29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
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 Sim and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson (3 petitions).
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 Baume.
-I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That by-laws 31, 32 and 33 of the Telecommunications General By-Laws made on 30 June 1975 under the Telecommunications Act 1975 be disallowed.
– I ask the Minister for Police and Customs: Is it not a fact that the information which he has used about persons who received superphosphate bounty some years ago was obtained by direction of former Senator Murphy during the election campaign in 1 974? Was it not obtained by former Senator Murphy for political purposes? Was it not used during that campaign because at least one company required to supply that information by express ministerial direction protested at the breach of confidentiality involved in giving details of the names and financial dealings of individuals? Was it not a fact also that at least one company stressed that the confidentiality of its business relationships be maintained? Why does the Minister now justify this invasion of privacy? I ask the Minister, as the Minister for Police and Customs exercising wide powers of intrusion into the affairs of private individuals under Acts of Parliament for which he is responsible, what protection have individuals who deal with the Government if a Minister wants to use details of their dealings for political defamation?
-It is obvious that the honourable senator did not hear my speech on this question in the Budget debate last evening. The power used by a former Minister who was responsible for police and customs was invested in him under Acts passed by the former LiberalCountry Party Government. The Acts insist that to receive the bounty it is essential annually to give the information that the Minister requests. Because the previous Government never carried out the provisions of those Acts and was not concerned with who was getting government money, is no justification for a Labor Minister not to carry out his duty in seeing that the provisions of the Acts are observed. As I told the Senate last evening, letters were sent to the companies in April 1974 seeking this information in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The Minister was carrying out the provisions of the Act. The Act provides that for the subsidy to be paid the information had to be supplied.
For the first time we had a Minister who was carrying out his obligation under this Act of the Parliament and was paying respect to the Parliament. I do not know why he wanted this information. It is only an assumption that he wanted it for an election campaign. I stated last evening that while there was justification for making this information public I believed that some of the companies asked that the information be treated confidentially. They have been informed in writing that we have an obligation to make the information public. The list that was obtained in April 1974 will be tabled in this House as soon as the companies have received the correspondence from me.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is it not a fact that at the time this information was requested the Government ‘s decision to abandon the superphosphate bounty had been publicly known for months?
-Mr President, I will answer that question. It is irrelevant, of course, to the matters which Senator Cavanagh has been answering. He has given a full and proper account of the powers that he has and his predecessor had under the Act, and he exercised those powers in accordance with the Act. Whether or not any decision had been made by the Government in respect of the bounty is quite irrelevant; but a decision had not been made at that stage in definitive form by the Government. Decisions had been taken which were not at the time finalised because there were references to the Industries Assistance Commission concerned in the decision which was made. Irrespective of that, it is beside the point of the substance of the original question which was asked by Senator Greenwood.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question concerning a matter of interest to me, and I know to him, over a long period. It relates to the provision of radio beacons and other safety devices for use by small boats the number of which is growing rapidly year by year in Australia. In view of some information which recently came to my knowledge, I ask the Minister whether’ his attention has been drawn to reports that a small emergency radio distress beacon which will be a major safety aid to small boat owners is now available? Can the Minister report on the availability of the device within Australia?
– Tests have already been carried out by the Department of Transport and by the Postmaster-General’s Department on a number of these devices in the cheaper price range. They have been found to be very prone to accidental activation resulting in false alarms. In fact a group carrying out tests reported that a significant number of false alarms have already been received; but as an aid to small boat owners specifications have now been issued through the industry and interested departments with a view to producing a more efficient and acceptable unit which will retail at about $80.
– I direct to the PostmasterGeneral a question following upon the statement of the Minister for the Media that 15 new radio licences will be issued some of which will be under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. Will the issue of such licences contravene the provisions of the Act? Has the Minister had legal advice on this matter? If not, will he obtain advice from the Attorney-General and make it available to the Senate?
– Discussions have taken place between the Minister for the Media and the relevant departments on this question. The Senate will recall that recently Senator Young asked me and also Senator Douglas McClelland questions on the issue of licences for the first 2 experimental radio stations which were for a restricted period. These licences were issued under the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
– They were successful, too.
– Yes, they were very successful. There were two notable senators on the Committee, Senators Mulvihill and Davidson, who made some contributions to the discussions. In respect of the current discussions about the new approvals, it has been proposed that I should issue the licences under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act, and regard has already been had to the issue raised by Senator Young. Perhaps I should refer to the definitions in the new Broadcasting and Television Act. Section 4 states: licence’ means a licence Tor a commercial broadcasting station or Tor a commercial television station;
That is the licence which the Minister for the Media may issue. Section 8 1 states:
The Minister may, subject to this Act, grant to a person a licence for a commercial broadcasting station or for a commercial television station upon such conditions, and in accordance with such form, as the Minister determines.
In respect of the Act which I personally administer, section 2 (c) states:
The Minister administering the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1967 is not to grant a licence under that Act for any purpose for which a licence may be granted under the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-71- see section 130.
In relation to the question raised by Senator Young, I will have the matter examined by the respective departments and further advise him.
- Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question? Will the Minister also obtain advice from the Attorney-General and make that advice available to the Senate?
– As this is a Government proposal, I think I can say what I said before. The honourable senator has made his submission and I will consider it in association with the Ministers concerned.
– I address my question to the Minister for Police and Customs and I refer to a statement made by him in which he said:
The Australian Government has no intention of expanding the operations of the joint police force.
In the same statement the Minister also pointed out that his views did not compare with those expressed by the Premier of Queensland, the Hon. Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Will the Minister advise the approximate number of officers in the Australia Police and the number employed in Queensland? What long term alterations can the Minister see being made to the numbers?
– It is true that I said that I did not agree with the opinions expressed by Mr Bjelke-Petersen or with his action yesterday. During the Budget debate last night I stated that apparently one of Mr Fraser ‘s methods of saving money in order to put his new proposals into operation is not to go ahead with the introduction of the Australia Police. I pointed out that there would not be a saving in money by not going ahead with the Australia Police. In fact, it is more expensive to have 4 police forces operating as separate agencies when they could be combined in one agency. There are economic savings involved in having a combined police force. I said that Mr Fraser obviously was influenced by the opinions of Mr BjelkePetersen, who made some Press statements relating to a flood of Australia Police personnel in Queensland.
There is no intention of expanding the personnel of the Australia Police beyond the number in lue 4 agencies at the present time. Throughout Australia there are some 2500 members; in Queensland there are and will remain 76 Australia policemen. Any expansion that comes about will be as a result of the force taking over new duties and requiring staff for the investigation of what are known as white collar crimes, or corporate crimes. In the foreseeable future there is no intention of expanding the Australia Police and there is definitely no intention of expanding it in Queensland. Any expansion, any new operations or any duplication will be avoided. We shall expand only in complete co-operation with the States.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to his admission in recent debates that the Australian economy is in a serious state of recession and that the Government has made some mistakes. Is it correct that the Budget predicts further unemployment? Is the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, correct when he asserts that further unemployment will come about as a result of the Budget’s failure to give a significant stimulus to business and industry? Is worse unemployment inevitable?
– It is very flattering of Senator Webster to give me the qualifications of a soothsayer. I have read the speech of Mr Hayden. I have read the Budget papers. I did not find any reference in any of those documents to any inevitable increase in unemployment. I disagree with the predictions of Mr Hawke as to the likely level which unemployment is about to reach. I deprecate pessimistic, gloomy- almost hopefully gloomy- comments about what is likely to happen to the economy. One of the factors in a situation such as the present one is confidence in the community generally. I am sorry to say that confidence is sadly lacking at the moment. I do not think we do service to the business community, to the country, to the Government or to the Opposition if we attempt to stir up further lack of confidence. I will not go on record as saying that I expect more unemployment. I certainly do not hope that there will be more unemployment.
-Has the Minister for Social Security seen newspaper reports that he intends to shelve the report entitled ‘Care for the Aged’ which he tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday? Will he say whether these reports are correct? If they are not, what action does he propose to take on the report?
– I have seen reports which have appeared in a number of newspapers saying that I intend to shelve this report. That is certainly not an accurate report of my statement. An accurate report of it appeared in the Age, in an article by Miss Michelle Grattan. As I think the matter is of some importance, I shall read briefly from the article. I think it is what I said. The article states:
The Minister for Social Security (Senator Wheeldon) said yesterday he was opposed to the Government launching major new initiatives in social welfare until it was clearly beating inflation.
Senator Wheeldon said he was sure the rest of the Government held this view, ‘sad as it is’.
For the next one- or even two- years defeating inflation was the Government’s most important problem.
If we don’t defeat inflation, we are only wasting time talking about other social welfare programs’, he said . . .
Although Senator Wheeldon said the Government would consider the report immediately, he made it clear that additional expenditure was unlikely in the near future.
That is the position by which I stand. It is an unfortunate position to have to take, but it is the position of the Government. I take it that the Opposition will not be claiming that more money ought to be spent on social welfare.
The report is a most valuable one. It deals with care of aged persons in their own homes and with the avoidance of placing aged persons in institutions- something which I think anyone who is interested in the welfare of aged people would think highly desirable. Among the proposals contained in the report are suggestions as to how the existing finances and the existing facilities could be much better used without any increase in expenditure. If this can be done, certainly it ought to be done. I have asked the Department of Social Security to examine the report immediately. It is doing so. If there are means which do not involve substantial additional expenditure to accomplish at least some of the goals set out in this report, I shall see that they are adopted as soon as possible. There is no intention whatever of shelving this report. We regard it as an important report and something on which we intend to act as soon as we are in an economic position to act.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. It concerns the price of petrol. No doubt the Minister is well aware that the Prices Justification Tribunal yesterday granted a 6c a gallon increase in the price of petrol to compensate the oil companies for the increased levy imposed by the Budget and that this tax will add to the cost of a lot of goods in Australia, therefore adding to inflation. I ask: Does this price include any profit for the oil companies? So that people deciding to buy a car can choose what size and style of car to buy, what does the Minister anticipate will be the price of petrol in, say, one year from now and 2 years from now?
– I have discussed Senator Townley ‘s question with my colleague the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and because I am answerable to the Parliament for the Prices Justification Tribunal it has been suggested that I should field the question. I am given to understand that in coming to its conclusion, the Tribunal has worked on the basis of allocating the increased cost of domestic crude over the range of petroleum products of each company on the basis of their existing product mix. In other words, the Tribunal has allowed a straight cost pass through without any increased margin. Prices will differ slightly as between companies because of the differing product ranges, proportions of Australian crude employed, marketing arrangements and costs. The percentage increases range from about 10 per cent to 12 per cent, except in the case of indigenous liquefied petroleum gas which will attract increases from 40 per cent to 50 per cent.
The announcement relates only to wholesale prices. The oil companies are required to notify retail prices for their own outlets separately. Independent outlets do not have to do so unless their annual turnover exceeds $20m. The Tribunal will deal with retail price notifications very quickly when they are received. The Tribunal has been in touch with all State Prices Commissioners and they may be expected to follow the Tribunal’s lead in their own determinations.
As to the last portion of the honourable senator’s question in which he asks us to look into the occult, as it were, and predict what the price of petrol might be this time next year, I am afraid that I do not go into that sort of business.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State. Is it true, as was stated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate last week, that the Government has advertised for staff to, fill a permanent pool of people to work on present and future royal commissions? Is it not, a fact that all governments, including Liberal and National Country Party State governments, have found it necessary to appoint royal commissions or committees of inquiry.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDAnswering the last portion of the honourable senator’s question first, yes, it is a fact that all governments from time to time find it necessary, and indeed over the years have found it necessary, to institute committees of inquiry and royal commissions of a wide and varying nature. It is true that recently this Government, because we have a number of royal commissions sitting at this time inquiring into a multiplicity of matters which we suggest are the result of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government neglect, inserted an advertisement seeking information about people who might be available to serve in their various capacities as experts and, having regard to their qualifications, in a secretarial manner or providing a back-up service to royal commissions. The advertisement was not inserted for the purpose of filling any specific position or positions that exists or exist. It was for the purpose of ascertaining who might be available within the Public Service and indeed throughout the community. We were seeking people with various degrees, qualifications, expert knowledge and practical experience so that we would have available to us at first hand a pool of people who might be able to serve in any respective capacity that might come forward.
As to the other portion of the honourable senator ‘s question, yes, I did hear the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate make some criticism of the number of royal commissions that this Government has appointed during its term of office. I think the number of royal commissions appointed- I am speaking from memory- is about 9. If I may, I will refer to just one or two of them. Firstly, there is the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. That royal commission was established as a result of a resolution carried in the House of Representatives on a non-party basis. I think the motion was moved by the former Prime Minister and seconded by the honourable member for Casey. It is a commission of inquiry that is presided over by Justice Evatt. I suggest that that commission of inquiry is doing outstanding work for the Australian community.
Another royal commission which I suggest was long overdue is the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. That subject is something that has not been inquired into for over half a century and something that we suggest was badly neglected by the previous Government. In summation: Yes, a number of royal commissions are sitting and we have sought information about the possibility of people being available to work on future royal commissions. It is certainly a necessity for all governments, irrespective of their political colour and irrespective of whether they are Federal or State governments, to appoint royal commissions or committees of inquiry.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy: Is the Government concerned about the criticism levelled at Australia’s minerals and energy policy by a leading Japanese industrialist? Is it now apparent that the restrictive policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy have cast grave doubts on Australia’s ability to develop the mineral resources needed by its trading partners? Will the Government heed the advice, which has been ignored for more than 2 years, that Australia can go a long way towards easing its own and the world’s recession by encouraging rather than stifling the development of mineral resources?
-I will refer the question to the Minister concerned.
Ms GAIL WILENSKI
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Matters Relating to the Public Service. I ask: Has the Minister seen Press reports today relating to the appointment of Ms Gail Wilenski to a position with the Australian Public Service Board and the statement by the Opposition’s spokesman on the Public Service implying that this was a ‘political appointment’? Is Ms Wilenski’s appointment in any way a political appointment or is this yet another case of” the anti-feminism of the Opposition and the Press?
-The Press has treated this appointment quite disgracefully. Is it suggested that this distinguished woman is in some way disqualified from appointment merely because she happens to be married to a man who is himself a senior public servant? It would be absurd if the Public Service were to be denied the service of the best person offering merely because of some such consideration. I have noted also, as the honourable senator has put to me, that the Opposition’s spokesman on these matters jumped into the fray with some criticism of this appointment based on the proposition that it was a political appointment. That, of course, is a gross reflection upon the Public Service Board and upon the processes which were used in making this appointment. I suggest that the present Conference on Women and Politics needs no better demonstration of how the Australian Press and the Opposition are unwilling to judge a woman on her merits and how they seek to sensationalise the routine appointment of women to public jobs on the basis of totally irrelevant matters.
In case the Opposition and the Press are interested in how this appointment was made, I would like to point out these few facts: The new position of Director of the Equal-Employment Opportunity Section on the staff of the Office of the Public Service Board was advertised as being open to persons inside and outside the Service. It is a Third Division Public Service position. The decision on the appointment was one for the Board. In accordance with the normal practice for such advertisements for the Board ‘s Office an interviewing committee of 2 senior Board officers and one senior officer from my Department was convened. It interviewed 12 of the 41 applicants, including Ms Gail Wilenski. Following further interviews of short-listed applicants by a further committee of two other more senior Board officers, the appointment of Ms Wilenski was approved. In making appointments, the Board decides solely in accordance with the merit principle within which its policy of equal employment opportunity is administered. I might mention, for anybody who does not happen to know, that Ms Wilenski is a highly gifted, highly qualified woman. She is a veterinary surgeon and also holds the degree of Master of Science. I cannot think of a better appointment to this position.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. It relates to a news item broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on Monday 1 September, which stated that of the 12 000 waterside workers in Australian ports, most were averaging about only one week’s work out of four. I ask: Does the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority anticipate making a severance payment to surplus labour at between $10,000 and $20,000 a man? If not, what would be the greater cost, severance or guaranteed wage payment in the long term?
– I was not aware of the news item to which the honourable senator refers. Of course, I do not have that information in my head. I will make inquiries and let the honourable senator have an answer as soon as possible.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State as Minister responsible for war graves. Bearing in mind that yesterday was the thirty-sixth anniversary of the commencement of World War II, can the Minister inform the Senate of the present arrangements for caring for war graves which are, of course, a matter of concern to those who lost relatives or friends in the 2 world wars and subsequent conflicts?
– I know that Senator Poyser was, in fact, one of the first Australians wounded in action during the Second World War. He was an infantry man in the service of the Sixth Division and was wounded in the initial battle of Bardia. Therefore, I am aware of his great interest in this matter. Before 1 January of this year the Anzac Agency of the British Commonwealth War Graves Commission had responsibility for the care and maintenance of the graves of Australian servicemen and women. It also had responsibility for war graves generally in Australia and in external territories- Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands- and for the Ambon war cemetery in Indonesia. On that date the Anzac Agency of the British Commonwealth War Graves Commission handed over to the Australian Government responsibility for both these matters.
An office of the Australian War Graves Authority has been established within my Department. The staff of the former Anzac Agency have been transferred to that office on a no-loss basis with regard to their salary, superannuation and so on. We have had every indication that the staff are appreciative of the concern which is being shown for their welfare. Depending on legislative timetabling, I hope to be able to introduce legislation later in this session to establish the Australian War Graves Authority as a statutory authority. I understand that these proposed arrangements for the care of the graves of Australian servicemen and women have been favourably received by the various veterans organisations.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. Has the Government any firm proposals to place before the special meeting of the Agricultural Council in respect of the beef industry or have any proposals come from the States? Is the Government prepared to act on any such proposals in view of the urgency of the situation or is it intended to wait for the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the beef industry?
– A special meeting tomorrow of the Agricultural Council arises from suggestions which were made at a previous meeting by State Ministers that such a special meeting should be held to consider certain propositions which would come from one or possibly two of the States. I will not, on behalf of the Australian Government, be putting any specific proposals tomorrow. My main purpose will be to listen to the proposals which, I understand, will be put forward and then to obtain the reaction of the other States. I will also, of course, form a considered opinion myself as to what those proposals are all about. I think it is much more important that we consider the report of the IAC before any further steps are taken. Currently, as I have said many times before, the scheme operating between the Australian Government and the States is serving a very useful purpose and at this stage I do not see much more that either the States or the Commonwealth can do to assist the industry.
-Can the Minister for Police and Customs identify for the benefit of honourable senators the more important objectives of the amalgamation of police forces within the Australia Police? Has any progress been made in the establishment of this body?
– The more important benefit of the amalgamation of the Australia Police is a more efficient and more economic service. At present we have the Australian Capital Territory Police, the Northern Territory Police, the Australia Police, which has officers in each State of the Commonwealth, and the surveillance section or detection section of the Department of Police and Customs. They were brought under one Ministerial control- the Minister for Police and Customs and the Department of Police and Customs- by a Ministerial arrangement last March and have since operated under such control. Legislation on this arrangement will be introduced into the Parliament during this session. In the preparation of that legislation we are being assisted by the Law Reform Commission which is devising safeguards both for the police and for those who come under police questioning or police detection. I think the more important benefit is that police services and police training can be integrated. As I said last evening, there is a proposal for one police college at Bathurst to train officers of the 3 services. It will cater for a bigger range of training. The interchangeability of skills when such skills are needed in particular areas is one thing that we hope will be of some benefit. As I said before, there will be considerable savings through having an amalgamated force rather than four disjointed forces.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration, relates to the entry into this country of refugees from East Timor, an area where several diseases, including in particular malaria and amoebic dysentery and amoebiasis are endemic. Will the Government give an assurance that it will screen refugees for any transmissible infectious diseases such as malaria and amoebiasis, both of which can occur in Australia, especially since these refugees may have been at greater than usual risk during the period of turmoil that preceded their escape to Australia?
