Senate very long. I think the gallery is now alerted to the importance of the subject to which I am referring, and I do not hear any somnolent noises coming from that quarter at the present time. I believe that the staff of the CSIRO are concerned also because this particular Minister has come under the cloud of intrigue which seems to be evident in Australia at the present time in relation to the petrodollar deals. That would add to the concern of the CSIRO staff. I think that the concern of the staff could best be summed up by a statement that was made by Dr Radoslovich who is the President of the CSIRO Officers’ Association and one of my former schoolmates at the Unley High School.
– You are 4 years older than he and yet you were in the same class.
– Obviously Government senators are excited by the suggestion that Dr Radoslovich -
– He learnt to talk at twelve.
– The statement reads:
Dr E. W. Radoslovich, President of the CSIRO Officers’ Association, today expressed the disgust of the scientific staff of the Organization at the way in which the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, has been allowed to take advantage of the turmoil within the Government last week to annex a major part of CSIRO. The move has been carried out in an underhand fashion.
I interpolate that that is typical of the present Government: lt is understood that neither the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, Mr Cameron, nor the CSIRO Executive were consulted prior to the event.
I am sure that Mr Clyde Cameron will have some second thoughts about the action which has been taken, which, in my view, subverts his authority. Of course, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) seems to want to subject Mr Cameron to humiliation by actions of this type.
– What did Mr Fraser do to Mr Gorton?
-If my South Australian colleague will permit me I will continue reading from this document. I can understand why he wants to stop me from doing so; it brings out the truth and the concern about the staff of this very significant statutory authority. I shall repeat what the statement says:
It is understood that neither the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, Mr Cameron, nor the CSIRO Executive were consulted prior to the event.
I think that is a disgrace. The statement continues:
There has been no public discussion of the desirability or otherwise of the transfer.
That is an equally shameful disgrace. The statement continues:
The Association considers that Mr Connor’s actions have made a mockery of the concept of ‘open government ‘.
I agree with that statement. It continues:
The move to split CSIRO is directly contrary to the view of the OECD inquiry commissioned last year by the Government. It also pre-empts the role of the ASTEC Council appointed only a few weeks ago to advise the Government of matters of scientific policy.
Senator Missen drew attention to that in his remarks when he said that a report- I understand it was the first report- was made by that body only last week.
– What is the body?
– The Australian Science and Technology Council.
-I am glad that Government senators appreciate that this body has been created by their own actions. The credibility of the Government- of course this is always in question- in near zero in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Not only is the Government’s credibility near zero level in the CSIRO but it is also near zero level in the minds of a vast majority of the Australian people today. The staff now see the way open for the disbandment of that Organisation if other Ministers are encouraged to follow Mr Connor’s lead and make a bid for sections of the CSIRO. The Organisation’s outstanding success has been due to its ability to recruit top scientific staff who are attracted by the flexible policies of that Organisation and the staffing structure which gives wide scope to their creativity. Scientists in the organisation fear that the rigid Public Service system faced by the staff in the transferred divisions will ultimately stultify their research effectiveness.
I realise that it is very difficult for Senator Poyser who is interjecting and for other honourable senators opposite to understand that type of expression because the level of their mentality is evident in the Minister’s action in perpetrating what I believe to be this retrograde decision. I hope that the Government, the Prime Minister in particular, will pay some regard to the concern that has been expressed in this debate by Senator Missen, Senator Martin and myself and will review the decision in order to maintain this scientific unit which is proud of its achievements, proud of its high morale up to this time, and which has contributed in a very fine way to scientific research and development in Australia. I hope that the Government will review and reverse the decision it has made to bring this instrumentality under the control of the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
-I wish to endorse everything that Senator Jessop has said and to support what Senator Missen and Senator Martin have said upon this matter. If anybody has any respect for endeavour and decency and the high purpose of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, he will be thoroughly ashamed of the way in which it has been treated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). This Government commenced its period in office with a very heavy itch of commissionitis. Now it is scratching itself to get rid of the commissions. It has not only dismembered the CSIRO but has also purported to have dismembered the Cities Commission and the Social Welfare Commission- statutory bodies- without a word of reference to the chief personnel involved in them. I hoped that there would be some honourable senators on the Government side who would be impressed with the indignity and the undeserving situation that that brings upon the Government. I notice that Government senators are leaving the chamber. The exodus is on. But I want to assure them that this in only the preface to what I am about to say.
