30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 3081 electors of Queensland:
To the Honourable, the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of Queensland respectfully showeth:
That the three service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 395 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
- Mr President, I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees-Appointment
1 ) That legislative and general purpose standing committees be appointed and be known, unless otherwise ordered, as the standing committees on-
Constitutional and Legal Affairs;
Education and the Arts:
Foreign Affairs and Defence:
Trade and Commerce;
National Resources; and
Science and the Environment.
The standing committees appointed pursuant to paragraph ( 1 ) be empowered to inquire into and report upon such matters as are referred to them by the Senate, including any Bills, Estimates or statements of expenditure, messages, petitions, inquiries or papers, and, in addition, where applicable, have power to inquire into and report upon such matters as were referred to the legislative and general purpose standing committees appointed during previous sessions and not disposed of by those committees.
In considering matters referred to the legislative and general purpose standing committees during previous sessions, the committees have power to consider the minutes of evidence and records of those committees.
Each standing committee shall consist of six senators, three being members of the Government to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and three being senators who are not members of the Government, to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or by an independent senator.
5 ) The particular standing committees in respect of w which the Australian Labor Party or the Independents make nominations shall be determined by agreement between that Party and the Independents, and, in the absence of agreement duly notified to the President, the question as to the representation on any particular standing committee shall be determined by the Senate.
Each standing committee shall elect a Government member as Chairman.
The Chairman may from time to time appoint a member of the committee to be Deputy Chairman and the member so appointed shall act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.
In the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
The quorum of a committee shall be three.
10) A senator, though not a member of a standing committee, may participate in its public sessions and question witnesses, unless the committee orders otherwise, hut shall not vote.
Unless it be otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders, the reference of a matter to a standing committee shall be on motion after notice. Such notice of motion may be given-
in the usual manner when notices arc given at the beginning of the business ofthe day: or
at any other time by a senator-
stating its terms to the Senate, when other business is not before the chair; or
delivering a copy to the Clerk, who shall report it to the Senate at the first opportunity. any such notice of motion shall be placed on the notice paper for the next sitting day as ‘Business of the Senate’ and, as such, shall take precedence of Government and General Business set down Tor that day.
12) Unless otherwise ordered, matters referred to standing committees should relate to subjects which can be dealt with expeditiously.
13) A standing committee shall take care not to inquire into any matters which are being examined by a select committee of the Senate specially appointed to inquire into such matters and any question arising in connection therewith may be referred to the Senate for determination.
14) A standing committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider. The quorum of a sub-committee shall be two senators.
15) A standing committee or any sub-committee shall have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, and to meet and transact business in public or private session and notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives.
Unless otherwise ordered by the Senate, all records and all documents received by a committee during its inquiry shall remain in the custody of the Senate after the completion of that committee’s inquiry.
17) A standing committee may proceed to the despatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
Members of the public and representatives of the news media may attend and report any public session of a standing committee unless the committee otherwise orders.
19) A standing committee shall be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it. A daily Hansard shall be published of such proceedings of the committee as take place in public.
A standing committee shall be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and shall be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee, with the approval of the President.
2 1 ) A standing committee shall not meet while the Senate is actually sitting, unless by special order of the Senate.
22 ) A standing committee shall have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such recommendations as it may deem fit, and is expected to make regular reports as to the progress of the proceedings of the committee.
The Senate authorises the televising of public hearings of the committees, at the discretion of each such committee, and under such rules as the Senate may adopt.
The foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Reference of Annual Reports to Standing Committees
1 ) All annual reports of Government departments and authorities, including statutory corporations, laid on the table of the Senate, shall stand referred, without any question being put, for consideration and, if necessary, for report thereon, to the legislative and general purpose standing committees.
The President shall transmit a copy of each report so tabled to the committee which he deems appropriate.
The legislative and general purpose standing committees may, at their discretion, pursue or not pursue inquiries into reports so received; but any action necessary, arising from a report of a committee, shall be taken in the Senate on motion after notice.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1 972- 1 973.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he recalls the following comment in yesterday’s speech by the Governor-General:
The Government will not permit economic recovery to take place at the expense of those less well off.
How can the Government expect the Australian people to believe that statement in view of a whole series of cuts in expenditure- some of which have been announced and others not announced- which include the abolition of pensioner funeral benefits, increases in pharmaceutical benefits charges and attempts to frustrate wage indexation, to name a few, while at the same time investment allowances are introduced that will be of the greatest benefit to large businesses and at the expense of small businesses?
-Of course, the major problem that the Government has is to clean up the 3-year mess left by the previous Government. Obviously the Leader of the Opposition here is more interested in trying to make political capital than in seeing the great merit of the Government’s investment allowances policy, which is particularly designed not to help the rich but to get the unemployed back to work. Whether that is the Australian Labor Party’s view, I know not; but I do know that it went out of office with the highest unemployment in Australia’s history since the Depression, which was quite deliberately brought about by its economic mismanagement, and now it is complaining about the Government setting about trying to get 350 000 people back to work. I thought that the members of the Australian Labor Party in this Parliament were supposed to have some sort of contact with the trade union movement and the people at large who work in Australia, but it is quite obvious that they are nothing but a bunch of doctrinaire socialists who have no interest whatever in getting some 350 000 people re-employed in the Australian economy.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Can the Minister say what is the latest position regarding the establishment of a consortium of Japanese and Australian interests for the building of a 4- cylinder car engine in South Australia? Does the Minister foresee the establishment of such a consortium?
– This matter is under very detailed and careful study. I have seen all the principal manufacturers of motor cars in Australia, I have seen some of the unions and I have seen one of the principal Japanese firms involved in the consortium proposal. I expect to see the other one next Monday. Looking at the matter in total I would say that there is a need for clarity and definition in relation to motor vehicle manufacturing policy in Australia. We hope to have that established quite clearly by the end of March. One thing that is equally apparent is that the industry is suffering quite a bit from a lack of rationalisation. It is operating to some extent with excess capacity in a rather narrow market. In South Australia there is a very clear and identifiable dependence upon the motor vehicle industry for employment. The problem of the proposed consortium is to establish the proper considerations for the Chrysler foundry at Lonsdale. It is a good operation. It is highly mechanised. It is most impressive. The Government feels that there is wisdom in that consortium in one way or another getting into a state of reality, but it is also very much a matter for the sound commercial judgment of all the people involved. The Government has no wish to dictate the commercial policy of individuals in the market place; rather it wishes to clear up the area, to make it possible to establish long term policies and, having done that, to let the people concerned maximise their respective positions.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer agree that the new savings bonds, plus the $775m compulsory subscription that the trading banks had to put into bonds, mean that some $ 1,500m has gone into bonds recently? Is it a fact that this borrowing will cost the Government 10 per cent per annum or about $ 150 m a year in interest that will have to be paid by the taxpayer. I also ask is this not an enormous waste of money, particularly by a
Government which claims to be reining in expenditure, when it is known that borrowings from the Reserve Bank of Australia cost the Treasury nothing in interest because the profits of the Reserve Bank go back into Treasury funds?
– That was a highly confused set of questions, some of which argued against earlier ones. This is very much a matter of detailed policy considerations and of accurate analysis. I shall obtain the information for the honourable senator from the Treasury. In passing I observe that in 2 years the government of which the honourable senator was a supporter accumulated an over-expenditure of$7,000m by running the printing press and went a long way towards destroying Australia ‘s currency. It is that situation which we seek to remedy.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that next month the Royal Air Force will hand over control of the air base on the Maldive Islands to an independent government. Is he aware also that Gan occupies an important strategic position in the Indian Ocean? Is the Government aware of any steps to ensure that this important air base does not fall into hostile hands?
– I must confess to my friend and colleague Senator Sim that I am not aware that the Royal Air Force is to hand over a base in the Maldives. This highlights the importance of what was said in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech yesterday, namely that Australia wholeheartedly supports the building up by the United States of a naval capacity on the island of Diego Garcia, which admittedly is somewhat south of the Maldives but is certainly in the general area.
What will happen to the base on the Maldives after the Royal Air Force leaves is a matter about which I think Australia will have deep concern. Australia has a deep concern as to what is happening in the Indian Ocean. There is no doubt at all that it is a potential area of conflict, perhaps between the 2 Communist powers. It is an area over which a great deal of Australia’s overseas trade passes. Therefore it is a matter which the Government will always keep under consideration. For the honourable senator’s further benefit I shall see my colleague, the Honourable D. J. Killen, and get further information ifI can.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, arises out of the visits overseas by the royal commission on the maritime industry and, in particular, its 2 visits to Japan. Has Commissioner Summers yet tendered his report to the Governor-General on the terms of reference dealing with port administration and development? Because this aspect of the Commissioner’s report is of special significance to Tasmania, I ask: When does the Minister expect to be able to make it public?
-As far as I am aware that report has not yet been presented. If the commission is a royal commission the report will naturally go to the Governor-General. I do not know when it will be presented. I shall seek information and try to let the honourable senator know today.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, by pointing out that in the district of Geraldton in Western Australia several separate groups have raised many thousands of dollars for the purpose of housing old people. My question to the Minister is: Will the previous $4 for $1 matching grants be restored? If so, when?
-The question relates to the aged persons homes program. I do not quite understand the question which has been raised with regard to the $4 for $ 1 subsidy, which is the existing program. All funds that are available for this year have already been allocated. A considerable number of applications which would have approval in terms of the scheme are awaiting funding. At the appropriate time- that is, at Budget time next financial year- the funds will be made available and the approvals will then be given. The $4 for $ 1 subsidy is in existence at the present time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It concerns the Administrative Review Committee chaired by Sir Harry Bland. Will the Minister obtain an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Committee, in its examination of FederalState relations, pays particular attention to the paucity of Commonwealth Government expenditure being directed to the smaller States? I am particularly concerned about Commonwealth expenditure in the administrative and production areas of employment and believe that my State, Tasmania, is not receiving its fair share of this expenditure in the form of contracts, administrative services, etc. If this matter is not receiving consideration by the Administrative Review Committee, will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to direct the Committee to examine it?
-I will certainly accede to the honourable senator’s request and pass his inquiry on to the Prime Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has installation of an Omega navigation station commenced in eastern Australia? If not, when is construction likely to begin and what is the estimated date of completion? Is it not an essential part of the global atmospheric research project planned on an international basis for 1979? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Omega navigation station planned for Australia will be completed before the commencement of the global atmospheric research project in 1979? Following the recent report of a parliamentary committee, have all impediments to the construction of Omega navigation stations in Australia now been adequately overcome? If not, what impediments remain?
– This is an interesting occasion to make a comment. As a Minister in the Senate, one represents many other Ministers in addition to oneself. Some of the questions directed to one are, of course, of a complex, technical nature. What honourable senators need to consider is whether they want a detailed, careful answer or an answer which a Minister can give from the state of his current knowledge. To the best of my current knowledge, the Omega proposition goes forward. I have some little understanding of it and its importance to navigation. Beyond that, I am no expert and I shall obtain for the honourable senator a proper set of answers.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Minister for National Resources. As the extreme flooding in the Moree district of New South Wales is likely to hasten the spread of water hyacinth infestation in the Gwydir and Gingham water sources, which in turn poses a major threat to the water resources of the Barwon, Darling and Murray River systems, and as the River Murray is South Australia’s most important source of water and the preservation of its quality is essential to the continued existence of the State, will the Minister request his colleague, in his capacity as Chairman of the Australian Water Resources Council, to convene as a matter of urgency an early meeting of the Agriculture Ministers from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to discuss financial arrangements for the initiation of an immediate containment program and for a comprehensive management study and control program as recommended at the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held in Perth?
-I will certainly do that. I think that it is a matter of enormous importance. I am quite certain that the Minister for National Resources himself will be seized of it and do his utmost to carry out the request of Senator McLaren.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs any details of the reports of cuts in aid to developing countries? Is the Minister aware that Australia’s overseas aid has amounted to .6 per cent of our gross national product and has placed Australia high in the list of donor countries? Is the report correct that the proposed cuts reduce this percentage by half? Will the Government review the proposed cuts and make an early announcement on details?
-I adopt the argument of my colleague, Senator Cotton: It is an area in which I do not think Senator Davidson would expect me to have detailed knowledge. I will undertake to see the Minister and to get the honourable senator a proper answer by tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Has the Minister been supplied with details of the damage caused by the recent floods in Queensland? Is he aware that to date the Queensland Government has failed to make a claim to the Federal Government for financial assistance for those who have lost homes and crops? In view of the fact that the Queensland Government has failed to act will the Minister take urgent steps to have an assessment of the damage carried out and appropriate financial assistance given to those people who have been affected?
– I am not aware of any application that has been made by the Queensland Government for flood relief, but I will have the matter looked into and get an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President, with pleasure. Has your attention been drawn to the oppressive atmospheric conditions prevailing over a long period, irrespective of season, but particularly this week, in the parliamentary dining rooms, Kings Hall, party rooms and especially in staff rooms in the Parliament building? Will you have inquiries carried out into complaints made by me and other honourable senators during the Estimates Committees hearings in October 1974- when another party was in government- as to the failure to complete the air conditioning work which was substantially done some years ago and to which the attention of the Joint House Department was drawn in 1974? Can the report of the Joint House Committee on this subject and action on it be expedited?
– I advise the honourable senator that I will take up this matter with the Joint House Committee at the earliest opportunity.
– I direct a question, again with pleasure, as Senator Missen did, to the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it correct that local government organisations throughout Australia have been advised that they will not receive any financial assistance by way of grants through the Australian Grants Commission, as was a practice instituted by the previous Government when in 2 years $135m of untied grants were made available to local government? What details of the change are available? Is the Government aware of the serious implications for the financial position of councils and the prospect of greater unemployment which will be an inevitable consequence of the continuation of this action? Is this a first step in the return to the bad old days when former Liberal-Country Party governments ignored the plight of local government, or is it simply part of the Government’s so-called new federalism?
– I think the honourable senator has answered his own question. It is part of the Government’s federalist policy. I do not think this is the stage where one should enter into an answer at great length as to what that is. No doubt legislation on this matter will be introduced in this session of the Parliament and the whole matter can be opened up in debate in the proper sense within this place. Under the Government’s federalism policy not only will local governments be better off financially but also the independence which they ought to have will be restored to them without Canberra looking over their shoulders like big brother.
– Will the Minister for Science indicate when he proposes to publish his or his Department’s Green Paper on meteorological services and when and how the formal protests over the withdrawal of Tasmanian coastal station reports from the scheduled broadcasts of Hobart marine radio will be considered? Will the Minister note that there is a near unanimous protest from Tasmanian fishermen and other small boat operators who regard the service as vital to their safety irrespective of the attitudes which may be adopted in other parts of Australia?
– The honourable senator will note that during the presentation of papers this afternoon I will be tabling a Green Paper on meteorology. In answer to the second part of the question, I want to acknowledge that Senator Rae, Senator Wright, Senator Devitt, and indeed other honourable senators, as well as the Minister for Repatriation, Mr Newman, and Mr Hodgman noted the action that had been taken by the Bureau and contacted me in the early part of this year about the matter. I appreciate their concern for their State and for the interests of those who in order to earn their living must have reference to the services provided by the Bureau, which is under the control of my Department. There is particular concern at the withdrawal of some services. The news publicity has not been correct and has not made clear to the public what has taken place. Generally there has been great concern, and there should be concern within departments that economies are practised. This is a very definite policy of the present Government. The matter that is raised by the honourable senator was brought up and implemented during the reign of the Labor Government. Forecasts are an important matter for the fishing industry and shipping generally in Tasmanian waters because of adverse weather conditions.
International regulations require that we deliver certain meteorological services. There are three international requirements which in no v/ay have been cut out. They relate to regulations on marine weather bulletins and broadcasts of warnings of conditions hazardous to navigation.
– Is this a question without notice? You are reading the answer.
– They require a summary of the meteorological situation and a forecast of the conditions expected. There are other optional requirements. Senator Brown breaks in, as he usually does. Even if he lives in a suburb that has no interest in meteorological services, some of the Tasmanian senators are very interested in this matter.
– Make a ministerial statement on it so that it can be debated.
-I am only copying what the Labor Ministers used to do. I am anxious to give the information that is sought. The fact is that a section was deleted from the weather information and that deletion commenced on 18 October 1975. The area deleted related to the coastal land situation and the indications of the actual weather conditions at a particular time. The information provided referred to conditions observed some hours before the announcement. I will be presenting today a Green Paper relating to the Bureau of Meteorology. I hope that it will be of interest to all honourable senators and others who are concerned about the Bureau’s costs, which have accelerated greatly in past years. For instance, the increased postal costs introduced by the Labor Party put an impost of $800,000 on to this particular area of my Department. I hope that honourable senators will take notice of the Green Paper and I congratulate Senator Rae for bringing the matter forward.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, results from some of the concern which has been shown throughout the community about the Government’s intentions regarding television and radio broadcasting in Australia. I refer particularly to claims which have been made by commercial broadcasting interests that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should be abolished, to changes in the composition of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to the various criticisms which are being made by members of the Government on both the alleged bias of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the cost of conducting the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I ask the Minister whether a statement could be prepared as soon as possible to be given to the Parliament and to the Australian people so that in this field, which is of so much interest to the Australian people, we shall all be well aware of what the Government intends to do and we shall be able to debate whatever propositions it has to put forward.
– I can understand the honourable senator’s natural anxiety neurosis on these matters because he has little otherwise to cling to. but he must know that basically the information he is seeking relates to policy matters and therefore, is not a subject for response at question time. In due course as the policy matters are evolved and decisions are taken in Cabinet they will be announced to this Parliament. I suggest that the honourable senator should contain his anxiety until then.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will be aware of the measures announced recently by the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to effect necessary economies within that body. I refer specifically to the proposal to disband the Adelaide Singers. Is the Minister aware that this choral group is unique in Australia and has a national reputation as being of world standard? In view of the large number of representations which I have been receiving and the public concern expressed through the media, will the Minister ask his colleague in another place to discuss this matter with Mr Duckmanton, with whom I have already raised it, with a view to retaining this body of musicians who number, I think, only thirteen?
– Yes, I will.
– Recognising the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development as the virtual custodian of all national parks and fauna reserves in Australian Territories, I ask what guarantee he can give the Senate on the sanctity of the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park in the Top End of the Northern Territory in the face of utterances made by his colleague the Minister for National Resources contending that uranium extraction has first priority in the Territory? Can the Minister give us an assurance that there will not be an environmental pack rape of that park?
– I am not aware of the statements attributed to my colleague the Minister for National Resources, lt would be imprudent of me to make any comment about statements of which I am unaware. But I think the honourable senator appreciates that under the National Parks Act steps have been taken to delineate the boundaries of the Kakadu
National Park and that further steps are under consideration by the Government.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I preface the question by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware of the financial difficulties of the Mount Lyell mining company and that if that company is not assisted financially it may be faced with mass sackings with obvious disastrous effects on the west coast of Tasmania. Is the inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission into the copper industry, which was commissioned by the previous Government, to proceed? If so, when can a report be expected? Has the Minister yet received any request either directly from the company or from the Tasmanian Government for help for the company? If so, what action is intended?
– There is not any doubt at all that the copper mining industry in Australia, and in particular the Mount Lyell company, is in a very serious and difficult position. This is principally due to the very heavy fall in the price of copper and to the very heavy increase in wage costs. I was in Tasmania fairly recently with the State Ministers and amongst the things we talked about with the Tasmanian Minister was the problem of Mount Lyell. The matter has been under quite critical investigation by the Department. The Industries Assistance Commission examination is moving towards finality. I expect it to be a situation fraught with both problems and difficulties. Speaking for myself, at the present time I have not received an official request from the Tasmanian Government or from the company. These requests may well be in the pipeline and moving towards me. I understand the problem and in my view it is a grave one.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware that adjustments to pensions in accordance with the movements in the consumer price index will be less in terms of increased pension than they would have been if the formula employed by the former Labor Government had been adopted, namely the maintenance of pensions at at least 25 per cent of average weekly earnings? If the Minister agrees with my observation I ask whether this policy is designed deliberately to reduce the real income of pensioners, because that is precisely the effect it must have.
– The Government’s policy is that movements in pensions shall be related to movements in the consumer price index. At 6-monthly intervals adjustments will be made to pensions in accordance with these movements. The other statements made by the honourable senator may have some relevance to the past but our committed policy is that we will adjust pensions in accordance with the consumer price index movements.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science as Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory in this chamber. Can the Minister confirm that dismissal notices issued to staff yesterday by the National Capital Development Commission are not part of the Government’s action to limit growth of the Public Service and, in fact, are not in accordance with the Government’s intentions or announcements in this respect?
– I think the Senate will know that a decision was made by the Government that departments and authorities should achieve certain staff ceiling levels by 30 June 1976. On 9 February the Prime Minister stated that departments and authorities were expected to reach their revised staff ceilings by processes of natural wastage, such as retirements and resignations. I am informed that the National Capital Development Commission received the information concerning those new ceiling limits on 13 February of this year. The Prime Minister issued a Press statement yesterday in which he indicated that the retrenchment action taken in respect of the 21 staff members of the National Capital Development Commission was not in accordance with the Government’s policy. For the honourable senator’s benefit I repeat the Prime Minister’s statement of yesterday:
However, it may be that the NCDC, irrespective of the Government’s staff ceiling requirements, considers these people are surplus to establishment.
Therefore I have asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, together with the Public Service Board, to have discussions with the NCDC and to prepare a report for me.
I can add nothing further for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to Senator Withers in his capacity as Leader of the Government in the Senate, in his capacity as former Leader of the Opposition in the Senate which was dissolved on 11 November 1975 and in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister in this chamber. Can the Minister inform the Senate at what time he received a communication indicating that the Senate should pass Appropriation Bills No. 1 and No. 2? Who asked him to approve of these Bills, considering the Senate had several times refused to pass the said Bills? Did the Minister have any prior knowledge of the dismissal of the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, at the time of receiving the communication? Did the then caretaker Prime Minister or the Minister know of the proposed dissolution of the Senate at the time they heard the President suspend the sitting of the Senate at 2.24 p.m. on 11 November? Finally, did the Governor-General have any communication on this matter with the Minister on or before 1 1 November 1975?
-It is quite obvious that some honourable senators opposite still wish to live in the past, not only philosophically but also politically.
– You want to hide it.
-I have nothing to hide. Might I say, firstly, that if I did have a conversation with the Governor-General I would not repeat it; I would not admit to it. There are some things which one does not disclose. As to the other matters to which the honourable senator referred -
– What time did you know?
-Unlike most honourable senators opposite who were here then, I knew when I came back to the chamber that afternoon what was happening in my Party. As I understand it, honourable senators opposite in this place did not know of the change till, as I recall the time, about 17 minutes past 2 o’clock on that day, although their then and present Leader must have known about 60 minutes before that time. For some reason which is none of my business but which totally escapes me he neglected to inform his colleagues. But, of course, that was the sort of government it was. There was change after change and all that mass of confidence and loyalty flowing from the top to the bottom. I can well understand the then Prime Minister not informing his colleagues- ministerial or otherwisebecause at that stage, I think, he was not even trusting his left hand from his right. In relation to the other points raised, I knew when we came back into the chamber that afternoon that Mr Whitlam had been dismissed as Prime Minister. I had been told that fact by Mr Fraser who had then been sworn in as Prime Minister. Yes, I knew and that is why the Appropriation Bills were passed. I did not think there was any particular secret about it. I have even said so to a couple of members of the media and they have published my recollection of that day. I do not claim the account to be totally accurate but it has been given to the best of my recollection.
– Is the Minister for Science aware that the Interim Commission on Consumer Standards commissioned studies of dish washers, paints, and vinyl and linoleum floor coverings in 1974? Can the Minister tell the Senate what became of the reports of these studies? Is it true that the reports were intended for publication? If not, how can the expense incurred be justified?
-Apparently the Interim Commission on Consumer Standards commissioned a study of dish washers which was intended to validate test procedures to measure the performances of dish washers. The report was passed to the Standards Association of Australia for use by a committee that was preparing a standard for dish washers. Similarly, a report was prepared relating to hard floor coverings to assist the Standards Association of Australia in revising and updating standards for floor coverings. I should like to mention that all these reports were received during the time of the former Government. Tests on paints and dry cells are not completed but interim reports were received. These reports have been passed to the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. That Department has not indicated whether it intends to publish the reports. The interim report on paints was used as the basis for an article in Consumer Protection and You which I understand will not be printed. These matters mainly fall within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. There is little further that I can add.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It relates to the question of staff ceilings to which Senator Knight referred earlier. I ask the Minister: Is it clear from the directions given to Public Service departments and to statutory authorities, which involve a reduction of more than 6000 public servants- perhaps more in the statutory authority area- that there will be no sackings to reach the reduced ceilings?
– My understanding of the directive of the Prime Minister is that the reduction in numbers is to come about by natural wastage.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I ask the question in light of the very great public support which exists for the continuation of legal aid services and in light of the suggestion that was floating around before the recent election that the election of a Liberal-National Country Party government would mean the abolition of legal aid services in Australia. Has the Government made any decisions with respect to legal aid services? What are its intentions with respect to the existing legal aid services in the community?
-The Government is quite clear in its intentions regarding the provision of legal aid throughout Australia. Firstly, no one should be denied access to the courts and to legal advice through lack of means. Secondly, a legal aid service should be conducted with the utmost efficiency and, thirdly, there should not be competing duplicated services throughout Australia. This is the pattern which has emerged over the past 2 years. The Attorney-General is particularly conscious of it, and he indicated in the middle of January that he was undertaking a complete review of the legal aid scheme, and that he would be consulting the States and the existing legal aid services through the profession. When that review is completed he will discuss the matter with the Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, arises from the concern caused by the Minister’s reported statements on the supporting mothers benefit. Is it the Government’s intention to change the qualifications necessary for applicants to secure the supporting mothers benefit? Are allowances now available in addition to the benefit to be removed in the case of unmarried mothers? Does a question of moral judgment rather than need condition the Minister’s and the Government’s views in assessing who should receive such benefits?
– The provisions of the supporting mothers benefit scheme have not been altered by the Government. The suggestion that a moral judgment is to be applied in the provision of these benefits is something quite outside the scope of my considerations. The benefit has been given to an increasing number of supporting mothers in this country. The scheme will be administered in its present form by the Government.