-Senator Baume was good enough to tell me that he would be asking a question of this nature so I took the trouble to get a little information bearing on the matter. The health checks on evacuees from Timor arriving in Australia, as are the checks on all other people arriving from overseas, are the responsibility of the quarantine officers of the Department of Health. As soon as it was known that evacuees would be arriving in Darwin from Timor the Department of Health was alerted. I am informed that after consultation with the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine the Department of Health sent special instructions to the chief Australian medical officer in Darwin about the medical and quarantine procedures to be adopted. When the ships carrying evacuees arrived in Darwin quarantine procedures were carried out before any of the evacuees were allowed to mingle with the public.
I am informed that the actual procedures included vaccination against smallpox of all those over 12 years of age who did not have evidence of current vaccination, unless of course this was contra-indicated such as in the case of a pregnancy, and the administration of medication to ensure that any who might carry malaria infection would not pass it on to Darwin mosquitoes, because it is well known that malaria is transferred by the anopheles mosquito which is present in Darwin. There has been examination of all evacuees, and hospitalisation of all who required closer clinical examination, and there has been X-ray examination for tuberculosis. In general, this was not done until the evacuees reached the southern States, as most of them have done. State government health authorities were contacted and it is understood that where they considered it necessary they carried out further checks.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Police and Customs. In discussing the formation of the Australia Police last night the Minister spoke of the advantages of having a computer service located in Canberra and made available to State police forces. Is it the Government’s intention that State police forces will have access to the computer facilities of the Australia Police?
– This is one matter which I mentioned last evening. A conference of all Ministers responsible for police will be held in Canberra on 26 September. One of the matters to be discussed with them is a central computer service with visual reading segments in each State. This has the value of recording crime statistics and data on such things as stolen cars and other information which is of value to the police in their everyday crime detection. It will have a link with Interpol and with recorded data from all international law enforcement authorities. There is a central exchange operating in the customs houses in each State now. It only needs to have police data put on that central exchange for it to be used for the various police services. As we have the connections to each State I have offered the facility individually to the police authorities. They will be able to obtain this stored information just by flicking a switch. It will be available whenever they want it. If those on patrol see a car with a Western Australian number plate which they suspect may be stolen, by contacting their office they can find out whether it is stolen. Also to be discussed is the matter of other data which we will put on the computer. This has to be done in conjunction with the State police. All information which may have an interstate value will be made available on a central computer system to all police services. By this means we think we can assist in a more efficient police service throughout the country.
– I refer to a question which I asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General on 26 August concerning the establishment of the new Family Court of Australia. The Minister undertook to make inquiries and obtain the information for me. I now ask whether he has yet obtained that information and is able to answer my question.
-Yes, I now have the information which was sought by the honourable senator. He asked me a question on 26 August concerning the extent to which the Government intends jurisdiction to be exercised by the Family Court of Australia under the Family Law Act. He asked also when the Court would be brought into operation and whether courts of petty sessions would continue to exercise jurisdiction in maintenance and custody matters. The Family Law Act provides for the Family Court of Australia, State supreme courts and State family courts to exercise jurisdiction in all matrimonial causes under the Act. Courts of summary jurisdiction are to have jurisdiction in all matrimonial causes except for proceedings for principal relief. However, the jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia is not to be exercised except in accordance with proclamations which may extend that jurisdiction either by area or by class of proceedings. Also, the jurisdiction of the supreme courts and the courts of summary jurisdiction can be taken away in stages by proclamation. Thus, the jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia can be phased in and the jurisdiction of the supreme courts and courts of summary jurisdiction can be phased out.
The Attorneys-General of all States except Western Australia have now informed my colleague, the Attorney-General, that their respective governments do not propose to establish State family courts pursuant to section 41 of the Act. In view of this the AttorneyGeneral hopes that it will be possible for the Family Court of Australia to be established in those 5 States by the date the Act comes into operation, which has now been fixed by proclamation under section 2 of the Act as 5 January 1976. The extent to which jurisdiction will be given initially to the Family Court of Australia and taken away from existing courts has not been finally decided because it depends on progress in the build-up of staff, equipment and premises for the Family Court. However, since much work has already been done at this stage I can say that it seems probable that the Family Court will be ready to exercise jurisdiction in all matrimonial causes in the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Launceston at the commencement of the Act. The extent to which the courts of summary jurisdiction in these metropolitan areas will exercise jurisdiction in maintenance and custody concurrently with the Family Court also has not yet been finally decided and is still under discussion with the States.
-I ask Senator Wriedt, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, whether we have any despatches from Lima to indicate how we should assess the change in leadership in Peru.
– I have no current information on that matter. I would need to refer the question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs for an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the proposed coal export levy and to the serious apprehension within the coal mining industry that substantial unemployment is likely to occur due to the inability of certain collieries, particularly in deep pit mining and particularly in New South Wales, to carry the extra burden of costs to be imposed by the levy. I ask: Has the Minister initiated any inquiries to ascertain the validity of such claims? Are such claims in fact valid? What steps is he taking to prevent such unemployment? If such unemployment does occur, will the Minister take immediate steps for an urgent review of the levy to be undertaken?
-Questions concerning the coal industry levy do not properly fall within my portfolio, but I take it that the question is directed to me primarily because of the possibility of unemployment arising from the levy. I had not heard of any such dangers but I shall make inquiries to discover whether there is any substance in any such rumours. Of course, the Government would be disturbed if any unemployment were to arise in the coal mining industry or, indeed, anywhere else in the workforce. But, as I said, I am not aware of the predictions which the honourable senator is making. I shall make some inquiries and let him know the result.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education, relates to the tertiary education assistance scheme. Does the Minister have any information with regard to the categories of students allowances met by the scheme in 1974-75? Can he advise the Senate of the number of recipients in each category and the amount of allowance in each category?
– In my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Education I know that Senator Guilfoyle raised questions of a similar nature at the last Senate Estimates Committees meeting. She advised me last week that she again would be seeking this sort of information, certainly in respect of 1 975 and also in respect of 1 974 if statistics in respect of that year would not be forthcoming at the next meeting of the Senate Estimates Committees. I now have a set of statistics relating to the tertiary education assistance scheme as at 30 June 1974 which I will be glad to provide to Senator Guilfoyle and which I expect will answer her question in relation to 1 974. 1 am asking the Department of Education to arrange for similar figures relating to 30 June 1975 to be made available.
I understand that the information Senator Guilfoyle wishes to obtain consists of the following: The number of recipients of the tertiary education assistance scheme in the following categories-
In the set of statistics the answers to Senator Guilfoyle ‘s question are to be found in a number of forms. It occurs to me that at the end of question time it might be more convenient if I were to seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the details that have been provided for me by the Department of Education in respect of the year 1974-75.
I am told that similar statistics relating to June 1975 are in preparation but because of difficulties with the computerised production of the statistics they are not expected to be available for about two to three weeks. In the meantime I seek leave to have incorporated the summary of assistance for 1974.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether he has read the article in today’s Australian Financial Review which comments on a report of the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission concerning insider trading in the shares of Queensland Mines Ltd. According to the report the New South Wales Commission has conceded that there are inseparable jurisdictional problems in the way of prosecution action because the company in question was incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory while the relevant conduct took place in New South Wales. It also appears from this article that there was a grave deficiency in a relevant provision of the New South Wales securities Act in that while it prohibits the dissemination of misleading information it does not apply to an omission to disclose information. I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether problems of this kind would arise if the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill, which the Opposition seems determined to defeat by one means or another, were in operation?
– I have read the article in this morning’s Australian Financial Review which draws attention once again to the fact that it is quite unsatisfactory to have control of the securities industry left to State and Territory legislation. While this continues to be the position there will always be problems flowing from the inherent limitations of jurisdiction of each State and Territory.
– And you are just creating them in the Family Court.
– One thing at a time, Senator. No such jurisdictional problems will arise when the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill is in operation.
– You cannot have read it if you say that- not half. You are multiplying the jurisdictional problems a thousandfold.
– I think it would be unhealthy if we were to deny the honourable senator a chance to let off steam occasionally. God knows what might happen to him. As I was saying, no such jurisdicitional problems will arise when the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill is in operation and deals with the securities industry on a national basis. The position under the Bill, moreover, is that there is a provision which applies to the dishonest concealment of material facts. I refer the honourable senator to clause 1 2 1 of the Bill.
-I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether he is acquainted with the case Rex v. Kylsant in which it was decided in 1932 that an omission of a material fact from a statement of prospectus makes the statement false and for that Lord Kylsant was imprisoned for 12 months? This was a statement which omitted only material facts and the jury held that it constituted falsity without the modern falderals of division or jurisdiction for propaganda for the Labor Party, thinking that it can write law in a confused way much less simple and enforceable than the law has expounded in that case. - .
– I thank the calm and judicial senator for reminding me of the very interesting case Rex v. Kylsant with which, of course, I am thoroughly familiar. I suggest to him, however, that he does not rely on the force of such legal precedents, powerful as they may be, but that instead he should read the article in the Australian Financial Review to which I have referred and in which he will find a report from the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission in which it states, despite anything that Rex v. Kylsant may say, that it considered itself inhibited in prosecuting this particular person by the absence of the specific power to which I have referred and which, of course, will be repaired by the enactment of the Federal Bill which is at present buried in the Senate but which, I hope, will soon emerge from its burial place.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– I call Senator Wright to ask a supplementary question.
– Is the Minister aware of the provision in the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill with which the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange is concerned, which limits the right of the victim of insider trading to rescind the transaction to within 14 days after he is informed of the principal’s misdemeanour? Is that not an abridgment of the right of a victim who under the case of Armstrong v. Jackson is shown to be entitled to rescind a transaction within 7 years?
– I think I would like to suggest at this stage -
– I raise a point of order. This is probably not now in the line of questions. It has probably turned into a debate. Perhaps standing order 99 does not apply, but I understand that questions should not anticipate discussion on an order of the day. I think the Bill under discussion is the subject of an order of the day. I do not like interfering with debates.
– I uphold the point of order. The question seeks an opinion and it is optional for Senator James McClelland to answer it.
– I was about to suggest as a solution to this problem that we might now adjourn question time and constitute the Senate as a seminar on industrial and securities law. I am afraid I am not as familiar -
– It may be that your own colleagues want to terminate this.
– I did not catch the honourable senator’s most recent lucubration, but I suggest to him that he might refer me to the section which so fascinates him and we might take up the debate in the corridors of power at a later time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Have private insurance organisations which operate in the Australian Capital Territory been endeavouring to persuade people through advertising and other means to take out health insurance at higher levels than they need? If so, what action has been taken to prevent this deceptive practice and properly inform residents of their position?
-There have been some instances of the sort of thing to which Senator Walsh is referring. In particular, one fund, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, has been advertising in the Australian Capital Territory in a number of ways that people should contribute to tables with benefits of up to $50 a day if they wish to have their own doctor while in hospital. Generally, people who would expect to be in any of the public hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory, which cover the great majority of beds in the Territory, and who would have to go to hospital in New South Wales only in an emergency situation or when they were referred by an Australian Capital Territory hospital for some medical reason, need not insure at all. If they wish to have some private insurance they would certainly be able to get cover for rates of $20 or $30 a day, which would be completely adequate.
In regard to the Medical Benefits Fund, which was the particular offender, a Press statement was issued contradicting the claims that had been made by that Fund, and the publicity material the Fund distributed was referred to the Attorney-General’s Department for consideration under the Trade Practices Act. Those actions had the effect that the Fund has ceased the advertising which I think could be described fairly as misleading. Certainly any future publicity by the MBF, or by any other Fund which cares to do it, should make clear to those people to whom it is directing its advertisements the options that are open to them within the Australian Capital Territory in obtaining the benefits of the health insurance legislation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Has his attention been drawn to the August 1975 edition of the Health Economics Bulletin, which states that the Canadian Government, faced with skyrocketing expenditure for hospital and medical benefits, has announced that it will change the basis on which its national health program is financed and is demanding that the provinces in Canada find cheaper ways of providing health care? As Medibank is said to be based largely on the Canadian scheme, does the Minister feel that the Australian States should be warned of what might happen to them if, as is widely felt, Medibank costs start to bankrupt the Australian Government?
-Despite the hyperbole in which he sometimes indulges, Senator Marriott is a very courteous person and he did inform me that he was going to ask this question. The journal from which he quoted was in fact quoting from something which was said by some unspecified person on the ABC radio program PM, to which I am sure the honourable senator is addicted, along with Lateline and other programs to which I am sure he listens regularly. The report may well be correct; I do not know. I have not seen that particular report, although I have seen recently statements made by the Canadian Minister for Health, Monsieur Lalonde, in which he has said, possibly in another context, how well the health benefit system in that country is working. I think there is something that should be remembered about Canada; that is, that at least in this respect the Federal position has been adopted much more thoroughly than it has in this country. As I understand it, the Canadian national health system to a very large extent is a co-ordination of a number of provincial health systems. In fact, the Labour Government in Saskatchewan introduced a national health scheme quite some years ago, I think before the Federal Government in Canada had moved to any great extent on the matter.
Although under Medibank the actual relationship between patient and doctor is similar to the scheme which applies in Canada, the funding and financing arrangements are quite different in that the relationship between the Australian
Government and the States in the field of medical insurance is quite different from the relationship which exists between the national government and the provincial governments in Canada. I do not know what are the particular problems that the Canadian system is having, although Canada, like all Western countries, is suffering from very severe inflation. I dare say that that is one of the obvious things which would be affecting the price of health services, as it is affecting the price of everything else. I will try to get some information on the current position in Canada and I will see that Senator Marriott gets it. At the same time, I think it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions about that aspect of the Canadian experience, which I think is based on quite different financing principles than those on which the Australian system is based.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Social Welfare Commission Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Social Welfare Commission. This report is the first by the Commission since its members were appointed in April 1974 and covers the period from appointment up to 30 June 1 975.
– Is the Minister tabling that report? Will he move that the Senate take note of the report?
– I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That Government Business take precedence of General Business after 3 p.m. this day.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Australian National University Bill 1975. Canberra College of Advanced Education Bill 1975.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:
That the Bill be read a first time.
– I rise on the motion for the first reading of a Bill to which a senator may address himself on matters relevant or not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. I desire to refer to the recent revelations of one of the most intolerable intrusions into privacy of which any government in my memory has been guilty. I refer to the action to which this Government has committed itselfthe seeking of the details of transactions of individuals with a company or with companies and the using of that information for political smearing purposes in the Parliament. Of course, it may reflect nothing more than the fact that the Government is unable to answer the Opposition’s arguments and therefore must resort to personalities. It may be that the Labor Party, when it is in trouble, relies upon personal abuse as the best way in which it can rally behind it people who feel that there is a class division in society and that any appeal to class division will therefore bring some people behind them.
It was unknown, to me anyway,’ that the Government had collected information about the individual users of superphosphate. The first information that we had on this was received on Thursday of last week when in response to prearranged questions certain statements were made in this chamber. I recall to the Senate that last Thursday Senator Walsh asked a question which concluded with these words:
Is there any evidence to show that prominent members of the Opposition have a vested interest in the reintroduction of the bounty?
That referred to the superphosphate bounty. So Senator Walsh knew that by asking that question he might be able to get some information about members of the Opposition. All I say is that he must have had foreknowledge. It was a prearranged question. On the same day a similar question was asked in the House of Representatives by Mr Keating. What did Senator Wriedt, the Minister to whom the question was addressed, say by way of reply? In a long reply he came out with this statement:
As to the question whether the agricultural community as a whole benefits or whether individuals benefit, it is interesting to recall that on the basis of information that was supplied to me by my colleague, the Minister for Police and Customs, in respect of the 400 principal users of superphosphate in Australia in 1973- these are the people who received a personal bounty or a bounty in their names in excess of $5,000 in 1973- we do find one name prominently featured, the name John Malcolm Fraser of Nareen in Victoria. I am not able to vouch for the identity of the John Malcolm Fraser referred to, but if it is the person I think it is, I would believe it fair to assume also that since the reintroduction of the bounty in 1963 -
Senator Marriott interjected:
Tip the bucket.
Senator Wriedt accommodatingly replied:
Yes, and he is one of the best bucket-tippers in the whole business. It is about time someone disclosed some of the truths about him.
It is so apparent that what has happened is that the material which has been available to the Government has been used for an admittedly political smearing purpose. The same issue has been raised and referred to by subsequent Labor Ministers.
The suggestion has been made- it is no more than a suggestion but it carries with it an imputationthat there has been impropriety in a person receiving the benefit of money by way of a superphosphate bounty. The imputation is that it is in some way improper for a person to argue that it is in the national interest that the superphosphate bounty should be reintroduced if it should happen that he is a beneficiary. Does that mean that in this Parliament anybody who might in an incidental activity benefit as a result of a national policy to which he subscribes is not allowed to argue what he considers to be in the best national interests? Carried to its conclusion that is the argument which is raised. I have referred to what occurred last Thursday when this matter was first aired.
– Are you aware that the Act provides for the payment to be made to producers of superphosphate?
– I am, and I am coming to that, because I think it indicates again the misuse of this information. On Tuesday of this week, when a question about the superphosphate bounty was asked again of Senator Wriedt, he made a most revealing answer. He was asked for what reason this information about the names of the 400 persons had been collected. He replied:
For what reason? Simply because it was necessary for the Government to understand the distribution of the bounty during the time this matter was being considered. The
Government was entitled to know and to have the information before it as evidence of the inequitable nature of the distribution of the superphosphate bounty.
I did not understand that when the decision was made to suspend or not to continue the granting of the superphosphate bounty, it was made because of the inequitable nature of the distribution of the superphosphate bounty. I think it should be made clear that the decision not to proceed with the superphosphate bounty was a decision that was made on 15 February 1974. That is the date on the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as it appears in the Government Digest. I have in front of me an extract from that volume, which indicates that in a media statement of that date the Prime Minister announced that the Government had decided that the phosphate fertiliser bounty should be allowed to expire at 3 1 December 1974.
It is highly relevant that this information was not sought from the companies until April 1974- some two to three months after the decision had been made. I believe it is incumbent upon Senator Wriedt to explain why he gave to the Senate an answer which, on the face of it, is a misleading answer. What was the reason for this information being obtained? Senator Wriedt has said that it was because the Government wanted to have the evidence before it whilst it was considering the matter; yet the decision had been announced some two to three months before the request was made. That again highlights the suspicion and the scorn that ought to surround the tactics that the Government has used in this matter.
The first fact that I think should be made clear is, as Senator Wright indicated earlier, that the superphosphate bounty is not a bounty that is paid to an individual. It is a bounty that is paid to a company that produces and sells superphosphate. Irrespective of whether one looks at the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act or the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act the same general concept applies. I refer, for example, to sections 5 and 6 of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act, which state that ‘bounty is payable to the producer of the superphosphate or ammonium phosphate’ and that ‘bounty payable to a producer may’, subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be prescribed, ‘be paid to a person authorised by the producer to receive the bounty’. The user of the superphosphate- the farmer- does not receive the bounty. What he receives, of course, is the superphosphate that he purchases and he receives it at reduced price simply because the bounty has been paid to the producer.
How far is the Government going to delve into the affairs of individuals in the supposed justification that it has a right to know- to use Senator Cavanagh ‘s expression of yesterday- as to where the money has gone? Should it trace the matter right through to the person who buys the bread that ultimately has been made as a result of the wheat that has been grown and so on? There have to be some limits to the proposition. The Government is simply intruding unwarrantably into the affairs of individuals when it seeks this information without any justification for doing so.
The second point that ought to be made is that when the companies were asked for this information they protested at the fact that they were being required to give information that they regarded as being confidential. I should say that the one company I have contacted did protest. I assume that others did, but I am not able to say of direct knowledge. But the fact of the matter is that at least one company did protest and did stress that this material should be kept confidential. For a period of some 1 7 or 1 8 months it was kept confidential. I do not know why it was sought originally, but it was obviously by ministerial direction in a letter written on behalf of the Comptroller-General of Customs.