I rise only to take on board Senator Grimes’ miserable and despicable -
– I repeat miserable and despicable intervention in the personal files of an opposing political candidate. Here is a government that prides itself in giving every opportunity to a member of its Services the right to stand for Parliament in the same way as any other person in the community has that right. Senator Grimes wants the Minister to rummage about the personal files of the candidate for Bass. How contemptible can you get? I always dreamed that Senator Grimes was a man of honour. I think he has the voice, maybe, of Grimes but the hand is the hand of Jacob. Senator Grimes would be much better employed if he would urge his Ministers to rummage about the files dealing with overseas borrowings by members of the Cabinet. We had the despicable performance this morning by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, who tried to cover up as persistently as Nixon did the attempted borrowings overseas by his colleagues. It would be much better if those files were unveiled to the Senate and the full content of them disclosed and then Senator Grimes might join me in prosecuting a cause that would be really in the public interest, instead of miserably poking about the files of a man’s career. Is it not honourable, when a person expects an election in 12 months time, to resign and to show that he will contest an election with the Minister for Defence when he has had experience in that Department as a soldier and knows the deficiencies that exist. As soon as the candidature is announced Lance Barnard quits, and it becomes the candidate’s right to go on the reserve. The Minister had time to fossick this morning and to disclose details, but does not the legislation of this country enable the candidate to do as he did? Is that not the more appropriate and prudent course if there is to be an election in 3 weeks, while a resignation would be the appropriate and honourable action if he wanted to take on his own Minister in an election 12 months hence? Grimes does not succeed in griming Newman.
– It has become obvious in the last 2 nights that the adjournment debate is a popular occasion to air many questions. An audience is kept here when we see such a display as we have just seen. Not only was it oratory as only Senator Wright can give it, but also it was acting as only Senator Wright or a Gilbert and Sullivan actor could perform. It is a fact that nobody takes any notice. Three speakers, Senator Bonner, Senator Keeffe and Senator Mulvihill, referred to the Aboriginal question and in particular to the Island of Ukerebagh. Senator Missen, Senator Martin and Senator Jessop spoke on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Senator Grimes spoke about the Liberal candidate for Bass. I do not know what Senator Wright was talking about but in his miserable, despicable way he was looking around the chamber and screwing up his face. He was impressive. If anyone could lose the seat of Bass for the Liberal Party and win it for the Labor Party it is Senator Wright. He would be our hero in that respect.
It is unfortunate that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), the Minister representing the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, is not present because concern was expressed for the scientists from the CSIRO. If he were here the matter could be replied to, I think, effectively. I am informed that he was not notified.
– He was not.
- Senator Missen or Senator Martin was speaking on this matter. Let me as an old timer in the Senate tell honourable senators opposite that you do not notify a Minister that you are speaking in the adjournment debate for political propaganda purposes. If you want some information you notify him so that he can obtain it. I believe that Senator Missen and Senator Martin had a genuine desire to raise the concern of scientists who may leave the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Senator Jessop then undid all the sympathy they had gained by showing definitely that this was a political campaign. No one has done a greater disservice to his own 2 colleagues, who made an impressive contribution to the debate, than has Senator Jessop. It looked very much like a deliberate attempt to put forward political propaganda. I think it was accidental. I think that Senator Jessop was innocent; I do not think that would have been his deliberate intention. I think it was only as a result of stupidity that, when he thought he was attacking the Government, he was attacking his own 2 colleagues.
What Senator Grimes said will be replied to by Senator Bishop, who represents the appropriate Minister. Tomorrow I shall convey what Senator Missen and Senator Martin said to the appropriate Minister and see whether I can obtain a reply. The remarks of Senator Jessop and Senator Wright could not be conveyed to anyone with the idea of obtaining any reply.
On the question of Ukerebagh, I think that Senator Bonner was anxious to obtain information. He informed me that he would be speaking in the debate. I would say that there is only one fault with Senator Bonner and that is that every question he raises about Aborigines has to be emotional. Whilst he may have a good case in relation to this particular island, on every occasion he reads out some poetry in a most impressive way which I think captures all our hearts. I am tired of going home and wringing out my handkerchief each night he speaks. This is not an emotional matter at all. It is a question of justice for Aborigines. It is not a matter of whether Senator Bonner was born on that island, whether someone was persecuted and whether we took their land from them.