-My parliamentary curiosity has been aroused by the important and interesting question that Senator Gietzelt asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate in relation to matters that took place in November last year. Am I to understand from Senator Gietzelt ‘s question, which was addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, that Senator Withers is of the opinion that neither the former President of the Senate nor the former Leader of the Government in the Senate had been informed by the former Prime Minister that his commission had been withdrawn by the Governor-General and that this situation had existed for an hour before Senator Withers rose in his place? Senator Withers was called upon by the then President, in accordance with the notice paper, to address himself to the Appropriation Bill. He moved that the Bill be passed forthwith. This is a matter of historical record which will inevitably be the cause of some debate in this chamber. I would be grateful if the Leader of the Government in the Senate would inform the Senate of the true situation.
– I raise the point of order as to whether the question is in order in view of the fact that the questioner asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate for his opinion. Obviously, under standing order 100 we cannot seek an opinion from a Minister. A question must relate to something under the Minister’s control or within his ministry. The opinion of Senator Withers may be very interesting but it will not assist us at question time. Mr President, this will be an early opportunity for you to give a ruling which will uphold the dignity of the Chair. Do not let us wander all over the place at question time when a question is completely out of order.
- Mr President, may I address myself to the point of order?
- Mr President, I raise a point of order.
– Order! I call Senator Douglas McClelland.
– I raise the point of order on the basis that at the time when the Senate met-that is, at 2 o’clock on 11 November 1975-the Prime Minister of the country was Mr Malcolm Fraser and a report should have been given to the President of the Senate and to Senator Wriedt at that time by a representative of the then Prime Minister.
– There is no substance in that point of order.
- Mr President, may I address myself to the point of order? It is quite true that I have asked Senator Withers a question, but it does not relate solely to a simple matter of an opinion. It is a question addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as to facts- whether in his opinion these are facts or not. That is what I want to know. It is a matter of enormous historical importance to the Senate to know whether these statements are true or are not true.
– I believe that the question is in order as it does seek actual fact.
-I cannot answer with any degree of accuracy on this aspect. I think that there are certain facts which speak for themselves. As I recall the events of 1 1 November, I never moved any motion at all that day. A motion was put down by the then Leader of the Government in the Senator, Senator Wriedt, namely -
– Who was not in fact a Minister at that time.
– Well, he put it down. I was not a Minister at that time. If he was not a Minister at that time, there was no Minister in the Senate. I was delighted, in fact, that the person who we all thought was still a Minister, or who some thought was still a Minister, moved the motion, because he saved me moving it. Those of us who were here that day will remember that the then Opposition let the motion pass on the voices forthwith. I can only make the assumption in that respect- it is a reasonable assumptionthat if Senator Wriedt had known that he was not a Minister he would not have attempted to masquerade as a Minister in this place, because he is an honourable man. I think that what he did that day he did in good faith. He put down a motion as Leader of the Government in the Senate because he thought he was still Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment and other matters. In regard to land bought by the previous Government at Woolloomooloo I ask the Minister whether he will affirm or deny that negotiations are taking place with the Government of New South Wales, under Sir Eric Willis, with respect to the sale of that land to private commercial interests? I remind the Minister that the land was purchased by the previous Government for low cost housing. Will he affirm or deny that that land is being sold to private commercial interests and that negotiations are taking place regarding that matter?
– I think that the honourable senator is under a misapprehension which is evidenced by the question he has asked; but i think he raises an issue upon which fairly he ought to get his answer. What has happened in Woolloomooloo is that the area of land which has been owned by the Commonwealth for many years has, under an agreement with the City Council in Sydney and the New South Wales State Government, been given to the Housing Commission of New South Wales as the constructing and managing authority for the 3 government bodies so that that land, together with another very substantial area of land in Woolloomooloo which is in the process of being acquired, can be developed as primarily or predominantly a residential area. This is the subject of an agreement which was entered into by the 2 governments and the Sydney City Council in 1975, 1 think.
Under that agreement it is quite clear that, whilst the particular residential development is yet to be determined, the broad concurrence is that it shall be residential development. There is no intention, to my knowledge, to alter that proposal. In the course of the review in order to economise, to which the Government is committed and to which great publicity has been given, all options with regard to that area have been examined. A certain letter was given publicity last week, but I think the one part of the letter to which no publicity was really given was the last sentence, which invited me as the responsible Minister to explore all these possibilities. I am exploring those possibilities at the present time. But there is certainly no intention to depart from the agreement which has been entered into.
-Mr President, my question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Can the Minister tell the House whether the Nimmo report has yet been presented. If it has been presented, when does the Minister propose to release his recommendations on the equalisation of freight for Tasmania?
-This matter would normally fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Transport, whom I represent in this chamber. I have no specific details about the state of the Nimmo report. I understand that it is moving towards a conclusion. The Leader of the
Government in the Senate is in a full state of knowledge and has volunteered to help.
-I can help Senator Walters, Mr President. At the same time I can answer a question that Senator O ‘Byrne asked earlier. I have a note in front of me which says that the third report of Commissioner Summers ‘ inquiry into the maritime industry concerning the adequacy of Australia’s ports was presented to the Governor-General on 12 February 1976. The tabling of the report is proposed for next week. The last paragraph of the note covers Senator Walters’ question. It states that this report specifically excludes Tasmanian ports as that area is being covered by the Royal Commission on Tasmanian Transport under Commissioner J. F. Nimmo, which will be reporting shortly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. As it is a fact that as early as last October all educational bodies in Australia were sent a letter inviting their participation in the innovation grants scheme funded from special projects grants and that in January of this year a further circular had to be sent advising all those bodies that, as there were so many applications, those applications received after 15 February would have to be returned to the senders until more funds were made available, I ask: How can the Minister explain his recent Press release in which he justified the cut of $800,000 in special projects grants in each 6 months of this calendar year by saying that the innovation scheme was slow to start for a number of reasons and that it was unlikely that the total funds for the year would be spent?
-Due to the aberrations and bad government of the previous Administration, inflation and unemployment in this country have posed an enormous strain on all great issues, including education. The Fraser Government has decided, in the face of this, to maintain all essential programs and it will spend the total amount that was budgeted for on 1 9 August. The nice question is this: Shall we, within those programs and within the total expenditure, have priorities and what shall be those priorities? The innovation programs are important things and, as to the schools section of the programs, there will be no essential cuts. It is true that they were very slow to start, so that this financial year there will be relatively little difference in what was scheduled. But we must, within the education programs, deploy our funds as best we can. We propose to do that so that top priorities are given to children, to classrooms and to teachers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the applications for financial assistance which were made to the Government by several gold mining companies in Western Australia and which were refused by the Government. I ask: Is the Government considering alternative methods of assistance to the gold mining industry? In particular, will it give consideration to referring to the Industries Assistance Commission the question of whether special assistance is justified?
-I will seek from my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister a full and proper answer to that question.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Child Care Matters. I refer to a Press release issued by the Minister, dated 17 February, in which she stated that the effect of the announced cut of $9m to the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission budget allocation would be a slowing down of already approved capital projects and the curtailing of new projects. I ask the Minister: Is it true that there are many outstanding applications from community groups for urgently needed child care facilities? Will the Minister advise the Senate of the number of such applications outstanding and the total of the grants requested in them? How much of the $6Sm allocated to the Children’s Commission for 1 975-76 is to be spent on establishing full day care services this financial year? What guarantees can the Minister give that the new applications to be approved- which she stated would be in areas which demonstrate the highest priority of need- will be to assist in the establishment of full day care centres?
– The question which has been directed to me has many facets. I am sure the honourable senator has the statement which I issued to all honourable senators and honourable members yesterday with regard to the program of child care. Some of the answers to her questions are directly part of that statement. However, I should advise the honourable senator that the $65m to which she referred will all be spent this year. That is the total amount which will be spent. It was a total program of $74m. There has been some curtailment of the $74m program but not of the $65m program to which she refers. I think the number of applications which are outstanding is in the vicinity of 600. The allocation of priorities to applications is dealt with by State committees which have been set up to work with the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission.
All State committees have been asked to review the priorities which they have for the programs which they consider should be approved. We are awaiting advice from State committees at this stage in order to deal with the outstanding programs which still can be dealt with this financial year. There is to be a slowing down of some of the programs which have already been approved. The slowing down amounts to something like $ 1.75m. It is in the slowing down of these programs that we are seeking the priorities of the State advisory bodies. If any further information is required by the honourable senator with regard to details and amounts, I shall be happy to provide that for her in specific terms. It was found when we were looking at this program that there was an enormous number of applications, of which some were considered of high priority by the various State advisory bodies and others of lower priority. It is in those terms that we are dealing with the numerous applications at this stage.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether he is aware of allegations made during the recent Federal election campaign by parliamentary and other members of the Australian Labor Party that it was the intention of the Liberal Party to abolish tertiary allowances and to re-introduce tertiary fees. Was there any basis in fact for those allegations? What is the Government’s intention on these subjects now?
-I am grateful for the honourable senator’s question because it allows me to expose yet another falsity of the Australian Labor Party. Honourable senators will find in the platform of the Liberal Party and the Australian National Country Party and in the policy of the Fraser Government the maintenance of tertiary allowances. For the calendar year 1976 we have said that we will- and we will- maintain the tertiary allowances. We have gone further, as Senator Martin will know. We have indicated that we will also look, as a supplement in the future, towards student loans so that we can widen the field of help to students. I give the lie to the
Labor Party ‘s statement that it is our intention to abolish tertiary allowances. The reverse is true.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Is it the Government’s intention to continue support for the Australian Assistance Plan? Is the Minister aware that a large number of well-intentioned people interested in welfare services who have been involved in an honorary capacity for the Australian Assistance Plan are concerned at the absence of any clear guide from the Government as to the future of the Australian Assistance Plan.
– The honourable senator may be aware that the Australian Assistance Plan was a 3-year program which will conclude this year. The Department of Social Security has arranged a conference to be held early in May at which all the regional councils and other people directly involved in the Plan will be represented. The conference will be held to evaluate the 3-year Plan as it has developed and to give a guide as to what may be the future of the Australian Assistance Plan. I shall be in attendance at the conference and all people from regional councils throughout Australia will have an opportunity to put their points of view and the experience which they have had of the development of the Plan. At some later stage we will be able to make some deliberations with regard to its future. I think all regional councils are aware of the conference. The concern which the honourable senator has referred to could, I think, be only concern, understanding that there will be an opportunity for evaluation and review early in May.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate)Honourable senators will note that there has been circulated today a list of papers proposed to be presented and by whom. The idea of circulating this list is that honourable senators who have an interest in a paper may indicate in advance whether they wish to move that the papers or reports be noted or, wish the Government to move accordingly.
– Pursuant to section 1 2 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-73, 1 present the sixteenth annual statement concerning the operation of that Act and the payment of subsidies during the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the statistical returns in respect of each of the States showing the voting within each subdivision in relation to the submission to the electors of proposed laws for the alteration to the Constitution held in 1974. Due to the limited number of copies available, reference copies of these documents have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate)Pursuant to section 27 (4) of the National Library Act 1960-73, I present the annual report of the Council of the National Library of Australia for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements in respect of that year and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Temporary Assistance Authority for 1 974-75.
– For the information of honourable senators I present reports by the Industries Assistance Commission on the dairy industry, dated 23 October 1975; the iron and steel industry, dated 8 October 1975; and an interim report on fruit growing, dated 30 October 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Shipping Commission Act 1 974 I present the annual report of the Australian Shipping Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with the financial statements in respect of that year and the Auditor-General ‘s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport for the year 1974-75 including those matters for which the Minister for Transport is required to report pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1 920-74.
– For the information of honourable senators I table the second volume of the first main report by Professor Henderson of the Commonwealth Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty entitled Poverty in Australia. I ask for leave to make a statement relating thereto.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Honourable senators will recall that my predecessor, Senator Wheeldon, tabled the first volume of the report on 28 August 1975. At that time, Senator Wheeldon foreshadowed the publication of this second volume which consists of technical and detailed appendices on selected issues covered in Volume 1. For example, there are appendices on the incidence of guaranteed income schemes, on a sample survey of farm incomes, on the use of favoured categories in the Australian social security system and on means tests and residence qualifications.
In August 1972, the McMahon Government appointed Professor Ronald Henderson, Director of the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in the University of Melbourne, to inquire into poverty in Australia. Early in 1973, the Whitlam Government expanded the terms of reference of the inquiry and appointed an additional 4 poverty commissioners to report on specific aspects of poverty. The Rev. George Martin has been asked to report on medical and sociological aspects, Professor Ronald Gates is to report on selected economic issues and Dr R. T. Fitzgerald is to report on educational aspects.
The main report of Professor Ronald Sackville on legal matters was tabled on 30 October 1975 and is now being printed. The recommendations in the first main report by Professor Henderson and in Professor Sackville ‘s report are being examined in the relevant departments. The recommendations have also been referred to the Income Security Review Group, which consists of officers from departments affected by income security, for example, Prime Minister, Treasury, Social Security, Employment and Industrial Relations and Repatriation. This Review Group will, in due course, report to a committee of Ministers. The other 3 commissioners have been asked to make their reports available by 30 June 1976. I intend to table each of the commissioners’ main reports as they become available. I am sure that all honourable senators will agree that the commissioners’ reports will provide an important basis for the Government’s continuing examination of this significant area of national concern.
I ask for leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973 I present the Auditor-General’s report on the statement of receipts and payments for the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975. The financial statement referred to in paragraph 2 of the AuditorGeneral’s report was tabled in the Parliament together with the report of the Commission on 4 November 1975.
– Pursuant to section 17 (2) of the Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973 I present the annual reports of the Consumer Affairs Council and the Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 33 (4) of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962-1973 I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a discussion paper entitled Towards New Perspectives for Australian Meteorological Services. I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-As the Minister responsible for the Bureau of Meteorology within the Department of Science, it is my intention to invite comment from interested individuals and organisations on the activities and services of the Bureau. In particular, I will be seeking advice from the community as to the type of meteorological services it wants and whether the present services are appropriate to community needs. I believe that it is fitting that this Green Paper should be presented at a time when the Government is striving to effect economies in public spending. It will enable the public to identify the costs and benefits it receives from our national meteorological services, and to indicate what changes, if any, it considers desirable. I am asking to have those comments by 3 1 May 1 976.
By way of background I think I should point out that the Bureau of Meteorology has a full time staff of about 1900 plus 800 part time and 7300 volunteer observers. It issues more than a million forecasts and warnings annually and its estimated budget for 1975-76 is approximately $33m. It is a large part of the Department of Science and is by any criterion a sizeable organisation. Some more figures I have here might help to put that into perspective. Last year Australia spent about $2.30 a head for the services provided by the Bureau-that is, $31m for 13.5 million people. About half that cost was taken up in essential communications and observations necessitated by our vast but lightly populated area.
I am advised that on a per capita basis our expenditure is reasonably close to that of the United States. The difference is, of course, that a great many more people benefit from the United States service because of the population density there and correspondingly more people are available to pay for the service. What I wish to know and what I hope will be provided to me in feedback from the Green Paper are the answers to questions such as these: Are we providing the right type of weather services? Are they in fact what the consumer wants? Is the research side of meteorology proceeding satisfactorily? Is the training program the right one? Are we doing enough or too much in international meteorology? Is it a balanced commitment in terms of our national interest and our middle power status? Is the scope of the Bureau ‘s activities appropriate to a national meteorological service? Having regard to what is scientifically and technically feasible, should additional or expanded services be provided?
The services of the Bureau are important and indeed imperative to many of our day-to-day activities. I refer to international and domestic airlines, commercial shipping, the requirements of farming community predictions being so important, predictions in time of flood, warnings of high fire danger, yachting for pleasure, sporting activities, and the fishing industry in both its professional sense and its amateur sense. I reiterate that it is earnestly desired that all areas of the community will react to this request and to the document now tabled.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate. I move:
In so moving, I should say that when I came into the chamber I did not think that the Opposition would take this step. However, in view of some of the comments made by the Minister for Science (Senator Webster), and in view of some of the comments made earlier in the day by Senator Rae in questioning the Minister on this matter, I think it is important that the Senate should have the opportunity to take up the Minister’s offer at the beginning of the report when he invited public debate on the contents of the paper. I believe that nowhere is more appropriate for public debate than in this House.
On reading the Minister’s statement and on reading the paper, it seems that considerable attention is being paid to people who are concerned about what the weather will be like for football matches, cricket matches and going to the beach. It seems also that little concern has been had for those people who are dependent very much on the nature of the weather in their occupations, and indeed for their lives. I refer, of course, to the fishermen on the north-western, the western and the southern coasts of Tasmania and in northern parts of Australia who have in the past relied very heavily on the actual reports of the weather situation in their areas. It seems to me that as the Bureau is concerned about its expenditure and is willing to ask the public about where its expenditure should go, before making cuts in expenditure, as it has done in Tasmania, it should have waited for people’s response to this Paper. Therefore, I have moved my motion to give those people an opportunity to give their opinions to the Minister and to the Bureau as well as to give their members of Parliament the information they require to continue the debate on this issue. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act I lay on the table the supplementary report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I lay on the table in manuscript form the fifth edition of Australian Senate Practice by the Clerk of the Senate. The fourth edition was published in 1972 and is now considerably out of date. The fifth edition includes an account of the double dissolutions of 1974 and 1975, the Joint Sitting of 1974, the calling of witnesses to the Bar in 1975 and other significant events during the last 4 years. Honourable senators will find in the preface a summary of the more important developments, I recommend to the Senate that the fifth edition of Australian Senate Practice be printed as a parliamentary paper.
Motion ( by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the paper be printed.
– by leave- I make this statement on behalf of my friend and colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). Therefore, wherever the first person personal pronoun is used it is to be taken to refer to Mr Killen and not me. I wish to announce the Government’s decision to acquire 2 guided missile frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. The ships will be procured from the United States Navy construction program for guided missile frigates. These ships were previously known as patrol frigates and are now called the ‘FFG-7,
Oliver Hazard Perry Class’. The 2 ships will be in service by 1982. The sail-away cost for the 2 ships as procured from the United States is $A195m in January 1976 prices. The total project investment cost, including helicopters, spares, test equipment, ammunition and so on, for the 2 ships has been estimated at $A330m in January 1976 prices.
Senators will be aware that in our pre-election Defence Policy’ we said that we would give priority to a review of the previous Government’s cancellation of the light destroyer- DDLprogram. We also said that it might be necessary now to accept a modified destroyer design. The review has been completed and the results have been presented to the Government. The review which was most comprehensive covered the characteristics required of the destroyers, the pros and cons of re-instituting the DDL program, the acquisition of FFGs and of alternative ships to meet the current destroyer requirements of the Navy. The Navy itself has been deeply involved in the United States FFG program and has also conducted its own independent and very searching investigations. The unanimous advice I have received from my advisers is that the DDL program can no longer be considered because of costs and prospective delays.
It might be remembered that at the time of the coalition Government’s approval in 1972 the DDL was to include essentially the same weapons and sensor capability as the then patrol frigate- area air-defence weapons, helicopter operation, anti-ship missile- except that the DDL was planned to have a larger gun. The DDL hull and machinery outfit would have been less austere than the patrol frigate. There were some other unsatisfactory features in the design of the then patrol frigate. Over the last 3 to 4 years the United States Navy has developed the guided missile frigate to have a capability much closer to the DDL than that of the original patrol frigate design. I might add that some of the improvements have been influenced by the input of Australian professional judgment through RAN participation in the United States Navy program. There will be some relatively minor modifications in the RAN version of the FFG, specifically to meet Australian operational requirements.
The FFG will provide the RAN with the essential characteristics required in this destroyer acquisition. It will provide them at lower cost. There is no doubt that the DDL would have been a less austere ship and would, if successfully developed, have provided a marginally better fighting capability; but it would now be too late in time. It had reached the preliminary design stage only. The DDL Program has lost its momentum and the development of a detailed design together with the substantial workload and facilities modernisation program of the Williamstown Dockyard would not permit des.toyer construction to commence in Australia until 1980. It is currently estimated that the DDL Program for 2 ships would cost about $130m more than the FFG Program- $460m against $3 30m. The DDL would enter service some 5 years later than the FFG.
The Government believes that the FFG is now the best choice if replacement of destroyers due to retire in the early 1980s is to be effected in a timely and economic fashion. The Government has no doubts that the ships will be a most appropriate adjunct to the RAN. The Navy has demonstrated that the ship will have the performance that it needs in service. Substantial effort has been exerted by United States and Australian authorities in developing an adequate level of Australian industry participation against an FFG purchase. Provided Australian industry is sufficiently competitive, there is a good prospect of Australian industry participation against the ship acquisition. In this regard we will be supported by the United States Department of Defence and I have directed that my Department make every effort to increase the scope of participation.
The United States Navy FFG program consists of a lead ship prototype and a series of follow-ships. The lead ship was funded in the United States Budget for fiscal year 1973 and is now under construction. The first 3 follow-ships were funded in fiscal year 1975. The United States 1976 Defense Appropriation Bill which includes funds for a further 6 ships was signed by the President on 9 February 1976. In the proposed budget for fiscal year 1977 presented to Congress on 21 January 1976, the United States Department of Defence has sought funds for a further 8 follow-ships. The total projected United States program is 70 ships including the lead ship.
The FFG program is in a very highly developed state with all weapon and ships systems thoroughly researched and tested at a very considerable expense. The fact that systems have been proved at sea prior even to the building of the lead ship is a strong assurance of the success of the program. We are joining this program on very advantageous conditions. Because it is a major United States program we will reap the benefit of concurrent procurement with the United States and the economies of scale.
In all, the Government is satisfied that the Navy’s present needs for destroyer acquisition will be met by the procurement of the 2 guided missile frigates and that they will prove most adequate to enhance the Navy’s destroyer force when they enter service. Whilst these ships represent a significant contribution to the strength of the Royal Australian Navy, the Government believes that further acquisitions will be necessary in due course. Studies are now under way to determine what future additions to the RAN are required. Whether or not future selections are of this type of ship is yet to be determined. I move:
-In supporting the motion that the Senate take note of the statement, I want to comment briefly that the statement of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) clearly endorses what the Labor government decided to do about the patrol frigates and the DDL program. Mr President, you and honourable senators will remember the great agitation on the part of the people who are now on the Government side of the chamber about the deferment of the DDL program. The review which was promised by the Government in one of its wordy defence policy statements put out when it was in opposition has in fact supplemented and confirmed what Mr Barnard did when he was Minister for Defence and what Mr Morrison did when he was the Minister for Defence. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I make this statement on behalf of my friend and colleague the Honourable D. J. Killen, Minister for Defence. When I use the personal pronoun it should be taken to refer to Mr Killen. Activities at the Woomera Rocket Range in South Australia are to be reduced during the next 4 years to a care and maintenance level. This decision has been reached following months of negotiations between United Kingdom and Australian officials. The negotiations are expected to be finalised by British and Australian ministers by June 1976. Some unfinished British trials will be completed during the run-down period.
Some 12-months ago it was announced that activities at the Woomera Range would be run down, and that instrumentation and facilities would be held in readiness for a revival if they were required. Since then negotiations have continued, and an agreement in principle has been reached. The run-down of the Range will result in a reduction of staff at Woomera and Salisbury by some 700 personnel below the number employed at the beginning of July last year. However, the actual number of staff to be reduced will not be known until further staff studies are completed.
The Australian Services currently are examining possible uses of the Woomera area. These possibilities are that the area could be suitable for Army and Air Force tactical exercises and as a range for live firing of ground and air weapons. A policy of replacement only of key staff who leave the trials organisation has been followed since the earlier announcement. As the workload diminishes it will be necessary to re-deploy staff to other employment and to achieve this end a specialist team will be formed to organise the transfer of Australian Public Service staff and temporary employees to new employment. This team will have a representative cell at Woomera to actively assist those people concerned. The Woomera village will continue to provide accommodation and social facilities for people employed at the Range and at the Joint Defence Space Communications Station. I move:
-In supporting the motion of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) I would like to say that I am quite sure that all South Australian senators and members of the House of Representatives will be sorry to see- as it appears in the statement- a finality about the arrangements at Woomera. The statement of the Minister commenced by stating that in future the activities at the Woomera Rocket Range will be reduced to a care and maintenance level. But in fact, as I think all honourable senators know, particularly those from South Australia, that has been the situation for some years.
I am alarmed about the decision to reduce the staff by some 700 within 12 months, even though examinations are being made of the use of Woomera by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Army to which the Minister referred. I should like to refer to the Minister’s statement in part. He said:
The Australian Services currently are examining possible uses of the Woomera area.
The Minister recently pointed out that it was not the Government’s intention to sack people but to allow reductions in staff to occur through wastage. It seems to me that this statement means that 700 people at Woomera will get the sack. That is bad enough but it seems to me to be necessary to make the point- I am directing this to the Minister- that I hope no finality will be made in relation to the matters raised in his statement until the Army and the Air Force report to the Government about their investigations into the use of Woomera for various tactical exercises. I think it is a fact that where such activities have been carried out the reports have been favourable. I am sure any South Australian senator would be as concerned as I am about this matter. I am suggesting to the Government that there should be no finality in this matter, as seems to be indicated in this statement. There should be a further attempt to see to what extent our own 2 Services might utilise the area. They are conducting examinations into that at the present time. I make those remarks not only in respect of the need to maintain Woomera but also to ensure that the staff which is presently usefully engaged does not suffer any bad effects. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, I point out to the Senate that there is a typographical error in line 3 of paragraph 2 of the notice of motion on the notice paper. It is proposed that on Thursdays the sitting of the Senate be suspended for lunch from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m. I ask for leave to have the notice of motion amended formally on the notice paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the following procedure shall apply in lieu of that provided in Standing Orders 102 and 103-
The Clerk shall place notices of Questions on the Notice Paper in the order in which they are received by him.
The reply to a Question on Notice shall be given by delivering the same to the Clerk. A copy thereof shall be supplied to the Senator who has asked the Question, and such Question and reply shall be printed in Hansard: Provided that any Senator who, pursuant to this Order, has received a copy of a reply may, by leave, ask the Question and have the reply read in the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the procedure for the presentation of petitions be varied as follows-
A senator desiring personally to present a petition shall notify the Clerk when lodging the petition. When presenting such petition to the Senate, the Senator may announce-
that he presents a petition from a stated number of petitioners relating to a certain matter; or
that he presents a petition from a stated number of petitioners similarly worded to one presented earlier by a Senator.