Of course, the Minister at the time was Senator Murphy. Senator Murphy was notorious in this chamber for the threats that he used to engage in by seeking to intimidate people into not doing what they regarded as being their duty because he had something on them or he would get something on them. It was an exercise in which he engaged during the 1974 election campaign when he required persons who had inserted advertisements in the newspapers protesting against the proposed laws on gun control to withdraw those advertisements, having used the Commonwealth Police and officers of the Attorney-General’s Department to indicate that action would otherwise be taken. This misuse of authority for political purposes is one of the vices which I would hope all members of all parties in this Parliament would be prepared to regard as a cause in which we would be united to avoid. The purpose for which this information was obtained has not been made clear. I would have thought that it was incumbent upon the Minister to make it clear. I believe it was sought simply because it was part of the process for which ex-Senator Murphy was renowned. Though Senator Murphy is no longer with us, it has been used by Senator Wriedt in this chamber in his buckettipping exercise which he acknowledges was the purpose of his reference to the name of Mr Fraser.
The Minister for Police and Customs sought to mention this in a debate yesterday. He sought, I thought, to raise 2 justifications: Firstly, that the companies were required to produce this material as a matter of law and, secondly, that he regarded himself as under an obligation to make this information public. He referred to particular sections of the Act and I think he did so in a way that was an accurate recording of what the provisions of the Act said but upon which he gave a misleading interpretation. I refer honourable senators to section 14 of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act under which a producer of bountiable products is not entitled to bounty unless he keeps to the satisfaction of the Minister accounts, books and documents showing, from time to time, the production and sale of bountiable products and fertiliser mixtures, the selling prices and receipts from sales of bountiable products. No one has suggested that anybody failed to keep proper books. No one has suggested, to my knowledge, that the Minister required particular companies to keep proper books. As I understand it, that was not the basis upon which the companies were required to give information. The companies were required to give the information by the other limb of the section, and that is an obligation to provide or to keep such other information in relation to the bountiable products and fertiliser mixtures as the Minister requires.
It is quite true to say that when the Minister requires information to be given then, as a matter of law, one is obliged to comply with the Minister’s requirement. But the real point is: What is the substance of the Minister’s requirement? Why does the Minister require particular information to be given? Why, particularly, did the Minister ask for information- the names and addresses- of those persons who would have benefited to the extent of $5,000 or more? What relevance did that have to bountiable products and fertiliser mixtures? I would have thought that in law it was a bad requirement or it was strongly arguable that it was a bad requirement not justified by the provision. Even if it could be justified by the provision, why should the names and addresses of individual purchasers, the quantities of their purchases and the amount which they paid be regarded by the Minister as necessary for bountiable products and fertiliser mixtures? What use has that particular information been put to since it was received? Can the Minister say? Will the Minister say? What will Senator Wriedt say about the use to which the information was put when the decision to terminate the payment of the bounty had been made some 3 months beforehand?
– What has it been used for in the 12 months it has been withheld?
– I accept that this is material information, as Senator Rae indicates, which the Government should be prepared to disclose. Why, at this stage, does the Government use it for this renowned bucket-tipping exercise, which Senator Wriedt has acknowledged it is? The second point which Senator Cavanagh raised was that he was under some obligation to provide this information. I ask him to say where in this legislation there is an obligation to reveal this information. I understand there is no such obligation. There is a provision which requires the Comptroller-General of Customs to present a statement and to furnish to the Minister as soon as practicable at the end of each financial year a return which sets out the name and address of each producer to whom the bounty was paid, the quantity of bountiable products in respect of which bounty was paid to each producer, the amount of bounty paid to each producer and such other particulars, if any, as are prescribed.
Are the names and addresses of the persons to whom the bounty was paid matters which are to be presented? I leave it to the Minister to explain why he considers himself to be under an obligation to make these details public. In a short time in the Senate we will be debating a Bill designed to ensure privacy in regard to computer records kept by the newly formed Health Insurance Commission. On the one hand, one of the Minister’s colleagues asserts that privacy is tremendously important and that steps should be taken to ensure the privacy of records, but on the other hand he- when one looks at the powers which the Minister for Police and Customs can exercise under legislation for which he is responsible it is a matter which ought to give apprehensionregards privacy as of no account and regards himself as under an obligation to give information about the private affairs and confidential dealings of individuals.
I have raised this matter because if you cannot raise and make the point in Parliament that the privacy of individuals ought to be protected by law, then where are we likely to be able to raise the matter? I hope that this matter is given some prominence in those organs of the Press which ought to be concerned about respecting the privacy of the individual. I believe that the Minister has acted in a most intolerable way by permitting an intrusion into the private affairs of citizens and misusing it for political defamation and political advantage. I think it is a pretty fair indication of the tactics of this Government and the type of intimidation which can be used. It is so very easy, when this private information is available to government and able to be used in a way which could be damaging to the individual, to say to the individual: ‘You shut up or I will deal with you’. Individuals know that that is the sort of tactic which has been used by this Government and can always be used if material of this dscription is kept by government and misused in this way.
– I want to bring up a matter which is causing a lot of distress to the people of Tasmania generally and particularly the people in southern Tasmania. I refer to the delay in getting on with the rebuilding of the Hobart bridge. The Hobart bridge was demolished some 40 weeks ago and during ten of those weeks we have seen a strike by the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. This to me is a disgrace of the highest order. We have seen the life style of thousands of people being interrupted for almost an extra 3 months due to the action of this one union. I think it is fair to say that the action of this union is not in the public interest. It is causing increased prices in all of Tasmania. I want to quote from an article written by Wayne Crawford which appeared in yesterday’s Hobart Mercury. It is headed ‘Bridge blow to prices’. It states in part:
Retail stores- mainly because of delivery problems- had to increase their income by about $5,000 a week, or $750,000 in 3 years.
The oil industry was losing income at a rate which would total more than $1,300,000 in 3 years.
Airlines were having to bear an additional cost, which would come to about $750,000 by the end of 1977.
Over 3 years, the building industry’s extra costs because of the disaster would be about $7m. (One timber yard alone is said to have estimated it will cost it $80,000 extra this year in transport to the Eastern Shore.)
Property values have, at best, remained static since January 5 (the night of the disaster), contrasting with a relative boom on the western shore, where values have increased by 33 per cent.
Less than half the number of new dwellings approved during the corresponding period of last year have been approved since January 5 this year, and the cost of building on the Eastern Shore has risen by 20 per cent, over and above inflation.
Eastern Shore hotels are doing a much bigger night trade, but this does not offset the average 50 per cent reduction in accommodation demand.
Western shore restaurants have felt the pinch, with a drop-off in trade.
Service stations which relied on passing bridge traffic have been hard hit- but others have fared well because of the extra mileage travelled by Eastern Shore motorists.
The point I wish to make it that at the moment a special conference is being held with Conciliation Commissioner Judith Cohen. I believe it is going on at the moment. It is in its second day. If it happens to fail to get agreement I ask Senator James McClelland, who has been dealing with the matter, to take further action immediately to help settle the strike.
– Why does the honourable senator think the Mercury gave 3 columns to the union organiser in charge of the dispute?
– That is an interesting point. I do not know why that happened. Perhaps it is a point which Senator Wright can take up when I finish speaking. In Hobart the rebuilding of the bridge is approaching a critical stage. There are foundaries in Launceston and Hobart which may close, perhaps for ever, if the strike is not settled rapidly. That will put another 100 people out of work either permanently or at least temporarily. The company which primarily is looking after the rebuilding job may have to disband its specialised staff, and I am told that once the staff is disbanded some 6 to 10 weeks could elapse before they could be got together again. It seems to me that the repair of the bridge should be regarded as a special project. I feel it should receive special union consideration instead of being specially used by the unions to increase the size of the members’ pay packet. I ask the Minister to take whatever action he can to get this matter fixed. I appreciate the Minister’s action in this matter. I do not want to stir up the situation unduly but this strike must be settled.
I ask the Minister to keep the situation under close attention whether or not the Parliament is sitting. The economic situation in Tasmania is bad enough. It is made worse by the strike, and certainly is made worse because the strike is 10 weeks old. The damage to the bridge and the inconvenience to the people of Hobart is well known to those who live in that area. The State Government does not seem to be able to handle the situation too well, and it can use all the help it can get from Senator James McClelland and people like Bob Hawke. I ask that the Minister continue with the aim of settling the strike because he must realise that even the one-lane temporary bridge has not yet been finished. That should have been built within a couple of months of the bridge falling down. We do not have even a temporary crossing of one lane over the Derwent River yet.
– I wish to speak for a minute or two on the matter which was raised earlier by Senator Greenwood. It appears to me that he spoke with a great deal of indignation because, allegedly, someone had intruded on someone’s privacy in order to get some idea of how much superphosphate certain individuals in the community had been receiving. It is patently obvious that Senator Greenwood is not from a rural area because such information as to the amount of fertiliser which is used by one’s neighbour is common knowledge among farmers. People talk; people discuss. Farmers, in discussions with one another, will freely admit the rate of application which they use on their pastures each year.
– Does the honourable senator know how much Joe Smith used in Gippsland on his dairy farm? That is the point.
-Senator Young, if I lived in the area, I would have a very close guesstimate of the amount he used.
– Yes, but the honourable senator does not know the accurate figure.
– I will tell the Senate the amount of fertiliser half a dozen of my neighbours use to the acre each year. As I said, this is common knowledge. No one wishes to hide it. Furthermore, even without that knowledge, to walk adjacent to one’s neighbour’s property and to analyse the pasture its health will indicate to the trained eye the rate of application of fertiliser per acre per annum, for how many years it has been applied and whether other trace elements have been thrown in periodically. In the case of the property which seems to have been mentioned quite a great deal, goodness me, the whole electorate of Wannon is basically aware of the amount of superphosphate which is put on that property each year. I do not see any reason why any Minister would have to go to the Department of Police and Customs or to the fertiliser company and look at their files to obtain that information. In relation to that property, being the size it is, one could do a mental calculation at the rate of a bag of superphosphate per acre applied each year and that would give one a round figure of some 600 tons per annum. Half a bag to the acre means some 300-odd tons per annum. One does not have to go to computers or to company files. One only has to use a little of farming nous.
The application of fertiliser differs from area to area depending on the nature of the farming enterprise. In the Goulburn Valley, for example, which is under irrigation the fertiliser used on average would run to three or four bags per acre. In areas where the farmer goes in for fine wool he might use half a bag every second or third year. In the area to which I belong it is generally conceded that about a bag per acre is the average application.
There is just one other point. This is why I cannot understand the indignation of Senator Greenwood. A recent court case in the Riverina district threw up the fact that certain individuals were purchasing fertiliser on which a bounty had previously been paid and were exporting it. If the Minister responsible- I assume it would be the Minister for Police and Customs (Senator Cavanagh)- is not able to obtain from companies information as to where Bill Smith or Joe Brown obtained fertiliser and if he did how much he received, then how are people who have misused the fertiliser bounty to be tracked down? The bounty does not apply on fertiliser distributed or sold outside Australia.
– I support the remarks of Senator Primmer who indicated to the Senate that there is certainly nothing confidential in rural areas about the volume of use of superphosphate by primary producers. Indeed, the introduction of a superphosphate bounty was always envisaged in this chamber by all political parties to be for the use of all primary producers and available to all land holders throughout Australia. Never once in this House or in another place has it ever been suggested that it was Australian Labor Party policy, in supporting bounties, that the superphosphate bounty for primary producers should be confined to only relatively small producers. Senator Primmer has indicated that he is one of those who have found it wise to utilise the superphosphate bounty on his premises. The interesting point, which is the matter originally raised by Senator Greenwood, is this: What is the basic reason why the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and the Minister for Police and Customs (Senator Cavanagh) have raised the matter of Malcolm Fraser achieving some personal benefit by the use of superphosphate?
The Leader of the Government and the Minister for Police and Customs did not care to suggest the benefit which a man as wealthy as Senator Primmer has received from the use of superphosphate. I do not think they should do that at any stage because it could be considered to be a confidential matter. Throughout history in Australia governments have supplied benefits by way of subsidy- by way of financial supportfor research in many areas, for example, in the wheat industry. I even recall that the Government has offered funds and has supplied benefits to the poultry industry. I have heard no consumers, users or farmers in that particular area hold up their hands and say: ‘I am a man on $20,000-odd a year and I do not think the public ought to be supporting an allocation of funds to me. I happen to be a reasonably wealthy man. ‘
We see Senator Wriedt taking a political stance in an endeavour to bring before the Senate and to denigrate the character of the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I think that is an action which is to be despised and which places a brand on the character of the individuals who would raise such a matter. This is a matter for which those senators responsible must answer. I think such an event does alert this chamber to the dangers that are inherent in a situation when men of good repute in the eyes of the public will act this way when in control as a socialist Government. Supposedly this matter has been raised because the Leader of the Opposition in another place is said to be a wealthy man. Never in my lifetime in Federal politics have I made any investigation as to the finances of any member of the Parliament. Usually one finds on looking into the financial background of a supposedly wealthy person that the indebtedness shown on his balance sheet is equal to the assets and that really not a great deal of surplus assets are held. That situation might apply to all of us.
Yet we have this attempted smear campaign in this place, with senators rising and trying to name other senators for their apparent wealth or the apparent benefit that they get from the public purse. When senators are willing to stage such a campaign I do not think they should complain if a similar attitude is adopted towards themselves. I think that they should be upright enough to indicate the benefits that have flowed out of the public purse into their own family pockets. I despise the fact that there are senators and members of another place who have sought to bring great financial benefit from the public purse to themselves and to their families. They do this by using their status to obtain jobs for their relatives. They claim to the public at large that they wish to see a more even society and that they wish to see the poor in the community uplifted but at the same time they see that very great financial benefit is brought to their own family’s pockets. One can do nothing but despise those individuals who have secured jobs for their families on this basis. This represents a contribution from the public purse to their families. The supposedly highest people in this land have done that. The Leader of the Government in this place has named Malcolm Fraser as a producer who has apparently received by law the benefit of a subsistence payment which the Leader of the Government’s own Party has encouraged and stated in its policy to be a subsidy it wishes to give. The Leader of the Government denigrates the Leader of the Opposition for purely political purposes.
I agree with Senator Greenwood as to the reason why the information on the Leader of the Opposition in another place was sought and why it was made clear in this House. In the corridors of Parliament a former Minister said to me in a glancing fashion when I was asking awkward questions of him: ‘Well, you run a business, don’t you? See you don’t ask me any more questions on that basis’. That is a very scary threat. One does not know whether a fire is going to be started in one’s business the following day or whether the strength of the great socialists will pull out all the workers from a plant in which one may be interested. One does not know what might happen to one’s detriment. I believe that any of those things I mentioned could be initiated by some of the men in the community who claim to be socialists.
– I think you have a persecution mania.
– I do not have a persecution mania. I listened to what the honourable senator said earlier and I did not hear him disclose how much benefit he received from the superphosphate bounty. I thought what he did was very poor. He was attenmpting to support his own leader while refusing even to disclose the benefit that had come to him. He is well branded in this situation. On 2 September, in answer to a question, Senator Wriedt indicated that the reason this information had been gathered was to provide evidence of the inequitable nature of the distribution of the superphosphate bounty. I suppose he will say that that is why he disclosed the name of Malcolm Fraser in this place. I think the Minister misled the House and I think he is a man of such repute that he should apologise. But we shall see whether that takes place.
– Just tell me how. Do not make broad statements, tell me how. Be specific.
– I have a number of matters in mind which portray the double Standard attitude of you and of your Government.
– That is all you can talk about.
-No it is not. Let me refer to one particular matter. The Minister is anxious to introduce the Electoral Bill. I remember that in answer to a question I raised he answered very agitatedly: ‘The truth will come out one day; it will come out’. He stated this in relation to the money that may have passed to the Labor Party which he did not disclose, nor did the Leader of the Labor Party in another place disclose. They were willing to try to tear the Opposition about for contributions that they supposedly had received from sources which supported the anti-socialists in Australia. We have seen recently the threats that Senator Wheeldon has made to insurance companies. I think it was at the end of last week that he threatened the insurance companies basically that if they did not accept the peaceful proposition put up by the Labor Party they certainly would find it posed to them on another basis. That meant a threat of force and of violence.
– An abuse of power.
– It is an abuse of power. The Leader of the Government has asked me to state something specifically. I have asked the Minister in the Senate what it was that encouraged him and his Party to allow Marrickville Holdings (A.C.T.) Pty Ltd the only production licence for margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. There is no need for the Minister to knit his brow and to shut his eyes. It is a question to which he has never replied. Why is it that in the Australian Capital Territory, unlike any State, that particular company has been allowed to produce margarine without restriction relating to pollution, drainage or any other matter? I pointed out to the Minister that one other company had made application to produce margarine in the Australian Capital Territory long before Marrickville ever did. But the Minister gave the licence to Marrickville. Why was it?
– Just be careful what you are saying. You know that is not true.
-The Minister represents his Government and I say that his Government granted that licence to Marrickville. Marrickville wanted to sell for $ 1.25 m one food leg of its company to a multinational corporation which already had 50 per cent of the market, Marrickville having only 10 per cent of the market. The Government, under the great standards that the Government claims in this place, says: ‘We hate the multinationals; we deny that they should have control of industry ‘.
-And it has got $74,000 out of a media multinational- News Limited.
-The honourable senator has pre-empted what I was coming to. I was dealing with the fact that the Commission that was set up by the Labor Party to advise the Government on takeovers said that the takeover by Amatil (Allied Manufacturing and Trading Industries Ltd) or one of its subsidiaries of this leg of Marrickville was not in the public interest. The Government having received that proposal, Marrickville went to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby). I know that it did not go to Senator Wriedt; it went to the Attorney-General. For some reason or other the Attorney-General agreed that this awful multinational corporation should be able to take over for $1.2 5 m this great Australian arm of an Australian company. What type of double standard is that? We have heard debate in this place relating to the disclosure of contributions to political parties and we have heard Mr Daly ranting and raving in another place and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) holding himself up as a pure white man and branding the donations which may have been given to the Opposition. Whilst he knew it was true, did he once say that the Murdoch Press had given $74,000 to the Labor Party and disclose the reason?
In the debate in this place I raised the matter of a number of advertising accounts of the Labor Party that had been paid indirectly by business corporations. Of course, that sort of thing was not covered in the legislation. Oh no, that would not go into the legislation. The Labor Party was not going to be accused of having it accounts paid. But we saw it reported in the Press that Mr Murdoch freely gave the money. That legislation came into this place and was rejected and Senator Wriedt had the opportunity of saying: ‘I know that we have criticised the Liberal Party and the National Country Party for receiving donations to assist their causes but of course we, the Labor Party, just did not do anything at all when we got $74,000 from one employer’. Can one not see the benefit that flowed from that? The double standards of the Government will readily become evident to the public.
A most important matter has been raised by Senator Greenwood- privacy in the community. We used to hear former Senator Murphy and other Ministers saying, as we heard Senator Wheeldon say today, that privacy is one of the most important things in this community. Senator Greenwood has attempted by questions to gain from the Leader of the Government in this place the reason why he named Malcolm Fraser as having received an amount of money. We have not learnt what the figure is but he suggested that it was more than $5,000. Senator Wriedt made a calculation and said that in all probability during a 10-year period the figure would be $50,000. What a nice calculation from the Leader of the Government. Where will the issue of privacy come to rest in this community? I have no confidence in what the Minister for Police and Customs will do. I think he is a real political body and if he sees an opportunity whereby he can harm or disadvantage any other senator in this place he will take it. If he learns that there is a poultry farmer who has received some benefit either from a wheat subsidy while his fowls are being fed or from an egg equalisation scheme while his eggs are being sold, I believe there will be a situation -
– I raise a point of order. Senator Webster has again accused me in this Parliament, as he has done on other occasions, of being in receipt of certain moneys from certain areas. I have stated on many occasions that I have not received such moneys.