In his own statement, it was not Aboriginal tribal land. Senator Keeffe claimed that it was. The information I have is that part of the island was at one time declared an Aboriginal reserve. It was declared in the gazettal of Aboriginal reserves. This was revoked on 26 October 1 95 1 when it became Crown land- that is, land of the New South Wales Government. I have had 3 ministerials on this issue. I received a letter from Earl Budd, Senior Vice-President of the Tweed Aboriginal and Islander Entitlement Scheme. The letter was written to the Prime Minister but it was handed to me for my consideration. He requested that the Prime Minister intervene in the shire council’s handling of the issue and he still considered the island to be Aboriginal land. Cedric Morgan, President of the Tweed Aboriginal and Islander Entitlement Scheme, wrote to me and I replied to him on 20 February this year saying that if they wanted to do anything they should form an organisation for the purpose of negotiating for that land. He wrote to the then Minister for Environment (Dr Cass) on 27 April stating that he believed an expressway was to be built across the island and requesting the Minister’s support in reclaiming the island to be used for a recreational complex. The major part of the island tended to be a national park in the form of a sanctuary for Australian wildlife in its natural setting. The then Minister for Environment referred the matter to myself as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs saying that he doubted that he could interfere in this matter since his financial support is confined to areas of national park significance, which usually means a considerably larger area than that concerned in this matter’. Mr N. J. Kelly, Secretary-Treasurer of the Richmond Federal Electorate Council of the Australian Labor Party, wrote to me on 2 1 May requesting assistance on behalf of the Tweed Aboriginal and Islanders Entitlement Scheme. He requested that I negotiate the release of 30 acres of Ukerebagh Island with the New South Wales Minister for Lands and Forests. On 15 May Senator Jim Keeffe made representations on behalf of Mr E. Budd, who initiated the original ministerial letter- that is the original letter I read out- referring to him as the Vice-President of the Aboriginal and Islander Movement, Tweed Heads. Senator Keeffe said that he was advised that a commercial complex was intended to be developed on the island. He requested that the Minister ask the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to re-examine the problem to ascertain whether the land could be restored to the people. Senator Keeffe ‘s letter was dated 15 May but he enclosed with it a letter sent to Mr Crowther of Tweed River by the Lands Board Office, Grafton, on 27 March. The letter reads as follows:
In connection with your inquiries concerning your permissive occupancy over the South-eastern portion of Portion 279, Parish Terrimore, County Ross, I have to advise that this land is not within an Aboriginal reserve. There is an Aboriginal reserve on Ukerebagh Island but, as far as I am aware, the Aboriginal Welfare Board does not control any land immediately adjoining your occupancy.
With regard to fencing, there is no condition requiring you to fence but there would be no objection to your doing so if desired. Seeing, however, that the boundary between your area and that retained by Mrs Maslin, has not been defined, it would be desirable to agree between yourselves as to a suitable line to fence.
Obviously there was some sale or occupancy of the property either by individual Europeans or by companies.
– That was not on Ukerebagh; that was on Fingal Point.
– It is my -
– The letter was telling them that Ukerebagh Island was an Aboriginal reserve, not Fingal Point. That was in 1 945.
– It is my misinterpretation of the letter. I am supplied with notes which state that officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs investigated the area on 6 June and 8 June this year. The New South Wales Planning and Environment Commission apparently has recommended -
- Senator, are you saying they investigated the area? I was down there when they visited the area and they spoke to one person and never even looked at Ukerebagh Island. I was at Tweed Heads at the time.
-On 6 June and 8 June?
– That is right. The officers did not even contact this group which made the representations to you.
– Let us see the result of their investigation according to the report.
– I was down there.
– I do not know whether the fact that you did not see the departmental officers going further than speaking to one person suggests that they did not do their job. But what you say is one of the matters which I am prepared to report back to the Department to see whether your account of their spending either two or three days there only allowed them to speak to one person. The New South Wales Planning and Environment Commission has apparently recommended to the Minister for Lands and Forests that the island remain in its natural state, with the small north-eastern tip of the island to be developed as a fishing port. This area of the island is isolated from the bulk of the island by a channel usually covered by high tide, and this small area is not in its natural state.
The Planning and Environment Commission recommended that the north-east tip of the island be linked to the mainland by an access road. These recommendations were made in about January this year. The Tweed Shire Council has advised that the most recent plan for the development of the island proposes that about half remain in its natural state as a nature reserve, with the remainder of the island to be used for a number of purposes. They may include relocation of the fishing fleet, a tourist complex, including a restaurant and perhaps council flats, and a caravan park area. The Tweed Shire Council has advised that this plan is by no means a final plan. However, the present plan is regarded by the Tweed Shire Council as a satisfactory compromise between the wishes of the Council and the recommendations of the Planning and Environment Commission.
Three avenues of action are open. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, through the normal channels- the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Premier of New South Wales and the State Minister for Youth, Ethnic and Community Services -may initiate the request to the State Minister for Lands and Forests that the island or part of it be vested in the Aboriginal Lands Trust, to be managed in accordance with the wishes of the people as an Aboriginal reserve. The second course of action is for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to suggest that the Aborigines and Islanders concerned at the future of the island apply to the Aboriginal Lands Trust to purchase the island. The third course is that no action be taken, since the plans being developed for the island seem to satisfy the wishes of the Aborigines and the Islanders of the area. However, the final decision on the plans for the island will be made by the relevant New South Wales Minister.
So the Aborigines and Islanders have 3 courses open to them. These notes do not contain any recommendation as to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs should do, but I shall take up the matter with him on the first possible occasion. I shall indicate to him the concern that was expressed tonight and ask that he discuss the matter with the people concerned- the New South Wales Minister for Youth, Ethnic and Community Services- to see whether an approach should be made to the Minister for Lands and Forests to acquire the island. As Senator Bonner said, the Australian Government has power to acquire. We hope that a Bill to acquire all settlements in Queensland will be passed, but that will be successful only with the co-operation of the Opposition in the Senate. Can we ever achieve it?
– I have not seen the brochure to which Senator Grimes referred but I will look into the matter and, if necessary, talk to the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned 12.24 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions were circulated:
VIP Aircraft Operating Costs
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 June 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750611_senate_29_s64/>.