The Senator may ask that the petition be read by the Clerk: Provided that, unless otherwise ordered, a petition exceeding 250 words may not be read.
The Clerk shall then make an announcement as to other petitions lodged with him, indicating in respect of each petition the Senator who presents it, the number of signatures, the identity of the petitioners and the subject-matter of the petition.
Every petition presented shall be deemed to have been received by the Senate unless a motion, moved forthwith, that a particular petition be not received, be agreed to.
The terms of the petitions presented shall be printed in Hansard.
- Mr President, Tun Abdul Razak ‘s death is a great loss to the people of Malaysia, and the people of South East Asia. Australia has lost a dear and good friend. Tun Razak had a sustained and close contact with leaders of Australian governments for many years. He was greatly respected by all Australians for his high purpose and dedication.
Tun Razak ‘s career was one of achievement. He served in the resistance in World War II. He had a brilliant academic record in England, where he was admitted to the Bar. In Malaya’s pre-independence period, he held high administrative posts while seeking Malaya’s national independence. As Education Minister, he laid the basis for Malaya’s national education system. On Malayan independence in 1957, Tun Razak became deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Defence and National Security. He spearheaded the anti-insurgency campaign. After the formation of Malaysia, Tun Razak became Minister of National and Rural Developmenta post he held for 10 years, and which he used to achieve rapid progress in the development of rural areas. In 1970 Tun Razak became Prime Minister and Defence and Foreign Affairs Minister.
Tun Razak made a significant contribution to the development of Malaysia both domestically and internationally. He was a skilled administrator and conducted Malaysian affairs with great dignity, calmness and a sense of purpose. His statesmanship and his contribution to peace and stability in South East Asia will long be remembered. I therefore move:
That the Senate records its sincere regret at the death of Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, and expresses to the people of Malaysia profound regret and to his family tender sympathy in their bereavement.
- Mr President, on behalf of the Opposition I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). The death of Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, has meant the loss of a great stabilising influence in South East Asia at a time when the region can least afford it. Tun Razak was a man of compromise. He formulated the ideal of a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in South East Asia, whilst at the same time establishing friendly links with powerful nations outside the zone. Faced with considerable problems of race within his own country, he maintained a high degree of respect from people of the various nationalities in Malaysia. Tun Razak was a quietly-spoken man but had the inner toughness necessary to lead his country toward its full potential and to a rightful place in international affairs. We regret his passing.
-Mr President, I would like to associate myself with the expressions of condolence upon the death of Tun Abdul Razak. I had the privilege of meeting Tun Razak when representing the Australian Council of Trade Unions at a conference in Kuala Lumpur. He was an unassuming, modest man, but a very able administrator. One of the greatest disappointments of his life was his need to suspend for a short time the Constitution of Malaysia, as he himself was one of the architects of that Constitution. I join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) in expressing condolence to his family and to the nation of Malaysia.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
– With Chou En-lai ‘s death, China lost one of her great leaders and the world lost one of this century’s outstanding men. His death will be sadly felt, not only by the Chinese people but by people throughout the world. His career spanned more than 50 years. A determined revolutionary, he was a major actor in the turbulence of China’s revolutionary period and beyond, playing the roles of party organiser, military leader and intellectual. He was second only to Mao Tse-tung in his influence on contemporary China.
As Premier, he stood willing to discuss with candor his country’s position with visitors and other dignitaries. These explanations of China’s role made a significant contribution to world understanding. A committed believer in the Marxist Leninist perspective on the world, he applied this perspective through the established canons of international relations. History will remember him as a major figure of his era, who served his country with sacrifice and dedication, over a span of years, that has few parallels. In his last years gravely ill, he worked with grace and composure to maintain and enhance China’s internal stability and position in the world. I therefore move:
That the Senate records its sincere regret at the death of Chou En-lai, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and expresses to the people of China profound regret and to his family tender sympathy in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I would like to pay a tribute to Mr Chou En-lai, Premier of the People ‘s Republic of China, and generally to support the views of Senator Withers. Mr Chou was known as the great conciliator of Chinese politics. He not only played a conciliatory role in internal Chinese politics but was mainly responsible for removing the bamboo curtain and leading China into open and meaningful relations with the outside world. Although he was no longer Foreign Minister after 1958, Premier Chou continued actively to oversee the running of Chinese diplomacy until his death. It was Chou En-lai who laid the way to the visit to China of Dr Kissinger and United States President Nixon. He understood the West better than anyone else in China and knew that co-existence with nations of various political persuasions was essential in the interest of peace and human welfare. He was intelligent, modest and a man of great charm and integrity. As one of the great statesmen of the twentieth century, Mr Chou’s death was a loss not only to China but also to the world.
-I desire to be associated with the very generous remarks which have been made in the other place and here by the Government and the Opposition in respect of the passing of Chou En-lai, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China. I think it has been said by most of the world leaders that he was one of the great leaders of this century, in terms of his capacity to understand and to comprehend the aspirations and expectations of his own people. It is proper that we should offer our condolences at his very sad passing, when we have regard to his endeavours in the emancipation of his people, despite great sacrifices, over many, many years.
It has to be remembered that as a very young man he was part of the famous Long March during which he with Chairman Mao Tse-tung retreated to the western perimeters of his country in order to develop a philosophy which, 20 years later, brought that group of people to the leadership of the country and, for the first time in many centuries, brought about a unified central government.
I was fortunate to have a very brief meeting with him in the early 1950s and to respond to the tremendous personality of the man to which most world leaders subsequently have paid tribute as in the 1970s, some 20 years later, the world began to recognise in Chou En-lai a person of world stature who was associated with taking his country out of feudalism into the modern world. It is a matter for great regret that it took so long for the Western world to recognise the capacity of the modern China and the capacity of Chou En-lai.
In 1955, for example, he was able even at that stage when there were many difficulties within his own country to go to Bandung and to associate himself with the anti-colonialist feeling of the rest of the world. Clearly he played a significant part in convincing even his own colleagues of the need to lead his country back into the family of nations. In those circumstances, he must be regarded as one of the significant men of the twentieth century. Without exception, every person who has had an opportunity to visit the People’s Republic of China must pay tribute to his leadership and to him as an administrator and as a leader in all aspects of human activity including the great improvements in the living standards of the people of China. In all these achievements, Chou En-lai must be regarded as being a central part of that evolutionary as well as revolutionary movement.
It is to the credit of those who rule the People’s Republic of China and to Chou En-lai particularly that, on his election, the new Australian Prime Minister in one of the first public statements that he made dealt with the area of foreign affairs and stated that he intended to visit the People’s Republic of China to see for himself the progress that has been made and to establish the normal and proper relationship that should exist among all countries. When the Australian Labor Party sought to do this in the 1 950s, it was one of the issues which caused great distress and division within our movement. Even up to 1972, many people had failed to understand the evolutionary movement that was taking place in the People’s Republic of China.
So I think it is proper that we should at this time join forces with all people throughout the world in offering our condolences to the ordinary people of China at the loss of a person who played such a significant part in the development of modern China.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate)General Mohammed, Nigerian head of State and commander of the armed forces met his death on 13 February 1976. General Mohammed had served with the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Congo. A prominent leader of the Nigerian Federal Forces, and Minister of Communication, he became Nigerian Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces in July 1975. His Government introduced a number of significant reforms. I therefore move:
That the Senate records its sincere regret at the death of General Murtala Rufai Mohammed, Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, and expresses to the people of Nigeria profound regret and to his family tenders sympathy in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I wish to be associated with the remarks made by Senator Withers on the death of General Mohammed, Head of State of Nigeria. I understand that General Mohammed had been the senior member of the Nigerian Government for a short time only. His impact on world affairs, therefore, would have been very limited. I think it is fair to say that our association with and knowledge of him in Australia would be reasonably restricted. Nevertheless it does appear that, during the time in which he was the head of state of that country, he did endeavour to effect certain changes which could have been of benefit to the Nigerian people. It is always a tragedy, of course, when any head of state is assassinated, but possibly an equal tragedy is the unsettlement which takes place when it occurs in countries such as Nigeria which are struggling to develop themselves to a stage where their own people can live in some form of comfort and security that is unknown to most of them. For those reasons I feel that it is appropriate that we should carry this motion of condolence. I support the remarks of Senator Withers.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
– Order! Before calling Senator Knight I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Knight’s first speech in the Senate and invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies. I call Senator Knight.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
- Mr President, I am honoured to move:
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
To His Excellency the Governor-General
May it please Your Excellency- We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Mr President, may I begin by congratulating you on your election as President. I know that the confidence expressed in you will be fully justified and that you will enhance the dignity of this chamber during your tenure of office. We have seen already the tact and dignity with which you will handle proceedings in the chamber. I extend those good wishes also to the Chairman of Committees.
I regard it as a great and somewhat daunting honour to enter the national Parliament, particularly the Senate, at this important time in Australia’s history. I congratulate other honourable senators on their election, particularly those who, like myself, are taking their places here for the first time. I trust that I will be able to contribute, along with others, to facing up to and solving the critical problems which Australia now faces. Many of the decisions to be made will not be easy ones for any of us. It will be our responsibility to enact legislation which serves Australia ‘s interests in the broadest sense.
Although my Party-the Liberal Party of Australia expressed reservations about the constitutionality of the election of senators for the Territories it has accepted the ruling of the High Court of Australia on this matter. I take this opportunity to suggest that, since the constitutionality of the election of Territorial senators has now been established, one further matter in this respect might be considered. The only distinction between my colleagues and me from the Territories and other senators is that our term of office coincides with that of the House of Representatives. I believe that, following the High Court’s judgment, that provision might now be reconsidered. I hope that consideration can be given to Territorial senators having full status in this chamber through a full period of tenure of office as for other honourable senators.
I want to contribute to national policy and to debates on issues which go beyond my own electorate. However, my first responsibility is and must be to the electors of the Australian Capital Territory and their families, lt is to them that I will give my attention first.
The Australian Capital Territory is the base of the Commonwealth Public Service. I was a public servant for 1 1 years before entering the Senate. I believe that the Public Service is a highly efficient and capable organisation which serves the needs of the Australian people with great integrity. Members of the Public Service are as keen as anybody else to see the implementation of reforms to improve the Public Service and to make it a more efficient vehicle for providing essential services to the Australian community. I am pleased to say that one of the first measures to be introduced into this Parliament will be a new superannuation scheme for Commonwealth public servants. No doubt there will be ways of improving this scheme once it has been introduced. But I particularly welcome it and the special provisions that are now to be included which will enhance the position of women in the Commonwealth Public Service. I will be especially interested in the conditions of service of public servants, particularly women, with respect, for example, to employment availability and the provision of child care facilities for those wishing to work.
I am pleased that after discussions I had yesterday with the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) issued a statement making it clear that action taken by the National Capital Development Commission to dismiss staff is not in accord with Government policy. Revised staff ceilings are to be reached by normal wastage, such as retirements and resignations. The Prime Minister has rightly called for a report on the actions taken by the National Capital Development Commission.
I believe that there is a greater role for handicapped people to play in the Commonwealth Public Service and in the community as a whole, so that they might take a greater part in national administration and at the same time be provided with the dignity in our society which such employment provides.
It is my view that the Public Service ought to have an ombudsman to whom public servants can take particular problems and complaints. A departmental ombudsman, welfare officers or
Public Service Board officers cannot provide such a service. It can be effectively provided only by someone standing beyond the strict boundaries of the Public Service itself.
The private sector has also played an enormous part in the growth of the Australian Capital Territory. From its beginnings early in this century the construction industry has in many respects been the backbone of the private sector in Canberra. In this rapidly developing city, this remains the case. Measures are needed to stimulate the construction industry and the private sector as a whole to ensure balance in the Australian Capital Territory and to provide employment and housing. With the rapid growth of the population in the Australian Capital Territory and the problems of dislocation for people transferred to it- 1 might add that it is Australia’s finest example of a growth centre- housing availability and rental accommodation are often critical. Those are matters to which I, as a member of the Senate, will be paying particular attention.
The Australian Capital Territory enjoys high standards in the field of education. It has its own university, college of advanced education, technical college and many schools. Its student/ teacher ratio is the most favourable in Australia and its standards of education are amongst the highest. I will be working to see that those standards are maintained.
Following the enactment of the Child Care Act in 1972 the provision of child care facilities throughout Australia has expanded rapidly. I will also be working to see that this continues in the Australian Capital Territory. I believe that there is a greater need for the integration of child care and pre-school facilities as this will permit the provision of such services to many more children. This is equally important, of course, to parents, particularly women, who wish to work or who require such facilities for their children so that they can participate more fully in community affairs.
I especially welcome the Governor-General’s announcement that the relevant Government commissions will be asked to give close attention to measures designed to achieve greater equality in education facilities and particularly to provide better educational opportunities for the disadvantaged, handicapped, Aboriginal, isolated and migrant children.
Such policies reflect, I believe, the spirit of liberalism and of our times; an awareness of the obligation of each person to others and of government to the community as a whole. Our policies aim to provide all Australians with equality of opportunity and equality before the law. They are designed to ensure that each person has the dignity of employment.
The public sector provides vital services and has an essential role in the complex modern state such as Australia is. Today that role is more important than ever. But it is the private sector which creates the wealth to permit government and the public sector to provide these services and to assist those in need. It is the private sector which, for most people, will ensure the dignity of employment. It is only in these circumstances that the freedom to which we all aspire, for each individual, can be attained. It is to this dignity, this equality and this freedom that the LiberalNational Party Government is dedicated.
We will also pursue a balanced and realistic foreign policy. In accordance with our philosophy of liberalism we believe in the equality of peoples and of nations. We will seek closer regional ties based on a recognition of the practical bases of these relationships. I believe, for example, that the possibility of consultation between the Association of South-East Asian Nations and the South Pacific Forum ought to be explored further. This would link more closely the South-East Asian and South Pacific regions. We are a member of the Forum and I believe this is an initiative which we might usefully pursue at meetings soon to be held in Wellington. These 2 organisations and the countries which participate in them face similar problems. They may be able to co-operate effectively in a search for solutions.
The Government has taken initiatives in the United Nations and elsewhere to end the bloodshed in East Timor. We have made it clear to Indonesia that we do not accept incorporation of East Timor in Indonesia as inevitable. Our relations with Indonesia are of great importance but not to the point where we will cast aside our commitment to fundamental rights and freedom.
In the Middle East we will pursue a consistent policy aimed at maximising the contribution we might make to achieve peace. We will stand by Israel ‘s right to exist and we will also work for the alleviation of the great suffering of the Palestinian Arab people.
We have a close and long standing relationship with the United States of America. It is an interdependent relationship in which we generally pursue similar values and freedoms. We share a growing concern over developments in the Indian Ocean. We will have our differences and we will express them forcefully, but privately. In many ways our relationship with the United States is fundamental. But our views and our interests are not to be taken for granted by anybody just as we do not take others for granted. That must be the basis of our relationship with every nation.
Mr President, I look forward to working with you and with all my colleagues in the Senate so that we might each, and as a whole, contribute to Australia’s future. Despite present difficult circumstances I believe, as the Governor-General said yesterday, that we have a unique opportunity to establish in Australia a truly liberal and humane society where freedom, equality and dignity prevail and where the disadvantaged have first call on our resources. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– I now call Senator Kilgariff. I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Kilgariff’s first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies to him.
– I have much pleasure in seconding the motion moved by Senator Knight. I also take the opportunity to extend my congratulations to you, Mr President, on your election. I come from the Northern Territory which is a long way from Canberra but, Mr President, your record of integrity is well known in the Territory. So on behalf of the people of the Territory I congratulate you. I also take the opportunity to congratulate my good friend the Chairman of Committees, Senator Tom Drake-Brockman, on his election.
Today it is a great honour for me to speak because, for the first time, the Northern Territory is represented in the Senate. We have had many constitutional changes over the years but I think that representation in the Senate is probably one of our major milestones. I could say many things regarding the Governor-General ‘s Speech which was delivered yesterday. I could advert to many things which affect the Northern Territory. Today I devote my comments to the Northern Territory because many of the comments made yesterday referred to the Northern Territory. As honourable senators know it is still a territory. Its authority stems from the Northern Territory Administration Act which is a Federal Act. Many of the policies pursued by Federal governments control our wellbeing and our future. So I take a few minutes to speak on this matter because it is important that I do so.
I shall give to honourable senators what I consider is the situation in the Northern Territory which is dependent on the Parliament of Australia and on the Commonwealth Government. Being a territorian and particularly an honourable senator for the Northern Territory I believe it is appropriate today that I devote my thoughts to the Northern Territory. I shall speak on industrial, environmental and social factors which pertain to the Northern Territory. I add that these factors are foremost in the minds of my constituents- more so now than at any other time in the history of the Northern Territory. In these days of economic struggle and restraint the average territorian has extended his horizons dramatically. He has done so because although he is aware that he is a member of a community which sprawls over a vast area he prefers to look upon himself as a person who is making a solid contribution not only to the Territory but to Australia as a whole. His thinking is quite correct. The entire Territory sees itself in its future role as being capable of performing mighty feats which will be to the benefit not only of the Territory but of Australia. So it is with these thoughts in mind that I address the Senate today. Morever, the eventual resolving of many of our problems can only result in a better Northern Territory and Australia.
Before enlarging on that theme I say that in the 1970s and beyond I see the Northern Territory as a teenager who is coming into adulthood. When I say ‘adulthood’ I mean that, as the Governor-General announced yesterday, in the near future it will come to statehood. That is something which I and my colleagues in the Northern Territory, as well as many other people in the Northern Territory, have over the years worked to bring about.
I applaud the proposed action of our Government of setting up a joint Federal Parliament and Northern Territory Legislative Assembly committee. It will ensure liaison between the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the national Parliament so that there will be a planned transfer of responsibility to the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory is facing an exciting time. Its state of maturity is such that very soon it will be given the key to the door. I might say that this has not happened overnight. It has taken a long time to reach this stage. In 1 974 the Territory gained a fully elected Legislative Assembly. From that time, we have seen it attain adulthood and, as I said before, soon it will attain Statehood. The fact that I am standing here in the Senate today is indicative of the confidence the rest of Australia has in our success. We in the Northern Territory are confident that we can meet the political challenges and subsequent demands which will be required of us. As I have said, it is a confidence which has been brought about by gradual growth. This growth has taken place since 1824, the time of the first colonisation in the Territory. Our efforts have come from the pioneers of that time to the present day. Our political confidence is emerging. Our first Legislative Council met in 1947. We have gone from childhood to adulthood.
However, I do not wish to present a rosy picture of the present day Northern Territory, which frankly is faced with obstacles which must be overcome. They are not altogether different in nature from the difficulties which are being faced in the Australian States; but perhaps the magnitude of our difficulties is greater because of the different environments. In outlining the current situations within our industries and commerce and community areas, I do so not with the intention of inviting debate; there will be ample time for that in the days to come. However, I feel that I must report upon and in some cases repeat some of the inadequacies which have occurred in recent years and which, unless rectified, will result in the demise of valuable development. We are at a very exciting stage in mining and exploration. This is evident if one looks at the prospects of economic stability to be obtained from the natural resources in Australia, many of which are contained in the soils of the Northern Territory. Yet simultaneously we are faced with the massive task of rejuvenating a vital industry which was seriously injured in its formative stages, largely through nationalisation and sheer nervous reluctance to gamble on the costly development of exploration and mining. These industries must be put back on their feet for the sake of Australia. In retrospect, we can all ask where we went wrong. However, it is more appropriate at this stage to say: ‘Let us put right the damage which has been done’. The chances of success in the production of natural gas, oil and minerals are excellent. In the Alice Springs area in the centre of Australia we are now ready for the Government to say ‘go’ on the construction of a refinery. I expect that under our Government which represents free enterprise we will see this happen, and I look forward to it being built in a few years time.
Our contribution to the world supply of uranium will be of the utmost importance as a result of our generous deposits. Today the world is looking towards the Northern Territory providing its uranium energy supply from a time as close as the 1980s when the demands for uranium will reach increased proportions. Our discoveries of uranium in the Top End and in central Australia, together with our huge deposits of bauxite at Gove, silver, zinc and lead at
McArthur River and copper and gold at Tennant Creek and other areas, place the Northern Territory in an extremely enviable position at the top of the natural resources ladder. Let us take natural gas for a start. It has been suggested already that reserves in northern South Australia may not be adequate for the proposed gas pipeline to New South Wales. This fact alone validates the urgent need for further exploration in central Australia, where deposits virtually are known to exist in large quantities. However, small exploration companies have been thwarted in their efforts to carry on this vital exploration through the lack of governmental assistance, encouragement or backing which could have meant those deposits or reserves being well on their way to the consumer today. Instead, the companies have packed up their drills and moved to greener pastures where their skills can be better appreciated. It will be expensive for them to come back and take up where they left off. But this must happen. Therefore we, as a country, must give them every encouragement.
The story concerning oil is similar to that in relation to other minerals. We must, as an urgent priority, stimulate interest and investment in these areas. We must look at ways of introducing incentives such as taxation deductions for exploration. We must make it attractive to overseas companies to come to Australia with their knowhow and equipment- companies which will put the necessary finance into such projects for the good of Australia, with Australian participation and control. At the same time we must encourage the small investor to look closely at exploration and mining. Stimulation in these fields is selfgenerating and the lifeblood of the industries concerned lies with the explorers. Let us reintroduce those urgently needed incentives.
I turn away from mining and exploration to deal with an industry which for decades has been a mainstay of our internal economy. I refer to the pastoral industry. Once again, the cause of the present state of this industry lies mainly in the lack of foresight by our predecessors when crippling blows were dealt to this industry by the abolition of the fuel equalisation scheme and enormous increases in rail freight and other transport costs. Added to this is the unfortunate and untimely slump in beef export markets. Today, because of these factors, the Northern Territory pastoral industry is not only ailing; it could be described as a disaster area. Whilst we appreciate the need for restraint in financial assistance and realise the stresses currently burdening our economy, we know that the complete collapse of this once vibrant industry will impose far-reaching hardships not only upon the Territory people but also upon the many markets which depend heavily on the Territory’s beef production.
Let us take a quick glance at the serious problem which occurred last year when we had several examples of producers being forced to send extra money to their southern agents to cover costs of transport after prices realised at markets did not even meet the investment needed to get the produce to the market. The fact that prices were low was secondary to the alarming realisation that the producer could no longer afford the luxury of transporting his stock to the market. I am sure that there are not many producers outside the Territory who are forced to transport their produce up to 1000 miles to be sold. What then is the answer which will get this industry back to a healthy state? Carry on finance alone cannot be the solution. That merely adds an extra financial burden on the producer who today is battling hard enough to meet his daytoday running expenses. It may help him overcome his immediate needs. But we have to look at long term solutions and they cannot be found until costs are put back on a viable footing. I believe that if this is at all possible it will be done pursuant to the present Government’s attitude to the economy. Another probable solution lies in the continued development of a complete industry which provides for the establishment of a secondary addition, such as beef killing facilities to cut down transport costs. It is an aim which needs to be implemented as soon as possible to assist the pastoralist in his survival. The Northern Territory must be considered as a future warehouse for the rest of Australia in many different ways. Responsible government, controlled development and proper management will ensure this in years to come.
Although it is not an industry as such, defence is a subject which is close to the heart of many people in the Northern Territory particularly those in the Top End. We cannot afford to ignore the possibility of further attacks in the future. This is not an alarmist attitude but a very realistic one. Who could have foreseen the attacks on Darwin and other northern areas in 1942 which had such devastating results and substantial loss of life? Admittedly we are not in the throes of a world war as we were then, but with anxiety increasing in the East Timor area, which is but a short hop across the water, it is only natural that a feeling of apprehension is evident in the minds of those who are most vulnerable, that is, the people of the north. It may be hard for people in the southern parts of Australia to understand the apprehension that these people have. These people have suffered attack. Until now, with the election of this Government, it appeared that our defences were eroding away. There has been much room for apprehension, but not only for apprehension. We, the people at the Top End of Australia, in the outback, feel that we need a strong defence system. We believe that a strong system makes a healthy country. If we had had a healthy country I wonder whether what has occurred in Timor in the last few months would have occurred. I and many other people in the outback of Australia who are so close to Timor- a fighter plane takes 15 minutes to fly from the mainland to Timor- have a sense of shame and feel that we have let down these allies of ours who supported and assisted Australian troops with loss of life to themselves. But, as I have said, I am speaking about the Northern Territory, and I will have something more to say on that matter later.
At a time when we are looking towards the updating and modernisation of our naval, military and air forces, which as I have said have been allowed to deteriorate, it would serve us well to consider seriously the advantages of the establishment of defence facilities along our northern coastline. The defence of our northern coastline, which runs many thousands of miles, could have a multitude of advantages for our present national defence services. Briefly the establishment of defence installations in the north now would enable acclimatisation of those who would be engaged in any future action. This should not be taken lightly because at present, as highly trained as they are, they are without the working knowledge or appreciation of tropical conditions and the difficulties experienced in coping with those conditions. Also, by setting up defence facilities yet another form of development would be created, at the same time ensuring greater protection for Australia and its wealthy inland resources.
Tourism is a tremendous industry in the Northern Territory. Without going into very much detail, the development of tourism in the Northern Territory would assist greatly the national economy. The Northern Territory, with its unique environment, has the potential to be one of the nation’s leading tourist destination areas both nationally and internationally, but cooperation between the Government and the tourist authorities in the Northern Territory is needed to bring this about.
I turn now to a completely different form of development which, to me and to many people in the Northern Territory, is the most important single social factor in the lifestyle of the Territory. I refer to Aboriginal affairs. There can be no doubt that both Aboriginal and European races must be given every opportunity to develop together. Some policies in the past, when implemented, have tended to create a form of apartheid within both communities which I sincerely believe is neither warranted nor wanted in any Australian society, certainly not in the Northern Territory.
The lessons of the past must be the basis of our future legislation for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. Every effort must be made to ensure the exclusion or elimination of any type of discriminatory or separatist legislation. It boils down to the fact that our first consideration must be the complete understanding of the Aborigine as an individual in a bi-racial community. Also in the implementation of Aboriginal policies we must be careful to distinguish between the more traditional Aborigines, whose self identity has been culturally shaped and formed, and those whose self identity has been largely formed on the basis of colour. There is much misunderstanding about this. The latter, for political reasons, have attempted to project the image that Aborigines are a homogeneous race- a fact which is vigorously disputed by the cultural Aborigines. For them, an Aboriginal is one who knows the Aboriginal law. Thus for them aboriginality has nothing to do with colour. Both of these groups have needs and aspirations which differ and therefore policy initiatives aimed at helping them must also be differentiated.