– I raise a point of order. I submit that this is an interruption of debate and is not a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- I do not want to be preempted in my decision.
– I raise a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Wright, there is only one person in the chair at the moment. Resume your seat.
– I raise a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You have made your point of order and I have already examined it. It is not a point of order. Senator Webster may resume.
– I have not finished yet.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I thought you had completed your outline and I took advice in relation to the ambit of the point of order. As I saw the situation, nobody was named. There was a reference to poultry farmers but nobody was named and on that basis I declined to accept it as a point of order. As this debate is getting a little heated I would say that I am always mindful of my own position and I allow a reasonable amount of give and take. But we can get to a certain stage at which interjections are being encouraged. I think Senator Webster would appreciate that observation and he may continue.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I appreciate the wisdom of your remarks. There are a variety of ways in which many members of the public are subsidised by Government funds, by public funds, by taxpayers’ money. I do not know whether that is a sin when we as a Parliament pass in globo allocations of funds to be distributed to any one in the community who may be entitled to them. I have no criticism of that. Surely the Leader of the Government and Senator Cavanagh can find no reason to criticise it. They have never spoken in this place previously about the superphosphate bounty and indicated that they wish that certain people who consume a great deal or who use more than some minimum should be excluded from getting the bounty. Many people in the community are in receipt of public contributions by the Government.
I plead with Senator Wriedt and with the Minister for Police and Customs in their very important positions to attempt to uphold in this place the privacy of the public at large, not necessarily just members of Parliament. Each one of us must stand up to the slings and arrows that may fly backwards and forwards across this chamber. Some of us have had to put up with them more than others. If the public sees that it is the attitude of the Government to pick out one individual for political purposes- it cannot be denied that that is why Malcolm Fraser ‘s name has been used in this respect- the Government will bring upon itself the greatest criticism. I plead with the Leader of the Government and the Minister for Police and Customs in their very high positions just to rethink what they have done and to consider that there may be a better way of handling this matter than naming individuals. I hope that they take this advice to heart and demonstrate to the public that there is a responsibility within both their portfolios.
-The information to which reference has been made today initially by Senator Greenwood and by other speakers was apparently collected some 15 to 17 months ago and has been withheld since that time, or should I say that it has been held as one might hold in an armoury information which might become useful at some time to be drawn out when it suits the purpose. Why should it be held for that length of time? If it was received for lawful Government purposes presumably it would have been used, disposed of and finished with long before now. Why should it have been held back for this time and then suddenly produced when the Government is in real trouble and is finding it necessary to dredge up any little thing, including references to cricket matches and former Ministers, as a means of smearing the Opposition? Why should it be suddenly produced out of the hat that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Fraser) had received a benefit which he could not avoid receiving if, in the normal course of the proper management of his property, he were to apply superphosphate to that property? There is no way that a user of superphosphate can avoid the bounty applying to the superphosphate which he purchases, so it is not as if any direct benefit was being obtained from the Government by any of the consumers; rather, as was explained earlier, the bounty was being made available to the manufacturer.
Where we find that the information was obtained a long time ago, the exact circumstances in which it was obtained become perhaps a little dim in the memories of some, but I challenge the Minister for Police and Customs (Senator Cavanagh) to deny, after inquiry, that undertakings were given by the former Minister, Senator Murphy, that the information would not be made public. When people who were requested to supply the information protested against supplying it, it is not a fact that directly or indirectly the then Minister, Senator Murphy, gave undertakings that the information would not be made public? If the present Minister says that he is not aware of this at this stage then I ask him: Will he make inquiries and then let us know? Will he also make inquiries as to whether it is not a fact that the former Minister, his predecessor, had Customs officers stationed outside one or more of the fertiliser producing factories checking every consignment that left those factories, checking the destination and quality of each such load as it left the manufacturer? The number of man hours involved would be quite astronomical when one bears in mind the length of time which those officers took in setting up camp outside the factories to conduct this check. I ask the Minister: Will he find out just how much time- paid for by the taxpayers out of the public purse- was spent on this exercise, the only use for which that we are aware of was to smear the Leader of the Opposition?
Following Senator Cavanagh ‘s statement yesterday that this sort of information should be made public, and recalling our experience of previous times under the former Leader of the Government in this chamber, I wonder what faith people can have now that they find themselves, whether they like it or not, in all probability in a situation in which they will receive a rebate of tax. No longer will people be allowed tax deductions. They are now in a situation in which they will get a rebate of tax. On what the Minister for Police and Customs said yesterday a similar principle applies in that instance and anyone who has received a rebate of tax is subject to having the information in relation to his tax affairs made public.
– They are protected under an Act.
– Well, we have not noticed very much observance of protection provisions by you, senator. In relation to Medibank we find that altogether there are some 900 computer data banks being used by this present Government and we find that further information in relation to Medibank is all being put on computer. One wonders how long it will be before all that information stored by this Government in that method will be used for some cheap, dirty political gibe. I believe that we have reached an all-time low in this chamber, a disappointing low, when for cheap political purposes Ministers are prepared to misuse information which had been obtained by compulsion. I thought, and I am sure a lot of other members on this side of the chamber also thought, that we had got past the stage of the misuse of power and the intimidation to which we had grown accustomed under the former Leader of the Government in this place. I thought it was a cause for some celebration when an event took place which meant he was no longer going to be in a position to hold that power. I had, and with one exception still have, the highest regard for the present Leader of the Government in this chamber.
– I raise a point of order on imputations made against a member of the judiciary, a High Court judge of Australia.
– If you want me to tip a bucket on him I will, if we all have to descend to that.
– I think we have to be very careful about what we say concerning His Honour. I think it is going beyond the bounds somewhat to say that when he left this place it delighted everyone because he had misused power.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Initially I assessed this comment as one made in a political context, but I was a bit worried about Senator Rae’s further comment on bucket tipping. I do not think this will have any edifying effect on the debate. In view of Senator Rae’s brinkmanship I think he might refrain and carry on in a more temperate vein.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I take the point. Whilst I did interject when Senator Cavanagh raised a point of order, all I was indicating was that if people on this side of the chamber did wish to engage in the sort of bucket tipping which has taken place and which we are now complaining about there is plenty which could be said. I do not intend to say it because I do not believe that the misuse of information, the use of intimidation and threats does anything other than to destroy the whole parliamentary system. It is with great regret that I find myself in a situation in which I must join others in complaining about the misuse by 2 Ministers in this chamber of information which ought to have been private and which as I understand it was obtained on an assurance that it would not be made public. I do not think it is edifying to have to speak about these matters. I do not think it is edifying for this chamber to be put in a position by 2 Government Ministers engaging in bucket tipping. I do not intend to respond, although as everyone knows it is always possible to smear if you wish to do so. I think we would all be better off if people were able to restrain themselves a little more and did not use or misuse information for purely political bucket tipping purposes. I certainly support the remarks made by Senator Greenwood and others on this side who have spoken on this matter.
– I take part in this debate because of the statements made by Senator Webster. I follow up the remarks just made by Senator Rae who said that people ought not to use this chamber to smear other people. Senator Webster has been a past master at this, particularly in trying to smear me, ever since I have been a member of this place. I think it all reverts back to a speech on Vietnam which I made on an adjournment debate one night when Senator Webster had the gall to say of a young person in South Australia on whose behalf I was putting a case that if he were not in gaol he would be in the gutter. That is the type of person that Senator Webster is. I was successful in having him withdraw the remark and apologise. Senator Webster has used this debate on the first reading of the Excise Tariff Bill to bring up some matters which concern him in regard to the superphosphate bounty. As has been proved in the last fortnight, the payment of the bounty to certain people who are members of the Opposition is a very sore point. When public money is being expended and certain people in the community are in receipt of that money, why should the information not be disclosed? If they are not exposed here, they ought to be exposed during the Estimates Committees hearings. If they are receiving money, what is wrong with that? Why do they want to hide it? Why are they ashamed of it?
– They are not in receipt of it.
– Of course they are in receipt of the money. Mr Fraser’s name has been mentioned and it has been said that he has been in receipt of a large sum of money. As Senator Cavanagh pointed out yesterday, one of the reasons why the Opposition is so frantic to restore the superphosphate bounty is so that its supporters can avail themselves of public money.
The other matter which Senator Webster repeatedly raises in this chamber is the margarine quota. One often wonders what pecuniary interest he has in the margarine industry because it seems to worry him such a lot every time he rises to speak in this place. What concerns me is that in reply to an interjection by me during Senator Webster’s speech, he looked over at me and he said ‘that poultry farmer had been in receipt of public money through wheat subsidisation’. That was because of feed that I would have bought to run my poultry farm. Senator Webster and his National Country Party colleagues have claimed over the years that there has been no subsidy to the wheatgrowers and that they have in fact funded their own equalisation scheme. He is on record as saying that, yet to bolster his argument today he said the very reverse of what he has said in the past. He said that people who buy wheat, and particularly poultry farmers like myself- I used to be a poultry farmer- were in receipt of a subsidy. I always paid the market value of the prepared feed I bought. I never bought wheat as a raw commodity, and I always paid my debts. When I was elected to this chamber I relinquished poultry farming and, unlike Senator Webster, I devote myself full-time to representing the people who sent me here. I have no outside income or interests.
The other falsity that Senator Webster has been repeating, both in this chamber and outside it, no doubt, is that I have been dealing in real estate in Canberra. That is a complete untruth, a complete falsehood, but he has repeated it time and again to bolster his argument. Another thing that he has said in this chamber, and for which I have hadto rebuke him, is that having sold my poultry farm I refused to disclose the profit I made on the sale. I do not know how many times I have told him that I still own the property. I do not operate it as a poultry farm but it is still there. However, even given the fact that had I sold the property and made a profit, what need have I to disclose the profit I would have made on it?
There has been nothing underhand but Senator Webster thinks that I have done something underhand. I suppose I should go on and tell this chamber some of the underhand things Senator Webster has endeavoured to do, particularly in the statement he made to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. When the Committee wanted to go to Indonesia but knew full well that the Government would not sanction the trip at a cost to the Government, Senator Webster put forward the proposition that members of the Committee should use their travel warrants to go to Darwin and then use the overseas travel allowance which is available to members of Parliament to pay their fares from Darwin to Indonesia. Because we would be going there as a Committee we would be entitled to the living away allowance. But Senator Webster also went on to say, and this is the terrible thing: Members of this Committee, I ask you not to mention this to members of your respective parties’. He didnot want his Country Party colleagues to know. This is fact.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Is there not a breach of privilege taking place?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)-I have had a look at standing order 308 and there could be some unwitting strain. I think Senator McLaren might take the hint. Standing order 308 relates to committee proceedings.
– This matter was not raised under privilege in the Committee in the form of evidence from people appearing before the Committee.
– Was it a committee meeting?
– It was a private committee meeting.
– That is the same thing.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! For the edification of the Senate, standing order 308 states:
The evidence taken by any Select Committee of the Senate and documents presented to such Committee, which have not been reported to the Senate, shall not, unless authorised by the Senate or the Committee, be disclosed or published by any member of such Committee, or by any other persons.
Perhaps these are uncharted seas, and I think it will help me and Senator McLaren if he is aware of that.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President. I have been provoked into making those statements because of the false accusations that have been made repeatedly against me by Senator Webster in this Parliament in the last 4 years. I am getting a bit fed up with him. If he cannot come in here and conduct himself as he ought to as a senator, he has to be prepared to get back as much as he gives.
– I shall be very brief. I shall refrain from making any personal allegations against anyone. However, I think it is desirable to state one or two propositions. The first is that, in proper administration, police files or information obtained by police are not disclosed to Parliament. Secondly, in the administration of the Department of Police and Customs secrets of a commercial nature are observed as a matter of honour. If a man brings in a machine under by-law or if he gets the benefit of duty on his paper, those are matters of public record but they are not disclosed. The rate of duty or the benefit obtained under by-law are not disclosed by the administration. Thirdly, I submit that the Minister had no authority under the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act to require the names or addresses of purchasers from superphosphate producers. That information was obtained unlawfully and on that ground alone in any clean mind or any clean hands would be taboo. The fourth proposition I wish to state is that it retracts from the honour of a Minister when he gives information to the Parliament under the pretext of doing it in the public interest when the purpose and the motive is political smearing. Those 4 principles, when applied to this case, condemn the action that has been brought well into focus by Senator Greenwood.
– The matter which has been the subject of debate this morning was raised last week in this chamber. Subsequent to that Senator Greenwood, with pseudo indignation, asked questions of myself and the Minister for Police and Customs (Senator Cavanagh) about certain disclosures that had been made here last week. I want to say firstly that I should think the last person in this chamber who should talk about the rights of individuals is Senator Greenwood. We can all remember how many rights he gave to individuals and to the privacy of individuals when he was the Attorney-General in the days of Vietnam, the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation, the Croat affair and so on. We heard it all debated in this chamber, and Senator Greenwood should be the last person to claim in this chamber that anybody else, in particular any Minister, has been guilty of any lack of consideration of rights. As Senator Cavanagh made clear yesterday, the rights are set out in the
Act. We have just heard the fatuous comment by Senator Wright that there is no power under the Act for the Minister to obtain information which included names. Why does he not read the Act? Section 14, which has been read and read again and apparently has to be read on a third occasion, states quite distinctly: ( 1.) A producer of bountiable products is not entitled to bounty unless he keeps, to the satisfaction of the Minister, accounts, books and documents showing, from time to time, the production and sale of bountiable products and fertiliser mixtures, the selling prices and receipts from sales of bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures and such other information in relation to the bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures as the Minister requires.
It goes on in sub-section (2.) to state:
A producer of bountiable products is not entitled to bounty unless he furnishes the Comptroller-General, in respect of each year in which bounty is payable-
a manufacturing account and trading account and such other information in relation to the bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures as the Minister requires;
As Senator Cavanagh pointed out yesterday, that Act was drawn up by a Liberal Government, not by a Labor Government, and surely it must have been drawn up with the thought in mind that some day the Minister would use that power. Is there anything improper about the use of a power that was drawn up by your own Government? If Senator Greenwood, who is interjecting, will wait a moment I will come to his other points. The first and most important point is this: Did any Minister of this Government act outside the authority of that Act?
-I say he did not. The evidence is there quite clearly. Senator Webster always gets upset and flies to their defence if anybody who might have Country Party or landed gentry interests is exposed. I will give to the Senate an example of why the Government had to obtain information concerning the distribution of these bounties. It wanted to make a judgment, as I said quite properly in the Senate last week, in the case of the railways subsidy on superphosphate in the Northern Territory. We found that 90 per cent of the bounty was going to 10 per cent of the producers, and the other 90 per cent of the producers were getting 10 per cent of the bounty. That was another example of how the investigation enabled us to uncover the gross inequity of the whole system of bounty payments. They were the reasons why it was important to us and later to the Industries Assistance Commission and to other people who were involved in making these decisions that we should know just how inequitable the whole system was.
Senator Greenwood said that in some way it was improper to receive such payments. I will say it was improper. It was improper because the distribution system was wrong. That is the whole point which we have been endeavouring to elaborate during the time that we have had to consider this question of phosphate bounties.
– What about the donation from Murdoch to the ALP? Why was not that made public?
-I know it is all right for Senator Webster because of bis position on the land. He wants that sort of system to continue because he was one of those who benefited mostly. He knows that it was not the ordinary farmer who benefited under the old system. Because we have made changes in the system of distribution, I expect Senator Webster to be opposed to those changes.
I think the classic statement was the one made by Senator Greenwood that companies protested at having to give the infomation. He said that one company insisted that the information be kept confidential. How about that? These companies have been major beneficiaries under the system of superphosphate bounty payments since 1963. They have the temerity, if Senator Greenwood’s suggestion is correct, to tell the Government: ‘We will not tell you what we are doing with the sales of superphosphate. You may be paying out $60m of the taxpayers’ money but you have no right to know these things’. They said that, even though it is written clearly into the Act that the Minister has the right to demand from them such information as the Minister sees fit.
– Why did you make it public?
– Your Government wrote that into the Act. Do not you realise that? Simply because no Minister in your Government was prepared to use that authority you seem to think that nobody else is allowed to do so now. I come now to the question of the date on which the Government allegedly made an announcement about the superphosphate bounty. Whether an announcement was made in February, March, April or May is not the important point. The Government needed to continue gathering whatever information was relevant to the continuation of a superphosphate bounty payment.
– Why did you make it public?
-Senator Withers keeps repeating: ‘Why did you make it public?’ Because all of it should be made public. That is the important point.
– Every producer in Australia?
-If need be. If people want to know these things, why should not they be made public? Simply because the name J. M. Fraser appears on the list, something which I would believe -
– Selectively. Why only the one name?
-Just a moment. I do not believe for a moment that when the information was sought by the previous Minister for Police and Customs he had the faintest idea that the name J. M. Fraser would appear on the list. That is my honest belief. I do not believe he had any idea about it.
– If he had come to me I could have told him 5 years ago.
-Senator Primmer probably could have because that is an area in which he is concerned. I will not respond to the comments of Senator Webster because as Senator McLaren, I think it was, made the point quite cleary that Senator Webster’s tactic always is to use the half truth, the mistruth and the repetition, which is the classic smear tactic. I do not suppose that any senator in this chamber would have a greater record of using smear tactics against other members of this chamber or of the House of Representatives than has Senator Webster. I do not think his comments warrant any reply.
– During the Bass by-election campaign an unfortunate clash occurred between a school teacher, a pupil and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Since that time there has been considerable interest in the facts and the history behind that fight that they had. There has come into my possession a letter which sets out the facts and the history concerning the Baltic states. The letter contains 1 9 paragraphs. It is my intention to make it known to the Senate to assist with our general understanding of the history surrounding this unhappy matter. The letter was written by a Mr Tom McGlynn, the school teacher involved in the incident to which I referred. The letter is dated 8 July 1975. The address is Post Office Box 933, Launceston, Tasmania 7250. It is headed ‘Mr Whitlam and the Baltic States Question’. I quote the letter:
I refer to your recent letter or telegram or to a statement attributed to you in the Press. I should like to thank all those who have supported me though unfortunately I cannot write to you all . . .
– I rise on a point of order. I am interested in what Senator Baume proposes to read to the Senate, but the point of order that I take is for your judgment, Mr Acting Deputy President, and relates to the propriety of a discussion on an issue which is the subject of pending litigation.
– The lawyer from Bunbury mumbles in his beard and says ‘Oh! ‘.
– Are you trying to protect Mr McGlynn or Mr Whitlam?
– I am endeavouring to protect the respect of the Senate which, in the past 2 hours,I think, has sunk to a record low- certainly since I became a member. The simple fact on which I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to rule is this: Is it proper that a letter which will undoubtedly be evidence in pending litigation, if it proceeds, should be the subject of discussion in the Senate?
– May I speak to the point of order?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Yes.
– Most of this letter concerns facts of history or the interpretation of history as seen by Mr McGlynn.
– That is the whole point of the action.
– I am just putting this for the assistance of the Acting Deputy President. There are several paragraphs which relate to the events that took place on 26 June. The paragraphs are separate and can be separated by me. My view is that the letter may be properly quoted. I seek your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- In view of the confusion, I think I will exercise my plenary powers and declare the sitting of the Senate suspended until 2.15 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.1 5 p.m.
- Mr President, with the leave of the Senate I will speak again on the point of order. When the sitting of the Senate was suspended I had raised a point of order in relation to Senator Baume ‘s proposed quotation from a letter on the basis that it involved sub judice matters. During the adjournment I have had the advantage of a discussion with Senator Baume, and I withdraw the point of order on the basis that the excerpts that he will read from the letter are such as have been agreed between us do not constitute any point of order.