Let us keep in mind also a few statistical facts which dictate the need for such special care in the Northern Territory; the first being that out of a total population of about 100 000 people in the Northern Territory some 24 000 constitute the Aboriginal population and of them about 1 8 000 live in mission-sponsored townships and Aboriginal reserves. The remaining 7000 live in rural and urban areas off reserves in the Northern Territory. It is a fact that many of this latter group have lived, or are at present living, on pastoral properties- the number is declining- and have been an important component in the development of the pastoral industry. It is also acknowledged that despite some wrongful policies of the past a lot has been achieved in the development of employment areas for Aborigines. Many of these face the danger of winding down through lack of financial assistance. This fact alone can prove confusing to the Aboriginal who has been gainfully employed on projects. Through his eyes he sees a situation where money cannot be found to provide him with work yet there is a never-ending reserve available for him in the form of unemployment or. as he calls it, sit down money.
I refer now to the subject of land rights. My Party is not against the principle of granting land to the Aboriginal people, yet at the same time we are vitally concerned that such legislation be implemented to the satisfaction of all Territorians without being at the expense of one or the other race. In fact we are pledged to ensure that Aborigines are granted land and that subsequent legislation contributes to the ultimate goal of a successful bi-racial community. The people of the Northern Territory attach such importance to that fact that I will repeat myself. Our future thoughts and actions must be guided towards the ultimate goal of a successful bi-racial community. To be more concise, we must look closely at the intricate issues involved in granting Aboriginal land rights in order to ensure that those rights are not abused by either race and also to ensure that their sole basis is not the overemphasis which is so often placed on theorist ideals. Let me say that many people appear to forget that with the Aborigines we are dealing with people, not just numbers.
Another important issue, although not so farreaching a community issue, is the reconstruction of cyclone devastated Darwin and the role played by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. I bring forward this point today because the Darwin Reconstruction Commission was set up by the Federal Houses of Parliament and presented to the Northern Territory. The Commission has come under severe criticism because of some of its operations since its inception in January last year. In most cases the criticism has been quite valid. It is true that the Commission, with considerable Government support- and I stress that- has spent many millions of dollars in an attempt to put our northernmost city back together again. The Commission was faced with a mammoth task and one for which it did not have the guidelines of precedent to follow. However, its ability undoubtedly has been called in question due to several factors, most of which have been engendered by bureaucratic interference, duplication of operations, sheer red tape and governmental strangling, and I heard a comment in the Governor-General’s speech that had some reference to that.
I say that the feasibility of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission is now at an end; its days of usefulness are over. Darwin now is at a stage where the Commission can be phased out successfully and Territory-based organisations can take over, acting within the boundaries of existing departmental facilities. In following that course, I would recommend that certain structural changes be undertaken which would enable the merging of the Northern Territory Housing Commission and its counterpart branch in the Department of Construction into a corporate body. We cannot afford the luxury of an operation that is continually hampered by fragmentation, overlapping authority and red tape. The terms of operation under a centralist style of government have been largely inoperative in the case of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and that has caused a fragmentation of many good intentions which were evident at the outset of the project but which have been undermined. At the same time I call for greater autonomy to be placed in the hands of the Federal Minister for the Northern Territory, not only in this case but also in the case of several other administrative bodies within the Northern Territory.
Mr Deputy President, I am running out of time and I will cut short my speech. Still dealing with the Top End and turning to yet another thorn in the sides of its inhabitants, I refer to the port of Darwin, which has been allowed to stagnate to a point where it can be described only as an excuse for a port. It is a tragic situation, and the port desperately needs re-establishment or upgrading. That cannot be done overnight, and at this stage the present usage of the port does not justify large funds being poured into it. But we in the Territory are not looking at the present; we are looking to the future, and in particular our future potential. In this case, the future potential of the port of Darwin is unlimited. Adequate port facilities undoubtedly would stimulate and attract industry, and by facilities I refer to means of making available speedier turnaround for cargo ships and the quick handling of all classes of cargo. There is no reason why Darwin eventually should not become a major Australian port which would provide the inland centres with an all year service and supply of goods. The port of Darwin has indeed stagnated. It has been blessed with the ancient T-head jetty and piled trestle approach, giving no immediate landbacked storage and movement areas. Incidentally, this type of wharf is the same as that constructed in 1 869, and it was in 1 894 that it was first proposed that a land-backed berth should be built. Numerous proposals and reports are being made today, and even if the immediate goahead to upgrade the port were given it would be three to five years before it would be fully operational.
In conclusion, may I say that my address today has not been designed as a platform to express miraculous answers to the various issues pertinent to the Northern Territory and its growth. Rather I would hope that it has served to air for the first time in this House the potential contribution our vast Territory has the ability to offer this nation. I see my presence here today as a significant move towards recognition of that fact by the Australian electorate. For far too long the Northern Territory has been devoid of an effective voice at senatorial level, and I see my future role and that of my honourable friend the other senator from the Northern Territory as that of an instrument of liaison between the people of the Northern Territory and this House of Parliament during this historic and vibrant emergence into economic and social stability. Thank you, Mr Deputy President.
– May I congratulate both Senator Knight and Senator Kilgariff on their maiden speeches in this Parliament. I am sure that all of us when we come here do not look forward to that task because generally we feel somewhat overwhelmed by the suroundings and the fact that we are speaking in the Parliament for the first time. Every time a maiden speech is delivered in the Parliament it is customary to congratulate either the member in the other chamber or the senator in this place on his contribution. But I think the essential point is that, whatever opinions are expressed in this chamber and in this Parliament, they reflect not only the Party attitude to which most of us subscribethere are one or two unfortunate exceptions here- but also the thoughts of the person himself and what he believes is in the interests of the Australian community.
This Parliament meets in unique circumstances. They are unique because of the manner in which the election of 1975 was held. Never before in the history of this country had we witnessed the events which took place, particularly in this Senate chamber, last November. I do not wish to go into detail and restate those events now, although some of my colleagues will be dealing with them during the course of this debate. I want to say in respect of that matter only that the Australian Labor Party accepts the decision of the Australian people. It does not accept the manner in which the election was brought about and it will continue to explain to the Australian people the wrongness of what was done and the inherent dangers which those actions have brought to the Australian parliamentary system, in the hope that the Australian people will recognise that there must be constitutional changes in this country which would prevent any political party ever again bringing about the event that we saw last year.
I wish to go straight into the question of the politics of both Mr Fraser ‘s policy speech and the Speech of the Governor-General. I can recall quite clearly that during the election campaign Mr Fraser referred to the dismissal of certain Labor Ministers because allegedly they were not telling the truth or there was something improper about them. He made great play of that during the course of his last few months in Opposition and also in his policy speech. But I must say that this Fraser Government has not got away to a very good start, and I understand that already one Minister is to be prosecuted on charges of bribery. That is unfortunate and I am not here to dwell on that issue. But let me assure the Senate that it is legitimate comment, in the light of the standards that were set by the present Government, to say that the things which were said about a Labor Minister in 1975 are applicable now to a Liberal Minister in this Government and the circumstances arose only 2 months after the gentleman concerned was sworn in as a Minister.
– I wish to take a point of order. The point of order which I put for your consideration, Mr Deputy President, relates to the sub judice rule. The sub judice rule as I know it has been defined by senators who have previously sat in the chair in which you are sitting, Mr Deputy President, is that no statement which relates to a matter before the court that may prejudice the case of the person before the court is admissible in debate. Mr Deputy President, I ask you to rule the Leader of the Opposition out of order.
– I take the same point of order but I take it one step further. The Leader of the Opposition was also comparing and discussing the relationship of previous governments and ministers with some circumstance in this Parliament. Therefore, he was obviously referring to a circumstance which is now before the court. I support what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has said because that would be a discussion of a matter which is before the courts and should not be allowed in this chamber.
- Mr Deputy President, if it is of assistance to you I had not intended to create offence. If I remember my words correctly, I made a statement -
Mr DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Senator Wriedt, are you speaking to the point of order?
– I shall speak to the point of order. I made it clear that I was simply referring to a matter which is common knowledge. I was not intending to convey nor do I believe my words did convey any sense of guilt or any attempt to persuade one way or the other in this matter. Mr Deputy President, I ask you to consider that in your ruling.
– I am not upholding the point of order. I do not think the honourable senator had gone far enough for me to uphold the point of order. I ask Senator Wriedt to continue in the way he indicated to me when speaking to the point of order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I do not intend to refer any further to the matter at this stage. It is important that we recognise the credibility of those who lead in the Parliament. The man leading the new Government always questioned the credibility of the previous Prime Minister. The same Mr Malcolm Fraser said during the course of 1975 that he did not believe in the Senate bringing about an election by refusing Supply. He is on record as saying that; we all know it. But when the final test came he threw his principles overboard. For what reasons? I do not know what sort of pressure he was under. Then he decided that he would bring the previous Government down and would exercise the power of the Senate which only months before he said that he would not do. Of course we remember when he said that he was not out to knock off Mr Bill Snedden from the leadership. He is on record as saying that. It was only a matter of weeks before Bill Snedden had the big knife in his back and Mr Malcolm Fraser was the Leader of the Opposition. We must ask ourselves about the credibility of this man and we hope that the examples that we see already are not indicative of the type of things he is going to do as Prime Minister.
We are here mainly to deal with the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech. I wish to refer to some aspects of the Speech, which obviously represents the attitudes of this Government. I suppose it is unfair to be too critical after a government has been in office for 2 months and I will not suggest that everything that was promised or the undertakings which were made by Government spokesmen before the election should have all been implemented by now. But what concerns me is that already there is a vein of philosophy running through decisions which have been taken. These are the matters which must concern us. Certainly the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 ran into problems. We do not deny that. 1 will deal later in more detail with the sort of problem with which we were confronted and which this Government, it is true, has inherited. But the Labor Government was doing the very things which this Government claims it is doing. For example, in the course of his Speech the Governor-General said that the Government is not denying that there are people who need assistance in the Australian community, which is the content of a question which I put to Senator Withers today at question time. Early in his Speech the Governor-General said:
The Government’s long term objective is to prevent the growth of centralised bureaucratic domination in Australia, the increasing dependence of individuals on the state.
It would seem that the dependence of an individual on the state is some sort of crime in the eyes of the Liberal and National Country Parties. I do not think the Australian wool grower would agree with that after the support that the Labor Government gave him and his dependence on the centralised bureaucratic Labor Government of 1975. We would have seen the total collapse of the Australian wool industry unless the Labor Government had been prepared to give it that assistance. I do not think even the pensioner regards himself as someone who should not be dependent on the state. Obviously when generalisations such as that statement are made one can only draw the conclusion that from that will flow the specifics in which individuals in the Australian community will be made to suffer. Further on in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech we find these words:
Unless there is a concentration on those in real need, schemes of assistance do not provide maximum possible assistance to the disadvantaged and become excessively costly.
Again one can cite the case of the pensioner. I do not know whether the Government believes pensioners come in that category. Let us compare that with the decision to reintroduce the superphosphate bounty. There is a classic case immediately where the support that has been paid out by this Government is going in a grossly inequitable fashion to those people who are receiving it. Further on the Governor-General said:
There will be a major direction of resources away from Government towards individuals and private enterprise.
The Government has made a good start. I was interested to listen to the comments of Senator Kilgariff who has just resumed his seat when he was talking of the development of uranium in the Northern Territory. One of the very first acts of this Government was to sell out the Australian people’s interests through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in the Ranger project and to sell out our interests in Mary Kathleen. I do not really believe that the people of Queensland or the Northern Territory ever wanted that to be done. Were they told that before the election? Perhaps at some time during the course of this debate one of the senators from the Government side can advise me. It may be that they were told but I have not been made aware of it. I have inquired. I can find nowhere on record any statement by the then Opposition that it would sell our interests in our uranium deposits.
– It told the overseas buyers.
– As Senator Grimes reminds me, perhaps the Government has prospects of selling that interest to overseas buyers. The step of moving away from the public sector to the private sector may sound very attractive in theory, but it does not follow that it will be practical. For example, only recently a survey by the PA management consultant people was published in Sydney which shows that the majority of businessmen in Australia do not believe that there will be an automatic improvement in economic conditions for the business community simply because the LiberalNational Country Party Government has been re-elected. It is not as easy as that because if we look back on the events which took place in 1 974 and particularly in 1975 we find that the Labor Government was compelled to assist industry and was compelled to spend money which inevitably meant a big increase in the deficit. We had the same option as every other industrialised country. There were factors which were beyond our control.
– I heard someone say ‘rubbish’. I am pleased to see that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, in a statement which he issued recently acknowledged the fact that every other country in the world is grappling with the problem of inflation. On how many occasions did we make the point clear that we also were caught up in the world wide inflationary trends? We were told that those matters had nothing to do with the economic recession and that it was all due to our own mismanagement. But now the Treasurer concedes that he too has to grapple with the overseas inflation problem because it is affecting his own economy now in Australia.
In 1975 we imported no less than $8 billion worth of goods and experienced a net price increase on those goods of 25 per cent. We could not escape the consequences of that in this country and Mr Lynch cannot escape the consequences of that now. I am pleased to see he is prepared to place on public record an acknowledgement of that fact. At the same time, of course, unemployment was increasing. But what option did we have as a Government? I suggest that the options available to this Government now essentially are the same as were available to us when in Government. This Government has to make the judgment: Do we restrict government spending, as there is so much talk of doing; do we push money out of the public sector allegedly into the private sector and risk a higher rate of unemployment; or do we risk a higher rate of inflation? Is that the policy that is going to be pursued? Basically if one wants to push money and to restrict spending in the public sector it is going to affect the private sector. The business community in this country is fully conscious of that fact. The unemployment or inflation problems will not be solved simply by slashing government expenditure, nor will they be solved by setting about consciously to destroy the system of wage indexation.
The commitment given by the now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the course of the recent general election campaign is another case in point. He said: ‘We will stand by wage indexation’. But he was no sooner in office than he put up a submission to the Arbitration Court recommending that it should not allow an increase to be passed on to employees. Certainly wage indexation is a very fragile weapon and I do not think anybody would believe that it is going to solve all the problems of this country. But it is at least something that is working now. Evidence shows that at least in the last quarter of last year wage indexation was beginning to take effect. One of the most irresponsible actions that this Government could take would be for it to try to destroy that wage indexation system until such time as something better has been formulated by the trade unions, the employer groups and the Arbitration Court.
We have seen one or two rather desperate measures adopted. We saw the decision to issue what are known as the ‘Australian Savings Bonds’. We were told they were issued to soak up liquidity but of course it was an action taken without proper forethought. The initial interest rate of 10.5 per cent upset interest rates and certainly upset permanent building societies to the extent that the Government was compelled to reduce that interest rate to 9.5 per cent. That was not a decision for which the Government could take a great deal of credit. The Government must have known that the action that was taken in absorbing a large sum of money very quicklymoney which really remains fairly liquid when one considers that all these bonds are redeemable at short notice with no penalty if redeemed after six months, if I remember rightly- could well be counter-productive. These are the commitments which the Government has made but which, admittedly, it has been prepared to concede were erroneous in certain respects.
When we look at the longer term we find this overriding commitment about the deficit. Yet under the investment proposals- the 40 per cent for 2 years and 20 per cent thereafter flowing right through until 1984- we find a commitment given by a government which says it will get the deficit down within a certain period. I find it extremely difficult to believe that it is wise for the Government to make that sort of commitment so far ahead. We have not been told the cost to revenue of the investment allowance. We have been told that there is a $ 1 ,000 exemption. Of course that $1,000 exemption must hurt the small businesses. How many times were we told during the last year that the Labor Government did not want to support small businesses? We were told of all the bankruptcies that took place in 1975 but then of course, when we did our homework and got the necessary figures from the Treasury, we found that the rate of bankruptcies of small businesses in Australia was the highest under the Liberal-Country Party Government of 1972. So in fact the rate of bankruptcies came down under the Labor Government. Yet we find this Government introducing an investment allowance which is directed towards the large companies and not towards the small companies. The small companies will be penalised by the $1,000 exemption that has been written into this investment allowance.
I make one or two short references now to the Government’s position on agriculture, a matter on which I maintain a close interest. I am concerned particularly about the failure of this Government to give a commitment to the fruit exporting industry, particularly in my own State of Tasmania. We instituted a scheme 2 years ago to help the apply and pear growers in the Huon Valley of southern Tasmania in order to protect them from a declining market in Europe. Each year we made our intentions clear that we would underwrite in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government the export of 2 million bushels of fruit. It is now February and I understand that no commitment has been made. I have endeavoured to obtain from the office of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) confirmation of
Government assistance to this industry which is badly in need of Government help. This confirmation has not been forthcoming. I ask the Government to make an immediate decision on this matter. The Government has before it an industry assistance report which was tabled here today and which I understand was completed early last November at the time that we were occupied with other things. It is encumbent on this Government to act quickly to ensure that the apple and pear industry is assisted immediately.
The only other matter with which I am concerned is the general one of commitments which were made by the Government spokesman on primary industry, Mr Sinclair, during the course of the election campaign. He gave certain undertakings in respect of the beef industry in particular. None of these undertakings have been fulfilled, with the exception of the export levy. I believe it is important that the Government should state its reasons for not being prepared to give that assistance and should explain either to the Parliament or, indeed, to the beef industry its reasons for not being prepared to go ahead with commitments that it made.
I give an assurance that during the course of this parliamentary session this Government is going to be under the closest scrutiny by the Opposition. If the Government imagines that because of the numbers that exist in this chamber and in the House of Representatives it is going to have an armchair ride for 3 years, let me assure it that that will not be the case. We will inquire, we will probe and at every opportunity we will watch the actions of the Government collectively and of Ministers individually. I give warning now that we will be active and alert at all times to ensure that this Government maintains the standards which it claimed it would maintain in government when it levelled criticism against us when in government. If these standards are not maintained the Australian people certainly will be made aware of it.
Sitting suspended from 5.40 to 8 p.m.
– I call Senator Messner. I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Messner’s first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to observe the traditional courtesies.
– I would would like to start by congratulating the first 2 speakers in this debate, Senator Knight and Senator Kilgariff, who made their maiden speeches today. They certainly showed that they have much to offer the Senate. I hope that the Senate’s judgment after I have made my speech will be that I have as much to offer. I would like- although I have done it privately- to congratulate you, Mr President, on your election. It is a particularly heartfelt matter as far as I am concerned because of our close association over a number of years. I wish you all the best, Mr President. I am quite sure that when your term finally ends people will say: ‘ He is now missed ‘.
I would like to refer to the electors of South Australia, who made me feel very humble on 13 December 1975 when they elected me as one of the senators for that State. It is a great honour to have been elected to represent the views of the people of that State and to act on their behalf before the people of Australia. It seems that that is the best way properly to demonstrate the federal system in this country. It is something in which I firmly believe. It is something that I will vigorously promote in every way I can. I believe that the only way in which we can obtain meaningful results is by bringing government and the elected representatives close to the people. The federal system best promotes that.
One of the greatest problems that Australia and indeed South Australia have faced in the last few years has been that of small businesses in this country. A philosophical commitment made plainly obvious in every election is that Australia stands for small businesses. Small businesses are, in fact, dominant in the Australian scene. They must be promoted in order to prevent the monopolisation of both capital and labour in this country and to bring forward new ideas. There are many different academic definitions of small business, but I define it in terms of, in the manufacturing area, those companies or businesses which employ fewer than 100 people or, in the retail or wholesale area, those which employ fewer than about 20 people. There are 240 000 firms in that category operating in this country. They contribute 96.5 per cent in the manufacturing sector, about 98 per cent in the retail sector and about 76 per cent in the wholesale service area.
I will deal briefly with some problems that have faced them. Firstly, as honourable senators know, are there great difficulties in creating credit for small businesses. Many changes have to be made in this area. The chief way in which credit is created for small businesses is through overdraft, and honourable senators well know that. It is almost the only way in which small businesses can obtain credit. This is something that has to be looked at. Small businesses have been affected radically by taxation. Companies have been affected chiefly by Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Statutory bodies and other organisations promoted by the Government stand in the way of small businesses in ways which probably were not foreseen by those who first promoted them. The Prices Justification Tribunal affects small businesses in a way that is difficult to understand. There are other bodies, such as the Trade Practices Commission and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which have significant effects on small businesses.
Five million people are directly dependent on small businesses. It is not only an economic matter. The social aspects are a most important matter when one discusses small businesses. What about the stresses and strains that are placed on people who are not successful in their businesses and who find it difficult to make their way? In South Australia we see the promotion of worker participation. I believe that that is a very important aspect in relation to small businesses. If there is close co-operation between management and labour and close identification of interests and purposes we can have a determination to achieve the best result in the interests of all the people and not a section of them. It is also to be recognised that large scale businesses are not always economic because of their size or because of the principle of the economies of scale. There are issues which promote decentralisation and also promote efficiency. The location of industries is important. There is the importance of techniques that produce new methods which are discovered and developed in particular businesses and which are then promoted more widely. The influences of local markets and the way they affect small businesses and help their promotion is also important. But most importantly it is a breeding ground for new industries. It is the start of new ideas- the point at which people get the germ which develops into a greater business at some future time which creates more jobs and more wealth, not necessarily for the employers or the employees but for the community as a whole.
I turn to some of the problems that small businesses have faced in the last few years. Let us look at the question of depreciation as it affects the taxation laws. We all know that small businesses have been affected dramatically in the last few years because they are unable to fund the purchase of plant from savings and the retention of earnings. This is related to the treatment of assets in the balance sheets of companies on a historical cost basis rather than on a replacement cost basis. We know the problems that that brings in taxation. The Commissioner of Taxation refuses to allow depreciation of assets on a replacement cost basis as a taxation deduction. In effect, that becomes a tax on capital. What it does is destroy the retained earnings in a company and reduce it to nothing.
The present system is totally inadequate. I refer honourable senators to an accounting system employed in West Germany whereby the amount of the depreciation allowed on the replacement cost of fixed assets is calculated in proportion to the equity holding of the proprietors in the business. That is to say, the amount of depreciation charged is calculated not on total assets but on the amount of equity owned by the shareholders. That has some fairly significant implications for Consolidated Revenue, as all honourable senators will realise. I think that the time is opportune for a very smooth implementation of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee.
I turn to Division 7 tax. We all know what that means. In a private company, out of $100 worth of net taxable income earned we are allowed to retain $28.75. This provision was implemented originally to prevent the avoidance of personal tax- probably a laudable ambition. But when it was introduced private company tax rates were significantly less than those which applied to public companies. We find that in the last few years private company tax rates have reached an equality with those of public companies. So there is a matter of equity at issue here. We find that people who are operating as shareholders in private companies are, in fact, worse off in equity than people who are operating as public companies. It is not possible to decide how taxation will fall upon one who is operating as private company, whereas in a public company one’s other income is taken into account in assessing one’s liability to tax when dividends from that company are taken into account. I believe that the matter of equity is of great importance; it is a most serious consideration. 1 would like to suggest a couple of alternatives.
As we know, the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia has promoted the proposition that there should be a 75 per cent retention allowance instead of 50 per cent retention allowance. I would support that on a temporary basis although, of course, I would like to see a 100 per cent retention allowance promoted as soon as possible. I refer honourable senators to the Liberal Party policy which was announced during the election campaign. It was stated that private companies would have the option of being treated either as a partnership or as a company. That again puts the assessment of tax liability back into the hands of the individual. It is the way in which we can establish equity in that matter while leaving the financial management aspects in the hands of the individual operator. I think that is most important. I believe that there is a great deal of support for that point of view in the academic community which is involved in this area.
I turn now to finance for small businesses. During the last 3 horrendous years when interest rates have been higher than at any other time since Federation, small businesses have been left almost in a dramatic state of collapse. We still do not know how many are on the brink of disaster. The feedback that I get is that there is a great number of small businesses still teetering. How can we face this short term problem while planning for the longer term? We know that the long term problems usually associated with small businesses are in the area of inadequate security. Companies find it very difficult to obtain new finance for their projects without their being able to demonstrate that they do not really need the money. We need a situation where the banking system and other financial bodies are prepared to assess things on a broader basis. I am not suggesting government subsidised funds for these purposes; in fact, quite the opposite. I believe that the financial institutions in Australia provide the answer to these problems, but they really need development and promotion by an active body such as the Government.
Recently- I believe- in 1973 the Small Business Advisory Bureau was created. It is a body with important aims. It is making a very strong attempt to get into the area of government involvement in small business. However, currently it lacks the support of professional bodies and of the businessman himself who feels that he cannot really get the top advice that he needs at the critical times when he needs to make the right decisions. Perhaps some natural distrust arises from the fact that a government department should be involving itself in advising businesses about anything, and I guess that is well understood by the business community. I would like to suggest that, because of the lack of breadth in the area of the Small Business Advisory Bureau, what we really need in this country is an independent statutory authority whose purpose is to act as a watchdog on behalf of small business. The statutory authority could watch the complexities of legislation and how they intertwine with one another, how they confuse the general business picture, and how they make it difficult for businessmen to promote themselves.
Such a body should have a board comprised of professional men and businessmen whose purposes are well known and who understand business in the broad meaning of the word. The board could consist of and could employ as consultants, engineers, professional managers and accountants- people from the top of their various professions who have the capacity to understand the problems of each businessman and who will charge their full professional rate for their job and are therefore able to provide the top advice for small business. I believe that if this were promoted in the right way the various professions would subscribe to a subsidy to achieve this aim on a collective basis. I believe also that there could be some government involvement in this area. The difficulties facing the areas in the financial field that I think need some assistance at this time arise from the fact that there is a heavy reliance on bank overdraft by businesses. That situation has to be relieved. Long term finance has to be found for small businesses in such a way that they do not commit themselves to short term 90-day bills or purely day-to-day overdrafts in order to keep themselves going but also to provide long term fixed assets from those funds.
It would be the activity of the statutory body that I have mentioned to promote education in the fields of small businessmen, both lenders and borrowers, and to use the various bodies that do offer these financial services. I am thinking of such bodies as the Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corporation which offers insurance against mortgage defaults. This service enables small businessmen to borrow up to 85 per cent of their total requirements compared with bank allowance on a conservative valuation basis of about 60 per cent of the general amount available. I think that there is an important area of education to be looked at and to be promoted by the statutory body that I am suggesting.
I turn briefly to a few of the other bodies that have been actively promoted by various governments which involve themselves in the affairs of small businesses. I refer chiefly to the Prices Justification Tribunal. We know that the PJT is supposed to operate only in respect of companies whose sales exceed $20m a year. However, as is well known, small businesses generally tend to depend for their living on larger businesses. The impact on smaller businesses is very keenly felt when decisions are not made quickly by the Prices Justification Tribunal and when it is difficult for big businesses to obtain increases in prices based on increases in that rate of return which guarantees a return on revalued assets.
These are assets calculated in accordance with their current cost and not their original cost. This method does not necessarily give the full return on the true capital employed in the business. We need to establish and to keep well in mind the guidelines on which the Prices Justification Tribunal must operate in order to keep the total capital of businesses intact, to replace worn out and obsolete assets and to provide a sufficient rate of return upon that capital. I believe there to be complete compatibility between the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal, the trade union movement and small businesses when those guidelines are properly understood and interpreted.
Briefly, may I conclude on this aspect with some comments regarding the various State laws which come to affect small businesses. One of the most iniquitous recently has been the State payroll taxes. These taxes have risen dramatically in recent years and have been affected by wage inflation. Greater costs have been driven on to the business community and particularly in South Australia this has had its effects where business has been suffering from the recent effects- within the last two years or so- of the introduction of increased worker compensation benefits of the order of 100 per cent of workers’ average annual wages. The net result of the rapid escalation of these costs has been to affect business in South Australia to a degree greater than I believe businesses in other States have been affected.
Sir, I have canvassed in only brief fashion some of the significant problems of the small business area. I do not have all the solutions; furthermore, there may be problems which arise which we are unable to contemplate right now. The depth of the problems faced by small business is great. All I think that I can achieve tonight is to point these facts out. But perhaps the more important point I should make is that these problems are worth solving. To use an old adage, small business is big business in Australia. From it comes the drive for growth in the economy. This is the key to economic success in our current fight to rebuild a shattered economy. I urge consideration of these matters by the Government. Most of them are more urgent than we think. I commend the motion to the Senate.
-Mr President, it is a pleasure to be addressing the chamber with yourself in the Chair. May I say at the outset that I compliment Senator Messner on what I thought was a temperate and thoughtful contribution in his maiden speech. His subject is one which attracted my attention- and my sympathetic attention- when I was Minister for Manufacturing Industry.
Getting down to the gravamen of this debate, I should like to say at the outset that I do not want to provoke any invocation of standing order 4 1 7. I have said publicly what I think of the Governor-General. It was especially painful to me because he was- and I underline ‘was’- a close personal friend for many years. I believe it would have been shameful of me if I had not spoken against him in the way that I have publicly. But as 1 watched the address from the Throne on national television yesterday, I wondered whether behind that bizarrely beribboned breast there might be some feeling of disenchantment on the part of the Governor-General at the shallow words which he had to speak on behalf of the Government which he had helped to launch in such an extraordinary way. Before considering in some detail the assortment of philosophical cliches, guarded promises with barely concealed escape clauses and just plain waffle which constituted the speech from the Throne, let me volunteer -
– He did not miss you in the chamber and I will bet he is glad he could not see you on television either.
-We understand Senator Jessop at this time of the day. But I was suggesting that I might volunteer one small item of information which may help to make the historical record of last year’s events a little more complete. I speak not in dispraise or praise- heaven forfend, as Sir Robert Menzies used to say- of the Governor-General but in explanation. The Governor-General’s apologists, including a man, Mr President, who sat yesterday in the Chair that you now occupy- I refer to Sir Garfield Barwick- and who played a particularly shabby role in last year’s coup, have given a public defence of the Governor-General’s actions. The suggestion behind all of those defences is that in the given situation of last year the Governor-General had one option only, and he took it. But, Mr President, at least to me and to Mr Whitlam, the Governor-General went to considerable pains- in fact to quite extraordinary pains- to indicate the contrary.
Now, much has been said and written about a lunch which occurred at Yarralumla, attended by myself, Mr Whitlam and the GovernorGeneral. I think it was about 29 October. It was just an ordinary meeting of the Executive Council. I may say that from the outset of the Supply crisis I did my best to avoid any contact at all with the Governor-General. I believed that it was improper as an old friend for me to try to influence him in any way. I thought that it might be embarrassing to him if it were known that he had had conversations with me. So I did my best to avoid Executive Council meetings. I was on terms with the Governor-General where I could phone him and have immediate access to him, and where he could phone me and come to visit my home- incognito, if you like- even after he became Governor-General. But I believed in pursuance of the niceties of the situation that I should try to keep out of his way and not embarrass him during the crisis.
But there came a time in an ordinary routine meeting of the Executive Council where I found myself with the then Prime Minister at Yarralumla. I was invited to lunch by my old friend, the Governor-General. At that lunch he freely discussed the constitutional crisis. I can assure all honourable senators that the only deduction which could not be drawn from what he said to us was that he contemplated in any way exercising the option which he ultimately exercised. In fact, he led us to believe that that was not on his mind and would never be on his mind. On another occasion, he said to me privately: ‘I do not concede that any crisis ‘ -
– Where is the confidence of the Executive Council? This is in breach -
– I feel free to say these things because of the things which have been said, the falsifications of the situation, not by the Governor-General but by his apologists. The Governor-General said to me: ‘I do not concede that there is any crisis requiring my intervention until the money runs out’. We know how much has been said to countervail that proposition since, that there were all sorts of things which required his intervention when he did intervene.
– The funds had run out. You told us they had run out.
-You will get your opportunity, senator. You know differently. Senator Carrick knows differently. I will come to Senator Carrick in due course. I am glad that he is paying meticulous attention.
I have never divulged, and I did not think I should divulge until today, something which I am about to, which I feel it incumbent upon me to divulge in the interests of historical accuracy. That is that a little more than a week before 1 1 November, the Governor-General phoned me at my home. We know what has been said about what he did, about the option which he ultimately exercised being the only option available to him. But that was not what was on the Governor.General’s mind that day. The Governor-General spoke to me about Mr Fraser having painted himself into a corner and how we could get him off the hook, how he and I and the Labor Government could collaborate to solve the problem by finding a solution for Mr Fraser which would not involve a total loss of face. What the Governor-General suggested was that the Whitlam Government should undertake to him that he should convey to Mr Fraser a proposition that we have a half Senate election but that it would not call the Senate together until 1 July of this year and therefore would not attempt to gain any adventitious advantage about all of the things that were speculated upon at that time when it was said that we might have an accidental majority until 1 July.
The Governor-General said to me: ‘I believe that what is primarily on their mind is a worry that if you get a majority for a short period you will introduce electoral reform that will put the Country Party out of business’. He said: ‘I believe that the best contribution that I could make in this crisis would be to call up Mr Fraser and suggest to him that he could save face by agreeing to a suggestion such as that’. That may not strike honourable senators as such a dishonourable or extraordinary suggestion. I am not criticising the Governor-General for having that idea. As a matter of fact, I think it was a perspicacious idea and quite a shrewd way out of the crisis.. But the questions that do really arise are these: Certainly I was an old friend, but why should he go out of his way to ring me? I was also a partisan. I had an interest in the outcome as a member of a government which was likely to be dismissed if he took a certain course of action. One wonders how many others he talked to. We know that he talked to Sir Garfield Barwick. One wonders whether he had private chats with Mr Ellicott or with his old, good friend Mr Atwill, the President of the Liberal Party of Australia. Why did he talk to me? Why did he single me out?
– Because you were an Executive Councillor.
-No, not at all. Did he ring every Executive Councillor? I was the only Executive Councillor he rang privately at his home. The reason the GovernorGeneral rang me was to lull me and my Party into a false sense of security. I believe now that he had made up his mind before Supply was deferred and that at all times the leading figures of the Liberal Party knew that they had this ace up their sleeve. That is why we talk of a coup and that is why we regard this incident as the most shameful single act in Australia’s history. Let us look at the justification for the coup. They had to get rid, in the terms of Mr Fraser, ‘of the worst government in Australia’s history’.
Government senators- Hear, hear!
-Listen to the people who supported our involvement in Vietnam saying ‘hear, hear! ‘ to that proposition. Seeing that all this water has passed under the bridge, let us look now at the justification for this extraordinary act of getting rid of a legally elected government, of dismissing a legally elected Prime Minister. The alleged justification is to be found in the Speech from the throne that we heard yesterday. It gives the reasons why these people felt it necessary and incumbent upon them to do the extraordinary things they did to seize power last year. Let us look at what they say. First of all they say that their great task is to solve the problem of inflation. They will have no quarrel with me or with the Opposition about that. The phrase ‘the control of inflation is the Government’s first consideration’ is one with which I heartily agree and one with which I agreed publicly here and in many other places while I was a Minister last year. But the solution of the problem of inflation requires above all else that there be established a broad national concensus. If any single, powerful pressure group in this country believes that it is being sold down the drain, that it is not getting a fair go or that favours are being given to one section rather than to another section, the fight against inflation is doomed.
During the electoral campaign I appeared on many rostrums. I appeared in debates with a man for whom I have great respect- the present Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, which is the equivalent of the job I had, Mr Tony Street. I believe Mr Street has a genuine interest in the fight against inflation and I believe that he came into his present office with a determination to do the right things to fight inflation and, above all else, to honour the commitment that he made publicly on many platforms with me that he would support the continuation of wage indexation. I never believed, any more than the judges of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission believe, that wage indexation is a panacea for our economic ills or that it offers any sort of permanent solution for inflation, but it has been a very potent weapon in the fight against inflation. In 1974 average weekly earnings rose by 32 per cent. Last year, the year of wage indexation, they rose by less than 13 percent.
To persuade the unions to accept the proposition that in their own interests as well as in the interests of Australia they had to accept a wage pause was a very formidable task- a task which I understood, a task which I undertook and a task which has cost me dearly politically. Nonetheless I believe that if we do not continue wage indexation for the period ahead, if we do not persuade the unions, as I agree that Mr Fraser and Mr Street managed to persuade them, that they will get a fair go from this Government, we can kiss the fight against inflation goodbye. 1 believe that this Government, which claims to have been elected to fight inflation, has already kissed the fight against inflation goodbye because it has lost the confidence of the trade unions; it has lost any credibility with the trade unions. The first thing it did when it came to office was to honour the promise to restore the superphosphate bounty. Its next action was to take the knock on its promise about wage indexation. Already in this Speech from the throne there are all sorts of escape clauses concerning the promise of tax indexation. In other words, as I feared but hoped I was wrong, the Government has shown itself in the space of two or three months to be a sectional government, a government which has no real interest in the affairs of the ordinary man, despite the cliches that are dotted throughout this Speech.
The Government has, I sadly believe, already lost the fight against inflation by what it has done in taking the knock on its promises in the first few months in office. The consensus has been shattered, as has been shown by the action of the Australian Council of Trade Unions yesterday. While the Governor-General was making all of these holy pronunciamentos from the throne, the ACTU, on the evidence of a lack of faith in this Government, had already decided that it would take no part in the National Labour Advisory Committee, which is one of the centrepieces of this address from the throne, and for very good reasons. The ACTU believes that it could not trust the Government and I believe that it cannot trust the Government. That is a national tragedy because the trust of the trade unions has to be won.
There were shortcomings on the part of the Labor Government. We certainly affronted a large section of the business community. I think that was a great mistake on our part. I think that one of the reasons for our downfall, apart from being the victims of one of the most gruesome conspiracies in parliamentary democracy, is that our opponents were able to portray us as enemies of business. We were not, but I believe that they could persuade the business world that we were its enemy. Irrespective of whether the ladies and gentlemen opposite are the enemies of the unions, the fact of the matter is that the unions now believe that they are their enemies. That is just as bad as if they are, because it destroys any hope of co-operation or of pegging back inflation. I believe that we were on top in the fight against inflation. I believe that we had begun to turn the corner and that we would have got inflation under control. I predict, sadly- again I hope I am wrong- that inflation will go through the roof this year and that the Government’s pins and paper clips economies, with the little savings here and there, will achieve nothing in the way of solving our major problems. As I have said in another place, far from turning on the lights, Mr Fraser gives me the impression of a man groping around in the dark trying to find the switch. That characterises everything that the Government is doing.
Another field in respect of which I must express grave misgivings because of the gap between words and action is the environment. I am especially disturbed because the task of looking after the environment has been given to the leader of the demolition squad, Senator Greenwood. His specific task is to tear down as much as he can of what our Government achieved. There are phrases in the Speech which suggest a concern for the environment; but will honourable senators on the Government side, particularly Senator Greenwood, please stand up and tell us what he proposes in relation to the Australian Heritage Commission? All over Australia there are buildings and sections of the environment that need nurturing and help. This problem will not be solved by some sort of Ayn Rand belief in the virtue of private enterprise or a return to pre-Adam Smith economics. These are matters in which there is a need for positive government intervention. All the people concerned with the Heritage Commission and with the old buildings in Australia know that they can expect nothing from this Government. Honourable senators say in explanation that there have to be some temporary economies; but the temporary economies in relation to the heritage of this country will mean that that heritage will crumble before the Government gets around to devoting a little bit of money to it.
The Government also pays some sort of tribute in the Speech to the creative arts. I remember the Philistine comments which constantly flowed from the then Opposition side of the chamber about Blue Poles, dahlia festivals and everything like that. Do honourable senators on the Government side think that anybody in this country can have any confidence that they are anything but a bunch of Philistines? The creative arts are doomed under this Government, just as the environment is doomed. In the Speech there are evasive, contradictory statements about tax indexation. If honourable senators read the small print on tax indexation they will find that the Government also leaves itself an out. I say to Senator Withers, whose usual answer to matters on which he cannot bring up any sort of a reply is to giggle with all of the sophistication of the provincial, small time lawyer, that one day his great leader will have to acknowledge the truth of what I am saying now, which is that, as with wage indexation, the Government will take the knock on tax indexation. The unions understand that perfectly well.
Then, in the Speech, we have a little bit of window dressing about secret ballots in unions. There is very little excuse for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) making this gross error in the field of labour relations, as he was once the shadow Minister for Labour. Did not anybody tell him that section 133 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act already makes provision for secret ballots? Do honourable senators opposite really believe that they will get rid of people like Halfpenny and Carmichael, whom they do not like -
– You do not like them either.
-No, but I defend their right to be members and officials of a trade union if they can win the votes of the members. Senator Baume interjects. It is a matter of public record that I fought these people last year and I chalked up some notable victories; but at no stage did I suggest, and I do not suggest now, that a man is not entitled to be an official of a trade union if he can win a majority of votes in that trade union, whether he is a Communist, Calathumpian, a Catholic, a Jew or an Anglican.
– Or even a Liberal.
-Or even a Liberal. Just about all that is left in this Speech from the throne is frequent lumps of indigestible Liberal rhetoric about the sacredness of private enterprise and how positive goverment intervention in the affairs of man is bad; it should all be left to the free play of the market place. All this is to be found in the doctrine of the Liberal Leader’s gospel, written by a reactionary writer named Ayn Rand who has said, in effect, that social Darwinisms should be the law of life. If you cannot win you deserve to go to the wall. If you are not lucky enough to have a wealthy grazier for a father, well too bad. The rich look after their own and the poor go to the wall. The healthy have no responsbility for the sick; the white have no reponsibility for the black. If honourable senators read the small print of this statement they will find that that is the philosophy that reeks and seeps out of this absurd document. Even though I have repudiated the Governor-General, I know that he was once a man with a fine mind; so I can imagine that he must have been greatly embarrassed to have had to sit there and dish out this mish-mash on behalf of a Government which he so dishonourably placed in office.
-Mr President- -
Senator McAuliffe We go from a gold coated chocolate to a boiled lolly.
– If the members in the pits have finished, I would like to proceed to formally congratulate you, Mr President, on your election to the high office which you hold. I congratulate the new members of the Senate who have the honour of being able to participate in the affairs of this chamber. I congratulate the new senators who have made their maiden speeches, particularly the representatives of the Territories who have spoken here today, the first time the Territories have been represented. I also congratulate Senator Messner. He spoke principally on a very important subject, namely, small business. I thank Senator James McClelland who is so exhausted by his labours that he has had to depart rapidly from the chamber. I congratulate him for at least keeping his concentration and the concentration of the rump on the issues to which he addressed himself. I think the people of Australia have long since ceased to take very much interest in those issues. While members of the Australian Labor Party continue to have themselves possessed of those issues, I am sure that they will be viewed as runners who are very far behind in the race. I do not mind if the Labor Party wishes to continue to debate that subject ad nauseum as it has in the past. I think the people of Australia are sick of looking back and sick of raking over the coals with a form of paranoia. I think they would rather look forward. I respect the right of honourable senators opposite to say that there was something wrong in what happened.
– If Senator Gietzelt would not mind, I would just like to say that if there was something wrong the Labor Party should let us have some constructive proposal as to how whatever was wrong should be overcome, that should be debated in the proper manner and honourable senators should put forward any form of reform which they see as necessary. Let us not have a continuation of what was an extremely unsuccessful election campaign; rather, let us have people considering whether any form of constitutional reform is necessary. At the moment I have not heard what form it should take; but, if honourable senators have propositions, let us have them. If they do not have any, let them shut up about the nonsense. I do not think it is really helping to be raking over the coals continuously.
I want to talk about the Governor-General’s Speech because that is the matter to which the people of Australia have to look forward at the moment. The Speech outlines the new Government’s proposals for controlling inflation and for reducing unemployment. It sets out the measures and the principles. I think that most people either heard yesterday or read today some of the major points of that Speech. I do not propose to take time to repeat all of them. But I wish to make same additional points. I want to go back to what I said when the Labor Party first took over government. I think it is pertinent to remind any new government of this. When dealing with one of the first pieces of legislation before the Senate in March 1973, the Social Services Bill 1973, which, amongst other things, increased the age pension, I said:
One of the good things about this Bill is that it is a reflection of the fact that as a country becomes more affluent it can afford to do more for people who deserve and who are entitled to assistance out of the public purse. But the thing that underlies, and must underlie, all welfare programs is the continuation of sound economic policy. Sound economic policy must precede improvements in welfare. Without that sound economic policy the possibility of increasing welfare provision to those who need it and those who deserve it is simply not a proposition which a government can entertain. Unsound economic policies now place this country and all pensioners in jeopardy. Already we find that there are indications of gross inflation to take place this year. Already we find indications that with the rate of inflation this year, unless economic policies are changed by the new Government, it will not be possible at the rate proposed ever to achieve a base pension rate of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. I hope, and I am sure all honourable senators on this side of the chamber hope, that the Government will realise that some of the matters on which it has embarked already will have a disastrous effect upon the economy unless they can be curbed and unless they can be related further to sound development and the curtailment of inflation.
I did not realise at the time how remarkably prophetic those words were. I did not realise that it would take only a little over 2 years to destroy everything that had been built up over the preceding years by sound economic management. I did not realise that we would see a situation quite so soon in which the rate of inflation destroyed the best endeavours of a Government which I do believe sincerely wanted to help improve the position of those in need in the community. But by a failure to apply the basic principles of sound economic management the previous Government destroyed its prospects of achieving that objective.
I believe it is important to remember now as we are looking to the Governor-General’s Speech that unless sound economic management is underlying and is accepted to be underlying government approach to overall policy, there will not be within the community that degree of confidence which underlies any sound economy. It is important to remember for a moment some of the things that destroyed the confidence of people in Australia. There were things like the pace setter principle in regard to the Public Service. There were the other measures which induced in people’s minds an inflationary expectancy. Economists will develop all sorts of theories about the importance of monetary supply as opposed to the rate of growth of the public sector and whether it is a cost-push situation, whether it is not a cost-push situation, whether it is a wages explosion or whether it is any other measure that is causing inflation. I believe that there is only one simple fundamental in a modern economy which governs the effect of any monetary or fiscal measures which may be taken- that is, the way in which they are viewed in the modern era of instant communication in which the average person in the community is able to receive immediately through radio, television and the newspapers a feed out from the Government and form an impression about what the Government is doing. Unless they are receiving that with a degree of confidence, none of the control measures which might otherwise be taken and which used to be taken in former days are likely to be successful.
This is what destroyed the Australian Labor Party’s attempts last year to control inflation and which led me to the view that there was no policy which could be introduced by the then Government which would have restored the economic health of the Australian nation: The people of Australia had lost confidence in the economic management of that Government. I simply take the opportunity to emphasise that in my view the most precious thing which the new Government has is the confidence given to it as a gift- a great gift- on 13 December. The Government was given the confidence of the people and that confidence must be nurtured. It must be cherished and it must not be frittered away. If we go from one Government which frittered away confidence to another Government which fritters away confidence, the prospect of restoring the Australian economy will be dim indeed.
I believe that the creation of inflation expectancy was a disaster. Whether it was intentional or not intentional is a matter for debate at other times, in other places.
– It was intentional, because it was stated in the policy speech.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack says that it was intentional because it was stated in the Australian Labor Party policy speech. I am not sure that everybody always intends everything that is stated in policy speeches. Whether it was intentional or not, I have noticed that an inflationary expectancy was created very firmly. People behaved accordingly and inflation was created. We must now ensure that we do not create a stagflation expectancy in Australia. I hope and trust that the Government will be very mindful of the importance of seeing that that confidence to which I have referred is not frittered away, not, as it was by the Labor Party, by the creation of a wild inflationary expectancy but by an overemphasis upon any current aspect of stagflation.
I believe also that we must be careful to avoid the English NEDC- sometimes referred to as NEDDY- in which an economic council of the big is created and the small are forgotten. What happened in Great Britain- I am expressing my own view but it is one I have heard expressed by others, in Britain in particular- is that NEDDY has created the best combine, the best monopoly of all times. There the government, big business and the unions have got together to squeeze the consumer. Only the interests of the big are represented- so that they can meet together, so they can sort out what will not hurt them and what sort of solutions are most likely to have the least disadvantageous effect upon the big. And who suffers? The small people suffer and when the small people suffer the whole economy suffers. That is what we have already found. Unless we have incentive amongst the small people-the individuals, the small businesses, the individual employees, the people who generate the real wealth of the community- we will not have economic good health. We in Australia must be extremely careful to ensure that we do not create the same sort of dangerous monster which has been created in Great Britain with such disastrous effects.
To ensure that the incentive about which I just spoke is kept and developed, we must ensure that taxation reform is real. Senator James McClelland has spoken already about wage indexation. The Governor-General, in his Speech, talked about tax indexation. But we need far more than tax indexation. As Senator James McClelland said, wage indexation is no answer. It may be of temporary assistance. It is an alternative to the circuit breaker of the complete freeze for a period of time. It is a way to try to achieve something. But it is not a permanent answer; nor is tax indexation the answer to the crying need in Australia for some real reform in taxation.
– Do you advocate a wage freeze?
– I do not suggest for a moment that we should have a wage freeze. I said that indexation was an alternative to another way of achieving a similar objective, which is to have a total freeze as a circuit breaker for a limited period of time. I am not debating which one ought to be applied. What I am saying is that neither of them would provide a long term solution.
– Did he get it that time?
– I hope so. I think members of the Opposition are learning. I hope that we will see real reform commence in relation to taxation in Australia. Anyone who argues that our present system of taxation is either equitable or efficient is either not particularly conversant with the details or not particularly prepared to see the details. It is not an efficient system. It is not an equitable system. I believe that before people will be prepared to feel within themselves that they have a real incentive they must feel that the taxation system is equitable. Before we can reduce taxation adequately we must ensure that it is efficient, that the cost involved in the taxation system does not load too much on the collection and the administration and too little on the net left over for the beneficial use of the community in public programs. I believe that the restoration of incentives is one of the other major objectives of the new Government and I hope it will achieve success.
The next matter to which I refer is federalism and tax-sharing which is also referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. I just want to make this comment: The desirableness- a word that funnily enough was used in the first reference that was ever given to a committee of the Senate;
I am not sure if it is current usage but I plead that it has some precedent value in the Senate- of the move away from centralism is beyond dispute so far as I am concerned. That the States and local government should be able to look forward to receiving some certainty and some equity in the distribution of the total tax cake is also beyond doubt. But when one starts to think about federalism one starts to think about the prices paid. One starts to think about whether or not the system which we have been operating for some 40 years has been effective and efficient. If one sees that while we have been adopting a policy to improve an area which has perhaps we will say been a slum area in a city, and it is still a slum after 40 years, we may think that the policy that has been adopted has not been successful. If the federalism equalisation grants principle which has been adopted for the past 40 years has not managed to raise some of the small States from the equivalent of what I have described I believe that we could also regard it as unsuccessful, and the reason is that the theory of compensation- I refer, if I may, to my colleague Senator Wright, and hope that he may wish to make some comments, no doubt better informed, in relation to this matter when the opportunity arises- for federation is one which has been overlooked for far too long. I pause only to draw the picture of the island State of Tasmania which pays almost every penalty for federation such as having to pay high tariffs because we protect the industries of Melbourne and Sydney with everything we buy and having to have every industry which uses its natural resources and its labour resources -
– You are anti-Australian.
– Some small-minded person interjects that I am anti-Australian. No federalist is anti-Australian. I am supporting the idea of federalism, not centralism and not the takeover but rather the free entry of Tasmania into a contract which has not so far been honoured. I believe that the other States of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth itself have an obligation to reconsider the position of some of the small States, particularly Tasmania. Continuing with the example that I used, there is not a major industry in Tasmania which comes to mind which does not have its resources use in Tasmania, which does not have its labour use in Tasmania, which does not have its head office and its total distribution of the cream of the profitability of the enterprise in another State, usually Victoria. We find that the head office at which the high salaried people are employed by the company and pay their taxes is likely to be in Melbourne. We find that when an industry uses the services of an accountant, a lawyer, an insurer or whoever it may be, the services are likely to be provided in Melbourne. We find that in any system where centripetal forces are drawing towards a centre, and that is efficient. It is one of the reasons for federalism but it is also one of the reasons, why when we have federalism, we must have some real compensation for the areas that have joined together and which have lost as a result of the joining. They need to be compensated for what they have given to the central and stronger areas. I do not take time at this stage to develop that, but I will be seeking the time of the Senate to develop it further as the opportunity arises during the year.