- Mr President,I thank the Senate and I thank Senator Everett. If the Senate is agreeable I am prepared to move that the document be incorporated in Hansard, but that is a matter for some guidance.
– You can ask for leave to have it incorporated.
– I seek leave.
-Is leave granted?
– I do not object, but I wish to make it clear that it is on the basis that what is incorporated in Hansard is the agreed, expurgated version of the letter.
– It would be on that basis that I would seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
– Leave has been granted. (The document read as follows)-
P.O. Box 933 Launceston, Tasmania, 7250. 8.7.75
Dear Mr Raitna,
The Baltic States question
I refer to your recent letter or telegram or to a statement attributed to you in the press. I should like to thank all those who have supported me though unfortunately I cannot write to you all individually because of the unmanageable volume of mail received. I list below, however, certain facts about myself and views on the Baltic States and closely related matters, largely for the benefit of those who may have misunderstood my motives in correcting Mr Whitlam ‘s version of Baltic history.
Lithuanians and Latvians, but I do not need to tell the A.O.S. that large numbers of Germans, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians also died as a result of SS activity. Neither those with good personal reasons for hating Nazism nor those who, for whatever reason, support the U.S.S.R., can plausibly claim that particular atrocities justify the suppression of the Baltic or any other nations’ independence. The logical conclusion of such an argument is the imposition of colonial rule over all peoples of the planet- presumably by extraterrestrial beings.
I believe that the best way for the Baits to help their people in the U.S.S.R. is to move towards the middle ground. In Australia, particularly, they should concentrate on rational presentation of the facts about the U.S.S.R. and the Baltic to rank-and-file and parliamentary members of the ALP. If Baits, like many silly Liberals, constantly equate social democracy with communism, they may suggest to the more ignorant social democrats that this is only right and proper. No communist thinks likewise of the social democratic parties. They are his unforgivable enemies, traitors to the working class, the ‘social-fascist scum who follow the line of the renegades Kautsky and Bernstein’.
Yours sincerely, Tom McGlynn
– Thank you, Mr President. This document then sets out historical facts concerning the Baltic states question, and I am grateful to the Senate for allowing its incorporation in Hansard. I only wish to say further that the
Leader of my Party has spoken on the question of the de jure recognition of Soviet incorporation of the Baltic states and has made it clear that on our return to government instructions will be issued to our Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics not to visit the Baltic states and that recognition will again be given in this country to the honorary Consul for Latvia; these 2 actions effectively being ones that will reverse the de jure recognition that has taken place.
– I rise to raise the matter of increased charges for landline usage by radio stations which will affect many city radio stations and adversely affect many country radio stations because some of the increased charges are quite excessive. I refer to the radio station in Alice Springs where, because the Government has now taken away the concession rates for land-line usage, the charges will rise from $10,188 per annum to $17,829 per annum. For the radio station in Moree the charges will be increased from $3,900 to $6,825. The charges will be increased for the radio station in Roma from $2,002 to $3,503; for the radio’ station in Charleville from $1,546 to $2,705; for the radio station in Longreach from $3,763 to $6,585; and for the radio station in Mount Isa from $4,583 to $8,020. One could go on, but I have given just some examples of the increased charges to the Senate this afternoon. There has been a rearrangement of charges for land-line usage and the concessions have now been abolished or, by the effluxion of time, have expired.
What concerns me, firstly, is the fact that we know that the Coombs committee suggested in its report that the concessions for land-line usage be dropped. But in discussion with the Government, Mr Bowen, the Minister who was then in charge of this matter, made it clear that nothing would be done without further discussions between the Government and the Opposition. I quote part of what Mr Bowen said in a letter to Mr Lynch:
I expressly undertake that no alterations in charges will be made until such time as yourself and Mr Anthony have had an opportunity to discuss the matter, and if there is still disagreement following that discussion I acknowledge that you will be entitled to raise the matter in Parliament before any action is implemented.
I appreciate the fact that we now have the Australian Telecommunications Commission. But there was still an obligation upon this Government to stand by a previous arrangement because a charge is a charge, and although the fixing of the charge is a matter for the Commission or for the Postmaster-General’s Department, that does not excuse the Government from having a discussion and at least,, as is stated in this letter, having a public debate on the matter. To me this appears very much to be a matter of dodging the major issue, such as happened when the increased postal charges were introduced as a separate issue from the Budget. That area concerns me greatly, but I go further. Are we going to find one day that licence fees for commercial radio stations will be increased? These country radio stations provide a service to their particular communities. They have the colour of their communities and they keep their local identity. At the same time, because of land-line usage for many reasons- be it to give sporting reports from certain areas within the range of the station or a good news service to many country people, which they are compelled to give under the Actthese radio stations will have to pay a lot of money. This Government has seen fit to increase the charges for land-line usage to the extent that I have mentioned.
But what will happen if licence fees for radio stations are increased? Radio stations will fall further to their knees. No doubt many country radio stations will go bankrupt. It is all very well for Senator McAuliffe to sit there with a smile on his face. Some country radio stations, with their present margin of profit, and their other costs that are increasing considerably all the time, coupled with the increased charges for land-line usage, will not be able to keep going. Many of them will have no alternative but to drop their level of service and cut down on their type of programs, or else go outside their particular sphere of operation to see whether they can obtain further finance. Even Dr Cass is aware of the fact- I say for Senator McAuliffe ‘s benefitthat some of these radio stations may go bankrupt. I shall quote from a statement which Dr Cass, as Minister for the Media, made in this morning’s Age. He said that he was prepared to seek Government subsidies for country commercial radio stations which faced closure because of recent rises in charges for land-lines.
– You cannot buy shares in the stations in Queensland.
– Irrespective of what Senator McAuliffe thinks, Dr Cass agrees with me that some stations will go to the wall. Then Dr Cass went on to say:
However, if taxpayers were going to subsidise radio stations they would expect some say in their spending.
We know what Dr Cass is already doing. I refer to Dr Cass’s policies, not to Dr Cass as a man, and I wish to make that perfectly clear. Dr Cass’s policies are such that he is hell bent on introducing as much public broadcasting as he possibly can. I do not disagree with the introduction of public broadcasting- I support the concept- but I will not support this haphazard method by which it appears that public broadcasting is being introduced, because it will hurt a lot of people and create a lot of problems. The thing that concerns me in this area of commercial radio, if this statement is correct- it is reported in the Press this morning as a statement by Dr Cass- is that Dr Cass says that if taxpayers are going to subsidise radio stations they would expect some say in their spending; in other words, in their operation. This means that if Government assistance is given to a commercial radio station, Dr Cass, on behalf of the taxpayers and by ministerial direction, will tell that radio station how to operate- perhaps for two or three hours a day or perhaps for longer, but it will happen. This is a grave intrusion into the area of commercial radio.
– You believe in private enterprise.
-The future of private enterprise would be at stake under such a system. I suspect that Dr Cass may tend to force upon commercial radio stations his ideas about what shall or shall not be done and that he will say: ‘If you do not accept my conditions you will get no assistance’. That is the way in which I interpret what has been said. I am waiting to see what will happen. I turn to the announcement made a fortnight ago by Dr Cass regarding the establishment of 15 new radio stations in Australia. One will be a commercial station and some will be national stations, but many of them will be public broadcasters.
This morning I questioned Senator Bishop on the legality of the matter. I am waiting for his answer. I know that Senator Bishop will give an answer because we get co-operation on these matters from him. I hope that I will get an answer early next week. I questioned, firstly, whether Dr Cass had consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is normally in charge of the issuing of licences following a public hearing, and, if so, what was the reaction of the Broadcasting Control Board to the discussions. I asked also whether it recommended the establishment of the various radio stations or whether it was done purely on the advice of the Department of the Media or at the direction of the Minister for the Media. I asked those questions because the Broadcasting and Television Act can be circumvented by the
Government by the method of stating that the stations are experimental radio stations.
I want to know how long an experimental radio station will remain an experimental station. Not so long ago two ethnic radio stations were set up in Sydney and Melbourne on an experimental basis for 12 weeks. Before the expiration of those 12 weeks there was an extension of time for another 6 months. Are those stations to remain under the cloak of experimentation and to be given a further extension of 12 months? Where is the line of demarcation drawn? How long is it before an experiment becomes a reality? That is the situation that we are reaching with the introduction of many of the other public broadcasting stations. There is no doubt that Dr Cass is changing the whole structure of the radio and broadcasting system as we know it in this country, but I think he is creating a very unfortunate situation. How many more of these radio stations can we expect to be set up by the back door method of so-called experimentation? How much longer will we have this ad hoc, haphazard method of introducing radio stations throughout Australia? The Government should set out in clear and concise terms a program for the introduction of radio stations that is based .on long term, long range planning. That is essential in this country.
It is unfortunate that the Minister for the Media is circumventing the Broadcasting and Television Act by this method, which is purely one of ministerial control and control in no other way. Quite frankly I think the Minister has a responsibility to the Parliament for his actions in this respect. The Broadcasting and Television Act spells out very clearly that the issuing of licences should be debated publicly. There is a responsibility to do that. I appreciate that two other stations were set up when Senator Douglas McClelland was the Minister for the Media. But the setting up of two radio stations is entirely different from setting up of 15 radio stations. I suspect that this is only a start and that large numbers are likely to come along after that. Where does the responsibility lie? I have always understood that it lies within the parliamentary system itself, but here we find a ministerial direction completely circumventing an Act and the Parliament.
Having expressed my views on that I want to go one step further and say that Dr Cass is even going against the Australian Labor Party’s policy as laid down at the famous Terrigal conference. I wish to quote from paragraph 6 of the policy on the media, which spells out clearly what is the attitude of the Government. It reads:
Licences for commercial and public stations will be issued or renewed on a variable basis. All applications-
I emphasise the words ‘all applications’- for issue and renewal of licences will be heard in public.
That is very interesting. Here we have the Australian Labor Party saying that all these matters will be heard in public. Let us go further and look at what Dr Cass had to say as reported at page 67 1 of the Australian Government Weekly Digest of 18 to 24 August of this year. Dr Cass said:
The Government is waiting upon the report of the Working Party on Public Broadcasting before it determines a long term public broadcasting policy. When that policy is determined it will apply to all public broadcasters -
I emphasise the words ‘it will apply to all public broadcasters’- prospective and existing.
What is a prospective broadcaster? I interpret a prospective broadcaster as being an organisation that is hoping or anticipating that it will in reality be a broadcaster. I would also interpret that a broadcaster which has been given the opportunity of having a licence on an experimental basis is a prospective broadcaster. Here we have Dr Cass stating in his own words that these things should be done in public, but in actual fact the position is entirely different as we are finding that these stations are being set up, as I said earlier. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Media will be able to answer the queries I have raised on whether discussions even took place between the Broadcasting Control Board and Dr Cass or any member of his office. Those are questions that we want answered. More than that we want the Minister for the Media to let this Parliament know what is happening. He has stated that these should be done in public. I class this area- the Parliament -as being a forum for public debate. I hope that the Minister will accept his responsibilities in this respect and come out into the open and let the Parliament know what he intends to do with respect to public broadcasting. It is to play a very important part in the radio world and the community services of this country. So let us make sure that the introduction and implementation of public broadcasting and ethnic broadcasting in Australia is done on proper lines and according to programs that are set out on a long term basis so that they will be for the benefit of the people and will not, as is happening in many areas, cause confusion and probably longer term hardship to the many people who could be left, as I would put it quite frankly, to carry the can.
– I intrude into this debate because, thanks to the far-sightedness of Senator Douglas McClelland and, subsequently, Dr Moss Cass, we have grasped the nettle as far as ethnic radio broadcasting is concerned. I think it is to the credit of both Ministers that they have set up committees in this respect. A very illustrious senator from the Opposition, Senator Davidson, and I are members of one of the initial committees set up in this respect. I can well recall what happened one tremendous afternoon when the subject of the complexities of this matter came up and the Chairman of the committee, Mr Bayutti, issued an invitation that Senator Davidson immediately accepted that the committee should get the views of the shadow Minister for Immigration, Mr Michael Mackellar, and no less a person than Senator Young, who is the Opposition spokesman on media matters. I would say respectfully to Senator Young that the watchword has been to hasten slowly. We know that there are many minefields to be faced in the broadcasting and radio world, particularly with respect to ethnic radio. I can assure Senator Young that there has not been any one man band as far as Dr Cass is concerned. I know that on at least 3 weekends I have had to mediate with particular groups as to whether one point of view -
– I interrupt Senator Mulvihill to say that I give full marks to the activities of the committee of which he is a member, but that is not the issue I was discussing.
– That is fair enough. I accept that. What I am saying is that the issue is so complex that I would lay stress upon the words ‘hasten slowly’. If Dr Cass had shot from the hip the position may have been different, but he did not do so. I know he is very happy that he has had a very sound administrator in no less a person than the Postmaster-General, Senator Bishop, alongside him to see that the shoals were avoided. I know that one or two developments have taken place in the last couple of weeks. They were not ideological issues between the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia. They were caused by small internal ethnic stresses and rivalries. We have had to work very hard to overcome them. Since we are baring our breasts, as it were, on this issue I should like to say that the Opposition has felt that these projects should pay for themselves. I do not want to enter into the socialist versus private enterprise argument.
I do have one fear of which my Party is aware. If we are going to indulge in sponsored programs we have to be very careful. I know one astute girl in the Greek community in Sydney who has been involved with ethnic radio. She has said that we have to be very careful with sponsored programs because some announcers could indulge in a little spiel and put over a good line of patter- I will not refer by name to any of the emporiums in Sydney or Melbourne- and the old grandmas, because the program and the advertising are in their native tongue, would rush out to buy up big. I am in low key today and am pointing out some of the problems with which we may be confronted. It is to the credit of Ministers of this Parliament that we have some very experienced people on these committees at the State level, both in Melbourne and Sydney. Of course, the national committee happens to be graced by people like Mr Bayutte, Mr Kaldis, Brian White and no less personages than Senator Davidson and myself. I think, with that galaxy of talent, that we will see justice done.
There are pitfalls. I understand that problems have occurred in Melbourne where in one form of radio, it was stated that the Italian Consulate was open for longer than the Greek Consulate. One question was: Why? Another question was: Why was the Australian radio network involving itself with these problems? This did not happen in Sydney, perhaps because we have learned from the experience in Melbourne. I simply say for the edification of Senator Young that this is a tremendously complex problem.
I well recall that Senator Douglas McClelland when he was Minister for the Media opened his ministerial door to many different people who came to speak to him about the problem I was privileged to be in attendance at some of those meetings. I know the Minister had to equate this with that. If he had moved too quickly all hell would have broken loose. In the art of democratic politics, if some people cannot get something from the Government they go to the Opposition. Because of action taken by Senator Douglas McClelland, Dr Cass and Senator Bishop, this problem was kept at a low key. If Senator Davidson were here I think he would agree that we have emphasised a bi-partisan approach. We have all been of the opinion that this type of radio with its educational and cultural attitude should not be the subject of party political gimmicks. Snide commercialism should not enter into it. I have dealt with this matter only briefly and I will leave it at that.
– I want to deal with one or two matters raised by Senator Young during the course of the debate on the motion for the first reading of the
Excise Tariff Bill 1 975, which is a money Bill. Before I deal with the matters raised by Senator Young I want to put one or two things on the record in relation to today’s proceedings of the Senate. I do this in my capacity as Manager of Government Business in the Senate. This morning I had discussions with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). I advised him that it was the Government’s desire, because of the legislative timetable, to pass the Papua New Guinea Bill 1975, the Papua New Guinea Independence Bill 1975, the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1975, the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1975, and the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1975. During the course of those discussions this morning with the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Guilfoyle, the spokesman for the Opposition on health matters, joined the discussion and said that she was anxious to move the notice of motion standing in her name on the notice paper to disallow an ordinance relating to health. I reiterated to Senator Withers and pointed out to Senator Guilfoyle that it was the Government’s desire to have these 5 Papua New Guinea Bills passed before the Senate rose today. No one mentioned to me at the time that any honourable senators would speak on the motion for the first reading of the money Bills when they were introduced. I knew this morning that the Bills being introduced were money Bills and were to be read a first time and I am aware that honourable senators are entitled to speak to the motion for the first reading of money Bills. I do not deny that right in any manner, shape or form. I merely indicate that the Opposition was advised that the Government wanted these Bills passed before the Senate rose this afternoon. So far as I am concerned, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, if those Bills have not been disposed of by 5 o’clock, when the Senate is due to rise, I will oppose the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
Having said that, I wish to deal briefly with one or two matters to which Senator Young has alluded. He has referred to the subject of public broadcasting, to the subject of ethnic broadcasting, to the fact that experimental stations have been established without there having been a form of public inquiry and to a statement attributed to Dr Cass in today’s Melbourne Age that if he were to assist some country commercial broadcasting stations which might be in some difficulties because of recent rises in charges for landlines, and if taxpayers were going to subsidise radio stations, they would expect some say in their spending. I think they are virtually the matters to which Senator Young has referred.
Interrelated with Senator Young’s comments is an article on page 34 of The Bulletin of 6 September 1975-2 days in advance of today- attributed to Duncan Graham. It is critical of me in my former capacity as Minister for the Media; it is critical of the officers of the Department of the Media; it is critical, to a degree, of the present Minister for the Media (Dr Cass). The article relates to the introduction of public broadcasting. It contains many half truths, if not quarter truths. The fact of the matter is- I want this on the record- that I was the first parliamentarian in Australia to talk about the concept of public broadcasting in this country. When I did talk about the concept of public broadcasting, I was harangued and criticised by a cross-section of the media, particularly those who were anxious not to have public broadcasting, because they considered it was unnecessarily expensive.
When we came into office I was charged with the establishment of the Department of the Media. Even in its initial formative stages when there were only six or seven officers in the Department, those officers were engaged in establishing and laying down the foundation for a system of public broadcasting in Australia. This was done so that we would have a 3-tier system of broadcasting- national stations through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, commercial stations as we now know them, and a system of public broadcasting where, by and large, any man, woman or child who had a point of view to express which they felt was of benefit to the country could effectively do so. As I have said, those plans were being laid in the initial and formative stages of the Department of the Media. If any honourable senator in this chamber has had to be responsible ministerially for the establishment of a new department, he will know the traumas and difficulties that are involved in that task. Notwithstanding all those things, we had to await the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts of which my colleague, Senator James McClelland, was the then chairman.
That Committee reported to the Senate in August 1973, some 8 months after the Government initially set out to establish my Department. In September 1973 the recommendations of that Senate Standing Committee were taken to the Cabinet. We immediately appointed the independent McLean Committee of Inquiry to inquire into the establishment of frequency modulation in Australia. The McLean Committee reported to the Government in February 1974 and within a short time of that report having been presented to the Government the first public broadcasting station was not only on the air but also operating in the frequency modulation band. So within a period of a little over 2 years of this Government coming to office we had successfully introduced and established the concept of public broadcasting, and we had involved the public in the establishment of the frequency modulation band. From there we went to another public broadcasting station in Melbourne, again in the frequency modulation area. This was another music broadcasting station owned, as it were, by a co-operative or a group of people interested in the concept of broadcasting decent good quality music.
– That is a pretty rare thing to find.
-What is that?
– Good music.
– If the honourable senator has an FM radio set and lives in Sydney or Melbourne he can tune in to those stations because they are on the air for many hours each day. He can enjoy the best quality music that anyone will obtain anywhere in the world. My colleague the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), who has as his hobby the study of music of this nature- it is more like a religion to him- has said to me frankly that the programming arrangements and format of these stations are equal, in his opinion, to any he has struck throughout the world. I merely mentioned that that is something we have given the Australian public through the concept of public broadcasting.
From there we went into ethnic broadcasting in, I think, May of this year for 3 months for experimental purposes. We established ethnic broadcasting through the appointment of a committee on which there were, amongst others, Senator Mulvihill on the Government side and Senator Davidson on the Opposition side. Those experiments have continued. Apparently Dr Cass, the present Minister for the Media, in his wisdom has now determined that this further stage of experimentation should be developed by the establishment of these additional experimental broadcasting stations through various tertiary institutions of Australia. I assume, having regard to what Senator Young has said and bearing in mind the policy of the Party of which I am a member, namely, that all licences are to be the subject of public hearing and public decision, that eventually when this period of experimentation is over, when we are satisfied that we are on the right course of action and that things have settled down in this area, those who have been issued with licences on an experimental basis will have to appear before a public hearing so that the public can see, by way of public evidence, and determine that they are entitled to retain the licences.
Clearly, as Senator Young said, it is within the policy of my Party that these stations eventually should be the subject of public hearing. I do not deviate in any form from my Party’s policy, and I am sure that my colleague Dr Cass will not deviate from it. As I as then Minister for the Media commenced the period of experimental stations, so too I believe Dr Cass, my colleague, is extending it at this stage.
Senator Young also raised the article in this morning’s Melbourne Age relating to the problems that some country broadcasting stations face. My office has been in touch with the office of my colleague the Minister for the Media and have been advised by his private secretary that the issues raised in that article in the Melbourne Age simply are ideas raised by the Minister for the Media for consideration and discussion by interested parties and the public. They have been raised for discussion only and are not commitments on the part of the Minister, or a Labor Party or Government policies. Anyone, including Government Ministers, other members of Parliament or Party members are free to agree or disagree with the ideas.
The situation in regard to country radio stations is that the Government’s decision to remove concessions on land line charges to country stations has resulted in increased costs to those stations. These increased costs, together with those that have occurred as a result of economic conditions in country areas, have created a situation whereby a considerable number of country stations may operate at a loss in the forthcoming year. The Minister for the Media, Dr Cass, has indicated that if these stations care to make representations to him he is prepared to receive their ideas. He has indicated that his attitude at this stage is that any financial support ought to take the form of a direct subsidy for the organisations concerned so that the amount of taxpayers’ funds committed is capable of scrutiny and is not disguised as concessions or reduced charges. Again no firm commitment has been made by the Minister. He simply is making the point that he is aware of the difficulties facing country radio stations but has not at this stage received any indication from them as to whether they are seeking some form of Government support and if so in what form.
I noticed last night that Senator Young was in the company of executive members of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasters of Australia. I suggest to Senator Young that he should draw the matters I have mentioned on behalf of my colleague to the attention of the members of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasters of Australia. If they seek to make a submission to Dr Cass on land line charges to country broadcasting stations they should do so; also to the Telecommunications Commission. I also remind Senator Young that under, I think, section 16(5) of the Broadcasting and Television Act the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is empowered, subject to the approval of the Treasurer, to make funds available for the purpose of assisting broadcasting stations. He should consider having a look at that matter with a view to seeing whether further action in that regard should be taken. In short I am saying that in respect of these matters my colleague Dr Cass obviously is exhibiting an open mind. He is raising the matter now for frank, open and public discussion so that before the views of the Government are formulated definitely in any one direction, the industry will be given the opportunity to give him advice on all of these important matters.
– I do not think I need respond further to that side of the question which Senator Young raised but rather repeat what I told him following his question on 21 August when he raised the matter of the new charges which would operate for the part time program lines and the other concessions which then applied. He suggested that some stations might go bankrupt. The reply from the Australian Telecommunications Commission is that it should be noted that the total value of news only and general relay concessions for all stations participating in Australia is only a little more than $ 100,000. It put forward the view that in the first place it is not the Telecommunications Commission’s responsibility to pick up the gap and that in fact previously this concession had been a subsidy. Under the new arrangements and new proposals settled under the tariff arrangements the Commission would have had to meet any difference between the cost of operation and the charges which had been applied for many years. Its point of view was that whilst some stations might go bankrupt, as explained by Senator
Young, it was not a matter solely related to the concessions.
What Senator Young has said today reaffirms the sort of evidence which I mentioned when I replied to him in relation to charges. What Senator Young really wants is a continuing subsidy. The history of the Coombs report, as the honourable senator pointed out, was as I stated. The former Postmaster-General, Mr Lionel Bowen, had some discussions concerning the question of tariffs in the Budget. He gave an undertaking that the proposed charges should not apply. So what has been recovered by the Australian Telecommunications Commission, as far as I am aware, are those rates which were then struck. As Senator Young knows- I think he acknowledged this in his speech- since that time a Budget has been introduced. This was a new situation. We now have the constitution of the Committee with new procedures. I am certainly interested in what I saw in the newspapers in relation to Dr Cass. The article stated:
He said he was prepared to seek government subsidies for country commercial radio stations which faced closure because of recent rises in charges for landlines.
Of course, what Senator Douglas McClelland has just reported will be conveyed to the Commission.
– in reply- We could not take this debate in sequence because I moved the first reading of the Excise Tariff Bill and advantage was taken of that first reading by some honourable senators to speak so I could not reply then to the discussion involving the superphosphate bounty as I would have closed the debate. Since that time other honourable senators have raised questions. Senator Townley spoke about the Tasman bridge. Senator Baume desired to have some statements incorporated and Senator Young spoke on the matter of broadcasting stations. The debate on the matter of superphosphate was interesting. My name has been used the most as the culprit who would dare to use some information for political bucket-tipping. 1 think that is the expression which has been used. I often wonder what is behind all this. It came to the knowledge of Government senators that Malcolm Fraser in 1973 benefited by more than $5,000 because of a government bounty on superphosphate. He bought superphosphate which would have cost him $5,000 more had it not been for the government subsidy granted to producers of superphosphate. This information became known and someone asked a question for the purpose of political advantage or, if you like, political bucket-tipping. The answer to the question affirmed that his happened in 1973.
It was said that I was the source from which the information came. Malcolm Fraser skilfully asked: ‘How low will the Government get? How desperate it is at this stage’. He did not affirm or deny the matter. He just said that that was the end of it. But there are politicians in this chamber who are determined to get front lines in every newspaper in Australia- for whatever reason, we do not know. We have had a series of different leaders of the Liberal Party. Immediately a new leader is appointed to the Liberal Party someone starts stabbing him in the back. Now we have Malcolm Fraser. Very diplomatically and shrewdly he brushed this question aside as a dead issue. But members of the Liberal Party come into the Senate determined to raise the matter all the time as a front page isue. Ones does not need enemies when one has friends like Senator Greenwood. I do not know whether Senator Greenwood has ambitions towards the leadership, but Malcolm Fraser will never lead his Party to government while he has a Senator Greenwood.
The question is then raised: Is there anything wrong in doing this? Today Senator Webster asked whether there was anything wrong. He asked honourable senators: ‘Do you not get some concessions?’ I suppose we all do. I have looked over concessions I might get. My kiddie goes to a State school which is heavily subsidised by the Government. That subsidy comes out of revenue. Of course we all get concessions. Last night I got to the point where I was perhaps using this situation as condemnation of the Liberal Party. Senator Steele Hall came to the rescue of the Leader of the Liberal Party. Last night’s Hansard reads:
– Did any of them buy any motor cars during the period of reduction of sales tax?
That is referring to politicians-
– I suppose that is a normal trading business.
-That is different, is it?
– No, it is not.
So the critic of the Leader of the Liberal Party was saying that there was not much in it. A point of order was then raised by Senator Poyser. Senator Wright knew that somehow we were going to exonerate Malcolm Fraser, and he had to jump up and call for a quorum so that I would not be permitted to go on to that line of debate. There was a deliberate attempt, a campaign against Malcolm Fraser by people in his own
Party because he is the newly elected Leader but obviously the wrongly elected Leader.
– What rubbish. He is the most successful Leader we have had.
– I wish the honourable senator would not get excited and emotional about this.
– Who is getting emotional? It is the Minister.
– It is my assessment of the position that Senator Davidson feels some guilt. He is getting very excited. Is there a Greenwood-Wright-Davidson clique for the purpose of annihilating the salvation leader who will lead the party off to victory? Let us look at the depths to which the discussion has sunk. Senator Webster rightly said that I came up from the hard line of politics and that I would use anything to political advantage if it were against the enemy. I make no apology for that But I have never yet sunk to the depth of depravity of Senator Webster in this discussion. I hope I never do. The honourable senator had me terrified the other night. When I was speaking he asked: Well, tell us about your relatives’. I had some fear because one of the successful escapees from Port Arthur in the early days of Tasmania was a Cavanagh. I did not know how far back the honourable senator was tracing my family tree. I found out today that I should have the bucket tipped over me because I employ my son in my office. Our relationship was publicly stated at the time he was engaged. It is doubtful whether this gave him a financial advantage. He has done a good job. I was giving preference to someone I knew. All the Ministers and a lot of Opposition members have commented that I have one of the best and most efficient secretaries in the Parliament. Apparently I should not have such an efficient secretary because he is my son. The glory of it all is that this is the worst thing that Senator Webster can find against me. If this is something for which I am to be condemned then I am guilty.
Senator Webster links this up with suggestions of impropriety on the part of a Minister who said to him while going down the passage that if he continued to ask certain questions in the Senate, as he was in business, he would be settled. The implication could only be that I was that Minister. Of course, no one ever said that to him. He would not name the Minister but simply implicates every Minister by making an across the board accusation. He does this on every occasion. His accusations are written into Hansard and those people who want to believe him will do so. That is his purpose in making such accusations. I have never claimed that anyone received a superphosphate bounty when they did not receive such a bounty. I have never made an accusation that could be pinned on anyone unless there was foundation for that accusation.
Senator Rae found that he had to join in the discussion. He very convincingly got up and told what can only be called a ‘tissue of lies’. He claimed that some refused to give the information in respect of the superphosphate bounty because they regarded it as confidential. Senator Rae claims that Senator Murphy then sent out a second letter telling those who refused to give the information that if they gave it it would be kept confidential. Such a letter was never sent. There never was a second letter. What actually happened is that Senator Murphy requested information in April last year as to those people who had received a benefit in excess of $5,000 for the year 1973. The Department concerned telephoned the various producers and requested the information. Some of the producers said that they would like to have the request in writing. Therefore, on 11 April the various companies were sent a letter requesting the information under the signature of Mr Cahill, Assistant Comptroller-General (Revenue) of the Department of Police and Customs. The letter read as follows:
In accordance with your company ‘s obligations under Section 1 7 of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act and Section 14 of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act, the Minister for Customs and Excise requires the following information: the names and addresses of all customers whose purchases in a twelve months period would attract bounty and/or subsidy benefit in excess of five thousand dollars.
That is the only correspondence that was sent to the companies concerned. Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to table the letter that was sent to the General Manager, of Australian Fertilizers Ltd, the text of which I have just read.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I seek leave also to incorporate the letter in Hansard, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 1 1 April 1974
The General Manager, Australian Fertilizers Ltd., P.O. Box 528, NORTH SYDNEY, N.S.W. 2060
In accordance with your company ‘s obligations under Section 1 7 of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act and Section 14 of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act, the Minister for Customs and Excise requires the following information: the names and addresses of all customers whose purchases in a twelve months period would attract bounty and /or subsidy benefit in excess of five thousand dollars.
-Senator Rae also claimed that government inspectors waited outside the factories day after day tracing and counting deliveries. He asked me whether I could ascertain how much this surveillance cost the Government. During the time that the sitting was suspended for lunch I ascertained the answer to that question. The answer is that it cost nothing. We have never placed such an inspector outside a factory. The only visits made to fertiliser factories by departmental officers are those made by clerks who go there to examine the factory’s books. The subsidy is paid on agricultural fertiliser and not on fertiliser used for industrial purposes and the books are examined to determine the amount of fertiliser sold for agricultural purposes. Senator Rae asked his question in a way that would suggest that he had personal knowledge of departmental surveillance being undertakeneither that he had seen it or that someone in a factory and told him of it. There is no truth in the allegation at all. The asking of this question is an indication of how low we can get and is based upon lies and tissues of lies.
The information was obtained from fertiliser producers on the direction of the then Minister for Police and Customs at a time when the Cabinet was considering whether the bounty should continue- whether a section of the farming community was impoverished and wanted assistance from a bounty. It was found that bounties were not so much a method of assisting impoverished farmers as a method of providing wealthy farmers with a big rake-off.
– You are talking rubbish.
-Could the honourable senator justify a bounty which was intended to help impoverished farmers going to Malcolm Fraser, with his wealth?
– You are introducing a means test.
– Of course we are imposing a means test. It is inteneded to give where the need is. There must be another way other than through bounties that we can assist the farming communities who, we accept, are impoverished.
– What is the need?
– The need is to assist impoverished farmers.
– That is not the need. The superphosphate bounty was introduced to increase food production in a foodhungry world.
-But we have reached a stage where we have impoverished farmers. How do we assist them? I have a list which I shall table later and it shows companies such as Dalgety Australia Ltd as receivers of the superphosphate bounty. Can the honourable senator who interjected justify companies such as that being subsidised by the general taxpayer? There were other reasons for seeking the information.
– May I ask you a question, Senator? Does not every purchaser of superphosphate receive the benefit of the bounty whether he wants to or not?
– There is no obligation for him to accept it. This becomes a legal matter and, because I am no competition in legal matters for either Senator Greenwood or Senator Wright I rely on advice that the bounty is paid to assist primary producers to buy agricultural superphosphate.
– So you can get a cheap loaf of bread for the unionists.
-My word, how the honourable senator has impoverished himself over all the years of his farming activities just to give a cheap loaf of bread to the unionists. My hearts bleeds for the sacrifice the honourable senator has made for those poor degraded unionists to feed them up for the purpose of serving in Vietnam or some other purpose.
The question has been raised as to whether there is an obligation upon the purchaser of superphosphate to benefit from the bounty. The producers of superphosphate have to comply with certain conditions in order to receive the bounty. The conditions were laid down by a Liberal government. If they are wrong, do not blame me. The Act which was passed provided that the
Minister must be given such information as he required. Senator Wright claims that the Minister has no legal right under the Act to require the names of individuals. I do not know Senator Wright’s standing in the legal profession. The only case I have knowledge of his defending was the Hursey case against the waterside workers and he lost that case. He was not correct in his interpretation of the law.
– He was successful in that case, Senator. You do him a grave injustice.
– This is just one of the falsities the Minister talks about. It shows his total ignorance. He is a totally ignorant Minister.
– I do know this: In reply to the letter which I have just tabled Australian Fertilisers Ltd of Sydney stated:
After consultation with its solicitors the company has supplied the following list of direct purchase customers (end users) who, in the 12 month period to 30 September 1973 are assumed to have benefited by $5,000 or more from fertiliser bounty/subsidy.
The company did not disclose that information because it wanted to do so; it disclosed it because it has an obligation under an Act of a former Liberal-Country Party government which compelled it to do so. The company sought the advice of legal counsel. I can only presume, unless legal opinions have changed, that it did not go to Senator Wright because the company’s legal adviser was of a different opinion to Senator Wright. I do not know who it was.
There is a need to check on these matters. Honourable senators will remember the question which Senator Devitt asked me in this chamber concerning the trafficking in superphosphate and urea in the Riverina. Possibly the question was politically motivated because in my answer I mentioned the directors of the company which was making money. I believe that one of them is the endorsed National Country Party candidate for the district in the State elections of New South Wales. He obtained urea under the subsidy and exported it at a higher price than we were asking. The Department recovered $80,000 from that company. I refer honourable senators to the Senate Hansard of 20 August 1975 in which I said:
Mr David Neve is the managing director of the Mumimbidgee Irrigation District Farmers Co-operative Society Ltd, while Mr Graham Blight is a director.
I believe that Mr Blight expects Country Party endorsement for a Labor-held seat in that area. Although these people are political aspirants and maybe politicians or even leaders of parties, there is a need to check. Honourable senators will find from the document which I tabled last night that in the year at the end of which the bounty was known to be ceasing there was an increase of a million tons in the purchase of superphosphate. If $5,000 was paid for phosphate and it was bought at $12 a ton, 620 tons of phosphate would be involved. When one sees those figures one wonders whether it was bought for use on the farm or whether there was some desire to store it for future years. Inspections are necessary to find out whether superphosphate is used for agricultural purposes. One company which used more than $5,000 worth of superphosphate in the last year of the bounty was Peters lee Cream (W.A.) Ltd. I do not know whether that company owns a a farm but if the superphosphate it used was for the production of ice cream it had no entitlement to the subsidy. Nevertheless, it is a question of the taxpayers ‘ money and whether the low margin workers and, as I have said, the kiddie buying her ice cream should be subscribing to Consolidated Revenue to pay these wealthy farmers in excess of $5,000 a year. That is what Opposition senators are supporting.
There was nothing wrong in that. But the allegation is that senators on this side of the table, for political purposes, have used the accusation that the Act, although a foolish Act, gave a payment to anyone who used it for agricultural purposes. We had reached the stage when no one thought the matter was serious but this agitation that it is a dirty political trick to bring this matter up for political purposes means that there is in the minds of those who bring it up and continue the lie the idea that there is something filthy in Malcolm Fraser receiving $5,000. Honourable senators opposite want to keep the issue alive for some purpose, which purpose is not clear now. They will not publicly admit to stabbing their leader in the back. Then they ask us whether we will disclose details of a person’s taxation and other things. We disclose all the grants which we give to private schools and to aged persons; we disclose most grants. After all, it was this Government which refused to disclose private information about amounts that people received by way of social security benefits. Before this Government came into power social security payments were open for every collecting agent in Australia to see. Mr Hayden put the clamp on the supplying of that information to anyone. Opposition senators have tried to use Senator Wheeldon in relation to Medibank and he has said that information concerning private individuals should be kept secret.
In the case of superphosphate it is a commercial operation and the Act entitles the Minister to information. We intend to disclose who has received the bounty. This question should be open to the public to scrutinise to see who received benefit. If honourable senators opposite can see anything wrong in Malcolm Fraser getting $5,000 in 1973-74 then they should keep up the agitation and make him embarrassed. They are not harming us. They should make him embarrassed because, firstly they see something wrong in him receiving the benefit, which another party dares to condemn, and secondly they want to see the issue on the front pages of the newspapers every day. I do not think this matter is assisting him in his campaign. It is only one of the matters which, with the assistance of his colleagues, will ensure that he will never get into government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill amends the Excise Tariff 1921-1974 in accordance with Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 (1975) introduced into the Parliament on 19 August last. The changes, which operate from 8 o’clock in the evening on Tuesday, 19 August 1975, give effect to the Government’s Budget measures within the excise field. Increased duties are imposed on beer, potable spirits and manufactured tobacco products and new duties of excise imposed on stabilised crude petroleum oil, liquid petroleum obtained from naturally occurring petroleum gas and liquefied petroleum gas obtained from unstabilised crude petroleum oil or from naturally occurring petroleum gas. A summary of the changes is being circulated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill enacts the export duties imposed on coal exported from Australia. The new duties are in accordance with Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Proposals 1975 which were introduced into the Parliament on 19 August last. The rate of duty imposed on high quality coking coal is $6 a tonne, while coal other than high quality coking coal will bear a duty of $2 a tonne. The duties, which operate from 8 o’clock in the evening on 19 August 1975, give effect to the Government’s Budget measures in relation to coal exported from Australia. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend provisions of the Customs Act 1901-1975 in relation to the duties imposed on coal exported from Australia. Section 114 of the Customs Act is being amended to require an exporter of coal to furnish information prior to exportation to establish the duty status of the coal to be exported in order that adequate arrangements can be made for the protection of the revenue. The amendment to section 133 of the Customs Act makes provision to permit an exporter of coal to make application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of decisions made by a collector concerning the classification of coal.