The point I make is that there is a very strong and real need to spell out as soon as possible the details of the new Government’s federalism and tax sharing principles which have been referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. They need to be spelled out in good time so that they may be considered and debated publicly so that informed opinion may be given to them and we get the very best possible principle. This is in no way criticising the idea; it is simply saying: Can we have the details as soon as possible so that they may be considered? If necessary, I believe, this chamber, as a House of review and as a States House, would be eminently suited to give some further and detailed consideration to these proposals when they are spelled out to ensure that we get the best possible method of making federalism in Australia a working reality.
I should like to refer briefly again to my State of Tasmania and to the fact that the GovernorGeneral in his Speech referred to the Government decision that action will be taken to give effect to the Government’s commitment to develop the relative freight equalisation scheme for Bass Strait traffic. It does not say Bass Strait sea traffic. I am curious to know whether the policy will include air traffic. I look forward to some indication that it means air traffic as well as sea traffic. The point I also make is that not only did the Government’s commitment go so far as a freight equalisation scheme for Bass Strait traffic but also it went so far as recognising Bass Strait as part of the national highway system. This is a very important concept and it is no answer to say, as some have said in the past, that the present legislation does not provide for a sea lane to be part of a national highway system. All that is required is that the legislation be amended. There is no functional or philosophical reason in principle why that cannot be done. I look forward to its being done at the first possible opportunity.
The Speech also indicates in regard to Tasmania that the Government intends to proceed with the establishment of the maritime college at Launceston. A theme which I have always warmly supported is that there should be a maritime college in Australia and that after investigation the most suitable site should be none other than the city of Launceston. This college will do a great deal to enhance the total tertiary education opportunities for the whole of Tasmania. I think few can look back now and say that it was not a disastrous mistake to place the college of advanced education in Hobart next door to the university and that it should in fact have been placed in the most decentralised State in Australia in one of the decentralised areas. But that is a mistake. Those buildings cannot be removed and so the next thing is to provide opportunities for decentralised tertiary education by some other means. One of the important ways is by locating some national education institution, such as the maritime college, in an area which is ideally suited for it, and that is Launceston. I trust this will enable the planning of the availability of tertiary facilities at a college status to go ahead for the area of Ulverstone or the north-west coast at the earliest possible date. I believe that the maritime college is not only important from the point of view of the function which it serves in the Australian educational system but also it is of tremendous importance to the development of educational opportunities throughout Tasmania. I should be delighted to see it go ahead as soon as possible.
There are mary other aspects of the policies which the Government undertook for Tasmania and which were announced over a period of time and I look forward to seeing those policies implemented. In fact, I will be watching with great interest and care for their introduction. I think all Tasmanians would accept that current economic circumstances necessitate the deferment of some of those policies but I am sure that they will not be lost from sight. Tasmania at the moment is suffering severely. As I think is well known, unemployment in Tasmania is some 50 per cent above the national average. The situation is worsening rapidly and I believe that some special measures are necessary to help to stimulate employment in that State. I hope that rumours I have heard relating to the deferral of the upgrading of the Fingal railway line are not accurate and that the quite considerable employment which that work would provide will not be lost to the State. I hope that we will hear something further about that as soon as possible.
In relation to the general area of tourism, which appears to have been omitted from the Governor-General’s Speech, perhaps because of the requirements of space, I look forward to hearing from the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), who, I am delighted to see, is in the chamber at the moment, the details of the implementation of the Government’s policy in that particularly vital area. It is an area which I believe may dominate- I put it that way- the regrowth of the Australian economy in so many ways. It is an area which has been particularly damaged as a result of the policies adopted by the former government during the past 3 years and it is an area where, taking all the areas involved in tourism and travel, something like 10 per cent of the Australian population is already involved. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation, in its assessment of the future growth of tourism, regarded it as the major employment growth area in Australia.
I think it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that the Government’s policies on tourism are the result of very careful and detailed consideration over a lengthy period of time. They are policies which were welcomed by the tourist industry. I believe that they are policies which are likely to achieve significant results in restoring economic good health not only to that industry but also, in a spin-off effect, to so many other industries. One of the tragedies which has to be faced at this stage of the new year of 1 976 is that as a result of the disastrous economic policies pursued in the past 3 years so many people are out of work, so many people are steadily losing the will and the opportunity and the capacity to work. There are so many people, such as those who were formerly engaged in the textile industry in my own city of Launceston and in George Town at the mouth of the Tamar, who wonder whether they will ever get back to work, whether they will ever get a work opportunity. They are getting into the frame of mind where they are losing the incentive to try to get back to work. Once those people are taken out of the work force, once their work opportunities are taken away, not only is the taxation revenue which they stimulate lost, but also an area has lost that extra income on which it depended for survival.
I look forward to seeing the policies already enunciated and the further policies which I am sure are about to be enunciated by the new Government overcome steadily but surely the economic ills into which foolhardiness, however well intentioned, got us. I wish the Government well in the program which has been outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech and I support the motion moved so ably by my new colleague, Senator Knight, in relation to that speech.
– In speaking this evening in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, I take the opportunity firstly to congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden contributions in this chamber. I remember that when I came here, now quite some time ago, I held that time in fear and trepidation. But I assure honourable senators who have spoken this evening for the first time that their remarks have not gone unheeded. They have made an impression on the members of the Opposition- I refer particularly to the mover and the seconder of the AddressinReply and on behalf of members of the Opposition I take this opportunity of extending my personal congratulations to them. I also congratulate you, Mr President, upon your elevation to the very august and high position of President of the Senate. If I may say so, I well recall that when you made your maiden speech in this chamber I had the honour of following you in that debate and I took the opportunity of congratulating you upon the making of your maiden speech. Although you and I have been political opponents, and very strong political opponents, over the years, I think it is fair to say that we have been friends of long standing over those same years. I believe that in your capacity as President of the Senate you will lend dignity and honour to the position and you will be at all times an upholder of the rights of Parliament, the rights of the Senate and the rights of honourable senators.
I have always regarded the Australian Parliament as the symbol of liberty, freedom, democracy, free speech, and indeed quiet thought. But I support the remarks made today by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, who said that the Labor movement accepts the verdict passed upon it by the Australian people on 13 December. We realise that the people voted the Labor Government out of office, and I use that phrase very deliberately. They voted us out of office; they did not vote in the Fraser Government. Just as they voted us out of office, after nearly 3 years in government, because of the massive propaganda machine that had been developed against the Labor movement in that period of time, I believe that they will vote out the Fraser Government if it lasts the 3 years that the Labor Government lasted. I want you, Mr President, and all members of the Australian Parliament, particularly my friends on the Government side, to understand that at least 43 per cent of the community said that the Labor Government as it existed between 1972 and 1975, despite all of the frustrations and all of the difficulties it had in administering the affairs of this nation- I intend to come to those matters later- should continue in office. That 43 per cent also said in passing judgment on 13 December that they believed that the actions of the Governor-General in dismissing the Government on 1 1 November were wrong and that the Labor Government should be returned to office.
As all honourable senators know, we of the Labor movement were in a government that won office in 1972. We again won office in 1974 following a double dissolution after only 18 months. At a time that was not of our choosing, we again went to the people in December 1 975 following dismissal by the Governor-General, and it was inevitable that we could not win that election. We had the election imposed upon us, as it were, by royal decree. Certainly the election was held at a time when it would have been most difficult for the government in office, irrespective of its political persuasion, to win. Young kids were leaving school to join the labour market at a time when the labour market itself was tight. It was a time when the Government was instigating budgetary cuts in order to effect a program of austerity, in order to curb the inflationary spiral that had developed long before the Whitlam Labor Government came into office. That time was around Christmas, when because of their own natural attitudes and habits people were contributing to the inflationary spiral. The fact that the present Government, after a line by line consideration of the Labor Government’s Budget, could lop off only a mere $300m of the $5000m deficit surely indicates that we were very careful indeed with the presentation of the Budget that was not allowed to be passed by the Senate in 1975.
That brings me back to the events that took place in this chamber and in Canberra on 1 1 November. That was the day on which the Australian nation, the Australian people and the Australian Parliament witnessed what I hope was the most violent political convulsion that this nation will ever see. At 1 1 a.m. on that day His Excellency the Governor-General was laying a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in remembrance of Armistice Day and in remembrance of men and women of this country who had given their all in defence of the principle of the right of democratic government. It was being done at a time when Ministers of the Crown were present. It was being done at a time when the Governor-General must have known that 2 hours after the event he would be bent upon a course of action that no Australian citizen ever thought he would live to see- the dismissal by the Governor-General of Australia of a properly elected government with a mandate awarded to it in 1 972 and reaffirmed in 1 974. We know that before that time His Excellency had had a number of discussions with the then Leader of the Opposition. All in this chamber knew at that time that quite frequently the then Leader of the Opposition was being summoned to Government House to confer with the Governor-General in order, we thought, to overcome the ‘crisis’- I use that word in parenthesisthat had developed because of the Senate’s insistence on deferring consideration of the Appropriation Bills and the Loan Bill.
We know that before 1 1 November the Governor-General had called for the legal opinion of a member of the legal fraternity who was also a member of the then Opposition, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), the present Attorney-General, who is a cousin of the Chief Justice of the High Court. We know now that at least some days previously the Governor-General had contemplated taking the course of action he embarked upon at about 1 o’clock that day. Certainly during the weekend preceding Tuesday, 1 1 November, there had been discussions with the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick. So at least the action was contemplated on the Saturday before the Tuesday. As I have said, discussions had taken place with the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, some time before that. But the contemplation of this action had never been discussed by the Governor-General with the then Australian Prime Minister or with any of his other Ministers except, as has been revealed this evening, with my colleague Senator James McClelland. As to the relationship between the previous Labor Government and the Queen’s representative, that was the principle underlying our form of protest yesterday. Very regrettably, the principle of consultation between the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and his Ministers, the principle of trust, and the principle of rapport between the representative of the Crown in Australia and his Executive were pulled down.
We know that before the Governor-General handed his letter of dismissal to the then Prime Minister he had summoned the Leader of the Opposition to Government House and had had him wait in an annexe while the GovernorGeneral gave the letter of dismissal to the Prime Minister; and the car in which the Leader of the
Opposition had travelled to Government House was taken round the back. If I may say so with respect, it reminds me of the old song: ‘The doors swing in and the doors swing out; some pass in and others pass out’. We also know that on 11 November, after Supply had been passed by the Senate and before the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, had had time to consult his Senate Ministers- the notice of dismissal was given only at 1 o’clock that day and Senator Wriedt and I, as Manager of Government Business, were at lunch- the House of Representatives carried a motion of no confidence against the installed Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, and that the Speaker was directed to convey the terms of the resolution to the Governor-General, but that Parliament was prorogued before the GovernorGeneral would see the Speaker. We also know, as has been confirmed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) today, that when the Supply Bill was presented to the Parliament at 2 o’clock on Tuesday, 11 November by Senator Wriedt, he was not a Minister of the Crown; that he did not know that he was not a Minister of the Crown; but the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, knew that Senator Wriedt was not a Minister of the Crown and so knew that the Budget was being presented by a person who was not a Minister.
We all know that on 11 November actual Supply that had already been appropriated by the Parliament had not been exhausted. I think there was another fortnight before Supply actually ran out. We know that the Labor Government had had Supply already appropriated to it by the Australian Parliament; that if the Parliament had not been prorogued on that day, 1 1 November, it would have been virtually impossible to hold an election in 1975; and that if an election were to be held at all it would have had to be held over until 1976. So far as making the final arrangements for the holding of an election in 1975 was concerned, the D-day was Tuesday, 1 1 November. That is why the action which was taken was taken on that day. On Thursday, 6 November, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I was at a conference in the office of the then Prime Minister with my colleague the then Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Daly. At that time we were faced with a number of advisers: Mr Byers, the Solicitor-General; Mr Harders of the Attorney-General’s Department; and Mr Ley, the Australian Electoral Officer, to name just a few. The advice given to us was that the D-day for the announcement of a half-Senate election or any other Senate election was Tuesday, 1 1 November. We were told that if an election were to be held in 1 975 the announcement had to be made by Tuesday, 1 1 November. That is why such action was taken on 1 1 November. Those who wanted the election to be held in 1975- last year- had to act and to act quickly. They acted on that day- 1 1 November.
– And you would admit, would you not, that you did not have Supply beyond the end of November?
-We had Supply until the end of November and the then Opposition had not rejected Supply. It had deferred consideration of Supply and we all know that at least one of its then members had stated publicly to the Australian people that if the Opposition moved to reject Supply he would vote against it.
– And he lost his endorsement.
-Of course, as Senator McLaren stated, when it came to a pre-selection ballot he subsequently lost his endorsement. So what Senator Wright said is so much humbug. I have heard it said that discussions were held with other people over a period of time. Rightly or wrongly, it is rumoured in Sydney that meetings were held between the Governor-General and other people on this issue over a period of some weeks. I do not know whether or not it is so. Senator James McClelland already has said that he was one who was brought into confidence. I do not intend to labour the point. But it is now time to talk straight and the strong rumour in Sydney is that discussions were taking place with a number of people. Certainly the undisputed evidence indicates that discussions were held by the Governor-General with people who were not his political advisers; that the Governor-General called for the legal opinion of a prominent member of the legal fraternity who at that time was a member of the Opposition and who happened to be a cousin of the Chief Justice of the High Court; that the Governor-General sought the legal opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court; that the Governor-General did not seek the advice of, or even have discussions on the subject with, the Prime Minister or any of his other Ministers.
As I have said to Senator Wright, the Governor-General must have known, as we knew, that the Government had Supply for another fortnight. He must have known also, as we were advised, that if the election was to be held in 1975 the Government had to be dismissed by Tuesday, 1 1 November. It was all perfectly timed and perfectly executed. It was all worked out from the time that the late Senator Milliner passed away. Indeed, but for the fact that Senator Milliner passed away and his place in this chamber was taken by a person of a different political persuasion from that of the late Senator Milliner, the Labor Government still would be in office today and we would not be having a discourse on the events that took place on 1 1 November. Indeed, if a plan had not been worked out already at the time of the death of the late Senator Milliner, a distinguished member of the Labor movement, certainly it had been worked out months before that because the present Leader of the Government, Senator Withers, went on television in Perth on Saturday 3 January, and on Sunday 4 January the Sunday Times reported as follows:
Senator Withers also said the blocking of the Supply Bill last November -
That is, November 1975- was a planned operation dating back to October, 1973.
Referring to the then Opposition, Senator Withers was further reported to have said:
They could have moved in 1973 but when the time came all he had to do was to pull out of his pocket a piece of paper.
We are accused of saying that a conspiracy existed. In fact all of the evidence points to a very deliberate plot which was planned over many months- certainly over many weeks. I want honourable senators on the Government side to ponder seriously these events because I believe that those honourable senators are as interested as we are in seeing the preservation of parliamentary democracy in this country- a system whereby men and women are elected to come to this Parliament to speak on behalf of their constituents and whereby the party with the greatest number of people elected to the floor of the House of Representatives forms the constitutionally elected government. We do not dispute that.
– For 3 years.
– I have stated what happened on 13 December. But, as my colleague, Senator Coleman, has said, implicit in that contractual arrangement that is entered into between the member of Parliament and the constituents is that he will represent them on the floor of the Parliament for a period of 3 years unless that government of which he is a member is defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives. The great tragedy about all of this- I mention this particularly because we are addressing our remarks this evening to the words of the Governor-General when he delivered his Speech from this chamber yesterdayis that a very large number of the Australian people who always have believed so fervently in the principle of the election of members to the Parliament are very rapidly losing faith in the system. They are viewing the ceremonial parades- the ceremonial events such as the one held yesterday- as a charade and a farce. They are thinking that the bugles, the brass bands and, if you like the buns and the biscuits are brought out when a conservative government is elected to office but that when a Labor government is elected to office, especially if it does not have a majority in the upper chamber, the Labor government is not to be given a fair go by the establishment. Let me remind the Senate what happened: An election in 1972; a double dissolution in 1974; success at the double dissolution in 1974 in another place; at least equal numbers in the Senate at that election -
– With many thousands more votes than our political opponents.
-Then, as my colleague says, we gained many thousands more votes than our political opponents; then a mere 12 months after that double dissolution we had the death of one of our colleagues in the Senate and the plot that had been in existence for some time was put into effect. I assure honourable senators opposite that we of the Oppositionwe of the Labor movement- want the system of Parliament to continue and to work. We want the system of democracy to exist because God forbid what may happen to the future of this country if this system is replaced by anything else. In saying that I want to tell honourable senators opposite also that we of the Labor movement can take a thrashing. We have had more thrashings in the political life of this nation than any other political party has had. But when we do not get a thrashing and when we do have a win we expect a fair go and our supporters- the people who voted for us and the people who work for us- expect us to be given a fair go. When we are not given a fair go these people realise it. When we are not given a fair go time after time, as we were not given a fair go, then they very rapidly start to lose faith in the political system.
Last Saturday night I was at a gathering of respected Australian citizens who have great faith in the Labor movement and in the functions of the Australian Labor Party. Every one of those 350 people, to a man, said that no member of the Labor Party should be in the Parliament when the Governor-General took his place in this Parliament. I mention that not only to my friends opposite but also to those in the media who are telling members of the Labor Party that we cannot take it, that we have not to think of the past but to start thinking of the future. I mention this to let members of the media know that there are strong feelings amongst many hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of the Australian people- at least 43 per cent of the Australian community. Each and every member of the Government and of the Opposition- all members of this Parliament- who believe in the principle of parliamentary democracy and the principle that the majority should exercise the rule with the protection of the rights of the minority have to see that the events which took place on 1 1 November last never occur again.
As I have said, it is of no use anyone pulling any punches any longer. There has to be some straight talking. My friends opposite and those who write for the media have to understand the feelings of men and women- the little men and women- and kids who worked, toiled, strained and fought for nearly a quarter of a century to see a Labor Government elected. They realised that their hopes and their aspirations for their future and the future of this country could only be protected, expanded and developed by the continuance in office of a Labor Government. True it is that some of them were disappointed in some members of the Labor Party when we were in government. Some of them were carried away with the enormous weight of the most powerful propaganda machine that has ever been assembled in any country against any government.
I am disappointed in Senator Young, who is trying to interject. I have always had the greatest respect for his political perspicacity. I should have thought that he would have realised the seriousness of the situation. I want Senator Young to realise that the action we took yesterday was action that we did not want to take but which we believe had to be taken to sheet home to those who sit opposite and who we understand might not understand, and to the media generally, that these strong and bitter feelings are shared by at least 43 per cent of the Australian community.
This vast political propaganda machine was assembled against the Government of the day. All newspapers, with the exception I would say of the Barrier Daily Truth at Broken Hill, were all assembled against us and injustices were dished out against the Labor movement. But those who turned against us because of the propaganda machine are rapidly coming back to us. They were carried away with the election of a Liberal-National Country Party Government. They thought the lights would be turned on. But they have realised that the Government has already blown a couple of fuses and indeed for some time was not only blowing fuses but also was thinking of turning off the television sets. We have seen the resignation of one Minister before he was sworn in as a member of the 30th Parliament. He did not get to the Parliament as a Minister. We saw in one week hearing aids taken away from pensioners only to be restored again 2 days later. We heard a lot about dole bludgers during the election campaign. I hate to use that expression but it was an expression used against us. What we have seen since has been the Government laying down an order of dress for those who are unemployed.
We have seen the Government trying to deny the work force of this country the principle of wage justice by urging the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to award in its wage indexation hearing half the rise in the consumer price index. About a week later the Government announced the restoration of the superphosphate bounty at a cost to the Australian taxpayer of about $60m. We have seen the Australian Grants Commission being told to cancel its arranged meetings of public hearings on local government needs throughout Australia. I thank honourable senators for the hearing they have given me. I urge support for the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) this afternoon.
– I rise to join in this debate. I take the opportunity again of congratulating you, Mr President, and wishing you well in your high office. You have been in the chair for 2 days and all honourable senators have seen how you will conduct the Senate. I would like also to extend a very warm welcome to all new honourable senators, irrespective of which side of the chamber they sit. I hope they will gain a lot of pleasure and a lot of satisfaction from taking part in debates on general legislation and in the overall administration of this great country of ours. I congratulate very warmly Senator Knight from the Australian Capital Territory, Senator Kilgariff from the Northern Territory and Senator Tony Messner from South Australia, who made their maiden speeches today. As an honourable senator who is sitting on the same side of the chamber I can say that we are delighted to see the quality of the new senators who have come into this place. I am certain that the other honourable senators who are yet to make their maiden speeches will make valuable contributions to debates in this chamber.
I should like now to refer to the events of yesterday. Senator Douglas McClelland referred to them in his speech. Senator James McClelland did likewise, as did the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) when he led for the Opposition. No doubt other Labor senators will refer to the events leading up to yesterday. I can only say that I regard it as a tragedy for the Australian Labor Party and for the institution of the Parliament that the members of the Australian Labor Party Opposition saw fit to boycott the opening of Parliament. They may have disagreed with the ruling that was given by the Queen’s representative. But yesterday this Parliament was opened in the name of the Queen.
We know the history of the Labor Party when it was in government. It abused the forms and the institutions of the Parliament. Senator Douglas McClelland said tonight that he hoped the democratic processes of the parliamentary institution would continue in Australia and would not be endangered in any way. I can only say that the example set yesterday by the Australian Labor Party is a great start, not only in the denigration of the Parliament, but in the total decimation of the democratic parliamentary institution of his country. There is no doubt that the Australian Labor Party will be reminded of this for some time to come, because for too long it took many of the people of the electorate to be fools. Any politician who takes people to be fools is a fool himself. The action taken by the Australian Labor Party yesterday was very foolish. It is not the first time that the Labor Party has abused the forms of the Parliament. One only has to cast one’s mind back to the Khemlani exercise- that famous exercise which will go down in history. That was a clear example of what the Executive of the Australian Labor Party, when in government, tried to do in circumventing the institution of the Parliament itself.
– This is exactly what happened without any doubt. An honourable senator says ‘Rubbish’. Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but that was one clear example of what Opposition senators thought of the institution of parliament. When in government they were drunk with power. Yesterday Opposition senator behaved this way again and I, as a member of this Senate irrespective of the fact that I sit on the Government side of the chamber, regretted very much the actions that they took.
By all means criticise decisions, but keep the criticisms to those decisions. Honourable senators opposite should not bring their condemnation to the institution of the Parliament itself. The institution of the Parliament that we have is something that we must work to protect. We have one of the greatest institutions in the world but it will not survive in the manner and method in which it operates today if political parties continue to treat it with the contempt with which it was treated yesterday.
Two Labor Party senators, Senator Wriedt and Senator Douglas McClelland, tonight criticised decisions of the Governor-General but they did not deal with personalities. Unfortunately one honourable senator, Senator James McClelland, saw fit to do so. Senator James McClelland was a Minister in the Labor Government. Perhaps unfortunately for the Labor Government it saw his abilities too late in its history. Senator James McClelland made a name for himself and commanded quite a deal of respect in the electorate of this country. I regret very much that tonight he has demeaned himself in such a manner. His actions were more than petty. He stooped to the level of repeating in a public forum private conversations which he had with the Governor-General. I do not care whether it be a private conversation with a member of a committee or a private conversation with Tom Brown or with any other individual in the street, a private conversation had in confidence remains, to my mind, a private conversation. Yet tonight we heard Senator James McClelland refer to confidential conversations that took place, as I understand it, across the dining table in Government House in Canberra. If it could be worse, he repeated details of a private telephone discussion that took place between himself and the Governor-General.
I think it is unfortunate that in order to put his argument Senator James McClelland saw fit to reveal details of this private conversation. I was surprised. I regret that I have to make these comments in his absence. He is absent at the present time but he is usually in the chamber; he is recognised as a hard-working senator. I could not forgo the opportunity of making a comment on this matter. To me it is a matter of grave concern. I hope that other Opposition senators will show a little respect for confidences and conversations that take place between themselves and other individuals. Irrespective of political argument, there are certain standards and forms that we must uphold in this place, and that is one of them.
Much has been said about the pros and cons of the Governor-General’s decision. Much has been said about the attitudes and advice given by other people to the Prime Minister and to some of his Ministers at that time. Much has been said in condemnation of the final decision that was given. Much has been said in condemnation of the new Liberal-National Country Party Government. I can only remind the Opposition that Mr Whitlam, as Leader of the Labor Party, spent quite a deal of time during the recent election campaign discussing these very issues. Tonight the Labor Party senators see fit to continue to campaign on these very same issues. What happened when Mr Whitlam and the members of his Party campaigned on these issues? The Labor Party was jolly near decimated at the recent election. I should think that would be the answer to what the Australian electorate thought about the whole matter.
Senator Douglas McClelland tonight referred to the fact that the Whitlam Government had been elected in 1972 for a 3-year term. At the end of 18 months, because of the actions of the Senate, it was forced to go to the people. I remind honourable senators opposite that in the election of 1974 the Whitlam Government was returned to office with a marginal majority. It was not returned with a majority in this place; it had a minority in this place. I say that to correct Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s statement. Let me take this point a little further. The theme of the Labor Party campaign in 1974 was ‘Give Us a Go. We have only had 18 months. Granted, a few things have gone wrong. Granted, we have problems with the economy. We have inflation. We have some unemployment but it is what is happening overseas, anyway. But we can assure you that times are getting better. Indications are that unemployment is going to be reduced. Indications are that inflation is coming down. So give us a go. ‘
At that time the Labor Government had an estimated Budget deficit of some $500m. This later rose to between $2,000m and $2,500m. As I have said, the Labor Party got back into power marginally in the 1974 election. Labor having been given a go, after having misled the Australian community into believing that the economy was improving and that unemployment was coming down, what did we eventually find? We found all sorts of things happening- the Khemlani exercise and the lack of credibility of the Government. The Government was collapsing from within. Far more tragically than that we found that Australia was collapsing from within. The economy was racing at a frightening rate and inflation was heading for a rate of 20 per cent. Unemployment figures reached the highest in the history of this country. Coupled with everything else that was going on was the Khemlani issue. That was the final issue of the lot. There was Government corruption from within and I use those words advisedly. I say with all respect to Opposition senators that some of their own Ministers and colleagues used that word ‘without’ but meant ‘within’. We had an election and we have seen the results. I refer again to the fact that unfortunately no member of the Opposition saw fit to attend for the presentation of the Speech given by the GovernorGeneral yesterday. I would like to spend a little time tonight quoting a few passages of the Governor-General’s Speech for the benefit of Opposition senators. There is great virtue in much of the language in his Speech. He said:
The Government’s long term objective is to prevent the growth of centralised bureaucratic domination in Australia, the increasing dependence of individuals on the state.