The provisions of section 152 enable alterations to be made to agreements for the sale or delivery of goods duty paid if any alteration takes place in the duty collected affecting those goods before they are exported. The honourable the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) indicated in his Budget Speech that the Government did not wish the export duty to be passed on to overseas buyers who have recently agreed to pay higher prices. The amendment to section 152 contained in this Bill withdraws the provision for increasing contract prices to take account of the new duty. The amendments will operate from 8 o’clock in the evening on 19 August 1975.I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Papua New Guinea Bill 1975, the Papua New Guinea Independence Bill 1975, the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1975, the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1 975 and the Social Services Bill (No. 2 ) 1 975 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of allor several of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only of every order for the reading of the Bills.
Debate resumed from 2 September on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The presentation of these Bills to the Senate marks the formal end of Australia’s responsibilities for the Territories of Papua and New Guinea and the commencement of the formal responsibility of the Government of the newly independent country of Papua New Guinea. I use the word ‘formal’ advisedly because over the past 12 years there has been an emerging responsibility by the local inhabitants of Papua New Guinea for the control of their own affairs. They have proceeded at a rapid pace through processes of self-government until on 16 September they formally become independent. But they assume on independence responsibilities in law which they have had for a number of years in fact. I think it is significant that these Bills should be appropriately marked by the recognition which is to be given to those many people who have contributed to the emergence of Papua New Guinea as a nation in circumstances which have not been marked by violent pressures on the part of the newly emerging country or in any way by resistance to the claims of nationhood by the country which had the responsibility in law for its government. It is a remarkable achievement in which I hope all parties in this Parliament and the people of Australia can take some satisfaction. Time will tell whether the discharge of the obligations which Australia took barely 30 years ago under the United Nations mandate are responsibilities which have been discharged in a way that will bring continuing peace and security to the peoples of the Territory. All we can say is that we hope that what Australia has been able to do has been worth while, of benefit, and that these people leave our control with some confidence for their future.
There are 5 Bills which are all short Bills, formal in one sense but very significant in another. The Papua New Guinea Independence Bill is, of course, the major Bill because it formally constitutes the act by Australia under which we acknowledge we no longer possess sovereignty and it is the measure by which the new nation finds itself on its own with a constitution of its own creation. It is an interesting Bill legally, but this is not the appropriate occasion to discuss either the intricate meanings of section 122 of the Constitution insofar as questions of divestiture by Australia are concerned or to contemplate the formal origins by which a country gives legitimacy to its Constitution or the other form by which it assumes nationhood.
The Papua New Guinea Independence Bill is a Bill which marks the end of Australia’s responsibility. The Papua New Guinea Bill is a Bill which ensures that the uninhabited islands to the east of Papua New Guinea are formally within the sovereignty and control of Papua New Guinea, at least insofar as an Act of the Australian Parliament can make them. The Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill is a Bill which conveniently transfers to Australia the responsibility which has been existing for the past 2 years and under which Australian citizens in Papua New Guinea have been working within the control and under the direction of the local Government. As the Minister’s second reading speech indicates, it is entirely appropriate that those persons should now have responsibility for them assumed by the Australian Government. The Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill is a Bill which simply transfers Australia’s guarantee for the moneys raised by the earlier Government of Papua New Guinea to the new nation of Papua New Guinea. The Social Services Bill, of course, is a Bill under which those Australian citizens who have resided in the Territory and who now come to Australia will have their period of service in the Territory counted as a qualifying period for the receipt of social security payments in Australia. To those Bills the Opposition offers no objection.
I return to one of the Bills because in that Bill, short as it is, there is recorded very interestingly the history of Australia’s development of responsibilities in regard to these 2 Territories. I consider it appropriate to refer to the preamble to the Bill, which is described as a Bill for an Act relating to the attainment of independence by Papua New Guinea. I propose to read the preamble and to interpolate where necessary such comment as might be appropriate. The first part of the preamble states:
Whereas certain territories and islands formerly constituting the Possession of British New Guinea and placed by the Crown under the authority of Australia were administered by Australia under the Papua Act 1 905-1 940 as the Territory of Papua:
I stop there to indicate that part of the eastern half of that island which we know as Papua New Guinea was always part of Australia. The Territory of Papua was joined at a later stage with the Territory of New Guinea, which was held first under mandate from the League of Nations and then under trusteeship from the United Nations as one territory to be administerd by the one administering authority. It is significant to note, as the preamble indicates, that Australia is formally giving to a part of its own Territory not simply self government but independence. The second part of the preamble states:
And whereas, in accordance with a Mandate under the Covenant of the League of Nations, certain territories and islands, being former German possessions, were administered by Australia under the New Guinea Act 1920-1935 as the Territory of New Guinea:
That relates to the fact that Australia assumed the mandate under the League of Nations after the war which took place between 1914 and 1918 and after the previous German colonisers had been ousted from that Territory. The preamble continues:
And whereas Australia’s administration of the Territory of Papua became subject to Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations:
And whereas, in accordance with Chapter XII of that Charter, the General Assembly of the United Nations on 13 December 1946 approved the terms of a Trusteeship Agreement for the Territory of New Guinea, submitted to it by the Government of Australia, in substitution for the terms of the
Mandate, which Agreement designates the Government of Australia as the sole Authority to exercise the administration of the Territory of New Guinea:
– May I interrupt merely to have the honourable senator enlarge my mind. Does the Constitution give power to the Government to cede a portion of Australian Territory?
– I think that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raises for the lawyers a fascinating legal question. Whatever may be the doubts, I think that the course which is clearly to be taken is the course of assuming that the power of the Commonwealth to grant independence to its territories must be taken to be implied. It would be, I think, an intolerable situation if the power were not to be there. I think it is consistent with the wishes of both the Territory of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Australia that the action which is being taken by these Bills should be taken.
– But there is an implied caveat?
-There is no express wording, to answer Senator Sir Magnus Cormack expressly, which would permit this to be done, as I recall the relevant provision of the Constitution. But it would be entirely appropriate in the circumstances in which Australia assumed control over this Territory that it should be able to divest itself of the control as required.
I was adverting to that aspect of the preamble which dealt with the assumption by Australia of the trusteeship obligation with regard to the Territory of New Guinea. Article 76 of the Chaner of the United Nations sets out the basic objectives of the trusteeship system, and I think it is relevant to note the obligation which Australia assumed at the time it received this trusteeship to see how in fact we have discharged the terms of those objectives. Article 76 states as its obligations:
The basic objectives of the trusteeship system, in accordance with the Purposes of the United Nations laid down in Article 1 of the present Charter, shall be:
to further international peace and security;
to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards selfgovernment or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement;
to encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion, and to encourage recognition of the interdependence of the peoples of the world; and
to ensure equal treatment in social, economic, and commercial matters for all Members of the United Nations and their nationals, and also equal treatment for the latter in the administration of justice, without prejudice to the attainment of the foregoing objectives and subject to the provisions of Article 80.
So Australia accepted, in its acceptance of its obligation, a policy to develop the Territory and to develop the aspirations of the people of that territory to a point where they would determine the type of future which they wanted. We accepted a trusteeship obligation from the United Nations in effect to promote self government in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of that Territory. There was a constant assertion by the Liberal and Country Party governments which had the responsibility for 23 years of, I think, the 30-year period of the trusteeship obligation that independence would occur as and when the people of the Territory decided that they wanted their independence. I suppose it fell to chance that in the period of office of the present Government the assumption which was undertaken, in the first part by an earlier Labor government should reach culmination.
I think Australia can say with some satisfaction that at all stages it was a step in advance of the thinking and the aspirations of the local people so that the frame and the scheme which were laid down were ready to meet the events which were developing in the Territory. One cannot foretell the future of the people of Papua New Guinea. He would be an imprudent man who said too much about the future, because there are many and great problems. We hope that a basis has been established upon which progress and development can ensue. In terms of the way in which the wishes of the people were expressed, it is interesting to recall that the first House of Assembly was established in 1963. There had been, as I think it was described, a Legislative Council until 1963, when the first election was held. Some will remember the saga of that election, as revealed on film. Others- I think there may be one in this chamber- who were present and participated in the work at the time would know the effort and the enterprise which went into a completely new concept.
A House of Assembly was elected in quite remarkable circumstances in a country in which the concept of election had not previously been experienced. I think the present House is the third House of Assembly in the Territory. Each of the Houses of Assembly contributed to the ongoing of self-government. I think the Toliman resolution in 1964 was the first resolution which affirmed that it would be the members of the House of Assembly who would decide questions of self-government and independence. A second resolution was passed in 1969 by the House of Assembly which asserted that the time of selfgovernment and independence was for the people of Papua New Guinea to decide. I think the third resolution, in 1970, was that questions relating to changes in the Papua New Guinea Act or changes in the constitutional structure of Papua New Guinea were for the members of the House of Assembly to determine. I think the final resolution, in the middle of 1974, was that steps should be taken which would lead inexorably to the independence which will take place on 16 September. So I think it is fair to say that at all stages the decisions which were arrived at were consistent with the obligation which Australia took under the United Nations charter that decisions would be in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people.
I would have thought, in what was generally a completely bipartisan approach by the parties which have alternated in government in Australia towards the question of independence for Papua New Guinea, there was only one area in which there might have been any fluctuation or difference. I refer to the events which occurred in 1 970 as to whether or not the target which was being set for the people of Papua New Guinea was the target date which they would have set if they had been left to make a decision without targets being put before them. I do not elaborate upon that matter because it is part of the history, and there is no question that target dates were assumed. After 1970, and generally, there has been an adherence to the targets which were set. The preamble to which I was referring continues:
AND WHEREAS the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949 provided for the administration of the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea by Australia in an administrative union, by the name of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, whilst maintaining the identity and status of the Territory of New Guinea as a Trust Territory and the identity and status of the Territory of Papua as a Possession of the Crown:
AND WHEREAS on 18 November 1963 a House of Assembly was established by the Papua and New Guinea Act 1963 to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
AND WHEREAS by virtue of the Papua New Guinea Act 1971, the Territories governed in the Administrative union became together known as Papua New Guinea:
That takes the self-government process up to those significant steps which took place in 1 97 1 . 1 think it is fair to say that the real push and drive towards self-government occurred in the late 1 960s and received their culmination in the effective grant of self-government by those steps which took place in 1971. I recall that 3 select committees of the House of Assembly contributed towards the process of constitution making in the Territory. I know that Senator Chaney would not like me to emphasise this point, but I recall discussions with him about this matter. I first met him in New Guinea when he was a young legal officer there. He was the secretary of the first of those select committees. It is coincidental that he should be a member of this chamber when these Bills are being discussed. He was but one of a host of dedicated young people, some of whom spent short periods, others longer periods, in the Territory of Papua New Guinea doing a job which I hope would be regarded as one which reflected great credit on the governments of Australia. The select committees played their role. There were various seminars and conferences which were arranged in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s at which the people of Australia, including the present Governor-General, interested themselves intensely in the form which the ultimate independence of Papua New Guinea would take.
There was a growth and extension of the role of civil authority and the acceptance of law throughout the Territory of Papua New Guinea. I think it ought to be acknowledged that until approximately 4 years ago there were no indigenous lawyers in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Australian lawyers and Australian judges extended the rule of law throughout parts of Papua New Guinea which in some cases had not seen a white face prior to the early 1 950s. They had a tremendous and creditable record of achievement. These events are part of the process by which the development of Papua New Guinea took place. At the same time there was an increasing and a recognised increasing, interest by the United Nations and its Trusteeship Committee, through periodic tours of inspection of the Territory, in the way in which self-government was developing. It played its part in the impetus which was given to moves which otherwise may not have occurred.
In mid- 1970 wider responsibilities were transferred from the Administrator to the Administrator’s Executive Council. I think that was a significant step forward in self-government, because for a range of matters which extended from taxation and education to a host of other matters the decisions were to be made by the people in the Territory. From that stage onwards, both by statute in Australia and by steps which were gradually assumed by the people in Papua New Guinea, government was devolving increasingly upon the local people. I continue with the preamble:
AND WHEREAS on 9 July 1974 the House of Assembly resolved that Papua New Guinea move to independent nation status:
AND WHEREAS the General Assembly of the United Nations on 13 December 1974 noted that resolution and resolved that, on the date on which Papua New Guinea became independent, the Trusteeship Agreement would cease to be in force:
AND WHEREAS on 18 June 1975 the House of Assembly nominated 16 September 1975 as the date on which Papua New Guinea is to become independent:
AND WHEREAS on 16 September 1975 Papua New Guinea is to become an independent sovereign state by the name of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, having a constitution established, adopted and given to themselves by the people of Papua New Guinea acting through their Constituent Assembly:
BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED by the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives of Australia . . .
That is the procedure under which Papua New Guinea will acquire its independence. I have taken time to deal with these matters because I believed it was appropriate not to let the occasion pass as purely a desultory occasion. I think it is a significant step because Australia, having assumed an obligation, is now discharging it. But in the course of the discharging of that obligation I think Australia has been well served, as I believe the people of Papua New Guinea have been well served, by the persons who have contributed to the result which is about to emerge on 16 September. When one considers the Administrators of Papua New Guinea going back before the present Administrator- Sir Hubert Murray, Sir Donald Cleland, Mr David Hay and Mr Les Johnson- one acknowledges that the persons who assumed that position were persons who gave tremendous dedication to that Territory.
There was a whole host of dedicated Australians, some of whom I have mentioned, and a whole host of dedicated people in the departments, in particular in the Department of the Interior and the Department of External Territories, who gave an enormous amount of their energy and skills to the emerging of selfgovernment in Papua New Guinea. Of course, there was a host of Australians, some of whom still remain there today, who played their part in the passing scene of an earlier Papua New Guinea. I can only say that Australia owes to all of them a great debt of gratitude. We only hope that the work which they have set in motion will, on the independence of this Territory, be work which brings forth the fruit which they hoped that it would.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise to inform the
Senate that the National Country Party of Australia will support these 5 Bills. Senator Greenwood has traversed the events leading up to this historic occasion, and I do not propose to go over that area. I should like to make a few points. There is no doubt that because of the size of Papua New Guinea and its geographical situation in relation to Australia, it is of great importance to us. There is no doubt that the new nation of Papua New Guinea will have great problems. Mr Somare has shown that he is a very capable leader, but in a nation that has 500 different tribes and different dialects -
– Seven hundred.
– Well, seven hundred, it is quite obvious that there will be real problems in maintaing unity within that country. I believe that even after 16 September when independence is granted to Papua New Guinea, Australia will still have a part to play- maybe in an advisory role- to assist Papua New Guinea to be able to continue and prosper as a new nation. I believe also that Australia has a role to play on the financial side in assisting the new nation of Papua New Guinea to attain its aspirations. I believe that anything that we may do in Papua New Guinea will be a very good investment for the future. It would be a tragedy if a nation with doubtful intentions towards peaceful coexistence in South-East Asia- I refer particularly to some of the communist regimes to the northwere to make Papua New Guinea financially dependent on it. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in his second reading speech said:
It should never be forgotten that in making our own former colony independent, we as Australians enhance our own independence. Australia was never truly free until Papua New Guinea became truly free.
I am one who would hate to see the situation in which Papua New Guinea became financially or otherwise dependent on some other nation that may threaten that particular independence. That is why I believe that whatever government is in power in Canberra, it has a responsibility to ensure that the new nation of Papua New Guinea does not become dependent on some other power. It is our responsibility, in the main, to ensure that Papua New Guinea is assisted in every possible way. Of course, north Queensland, which is the area from which I come, has a particular interest in this regard because parts of the Queensland territory extend within a few hundred yards of the Papua New Guinea mainland. Our own Queensland people, the Torres Strait Islanders, have their future, as they put it, with Queensland. We have a responsibility to see that their future is assured. With those few words I, on behalf of the National Country Party, have much pleasure in supporting these 5 Bills.
-Mr Deputy President, I wish to raise a few points. I think it is a pity that some of the notes that have been introduced into this debate by the 2 previous speakers should have been introduced. I think that we ought to return to the substance of the Bills. I shall quote some paragraphs dealing with two of the major Bills in the second reading speech which was delivered in this chamber by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). This is what he said in relation to the Papua New Guinea Bill 1975:
The legislation which I now introduce is historic- for Papua New Guinea, for Australia, and for the European civilisation from which we Australians spring. For this is almost the last episode in the great post-war, post-imperial exercise of European decolonisation. By an extraordinary twist of history, Australia- herself once a colony- became one of the world’s last colonial powers. By this legislation, we not only divest ourselves of the last significant colony in the world, but divest ourselves of our own colonial heritage. It should never be forgotten that in making our own former colony independent, we as Australians enhance our own independence. Australia was never truly free until Papua New Guinea became truly free.
In referring to the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1975 he said:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the continuation of the Australian Government guarantee, provided for in section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-1975, in respect of loans raised by the Papua New Guinea Government from Australia and P.N.G. sources prior to independence until such time as the loans in question have matured and been repaid. I would mention that loans Papua New Guinea has raised from overseas sources are guaranteed until final maturity under separate legislation. The guarantees to be continued by this legislation and those provided in respect of overseas borrowings have assisted Papua New Guinea in undertaking its borrowing programs.
Then in referring to the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1975 he said:
The purpose of this Bill is … to introduce the new staffing aid arrangements which have recently been agreed between the Australian Government and the Papua New Guinea Government.
I think that we should go back just a little in history. No doubt the Territory will become known after 16 September, which is less than 2 weeks away, as Papua New Guinea. I have travelled through various parts of what was then known as the Territory over a period of years and I think I can truthfully say that the people themselves wanted, in fact needed, independence and they wanted to set their own date. There seems to be a feeling in the Opposition that the Australian
Labor Government has precipitated the declaration of independence. That is not so. The Chief Minister, Mr Somare, and his Ministers had many discussions in their own Cabinet and with their own people, before they agreed upon a certain line of action. They decided when independence was going to take place. I believe that this Government and this country ought to be the first to support them in that respect.
Some rather unfortunate experiences occurred during the 20-odd years that another political body controlled the government of this country. We had the unfortunate experiences that occurred under Mr Barnes, who was a member of the Country Party and who was quite determined- I do not know whether he was fully backed by his colleagues, but they certainly did not disagree with him- to keep the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, as it was then, as a colony for an indefinite period. A few moments ago Senator Maunsell raised one of the very vital things with which this country will have to deal. He made a vague reference to the communist countries to the north. I am not quite sure to whom or what he was referring. I do not know whether he was referring to President Marcos or to someone else. When he was challenged to produce names he could not produce them. One of the main worries with which this country will have to contend is not the communist countries to the north but the tentacles of the financial octopus of Japan and other countries, none of which is associated with communism, which have spread throughout Papua New Guinea. Australia ought to accept the responsibility over a period of time of conferring with the people in relation to trade and of keeping up the supply of overseas aid. We have been endeavouring to do that and I hope that we will continue to do that.
– What are the dimensions of aid?
– I do not think that anybody can set out in clear and specific terms at this point in history the amount of financial aid that is going to be given on an annual basis, during a triennium or even over a longer period. 1 think that would need to be the subject of consultation between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Australia. If there is a change of government in this country in the next 20 years, I hope that the role of friendship will continue to be played insofar as the people of Papua New Guinea are concerned.
– What about in the next 20 months?
– If there is an election in the next couple of months Senator Wright will be out of this Parliament and in receipt of an age pension, so he will not have to worry about what Party is in power. (Quorum formed). I am sorry that Senator Wright precipitated that little problem. For the benefit of the Opposition senators who have just returned to the chamber, I point out that I was mentioning that if an election were precipitated in the next couple of months Senator Wright would not be back here because he would be on the age pension. I presume that Senator Wright decided to draw attention to the state of the House because he wanted to have members of the Opposition Parties around him. I do not want to go on at length about these Bills. I am very proud to be associated with the passage of these Bills, having been one of those persons who have visited the Territory frequently over a period of 30 years, and who has many good friends not only within the Pangu Party but also in other political organisations in Papua New Guinea. I am absolutely delighted to see that at long last that country is coming to nationhood, but I again emphasise the warning I have given that the people of Papua New Guinea need our friendship and our assistance. Regardless of what may be our station in life in Australia, there is a very big responsibility resting upon the people of this nation to ensure that Papua New Guinea goes forward in a spirit of progress and of friendship with this country. In terms of business investment, I think that we ought to assist the newly independent country in every way possible by providing government help and government finance from this country if necessary. The people of Papua New Guinea have been subjected to a rip-off by some unscrupulous business firms and by some unscrupulous countries including this country in days gone by, for almost 100 years. That has to stop. Papua New Guinea is a grown-up nation. Its people are a proud people. If we continue our spirit of friendship and mutual co-operation and assistance, Papua New Guinea will go on to be a very proud country in the almost immediate future.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (4. 1 1 )- Earlier this afternoon the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) made threatening noises that the suspension of the sitting of the Senate today would be delayed unless these 5 Bills were passed this afternoon. As a senator, I am not prepared to be threatened by any Manager of Government Business in this House. These Bills were introduced in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr
Whitlam) on 20 August. They were not brought on For debate by the Leader of the House in the House of Representatives until last week. They were not brought on for debate in this chamber until today. I issue this caution: I am prepared to defend the right of my colleagues, under the provisions of the Standing Orders and the procedures of this House, to raise certain matters this morning in the debate on the motion for the first reading of a money Bill. Honourable senators are entitled to deal with such matters if they wish to do so. Whether I approve of what they say is another matter. The point is that any honourable senator has the right under the Standing Orders to do certain things, and I consider it to have been utterly and completely uncalled for for Senator Douglas McClelland to come in here and make threatening noises about what would happen to honourable senators if they did not do something or other.
– Some Ministers then took up an hour of the time this afternoon.
-Apart from that, Senator Douglas McClelland has the habit of using personal pronouns like a pepper pot is used in hand of a lavish chef. It takes Senator Douglas McClelland about 20 minutes to say what could be said in a few minutes and he makes so many interventions and uses so many personal pronouns that one loses the sense of what he is talking about.
A great number of florid speeches have been made about this tremendously important occasion on which the people of Papua New Guinea are to have power transferred to them that will enable them to become independent. There are certain sour matters involved in this. I am not going to agree with some of the observations made by members of my Party in another place, but I want to reaffirm something that I said some years ago. There has been a forced draught process of trying to bring Papua New Guinea to a state of independence as a result of pressures from the United Nations. In the characteristic way in which the United Nations goes about these matters it has said that the inability of a people to govern themselves is no reason why their independence should be withheld. Under this forced draught system of pressure from the United Nations the people of Papua New Guinea have the best independence that money can buy for them. The way we have pumped money into that place reminds me of turning a hose onto an ash pit- the more water one pours into it the faster it disappears. There is very little left in terms of what might be called a social infrastructure in Papua New Guinea as distinct from a material infrastructure in the form of ports, harbours, jetties, bridges and roads.
I have had a jaundiced view about this whole process since 1965 when I wrote a report for the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I made the forecast that 1974 would be the last year in which Australia could beneficially affect the people of Papua New Guinea and that from 1974 onwards the problem presented by Papua New Guinea to Australia would be of an infinitely greater dimension than the problem it had presented in the past 10 years. I make this forecast, regretfully and with no pleasure: In the next 10 years Papua New Guinea will present greater problems to Australia than it has presented under the forced draught system by which we have brought it to independence.
The basic problem is that Papua New Guinea is not an entity. It is a group of islands which are widely separated by water- in some periods by stormy waters- and the people are socially almost untouched. In other words, the new nation of Papua New Guinea which we are ushering into independence in the next fortnight is what I describe as a centrifugal nation. I mean that it is involved in centrifugal forces; the outliers tend to fly off tangentially. This is what is already happening in the island of Bougainville. The people of Bougainville, for example, are not Papua New Guineans in the sense that we understand the term. They are Solomon Islanders. Their culture and their social contacts are all with the Solomon Island people. I do not think that the new nation of Papua New Guinea and its present Ministry realise the seriousness of the situation that is now developing in Bougainville.
I wish to make one point perfectly clear. If there is any attempt by any government of Australia least of all the present Government- to have us sucked into providing a system of forces in order to bring the centrifugal island of Bougainville back into the new nation, I am not going to be in the deal. I will use all the pressure and all the capacity I have to see that we are not involved. If the United Nations is so anxious to bring this nation into being hurriedly- too hurriedly I believe- then the United Nations has to solve this problem and not Australia. The United Nations is the architect; we are only the builders.
I wish to make a couple of observations about matters that were raised in the other place. Members of my Party in the other place complained that Australia was behaving in a mean way towards the people of Papua New Guinea by making sure that the amount required under one of these Bills which relates to the golden handshake, as it is sometimes called, to be given to all the people who served that country for a long time honestly, with great courage and under enormous hardship will be part of the aid program. Therefore, it is not aid. The fact is that there were 2 options open to the Australian Government. One was that the departure of Australians from Papua New Guinea should carry with it the responsibility of the new nation at least to maintain the pensions of the people who had served that country. I am referring to the expatriates who have been displaced by what has been referred to as localisation.
There is a long history about this. Any public servant of high order and any politician of some knowledge would realise, for example, that in the end on every occasion when attempts have been made to see that the expatriate officers who have been working in a country which has attained independence have been guaranteed their pension from that country to which they have contributed for most of their lives, have not been paid. The Irish Republic, for example, despite the Treaty of 1921, refused to pay the annuities to its expatriates after a few years. This situation applied also in India and Pakistan. The pension rates of the public servants who served there were not maintained. The only other option open- there are many illustrations of this- was for Australia itself to ensure that the expatriates who had worked in Papua New Guinea all their lives, some of them having been third generation people, had their pension rights protected. What happened, in essence, was that Australia said that Papua New Guinea otherwise would have to pay so many millions of dollars a year towards the pensions of these expatriates; so Australia would pay the pensions and would carry out this obligation which in ethical, commercial and industrial terms Papua New Guinea should accept. So it is of no good the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea- I assume he will be the Prime Minister on 17 September- complaining that he has been unfairly treated. From the facts that have begun to emerge, it is quite clear that the Chief Minister and his Treasurer were well informed of this some time ago.
This leads me to another matter which is of concern to me. I think the Government has been perfectly correct in making the Ministry of Papua New Guinea realise that it has an obligation to accept some of the responsibilities of independence; that is, they will have to learn to stand on their own feet and not become a mendicant society. The sooner the people of Papua New
Guinea learn this lesson the better it will be for them in the end.
I have a very bitter complaint to make. We have seen sloppy financing going on in this place during the last 2 years. I refer honourable senators to the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill. That Bill relates to the guarantee of loans that have been raised by the future nation of Papua New Guinea. The Bill will provide for a statutory guarantee by Australia in respect of repayment, on and after the date on which Papua New Guinea attains independence. This is a very short Bill. It contains only 4 clauses. Clause 4 of the Bill states:
Any amount payable by Australia in pursuance of this Act is payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.
I hope the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), who is in charge of these Bills, will dignify the Senate by telling us what loans we are called upon to guarantee. Surely this Bill, in terms of parliamentary propriety, should have had a schedule attached to it to show what the Parliament is being asked to appropriate. What is it being asked to appropriate? How much money is involved? What loans are involved? When do those loans fall due? This measure represents an abandonment of normal parliamentary practice. I think the Leader of the Government should acknowledge this and should at least inform this Senate, which has constitutional responsibility in respect of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, what is involved in what appears now to be an open ended Bill.
I will not detain the Senate much longer. I wish the people of Papua New Guinea good fortune. They will need more than money; they will need fortitude. I am sure that we will give them the greatest amount of encouragement we can. For the love of Heaven, do not let us get sucked into dealing with matters when elements of fragmentation begin to develop. There is no unity in mind, no racial unity or unity by social contact, for example, between the people of Bougainville and New Britain. They constantly refer to each other in opprobrious terms. The people of New Britain are always demanding that they should have their independence.
Finally, there exists over the border in West Irian a menacing power. Secretly, the Indonesian Republic has never given up hopes that finally the island will be united and under its control. I think most honourable senators understand that situation. I conclude with those remarks. Time should have been provided for a far longer discussion on matters relating to the transfer of power. At this late stage of the afternoon honourable senators either have to remain seated or shorten the observations they are justly entitled to make.
– I wish to make only a brief contribution to this debate. Senator Greenwood gave me very generous mention in his remarks on the various Bills relating to Papua New Guinea that are before the Senate. It is because of my very brief contact with the Territory, a period of some 2 years in the mid-1960s, that I wish to make at least some expression of goodwill to Papua New Guinea as it moves into independence. I agree that there are many issues about what has been done in the past and what might have to be done in the future which could be debated in this Parliament but it seems to me that this is not a particularly appropriate time to enter into any debate which might cast doubts on the job which has been done already. For better or worse New Guinea is what it has been made by us, by geography and by its people and there is nothing we can do now to change the situation. I am sure that all honourable senators would be of one mind in hoping that our colonial experiment has been a successful one.
The point I wish to make to the Senate is that it should not be forgotten that Australia’s colonial history involved a very great contribution by a lot of Australians. The thing which probably impressed me most in the period I was there was the personal contribution made by many individuals, some in senior positions and some in relatively low positions. The dedication and intelligence of a great number of the people I saw living in New Guinea, people who had been there for many years and many of whom have stayed there through to independence, far exceeded my expectations. I went there at a stage when youth tends to make one extremely critical of the job other people are doing. Although there were Australian public servants who fell below the standard of conduct we might have hoped for, in the main I found there a level of dedication far beyond my expectations. I would like to pay tribute to the Australians who made possible the colonial administration of New Guinea and who I think- or I hope- have set New Guinea off to a reasonable start as an independent country.
The disputes which might exist currently about such things as the generosity of the Australian Government in its grants henceforth are very subjective questions which we could debate at great length. I am inclined to think that any absence of generosity which might have been complained about has its positive side in that the very real difficulties which New Guineans are going to have in living within their economic means will only be exacerbated if we are too generous in the future. At the same time I hope we will continue to support the country for which we have been responsible for so many years. I hope all honourable senators join with me in expressing gratitude to the Australians who left the more comfortable life in Australia, over a long period of years, worked in New Guinea, often under very difficult circumstances, and enabled governments here in Canberra to make decisions and see them put into operation.
– Like Senator Chaney, I intend to be very brief. I rise merely because of my previous very close association with the people of Papua New Guinea. Probably for a short time I had a closer association than most people in this Parliament as I served with the Pacific Islands Regiment. There I learnt to appreciate the tremendous loyalty and steadfastness that I experienced in the people with whom I associated. I recall Senator Greenwood saying that no one can foretell the future, and no one can. It would be foolish for us today, when considering this rather momentous legislation, to ignore the problems that face the people and Government of Papua New Guinea. I refer to the problem of Bougainville and other problems that may arise. We can only wish them well and hope that the work done by Australia over many years, and the Australians who served so loyally in Papua and New Guinea, will bear fruit.
Like Senator Chaney, I wish to pay a tribute to those Australians, many of whom I knew personally, who served as district commissioners and patrol officers. In the early days of the 1 920s and 1930s they endured great hardship and showed tremendous courage in bringing some semblance of law and order in opening up the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Many of their stories are epics and should be better known today. I think it would be remiss of us in this Parliament if we did not pay tribute to the great sense of responsibility and obligation shown by so many Australians for so long in the service of Papua and New Guinea. I think we should not let that service pass without acknowledgment in this Parliament.
I agree with much of what was said by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and Senator Chaney. We know there are great problems of national unity. However, there is little we can do now as the responsibility rests with the Government of Papua New Guinea. However, no Australian needs be ashamed of the part Australia and Australians played in Papua and New Guinea. One hopes and trusts that self-government and independence in Papua New Guinea will be successful. If it is, then to a great measure it will be due to those Australians in all walks of life, in the Public Service and elsewhere who served the Territory of Papua New Guinea and the tremendous work they did there. I think this Parliament should pay due tribute to them.
– in reply- I am sure all members of the Parliament support the legislation now passing through the Senate. This point is the culmination of many years of effort not only by this Government but also by our predecessors in working steadily and purposefully towards self-government for Papua New Guinea. I am sure that all of us have some thoughts about problems which will arise in that country. They will arise inevitably because no country can develop without problems in such a short space of time from a comparatively primitive society in the parliamentary and constitutional sense. Even with all the assistance that has been given and all the goodwill in the world Papua New Guinea must find problems ahead which will be very difficult. One of them was raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack when he referred to the present disturbances on Bougainville. This is a matter which will remain the responsibility of the Government of Papua New Guinea. I am sure that the Australian Government, no matter of what political colour, will give every assistance in the form of advice to the Government of Papua New Guinea in order to overcome problems of that nature which inevitably will arise.
There are only two or three matters upon which I wish to comment very quickly. Senator Maunsell referred to other countries moving into Papua New Guinea. I am quite sure that it is the responsibility and the right of the Government of Papua New Guinea to decide what countries will invest there or provide aid programs for it. We in Australia, of course, will continue our aid programs in accordance with the undertaking that was given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his statement of February 1974. He made it quite clear that Papua New Guinea can count on continuing to receive substantial amounts of aid from Australia over the next 3 years to underpin its new improvement program and to assist Papua New Guinea in the early years after independence. On the basis of present indications a united Papua New Guinea can proceed on the assumption that Australia will provide a total of at least $500m for expenditure on economic and social aid in one form or another over the 3-year period commencing 1 974-75. 1 think it is quite clear that we as a nation are committed to continuing those aid programs to Papua New Guinea which will be essential to the continued economic and social development of the country.
The only other matter on which I thought I should comment was raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. It concerns details of loans. Of course this matter is the substance of the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill. It guarantees loans which have been raised either in Papua New Guinea or Australia over the years. I believe that is a fair inquiry. It is fair that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack should seek that information. I am unable to give it to him now because it comes within the ambit of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden). I will undertake to obtain details of all the loans in which we will be involved in guarantee arrangements. I will provide the information to the honourable senator as soon as practicable.
– Perhaps the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill could be deferred until next week. That will not affect the rest of the Bills. I think, in terms of parliamentary propriety, that perhaps the Leader of the Government in the Senate should consider bringing down a schedule. I suppose no one will oppose the Bill in any circumstances, but I think a schedule should be attached to the Bill. That is up to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I think to regularise the matter, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate has closed the debate, that that query should be raised during the Committee stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time, and together passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move:
The Opposition moves for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 135 with regard to the Health Insurance Act. This is a somewhat complex matter which has been the basis of discussion between the Opposition and the Government. We are moving for the disallowance of this Statutory Rule because we believe that some consequences which arise from it may not have been the intention of the Government. Statutory Rules No. 135 purports to provide that in respect of the service rendered to a patient in a public ward in the hospitals set out in Schedule 2 the organisation having control of each hospital is a prescribed organisation for the purposes of section 17 ( 1 ) (b) of the Health Insurance Act. Part II of the Health Insurance Act provides for the pay ment of medical benefits, being 85 per cent of a specified fee or, in particular cases, an amount which is $5 less than the specified fee in respect of medical expenses incurred because of professional services, that is, medical services. This is found in section 10. Medical benefits are payable to the actual person who incurred the expenses in respect of the medical services under section 20. Section 20 then provides various ways in which the person entitled to the benefit can receive or assign it. But section 17 of the Act provides 3 circumstances where the medical benefit it not payable. One circumstance is where the hospital is entitled to the medical expenses. A second circumstance is in respect of medical services where the medical practitioner who performed the services was acting on behalf of a prescribed organisation. Section 17 also provides that the medical benefit is not payable in respect of a medical service if any part of the service was rendered on the premises of a prescribed organisation.
The consequence of Statutory Rule No. 135 in the light of section 17 ( 1) (b) is that at each of the hospitals set out in the Schedule to Statutory Rule No. 135 no medical benefit is payable if any part of the medical service to which the benefit relates was rendered at the hospital. It seems to the Opposition that this is not what the draftsman of the regulation intended. We believe that the Government did not intend this to be the effect of the regulation. It seemed that it was intended that the restriction should apply in respect of public ward accommodation as appears from the first 3 lines of new clause 2AE. It is equally clear from the express words that the regulation is made only for the purposes of section 17(1) (b). The unfortunate fact is that it also must apply to section 17 (1) (c) by virtue, not of the regulation, but of the Act. lt is highly probable that the interpretation will be limited to section 1 7 ( 1 ) (b) in practical terms and that this will be the basis of administration so that nonpublic ward patients in such hospitals will probably be paid medical benefits in respect of their expenses.
We believe that we should proceed with the disallowance of the regulation. I shall outline what would be the effect of the disallowance and what would be the effect if it were not disallowed. Briefly, the effect of the disallowance would mean that medical benefits would be payable if public ward patients were charged for any medical services rendered by a doctor. There would be no valid prohibition upon such benefits being paid. Of course, if the regulation were disallowed or if it were about to be disallowed steps could be taken by the Government to introduce another regulation in a different and more proper form which could avoid public ward patients being eligible to receive medical benefits. This would be done to inhibit surgeons from charging public patients. But unless a new regulation were made the effect of the disallowance would be to leave the position open for doctors to charge public ward patients knowing that such patients would be entitled to receive medical benefits.
If the regulation were not disallowed medical benefits would not be payable to the public ward patients in the hospitals listed in the Schedule to the regulation. As a matter of administration, I am led to believe, intermediate and private ward patients at the hospitals listed in the Schedule would be entitled to receive medical benefits. Therefore there would be no hindrance to them being charged for medical services by their doctors. It would be open, quite improperly in the view of the Opposition, at some future time for the Government to say that the aforesaid hospitals had all been made prescribed organisations under section 17(1) (b) and that therefore under section 17(1) (c) no medical benefits at all were payable in respect of services rendered on the premises. I doubt very much that this would happen. Having regard to the opening words of new clause 2ae this result is clearly not intended by the Government. I cannot say, however, that legally the intermediate and private patients could not be denied their medical benefits. In view of the outline of the consequences of the disallowance and the situation if the regulation were not disallowed, I believe that the proper course of action for us to take is to disallow this regulation. Then it is in the hands of the Government either to amend the regulation to put into effect the terms of the agreement on Medibank arrangements or to amend the Act itself to clarify the situation which has been outlined.
– I have had the opportunity to talk about this matter with Senator Guilfoyle and it does seem that there is some ambiguity about the regulation as it is presently worded. Certainly the intention of the regulation was to carry out the principles of Medibank and not to go beyond that. But it does seem that, at least in the minds of some of those who have read it, there is some ambiguity and that it would go beyond this. This was not the Government’s intention, nor would the Government have carried out the regulation to bring about those consequences outside the intentions of Medibank to which Senator Guilfoyle has referred. In the circumstances, the Government does not propose to vote against the proposition that the regulation be disallowed.
My own view is that it is more desirable to have matters dealt with by legislation than by regulation but it may be that in view of the problems that could arise in the short term it will be necessary to handle this matter, at least in the short term, by regulation rather than by legislation in case there is too long a gap. I am not sure whether this would be the case or not but I shall inquire into the matter. In any event, I think it is appropriate that a regulation which does have ambiguity and, I think, even the possibility of its being found invalid in the event of its being challenged, should be disallowed.” The Government will not oppose the motion which has been moved by Senator Guilfoyle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senate adjourned at 4.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2), (3) and (6) See my answer on 5 June 1975 (House of Representatives Hansard, page 3545).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750904_senate_29_s65/>.