How significant those words are. The previous Government’s policy was: ‘Centralism right down the line’, and its actions clearly demonstrated this. ‘Take away from the individual. Give it to the state. We will direct from Canberra’. That is the reverse of the policy of the present Government which, as the GovernorGeneral stated yesterday, is: to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have a maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life, in ways which they decide.
What a change from what the policy has been for the last 3 years. I can only say: Thank goodness there has been a change. I do not know how much longer Australia could have afforded the luxury, if I can call it that, of the implementation of the ideologies of the Labor Party socialist philosophy. Fortunately for Australia, the people had the opportunity and were wise enough to make sure that that Government was replaced.
Let me read a further excerpt from the Governor-General’s Speech: He said:
At the root of the economic crisis is a steadily increasing tax burden required to finance, at the expense of the private sector, an ever-growing public sector. Measures to deal with this crisis will advance Australia towards the long term goal of a society based on freedom and on the mutual respect freedom makes possible.
Again, that word ‘freedom’ is emphasised and re-emphasised. The Governor-General continued:
The Government’s strategy to achieve its objectives can be summarised as follows:
1 ) There will be a major direction of resources away from Government towards individuals and private enterprise;
Senator Messner in his maiden speech tonight made reference to the tragedy of what has happened to small business in this country in the last few years. Again, the previous Government blindly went its own way hell bent on its socialist ideologies not caring about and irrespective of what was happening generally in the electorate and in the business world. We saw so many small businesses falling by the wayside. We did not see those small businesses that had fallen being replaced by other small businesses, as usually is the pattern. Fortunately, over the years in Australia whilst many small businesses went out of existence- they will continue to do so- they were being replaced by businesses in greater number as Australia for so long was expanding its economy. There was a growth, a fervour, a dynamo in this country.
Today we have reached a situation where it will take a long time for the economy to recover. So much damage has been done- fortunately it is not irreparable but nevertheless it is extremely serious- that it will take a long time to return confidence to people and to industry and commerce and to get Australia really moving again. I can only say that already one can see confidence and one can sense confidence returning in the electorate. No doubt by the end of this year we will see it spreading through into business. My hope is that we will see a downturn not only in the rate of inflation -
– We will be in bondage to the multinationals and sold out to the mining companies.
– My hope is that we will see not only a slowing down of inflation but also a downturn in the level of unemployment. It is interesting to note the comment that was passed by my friend and colleague opposite, Senator Mulvihill, who made reference to mining. Senator Mulvihill is a great conservationist. But tragically, in common with his colleagues, he is a great socialist. He was prepared to allow the mining industry of this country to run down completely and totally. Mr Connor, a former Minister for Minerals and Energy, will go down in the history of this country, and he will not be remembered kindly.
Thinking of mining, I turn to exploration in the oil industry. This has practically ground to a standstill. There is an ocean drilling rig in Fremantle in Western Australia. That was built in Western Australia. It is still in the place where it was completed, to my knowledge, some 18 months ago. It is going rusty because there is absolutely no work for it. But when the plans were drawn up and the contract was let for the building of that rig, exploration in this country was moving so rapidly that there was a need not only for that extra oil rig for outside off-shore exploration but for other rigs like it. But what happened?
Mr Connor decided that he would run the mining industry on his terms. Overseas investment and overseas finance were dirty words. In fact this was regarded by the Labor Party as filthy money. So, what did the overseas financiers do? What did the exploration companies do? At a time when throughout the world an energy crisis had arisen and at a time when our reserves and resources were running down, they turned their backs on Australia. The previous Government saw fit, because of its own stupidity and its fixation on its own ideologies, to say: ‘No overseas capital whatsoever’. The deep freeze was imposed. Finally the former Government eased its restrictions, but the damage had been done.
To top that action off, Mr Connor moved on the north-west shelf and said: ‘This is mine; I will handle it’. We in this country have been sitting on reserves in our north-west shelf amounting to trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. That resource lies idle, yet to be developed. It is a vast field of unknown quantities of gas with probably- I hope there is- unknown quantities of liquid hydro-carbons, crude oil. That field has not been developed. Western Australia would like that natural gas. An export demand exists for natural gas. But no; Mr Connor would not allow this.
Now, if we want to develop this field, we find that the expenses have risen to such an extenthere I am quoting the prices as I understand them- that the cost of developing that field on the north-west shelf alone continues to escalate at the rate of $ 150,000 a day. I invite honourable senators to tot that figure up in terms of weeks, months and years and see the figure that is required now to develop that field. This is the result of the blind stupidity not only of a former Minister but of the Government of the day which backed him. That is what has gone on. As a South Australian, I turn to my own State and mention the concept of the Red Cliffs petrochemical scheme. This was a multi-million dollar exercise. It was something that we would very much like to have had in South Australia. It would have culminated in the development of further industry that would give great employment to great numbers of people. But because of the interference again of the former Federal Government against the desires of the Labor
Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, we find that scheme is now in jeopardy. One does not know what will happen. In South Australia we have vast resources of natural gas. But we want an outlet for the wet gases. We want an outlet for our liquids. We have problems in our State now, again because of the interference by the Labor Government when it was in power. This country needs incentives for people and companies to get out and to keep on developing, expanding and producing. I have referred to what is happening in the mining world. Let us look next at what is happening in the manufacturing industries.
Why have we unemployment today? Is it because industry does not want to employ people, because it does not like people, or is it because industry could not sell the goods that it was manufacturing? Is it because industry could not afford to expand as the Labor Party had decided that profit was a dirty word. This attitude continued for a long time until late last year when the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Whitlam, Dr J. F. Cairns and a few others realised that it was more than time for profits in this country and there was also a need for incentives. There was a need for private enterprise in this country. They suddenly decided that profit was not so bad and said: ‘We will accept some profit in this country’. But again the damage had been done.
This has been the sad history of Australia, a country that was the envy of so many other countries. Australia was a country full of potential; a country that was making use of its resources and its potentials. But because of the blind politics and ideologies of a certain political party in power, because of the mis-allocation of resources, because of its doctrinaire socialist policies by which the Government was to take in all and spend all, we have had excess spending by that Government and a total mis-allocation of resources culminating in a crisis situation in our economy. A tragic situation has been created in the employment field where today young people cannot get jobs. That is what the Fraser Government has taken over.
I wish I had sufficient time to read the whole of the Governor-General’s Speech into the Hansard record tonight. That Speech sets out very clearly not just the desires but also the aims of a government whose prime motive is to get this country moving again, to restrain inflation, to reduce unemployment, to get industry moving and to get back confidence in this country not only internally but also overseas. One is very much aware of the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, saw fit to go to Japan recently- he returned home the day before the
Parliament commenced sitting- for discussions and to repair some of the damage that had been done to our relationship with this major trading partner of ours by the Whitlam Government. We have also seen Mr Peacock being accepted by countries in the South East Asia area.
There is reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the Association of South East Asian Nations, which is an important body. South East Asia is a very important area of the world. Its people are our neighbours. They were looking to Australia for some assistance, but no assistancenot even encouragement- was given to them by the Whitlam Government. On top of all of this we saw the Whitlam Government abuse a great ally of ours which showed how great it was in the 1939-45 period and which no doubt would come to our assistance again if we had trouble. One does not abuse one’s friends, but the Whitlam Government saw fit to pour abuse on the United States of America. Those things are being repaired. We are working not only internally but also externally to get Australia moving again. We are trying to gain some respect for Australia not just among the Third World powers but also in other areas. If one wishes to live with people in this world, if one wishes to work with people in this world and if one wishes to command the respect of people in this world one must also show respect. That is something that was lacking in the dealings with so many of the very important countries that are friends and neighbours of ours and something that is being restored by the Fraser Government.
There are many other subjects on which I would like to touch tonight, but my time is nearly up. I simply wish to say that we have come into government at probably the most critical time in the history of Australia. As a government we will do some things that perhaps will not be electorally popular in the short term, but our aim is to do for Australia those things that will not only get Australia moving again but also get Australia moving again in such a way that the effects and the results of this Government will be felt, appreciated and admired by the people who will be deriving the benefits in the longer term. I have very much pleasure in supporting the motion.
– I take this opportunity to congratulate those new senators who have made contributions to the debate today and to wish them well in the Senate. The Senate, which has been a very important place, unfortunately was used last year as a device for getting rid of a popularly elected government- the Labor Government. I need only reiterate very briefly what was said initially by my colleague Senator James McClelland, in a very fine speech when he talked about the issues that preceded the elections that resulted in the defeat of the Labor Government, and later by my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland. I am honestly and firmly of the opinion that parliamentary democracy in Australia suffered a great blow with the events of last year. In no other country which operates under the Westminster system is it possible for a government which has a majority in the people’s House to be deposed. We saw the situation in the other place where, after the Labor Government had been sacked, it showed in a vote that it still had a majority among the elected members of that House. The Labor Government was wrongly sacked. I agree that it was done by various arrangements- incidental, accidental or on purpose. It seems to me that that has resulted in a reduction in the prestige of the parliamentary system as such.
Mr President, I listened to the words that you used yesterday when you talked about the need to observe standards. This is not the first occasion on which other members of the Australian Labor Party and I have risen to our feet to declare our support for parliamentary democracy. In my opinion there is no doubt that most Australian electors agree that the sacking of the Labor Government was wrong. It has done nothing to enhance our parliamentary system. As I said at the declaration of the poll in South Australia, it is a pity that a coalition which might have won the support of the people in an ordinary election at the proper time had to have recourse to that sort of device. In my opinion this has done the coalition parties no credit. We know, of course, that previously the leader of the major party in the coalition had declared himself to be against the very thing that happened.
I am sad that the people who talk about observing standards have been the first ones to break them. That is why I commenced my speech by reacting to Senator Young’s comments about the Parliament. Surely this Parliament must be the voice of the people. We would not have minded if we had been defeated in an election that had been properly called under the parliamentary system in Australia, but under it there is no power to recall the members of the Parliament. The previous Parliament should have run its course. The events surrounding the dismissal of the Whitlam Government and the arrangements that were made- knowledge of which was added to tonight by Senator James McClelland- no doubt will be the subject of the writings of many historians and other experts. I think it is sad that such a thing happened. I am sorry that it happened to the parliamentary system because I think that if the parliamentary system does not stand the test of the everyday needs of society in Australia something will replace it. We should ensure at the proper time that what happened last year does not happen again. I say again that parliamentary democracy was struck a very heavy blow.
The events leading up to the sacking of the Labor Government were not new. We know that prior to the 1974 election the then Opposition, in concert with the people who backed it- the great vested interests in Australia and the Press monopolies- had set out to destroy the Labor Government because the Labor Government was catching up on the need to make great welfare reforms in particular, to change the face of Australia and to give Australia a new image in the world. Despite the attacks on the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Whitlam, nobody can say that he did not emerge as one of the great leaders of the world. There is no doubt that at that time he stood amongst the great leaders of the world, including Willi Brandt of Germany. He brought Australia out of the backwaters and into a new area of influence in the world. As a result, we set up thoughout the world many new posts of Australian identity.
– Record unemployment and inflation.
-I will get to that. Before doing so I wish to take up the last point raised by Senator Young when talking about the influence of Australia. One cannot gainsay that Mr Whitlam became a world figure. There is no questioning the fact that the Whitlam Government became caught up -
– It was a joke.
-Senator Sim said that it was a joke. Mr Whitlam was a great leader who spoke throughout the world of Australia’s new role and the great needs. What do you want to do about aid and about the new Australia? You will go backwards. The honourable senator and many other people such as Senator Young and Senator Davidson went into the Estimates Committees and declared that there was a need for new aid programs on the part of Australia. What are the honourable senators doing today? They are cutting back those programs. What are they doing about international posts? They are cutting them back. What are they doing about Australia House in London?
– Why not?
– The honourable senator talks. Honourable senators on the Government side are people of double standards. They always talk with 2 voices. At the Estimates Committee hearings they talked about Labor Government waste and about the need for new aid and formulating new programs. Today they are cutting everything. They said that there was a failure on the part of Labor to control inflation so that jobs may be had by all. That was in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. But what did Mr Lynch say? He is the spokesman on financial matters. On Monday, 9 February, he gave an address as Treasurer to the 29th International Banking Summer School. The title was: Some Realities Of Recent International Developments. He is one of the people who outside the Parliament, in the Press, in amendments moved to motions relating to the Budget Papers, in motions moved in the Senate, with their supporters, said that we were producing inflation and unemployment. This is what Mr Lynch said on 9 February:
The rapid changes in the economic environment over the past 4-5 years, sometimes traumatic, can have had few parallels in recent times. It may now be that we have reached a stage where some of these changes are sufficiently behind us to allow some assessment, and draw some lessons, for the future, with particular reference to recent international developments.
After talking about monetary problems, he stated:
The next date of major significance would be October 1973, which saw the first of several sharp increases in the price of oil, and the resultant transformation, virtually at a stroke, of the size and direction of traditional financial flows. This event of course impacted on what seemed an already fragile exchange rate and trading situation.
Government supporters, when in Opposition, said that inflation did not come from outside Australia. Mr Lynch continued:
It also impacted on a very fragile international economic situation. The rate of inflation in the industrial countries, which had already doubled between 1972 and 1973, doubled again between end 1973 and end 1974.
Mr Lynch was not talking about Australia now. He was talking about other countries. He continued:
Meanwhile economic activity in these countries turned down towards the end of 1 973.
Notice that he said: “These other countries’. He continued:
It is now a matter of history that the ensuing period has been the most adverse in the postwar years in terms of economic activity and price stability.
That was the Treasurer. He said that the only trouble in Australia was that the Labor Government was causing all these things. Now he says it is a matter of history that the ensuing period has been the most adverse in the postwar years in terms of economic activity and price stability. In his address he stated: not only, of course, for the industrial countries but also for the developing countries.
Of course the then Opposition knew as well as we did that this situation was world wide and that the Labor Government was facing a problem similar to that faced by every other Western organised country.
What is the position today? For a forecast I cite a survey made in the quarterly survey ‘Business Opinion’ by PA Consulting Services Pty Ltd. It was issued on 14 February 1976. A statement in the Canberra Times reads:
Only a minority of executives were taking a more bullish view of the economy because of the advent of the new Government, the quarterly survey, Business Opinion, by PA Consulting Services Pty Ltd, said. The survey, issued yesterday, indicated that only 3 7 per cent of executives had altered their expectations about the timing of an economic recovery as a result of the ousting of the Labor Government and of these, 88 per cent expected the recovery to come sooner than they previously expected.
The report continued:
The survey underlined the difficulties of regenerating growth in the private sector with a finding that only 19 per cent of respondents anticipate increasing their blue-collar work force in 1976 compared with 1975, while 18 per cent of respondents said they would be hiring fewer blue-collar workers.
The outlook for apprentices remained bleak, with 12 per cent of companies expecting to hire more apprentices than last year . . .
What is the situation that the Government is developing in Australia? What is the position with the school leavers? What is the chance of employers taking on more apprentices? The cuts and economic policies of the Government have ensured that more people will be sacked, that more people will be retrenched and fewer school leavers and apprentices will be taken on. This is so not only in relation to the private sector but also in all Government agencies such as the Public Service departments. In the statutory authorities fewer people will be employed. Fewer apprentices will be taken on. Fewer school leavers will be taken into employment. What about the Government’s aim to make sure that more people are employed than were employed before? Today in this place the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers), in answering a question which I asked, said that the ceiling targets which had been imposed by the Prime Minister were, in his opinion, simply designed to take up the reduction caused by wastage, retirements, etc.
At the same time as the Leader of the Government in the Senate said that, he read an announcement about the position at Woomera in my State of South Australia. I shall refer, as did Senator Young, to some of the South Australian matters. Woomera, in South Australia, is a multimillion dollar investment. We now learn, despite statements by the Prime Minister, that at Woomera there will be a reduction in the staff by 700 people in the next 12 months. The Government says that its policy is simply to take up the wastage. I should speak about what the Labor Government did in South Australia, because Senator Young talked about Redcliffs. Let us think about some of the Labor Party initiatives which were taken, particularly in my State of South Australia. For example, let us look at the great land commission grants. This was the first time in Australia that any government decided to provide funds to acquire land which would prevent the escalation of prices by speculators. The South Australian Government was given grants by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, which totalled $50m. That was the first time that had happened. In my State they have the advantage of having an organised socialist housing commission. It is an effective housing commission. It was established by a socially interested Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, who knew the value of such national undertakings. So South Australia has that advantage. The Labor Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, not only did that but also he followed it up with a water purification policy which would amount to nearly $100m when finally completed. Up to now I think the South Australian Government has funds totalling about $18m. Is the Government going to cut that scheme too? It has not said yes or no. Will it stop those great progressive steps to provide improvements for the State.
We did not invest in Redcliffs but we did these other great things. Let us talk about railways. For the first time a State governed by the Australian Labor Party and led by Premier Dunstan decided to hand over the” country railway services to the Australian Railways. As a result there was a beneficial settlement to that State as there was to Tasmania. There is no case for any South Australian senator, whether he is a Liberal man or a Labor man, to talk about a bad deal for South Australia. In fact, what we are worried about in South Australia is whether the great programs which were started by the Labor Government will be cut off. Already certain statements have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It is true, of course, that the Fraser cuts which total $360m, organised and determined by the Cabinet early in February, do not represent a very high percentage of the total
Budget. But they affect many important people and they affect many important initiatives.
For example, I refer to the area of responsibility which I had as Postmaster-General. It is the story of another statutory authority. The Government, by those cuts made in February, decided that there would be certain restrictions of funds available to the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. The cuts were reported in the Press and they are well known to most honourable senators. They mean that the capital investment in necessary construction- telephone, telex and other services in Australia- has to be cut. Surely those expenditure cuts must lead to a reduction in the productivity of the country. If the Government cuts back services such as those provided by the 2 organisations I have mentioned which were given the right to work independently and separately, this must restrict activities in the private sector. If private business and manufacturers cannot get telephones, telex services and all the new related technological and technical advice which is available to make their activities more profitable, surely that is a retrograde step.
That is an example in only one area. If we look at other statutory authorities we find a similar situation. What the Government is doing in respect of statutory authorities which have a productive capacity is, of course, cutting off its nose to spite its face. In addition the Government has now imposed a staff ceiling which will further embarrass the carrying on of those activities. I am told that presently the unions involved in these industries are arranging to meet the Ministers concerned. I hope that as a result of their discussions such piecemeal and wrong policies will be changed because they are bad for the country. They may serve the commitment that is talked about in this document presented by the Governor-General but they serve no productive advantage because they are bad for employment and they are bad for business activities.
What did this Government do when it let the axe fall? I ask honourable senators to think of all the things that were cut out. For example, pharmaceutical benefits, the Family Law Courts, consumer affairs and legal aid were all affected by the $360m expenditure cuts. The Foreign Affairs vote was also affected. International aid was cut by $22m. Senator Sim, Senator Young and Senator Davidson at Senate committee hearings have talked about the need for more aid and the need to look after people who cannot look after themselves. The Government has cut off aid to many of these people and made it more difficult for others to obtain it. In addition, departmental representation has been abolished in some countries. It has been abolished in Bombay, Calcutta, in Hamburg, Los Angeles and Messina. We know the work done by such offices in foreign countries. Senator Sim and many other Government senators have been to these offices. The closures include the offices in Milan and Osaka. We are talking about countries such as Japan and West Germany, that great western democracy.
What has happened to our Australian Government office in Brussels? We also have staff reductions in Washington. Honourable senators opposite talk about offending our great friend, the United States of America. We are cutting down staff in Washington and we are cutting down staff in London. Senator Young talked today about offending our great ally, the United States of America, while the Labor Government was in power. There is evidence from statements made by the former United States Ambassador Green that relations between himself and the Labor Government were good. They have never been bad; they were not any worse or better than they had been with the former Government. Then, on the same day as Senator Young makes that statement Senator Withers announces that this new Government has decided to purchase 2 Navy patrol frigates. He talked about the good relations between the United States Government and the Australian Government. These were things that Mr Barnard and Mr Morrison as former Defence Ministers had done. They were not new. They said when they went to the hustings, ‘We will have a new defence policy. We will have surveys of the DDL program’. Senator Young has talked frequently about the wrong in cutting out the DDL program. What do we find? In a statement made today the Government has stated exactly what the Labor Government and Lance Barnard decided to do; all the things which have now had the seal of approval placed upon them were developed by a Labor Defence Minister. Of course, this must be added to all the other things which the Labor Party did.
Let me continue to deal with these expenditure cuts which the present Government has started. Senator Young talked today about the need to keep the Adelaide Singers going. What happened to the Adelaide Singers? They are to get the axe. Who has done this? It is the new Government. Premier Dunstan in South Australia has written to the Prime Minister and said, ‘I might be prepared to join with the Federal Government in providing moneys to retain the Adelaide Singers’. That group is to be disbanded under the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s cuts in expenditure in the same way as every other authority has had to make cuts. Let me outline the position in relation to other matters. Drug charges under the pharmaceutical benefits prescription scheme have been increased from $1.50 to $2. This is the Government ‘s new welfare scheme. Senator Young read from the Governor-General ‘s Speech a reference to this matter. This is the new welfare idea. It is that people shall look after themselves, that the poor shall look after themselves. The GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech states:
The Government’s long term objective is to prevent the growth of centralised bureaucratic domination in Australia, the increasing dependence of individuals on the state. It is to encourage development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life, in ways they decide … the Government does not believe that the poor and disadvantaged can be best helped by increasing the dependence of everyone on what the Government chooses to provide.
Do honourable senators remember the great arguments we used to have about repatriation? That is the next area that will face the chopper. We were assisted by other people to act in this area. Senator Wright who sits opposite me on one occasion supported a motion which I moved that an inquiry be set up. That motion was carried. Despite the fact that previous LiberalNational Country Party coalition governments always talked about the concern for defence, we were the first government ever to give support to Returned Services League claims as soon as we came to power. The evidence is on record. The General Secretary of the RSL pointed out that the Labor Government had met all the aims and policies of the RSL. We did that. The Liberals never did that. It was the first time that that was done. Now, the present Government will act to worsen repatriation services. Honourable senators opposite will not be able to give lip service, as they used to do every year, to what the RSL wants because, they will be the instrument of worsening what has been applied.
The same position pertains in community affairs, tourism, consumer affairs, Aboriginal affairs and in the Northern Territory. Senator Kilgariff made an excellent speech tonight about affairs in the Northern Territory. But, Mr Deputy President, do you know that the axe has fallen on the Darwin projects? Today’s Adelaide Advertiser states:
Canberra ‘ freezes ‘ Darwin contracts.
The article goes on to state:
The Federal Government had frozen the letting of contracts to restore cyclone-damaged Housing Commission homes in Darwin.
The chairman of the Northern Territory Housing Commission (Mr G. Stolz) said this yesterday.
There is an obligation in this area. The Prime Minister at the time, Mr Whitlam, and the then Leader of the Opposition said that they would do all in their power to restore Darwin. Is it the way to restore the economy to make expenditure cuts in every area of economic activity? Senator Guilfoyle is not present in the Senate chamber tonight. I suppose that her actions could be described as reaching the bottom of the barrel. She has said that there would be a saving of $1.7m as a result of ending funeral benefits for pensioners. This is the Government that talks about the necessity to help the needy. Of course this is only the start of it; this is only the first instalment. Wait until we get other appropriations in regard to many of the things that the new Labor Government did that were said to be extravagant. For the first time in Australia organised sport became the beneficiary of aid from the central government, the Australian Government. Local communities either by way of grants or the Regional Employment Development scheme had important works done for the first time in Australia, not with funds that they obtained themselves or from State governments but with funds from the Australian Government. Is that a bad thing?
– A Government senator said: ‘Yes’. I have been in many cities and towns of Australia and I have seen examples -
-Do not blame me.
-Well, it was not from this side, senator. I have seen many examples of the benefits that accrued to ordinary outback places which would not have got a benefit. The Government’s new Federal-State relations policy will not follow the sorts of things that we did. What about when the new cuts come? There is no doubt that there is no future for the sort of activities which were instituted under the Labor Government.
What will follow? Will the Government reintroduce television and broadcasting licences like it tried to do? I am pleased to note from the Press that some honourable senators on the other side became active in resisting that proposal. As I said the announcement by me when Minister and by Senator Douglas McClelland to remove the licence fee was one of the great reforms made in Australia. The re-introduction of the fee should never be tried; no government should try to do so. I hope that the forces in the Government who resisted the attempt to re-introduce upon the people of Australia that poll tax will have enough strength to do so again. If they do not we will certainly campaign strongly within the Parliament and outside the Parliament to resist such a measure.
There is some thinking inside the Government forces that enterprises like the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be restricted to a budget related to the levies obtained from television and broadcasting licences. It would be a backward step to place the ABC and other such services in a position where they would rely purely on such levies. Of course the Government calls the ABC a socialist enterprise, as it does many things today. It has become fashionable today to describe as a socialist enterprise everything that is national, sensible, centralised and efficient. It would be a pity if the people who wanted licensing fees to be restored should win. I hope that if they do we will be active enough to stop the re-introduction in this Parliament.
As I have said it seems to me that the important thing in the economic thinking of the Government is whether it will succeed. The attitude that I have on this is sensible: If you cut productive works you are reducing the ability of the Australian work force to be used efficiently and skillfully. That is a bad thing. Everybody knows that. If you cannot give the skilled, unskilled or semi-skilled worker proper employment you reduce opportunities, and that is exactly what the Government is doing now. There is no doubt in my mind that despite the temporary relief in the Australian Capital Territory in respect of some sackings that were to take place, sackings will take place throughout this country in all the Public Service departments and all the statutory authorities this year. This will have the effect of putting more people out of work. It will destroy, as I have mentioned, opportunities for the young people- the people who might become improvers and apprentices and other skilled and semi-skilled people. It is better to have opportunities for work than to have unemployed school leavers. The worst aspects of the policies which this Government is developing relate to employment. The Government’s solutions to the economic situation are not as good as those proposed by the Labor Government. As I mentioned, Mr Lynch stated on 9 February that he now accepts that there are universal economic situations which match those in Australia. I refer also to the survey I mentioned earlier which showed that there is no more optimism by employers in the basic structure of the economy than there was during the course of the Labor Government.
I conclude by saying what I said earlier Parliamentary democracy in Australia has received a great setback. That is not a popular argument at the moment and certainly the Press does not in any way recognise the principles to which we have referred. I am sorry to say that as a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-parliamentary Union I cannot go into the countries again that I have been to previously or meet the colleagues that I have met before and say that our parliamentary system is as good as it was when Labor was in power.
– Let me first of all congratulate the President, in his absence, on his election to his high office. I have, of course, like many honourable senators on this side of the House, been associated with Senator Laucke for many years. We know his courtesy, his politeness and his fairness. I am sure that he will bring those qualities to bear in his new high office. I also congratulate you, Senator Drake-Brockman, on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. I was a member of the Senate when you were Chairman of Committees previously and I know your great knowledge of the Standing Orders, your strictness in enforcing the Standing Orders and also your impartiality. We have all suffered at your hands.
I think it is a great pity that members of the Opposition are living on past prejudices and new hates. They have all gone to the wailing wall. I do not mind if they stay there. As long as they are there they will produce no new thoughts and no new policies. It is a great pity that my good friend Senator Bishop- I know he is a good friend- says that democracy is being shattered and all this sort of nonsense. Members of the Opposition conveniently forget that in 1970 their own leader advocating that the Senate should defeat an Appropriation Bill. In the best Westminster tradition he said that the government should then go to the people. We all remember that. It is on record. Their then leader in this place, now Mr Justice Murphy, supported the unlimited powers of the Senate to defeat money Bills and referred to 168 occasions I think it was since 1952 when the Opposition had attempted to defeat money Bills and to 4 occasions when the Opposition had succeeded in defeating money Bills including Appropriation Bills.
I am reminded of a statement by a great Labor leader-not like the sort of fellows we have here- Lord Attlee. He was asked some years ago why he, as a Socialist, supported the monarchy. He said: ‘Well, the monarch is a sort of referee. He does not often have to blow the whistle but when the politicians get into an awful mess he blows the whistle and dissolves the Parliament and sends the government to an election to let the people decide’. That is the view of Lord Attlee, a great Labor leader, and of course a far greater Labor leader than we have experienced in recent times in this country. I do not intend to follow the meanderings of the Opposition. I join with my colleagues in congratulating the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply on their speeches. We know that it is a traumatic experience for new senators to rise so soon in their places to speak. The honourable senators who spoke tonight I believe acquitted themselves admirably, and I know that we can look forward to many contributions from them. I also congratulate those other new senators who tonight made their maiden speeches. They showed us that we have in this place new quality to replace that of some of our former colleagues.
Tonight I intend to take this opportunity to discuss the controversy over the Indian Ocean- a controversy which has been aroused recently by emotional, extravagant and somewhat naive comments from the so-called Opposition spokesman on defence, Mr Beazley. He showed that he was ill informed, so ill informed that his comments could have had only one purpose- to arouse fears and emotions, particularly concerning the development in Western Australia of the new naval facility, HMAS Stirling. He was acting also as an apologist for Russia. I recall, and I know that you recall, Mr Deputy President, a very great member of the Labor Party in this place, the former Senator Dame Dorothy Tangney, who over many years advocated the establishment of a naval facility or base, as I think she termed it, at Cockburn Sound. I believe that the eventual decision to establish that facility was due in no small way to her continued advocacy over many years. It is a great pity that a fellow West Australian should not have followed the example that she set and her realisation and understanding of the need for such a facility on the West Australian coast. I suppose it could be said that the statements made by Mr Beazley are further proof of the fact that the Labor Party still lives in a world of unreality as far as the international situation is concerned. It continues to speak of detente. As far as the Russians are concerned, detente, as Dr Kissinger is now acknowledging, is a policy of coldly national self-interest and that is all it is.
– He is not a socialist.
– No, he is not a socialist, thank goodness; but the socialists in this country have not yet realised that. When Senator Mulvihill recognises and acknowledges that what Dr Kissinger is saying is correct, I will accept that he is at last showing some degree of reality. The Opposition prefers to ignore the signs and hope that they will just fade away. The Indian Ocean, of course, is a matter of great concern to Western Australia. Well over 2000 miles of its coastline are washed by the Indian Ocean and a great deal of the trade from Western Australia, particularly the mineral trade, passes through that ocean. Many of us grew up in the period of some 150 years during which the Indian Ocean was considered to be a British lake. That position was shattered by the Japanese in 1942 and was restored temporarily after the war. We all know that in about 1968 the British decided, for reasons which we understand, that they could no longer maintain their presence in this area. At about that time, or perhaps a year or two later, as some older members of the Senate will recall, the Indian Ocean was the subject of an inquiry by a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I was the chairman of that inquiry and eventually a report was produced. I might add that that report is still referred to in many countries and is still quoted in many documents as being one of the most authoritative reports on the Indian Ocean ever issued.
We have heard recently about a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean, a concept which has been supported wholeheartedly by the Labor Party. It is a wonderful concept. We all agree with the concept, but one well known commentator recently described Mr Whitlam ‘s zone of peace as a zone of peace which never was; it appears now as nothing more than trendy rhetoric built on vain hope. I think that that is not a bad description. If we face the simple facts of life, the Russians are in the Indian Ocean and they have no intention of leaving. Indeed, in its report, which was published in 1971, our Committee dealt with the question of the Indian Ocean and its importance to the major powers of the world. In section 98, at page 32 of the report, it states:
In conclusion, the Indian Ocean region has always been an area of some great power interest and attraction but until the 1950s and early 1960s it was essentially a colonial interest of colonial powers and to this extent any influence was generally confined to related interests. With the march towards independence and the consequential opportunities of involvement of the great powers, there has been an extension of interest and participation especially by Russia, the P.R.C., the United States and Japan. 1 digress here to say that 90 per cent of Japan’s oil requirements pass through the Indian Ocean. The report continues:
It is difficult to foresee a significant slackening of interest by any one of these powers with the result that no matter what the opinions of the countries within the region, they will be unable to prevent the Indian Ocean developing into an area of great power influence and involvement.
That report was published in 1971 and those words are even truer today than they were then. It is also worth commenting that many of the littoral states have supported the concept of a zone of peace, but many of the nations which support the concept of a zone of peace have provided facilities or bases without which Soviet Russia could not operate in the Indian Ocean. I will come back to that matter later.
Let me return to the report from which I have already quoted. The Indian Ocean is one of the great sea routes of the world. The Russian interest is based, amongst other things, upon its fishing interests, its oceanographic research and its trade. They are all legitimate interests in the Indian Ocean, as are the interests of other powers. So in recent times the region has been one of big power interest. It is also a major area of struggle between the Soviet Union and China, and today it is becoming an area of increasing struggle between those 2 communist powers. I think the Senate should be reminded that in 1971, referring to President Nixon’s statement that the period was one of negotiation, Chou En-lai the then Prime Minister of China, commented that the era was still one of armed struggle. According to Chou En-lai it was not an era of negotiation but an era of armed struggle. The present events in Angola, on which I will speak later, and the reaction of China to those events highlight the comment that Chou En-lai made. They further highlight my statement that this is one of the major areas of struggle between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China and that it is an area of increasing struggle between those 2 communist powers.
Acceptance by Australia of Refugees-Atmospheric conditions in Parliament House
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I do not intend unduly to intrude on this adjournment debate but I am mindful of the interest of a number of honourable senators in the ability of Australia effectively to house the growing number of refugees as a result of the turbulence in the world today. In fairness to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) at the conclusion of my speech I will present 4 documents comprising a request from the Portuguese community in Sydney dealing with certain refugees from Timor, my submission to the Minister and her reply- the Minister will understand that I am not pre-empting what she may say after my remarks- and finally a letter from a former illustrious Minister for Immigration in the person of the honourable Clyde Cameron which refers to a survey that was being made.
Very simply, the issue at stake concerns a septuagenarian, a former public servant of the Portuguese Government in Timor, who had been in receipt of sustenance from the home Government. He and his wife were evacuated with a number of younger people from Timor. I have received representations from the Portuguese community in Sydney and I know that my colleague from the Northern Territory, Senator Robertson, has had experience of the situation in Darwin. The Minister will know that this is more or less a general testing time. The case in question is in a sense very simple. The septuagenarian and his wife are living with other recent arrivals, namely his daughter and her husband. The husband is earning $94 gross and the wife is earning $77 gross.
As the Minister pointed out to me in her response, under the means test formula relating to income the interim sustenance that was given by the former Government ceased. That was against the general policy of the previous Government which was fairly cautious about the number of people brought in, having regard to the capacity of their in-laws or other relatives to earn a living and look after the elderly folk. In my overtures to the Minister I pointed out that the Portuguese Government, as any other European Government, had a distinct responsibility for people in this age group. Without bringing party politics into it. I think it can be said that the enactment by the Whitlam Government of the pension portability scheme meant that we were not beholden to any other government for charity.
I think that the Minister will appreciate what I am saying. I am not blaming her. It is a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr
Peacock) to suggest to the Government in Lisbon as Australia, unconcerned with the ideological issues, took in Timorese refugees, that Government should expedite the forwarding of cheques for these people of advanced age. The Minister has indicated that she will have a further look at the matter. I believe that in cases like this the sustenance should bc continued. I say that for this reason- this is borne out in Mr Clyde Cameron’s submission- all ethnic communities are not as wealthy as each other. I understand from my Western Australian colleagues that the Portuguese community is a fairly scattered community. They are not really endowed with a background of wealthy early settlers- certainly not in Sydney. They are probably hampered in that in my own State there is the Madeira club which represents nonmainlanders and other people from the mainland are not so represented. I suppose, looking at the matter as a trade unionist, they would be better off with amalgamation, but that is not a question to be advanced here.
It is a fact of life that Australian governments will come and go- I hope frequently- but every year we will be inheriting problems of refugees who will be of different age groups. I believe we will have to be flexible in those cases of people who come here with no particular skills. For example, a daughter and her husband, who in theory are expected under our formula to look after the elderly gentleman and his wife, are employed in occupations such as office cleaning. When I cite such figures as $94 and $77 gross that indicates that they are not in the big time wage brackets. This Government will have the same dilemma as our Government had. This Government may say that it can take 400, 1000 or 2000 refugees but when they arrive here we have secondary problems. I think people such as Senator Davidson would agree with me that some of the papers which have been produced already about Vietnamese refugees in the middle west States of America have borne out the problems with which we are confronted.
I simply summarise the matter in this way: I believe a government cannot have its cake and eat it. If we say that the formula that the previous Government introduced will remain, at least we geared it as far as we could to the number of people who came in. I appreciate the point that we might advocate accepting more people from Chile and this Government might suggest another country from which we might accept a considerable number of refugees. The rules that applied under our Government must be assessed against the inflation of which we have all talked tonight. They must also be looked at in relation to the capacity of an ethnic group to play its part. I say that because amongst other things the Cameron document said:
I have asked my Department to investigate and report on Australia’s capacity to accept those refugees and neorefugees who need post-arrival support and other special facilities.
The Cameron document also said that we must assess the assistance that can be given in this country by the fellow-countrymen of refugees. That seems to be the nub of the matter. I know that Senator Guilfoyle has not been a Minister for a great length of time. I reiterate that I believe that in cases such as the relatively small Portuguese community the Government could be flexible and could review the sustenance problems of people above the age of, say, 65. Secondly, I think the Government could probably pursue the Cameron doctrine of a grand council of ethnic groups. I know that amongst other organisations the Quakers, the World Council of Churches and the Catholic relief organisation have held several seminars. Not long ago I represented Senator James McClelland at such a gathering. World events have probably caught up with all of us. The Government is faced with a fairly high influx of such refugees. I simply make this plea on behalf of the Portuguese community of Sydney. Mr President, I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard the documents which I have in my hand. I do not mind whether I get approval seriatum or in globo. I do not see Senator Wright in the chamber so I can be a little easy going. I wish to incorporate in order a document dated 1 1 February from myself to Senator Guilfoyle setting out my support of an earlier document of 10 February from a Mr Encarnacao, a prominent member of the Sydney Portuguese community. I couple with that the Minister’s reply of today’s date. Finally, I wish to incorporate the Clyde Cameron doctrine of 22 October 1974.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)- 11 February 1976
Senator the Hon. M. Guilfoyle, Minister for Social Security, Parliament House, CANBERRA. A.C.T. 2600
My dear Minister,
In enclose copy of a communication received from Mr J. J. ENCARNACAO a member of the Sydney Portuguese Community with whom I have dealings as Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council.
It will be seen that this communication relates to certain refugees from TIMOR and a cessation of their special relief benefits. In essence cases like this should ultimatly be bom by the home government, in this case Portugal.
My view is that prompt representations should be made to that Government is immediately honour their obligations in a similar way that Yugoslavia and Italy pay various types of pensions to their naturals resident in Australia but who have served in their home countries public service in earlier years.
Meantime however you should continue these emergency social security benefits as none of these relatives are on high imcomes in Australia.
Yours sincerely, J. MULVIHILL
DOUBLE BAY. 2028 10th February, 1976.
Senator A. Mulvihill, Australian Government Centre, Chifley Square, SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
I am writing on behalf of a Timorese refugee by the name of Francisco de Alegria Alberto. This gentleman is seventythree (73) years of age and has been in Australia since August, 1975. He was, in his youth, an administrative public servant of the Portuguese Government in Timor. He served that Government for a period of forty-nine (49) years. He has been retired fourteen (14) years and was in receipt of a pension until the 1 1 th of August coup in 1 975.
Upon his arrival in Australia he was granted a special benefit by the Department of Social Security. This benefit was at the rate of $60 per week for his and his wife’s upkeep whilst in Australia. Their visas permit them a stay extending from the date of their arrival to the 30th of June, 1976. However, payment of benefit was terminated on the 27th of November, 1975.
Mr Alberto has relatives in Australia comprising three daughters and their respective husbands. Two of these daughters have children of their own. Two of these daughters and their husbands arrived in Australia at the same time as Mr Alberto himself under the same circumstances, i.e. as refugees. The other daughter and her husband are naturalized Australian citizens. It is at this daughter’s home that Mr Alberto and his wife have been residing since their arrival. The refugee daughters’ husbands set about finding themselves employment as soon as was practicable and accepted the first position that was offered them. They are both employed as cleaners at a caravan park at Cabramatta. They are each earning approximately $94 per week, gross, from this employment.
The daughter at whose home Mr Alberto and his wife reside is also working and earns $77 per week gross. Her husband experienced a period of unemployment but is now once again employed and earns $95.45 per week gross.
These were the figures which the Department of Social Security took into account for the purpose of applying the means test to Mr Alberto’s claim for benefit. These were the figures which excluded him and his wife from being eligible for benefit, under the Social Services Act.
Mr Alberto has asked me to intercede on his behalf to whomsoever I saw fit. Naturally, my thoughts turned to you, remembering the occasions we met at Portuguese community functions in recent years.
I would like to make a few points which, to persons not fully in empathy with migrant communities in a foreign country, might easily be overlooked or taken to be of little consequence, when, in truth, to the persons concerned, they are, indeed, of the utmost importance.
In the case of Mr Alberto, we are witnessing the slow disintegration of a man’s ego, dignity and self esteem. I have spoken at length and on several occasions with Mr Alberto. I have seen in him a man who was an excellent provider and a generous human being. I can understand his heavy mood of dejection in the light of his previous successful life. Mr Alberto used hold a position such as afforded him the occasion to entertain an Australian Counsul in his home. He cooperated with Australian commandos in Timor during the 1942 Japanese invasion, harbouring them, feeding them and assisting in every way possible.
I can understand how easily such a man’s ego would be crushed by a continued dependence upon a soninlawhowever intimate and warm the relationship might be.
Furthermore, Mr Alberto has observed that a number of refugees of his age group, presently in Australia, are in continued receipt of benefit. Having noted that these refugees are residents at the migrant hostels, Mr Alberto has stated his wish to be so housed himself, thus lessening the burden on his daughter and son-in-law. He feels that the pleasure of the nearness of his family is not sufficient reason for the burden he and his wife are placing on their two immediate generations.
It is ironic that the designation of the benefit from which he was last excluded is known as a “Special Hardship” benefit, it having been deduced that no hardship was being experienced.
I believe that very few people are in a position to appreciate this particular kind of special hardship. I believe you to be one of these, hence this letter to you as a special appeal on behalf of a man in special circumstances. I trust you will do everything in your power to assist and sincerely thank you in anticipation.
P.S. My telephone number at work is 202SS, extension 5 17, at home it is 324264
Minister for Social Security Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Senator Mulvihill,
I am responding to your representations of 1 1 February with which you referred to me a letter received from Mr J. J. Encarnacao, a member of the Sydney Portuguese Community, who wrote to you about the termination of special benefit formerly paid to Mr Francisco de Alegria Alberto.
I think you would know it has been the policy of successive Governments to provide financial assistance for people who come to Australia in circumstances similar to those which surrounded Mr Alberto’s arrival. Special benefit may be paid subject to the application of a test relating to the ability of close relatives to adequately maintain them. The position is that Mr Alberto was granted special benefit on arrival in Australia from 25 August 197S at $60 a week. On review in November, having regard to the financial circumstances of the daughter and the son-in-law whom Mr Alberto and his wife were residing, he was no longer entitled to special benefit payments. The means test conditions applied were, of course, those which had been laid down by our predecessors in office.
In view of your representations I will arrange for a reexamination of Mr Alberto’s case to see if the financial and family circumstances have changed to such an extent as to permit restoration of special benefit payments. You will appreciate, of course, that the gentleman has no entitlement by way of social service pension.
Your views, that we should pay some special relief benefit to refugees from Timor and subsequently claim on Portugal for reimbursement, have been noted. This is not a simple matter on which I can give you an immediate answer but I will further consider the question and write to you again.
Senator j. A. Mulvihill Australian Senate Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Minister for Labour and Immigration Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 22 Oct 1974
Senator J. A. Mulvihill Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Dear Senator Mulvihill
I thought that, in view of your interest in Australian activity in the refugee field, you would wish to know details of the initiatives which I am currently undertaking.
You have my assurance that the Government recognises the plight of refugees throughout the world and that Australia will, within the limits of its capabilities, assist wherever possible. This assistance is not limited to financial contributions to bodies such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees; sympathetic consideration is given to cases of genuine hardship and, wherever possible, appropriate facilities for admission to Australia are expedited. Particular attention is given to those cases coming within the UNHCR mandate.
The intransigence of the problem, however, precludes easy’ solutions; refugees normally include, in addition to those who would face no problems in resettlement, many who need substantial and continuing assistance. The former often have a choice of countries of resettlement; the latter become the core of the particular refugee problem. The Ugandan Asians who now remain in Kenya, for example, are mainly storekeepers and similar small businessmen whose prospects of successful re-establishment in Australia or elsewhere are correspondingly poor. It would be a disservice both to the people concerned and to the Australian community to encourage them to come to Australia in such circumstances.
This is not an isolated example; other ‘hard core’ refugees are handicapped physically or in other ways and we have been unable to accept them because Australia has, in the past, lacked the domestic and social machinery which some other countries have had to cope with such cases. We have also lacked the same ready access to the institutional care and resources needed by these people.
Australia’s capacity to accept handicapped refugees depends very heavily on our utilising, to the fullest extent possible, the resources of voluntary agencies and similar organisations which have demonstrated an active interest in the problem. If full time agency care for such cases can be assured, Australia’s effectiveness in the refugee Held will be greatly increased.
I am therefore initiating measures aimed at achieving this. I want to determine precisely how Australia can move towards a more prominent role in resettling handicapped and other refugees.
I have asked my Department to investigate and report on Australia’s capacity to accept those refugees and neorefugees who need post-arrival support and other special facilities. This survey will include an investigation of the manner in which these services are presently funded and the adequacy or otherwise of these.
My Department will also establish a register of participating agencies, so that specific provision can be made for ongoing consultation and for processing and reviewing refugee cases.
As part of a more systematic approach to the whole problem I am also taking steps to monitor developments in the world refugee situation in which there is scope for Australia to act. It will take some time for these initiatives to become fully effective, but a meeting with interested organisations will be arranged shortly. In the meantime, however, I should be pleased if details of all individual refugee cases of concern to you could be brought to the notice of my Department in Canberra.
Yours sincerely CLYDE R. CAMERON
– I want to respond to the remarks made by Senator Mulvihill in the spirit in which he has placed this matter before the Senate. We acknowledge the difficulties which he has outlined of those people who seek refuge or who come to Australia in the circumstances of the individuals who have been the subject of correspondence between the honourable senator and me. As 1 mentioned in my letter to Senator Mulvihill, in view of his representation I will have a re-examination made of the specific case in question, I have also noted the remarks he made with regard to the responsibilities of other governments to deal with these matters. It is not a simple matter and perhaps is not quite as simple as the honourable senator stated it in the terms of his letter. I can assure him that it will have further consideration. This consideration will involve other Ministers such as the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The problem he has pointed to is an immediate one but could be a continuing one. In those terms I assure members of the Senate that consideration will be given to the question and a re-examination of the particular case undertaken.
– I desire to speak on the adjournment tonight to ventilate a matter which has been aired in this chamber on many previous occasions but which has not been solved. It is the matter of the atmospheric conditions that prevail in Parliament House and under which members and parliamentary staff are expected to carry out their duties. This matter was first raised by my very good friend, former Senator Toohey, as far back as 1968 when he asked the following question of the President at the time, Senator McMullin:
In the absence of any specific standing order to guide me, would you inform me whether on a hot day you would permit the wearing of a sleeveless safari jacket with a sports shirt, or are members of the Senate subject to the same outmoded restrictions as those obviously applying in another place?
The next day President McMullin gave Senator Toohey an answer to his question. He said:
The style of dress in the Senate has been maintained at a most satisfactory level by the practice of leaving the choice of appropriate dress to the good judgment of honourable senators and their sense of dignity of the House. I am confident that we may rely upon the continued good judgment of honourable senators in this matter.
Some years later I raised the matter when I came into the Senate by posing a question to the then President, Senator Cormack, and I asked him whether there was anything in the Standing Orders which prevented a senator wearing shorts into the Senate. Senator Cormack assured me that there was no such standing order. A few days later, 3 senators, of whom I was one, entered the Senate in shorts. On being assured by the President that he would refer this matter to the Senate House Committee we left the chamber. Subsequently a report came from the House Committee and that was debated on 29 February 1972. 1 will not read the report because I have discussed it in this place before and it is recorded in Hansard. During the debate on the report the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Anderson, had this to say:
If this report is adopted. I do not think that that passage will mean arbitrarily that no honourable senator, if he so desires, can enter the Senate chamber dressed in shorts. What it says is that he will do so in the face of the opinion of the Senate.
That is where the matter has rested until this time. From the remarks of Senator Anderson it would appear that, unless some other decision is taken, there is nothing to prevent any honourable senator taking his place in this chamber neatly attired in shorts. If there were any objection I would expect that a vote of the Senate would have to be taken on the matter. I had not given it much thought until the question of atmospheric conditions was raised today by Senator Missen. Looking at the record, which brought back some memories, I find that Senator Missen raised this matter in the Estimates Committee in October 1974 and referred to the atmospheric conditions under which members and parliamentary staff have to work in this place. Subsequently, on 5 June last year, the matter came before the Senate House Committee of which I was a member. I will not repeat all that was said, but the outcome of it was that we were informed that the cost of installing a ring route air conditioning system for just the offices around this chamber was in the vicinity of $ 1 80,000. 1 object to that because no provision was made in that cost for air conditioning the offices of staff that have to work down below in the records section and the other offices adjacent. 1 inspected those offices today after Senator Missen raised the matter and saw that nothing has been done to alleviate the very adverse conditions under which those people have to work. So it does appear that the cost now would have escalated to some larger degree- over the figure of $180,000- and it would appear that in some areas we will not be able to get this air conditioning. However, I did notice today that a bank of four air conditioners has been installed in the National Country Party party room.
– What was that again, senator?
– It can be seen from our party room that in the National Country Party party room a bank of 4 single air conditioners has been installed, one on top of the other, to service the National Country Party rooms. However, the point I want to make is that although I was a member of the Government party at the time I would not agree to expenditure on air conditioning facilities for Ministers’ offices or for the party rooms of either the Government or Opposition members whilst the staff were excluded. But it appears that with the incoming government the National Country Party at least have ignored the conditions under which the staff work and have set themselves up with air conditioning and decided that the staff can go by the board. In my opinion, that is about all the air conditioning that will be provided because that air conditioning would have exhausted all the supply of money that is available.
Taking the matter a little further, I should like to ask you, Mr President, if you would give serious consideration to allowing some dress reform without our having to go through the trauma of any honourable senators coming into the Parliament to put the requirements of dress to the test or to a vote. We know that female senators can enter this chamber in sleeveless gowns and low cut frocks and no objection is raised. Yet a male senator is not allowed to enter this place and even take off his coat in the atmospheric conditions that exist. These conditions are very unhealthy at times and yesterday and today have been perfect examples of this. I object to there being any discrimination between male senators and female senators. A male senator should not have to enter this place attired from the ankle to the Adam’s apple. I do not want a rule to be brought in to compel a female senator to do the same and to comply with the same standards with which we have to comply. So I ask you, Mr President, if you would give serious consideration to allowing honourable senators to come into the chamber, not necessarily wearing shorts- that might be something that would have to be put to a test- but allowing them, if they so desire, at least to come into the chamber coatless so that they can be a little more comfortable, just as the female senators can be when they take their place in this chamber.
– I have listened very closely to the honourable senator. Firstly, I point out to him that this chamber is air conditioned and it has been accepted that the good sense and taste of individual members should determine the dress they wear in this place. I think that the retention of that attitude should be pursued. Those officers to whom the honourable senator referred have been the subject of discussion in the committee which is concerned with these matters. I shall look into the possibility of improvement in certain areas which thus far have not been catered for and shall advise the honourable senator in due time of the outcome. But I reiterate that dress is fundamentally a matter to be determined by the good taste and sense of honourable senators in retaining the dignity of this chamber which, as I said originally, presently is air conditioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 February 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760218_senate_30_s67/>.