30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That new sub-section (8) of section 16 of the Unit Titles Ordinance 1970-1971, contained in paragraph (b) of section 3 of the Unit Titles Ordinance 1975, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 31 of 1975, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973, be disallowed.
– I also give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the Administration Ordinance 1975, as contained in Norfolk Island Ordinance No. 5 of 1975, and made under the Norfolk Island Act 1957-1973, be disallowed.
Mr President, I ask for leave to make a brief statement concerning the notices of motion I have just given.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– At the time of the dissolution of the Senate the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, of which I was then the Chairman, was inquiring into the ordinances which are the subject of the notices of motion which I have just put down. As the time for giving notice in relation to the ordinances is about to expire I have given notice so as to preserve the Committee’s rights, should it desire to look at the ordinances again.
-I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he recalls this statement in the Prime Minister’s policy speech:
We will instruct the Industries Assistance Commission to take note of the Government’s policy.
Does the Minister agree that the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 specifically empowered the Commission to act as an independent body to bring forward impartial recommendations to the Government, based on evidence placed before it but not on sectional interests? Can the Minister explain the meaning of the Prime Minister’s words? Does he agree that if the instruction is given it will mean a loss of objectivity in Commission reports?
-No. As best I recall the Prime Minister’s policy speech, that was not the intention nor will it be the fact. One might remember that the Industries Assistance Commission as it was operating at the time of the previous Government made recommendations which could well have been construed as adding quite massively to unemployment in this country. The incoming Government has the view that basic decisions concerning Australian industryprimary, secondary or manufacturing- or in the commerce area, which affect the prosperity of Australia totally and affect employment capacity in any sector, should be regarded by the Government as acts of government policy and concern. To that extent the IAC ought to be looking at the total position, not the singular position. That is the intent of the Government’s position. It in no way wants to take away the objectivity of the IAC. The Government has no such intent.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Following the decisions of the High Court in relation to federal authority in the off-shore areas, what is the present situation regarding State fishing laws? Is the Minister aware that prawn boats, unlicensed by the South Australian Fishing Authority, are fishing prawn grounds normally fished by licensed South Australian boats? As there is a need for control to protect the prawn grounds in South Australia’s off-shore waters, will the Minister give authority to the State governments to apply their State laws in relation to fishing and the licensing of boats as has been done in the case of lobster fishing, or is the current situation to continue which could lead to an embarrassing situation such as the cod war in the North Sea?
– This is a matter of concern to the honourable senator in relation to the State of South Australia. He mentioned it to me late last week. I asked the Minister for Primary Industry about it. I understand that the Minister is in the process of having further discussions with the South Australian Government to see what joint action can be taken to overcome the problems that the honourable senator has mentioned. I realise that it is a serious matter and that it is one that needs definition. The whole proposition of the law of the sea is under examination, as the honourable senator would know, following recent decisions. I think the comment that the honourable senator made to me last week has been taken up by the Minister. As I get further information I shall let the honourable senator and the Senate have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and Minister Assisting the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware of the fact that a recommendation was made late last year for the establishment of an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasting station on Thursday Island? Can the Minister inform the Parliament when construction of the facility will be completed and when broadcasting is likely to commence?
– I personally was not aware. I will inform myself and get an answer to the question for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Does the Government intend to appoint the members of the Australian Heritage Commission and what arrangement is the Government making to provide staff for the Commission?
-The Government made clear in its pre-election policy speech, as it had made clear during the course of the passage of the legislation through the Parliament, that it supported the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission. Since the Government took office consideration has been given to the method of operation of that Commission. At the present time consideration is being given not to the appointment of the 19 members of the Commission but to the appointment of an adequate number to enable the Commission to start its initial work. I hope that a decision can be reached or an announcement made with regard to that in the near future. With regard to the staff of the Commission, up to the present time and currently the Commission has been staffed by officers of my Department and into the future the Chairman of the Commission will continue to be an officer of my Department, but it is a matter of consideraton by the Government as to whether duplication can be avoided by ensuring that the Commission is staffed through the Department instead of having a staff of its own. That consideration has not yet concluded.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Does the Government have any plans to compensate those persons who have suffered loss of property as a result of the recent floods in the eastern States of Australia and the recent disaster in Bundaberg, and does the Government have any plans regarding the introduction of a scheme of national disaster insurance? If so, can we expect a statement to be made by the Government at an early occasion?
– We have already announced that special benefits will be paid to those people in the areas mentioned by the honourable senator with regard to loss of livelihood, but we have not at this stage taken a Government decision with regard to compensation for loss of property. The general question relating to the introduction of a national disaster fund is a matter that will have the consideration of the Government and a decision on it will be announced at the appropriate time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that 1976 has been designated International Prevention of Blindness Year? Is the Minister aware that in developed countries the major causes of unnecessary blindness are undetected or inadequately treated diabetes and undetected or inadequately treated glaucoma? What Australian programs have been planned to participate in the events of International Prevention of Blindness Year and what Australian Government support has been provided for the special problems of blindness affecting the Australian nation?
– I have some information that I can give to the honourable senator in answer to his question. He was kind enough to give me some notice of the question he intended asking so I can give him some information which may be of interest to honourable senators generally. The information is briefly this: The World Health Organisation has designated 7 April 1 976 as World Health Day and this day will be devoted to the prevention of blindness under the slogan ‘foresight prevents blindness’. I understand that diabetes and glaucoma are two of the major contributing factors to blindness. Australia has a continuing concern to overcome problems of blindness, particularly the special problems that are faced by the Aboriginal groups arising from the climate and the environment generally. No particular Australian program to mark the day has been planned. However, the Government support for research into the problem of eye disease is being provided from funds made available to the National Health and Medical Research Council. During this year the Council will provide $161,000 to support 16 projects relating to fundamental and clinical research in the fields of diabetes and blindness. The Minister for Health expects, perhaps later today, to be making a statement with regard to these matters. I am sure that this also will be of interest to honourable senators.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to his reply to a question I asked him last week about Public Service staff ceilings and also to his statement concerning reductions at Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment. Is it now clear that that reduction of staff by 700 personnel at Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment will come within the criteria which he announced last week, namely, by wastage and retirements, or will some people be retrenched?
-I regret that I cannot answer that question with the particularity with which the honourable senator wants it answered. I will seek the information from my colleague, the Minister for Defence.
– Is the Minister for Science aware of the details of the damage that was done to the cities of Bundaberg and Maryborough in Queensland over the weekend by a strong storm or cyclone? I assume that he is aware that I am not interested in entering into any public debate on the controversy as to whether the storm was actually a cyclone and that he is aware also that the damage to property in those areas was typical of that caused by cyclones; in other words, there were high winds, rain and the type of damage normally associated with cyclones. Is he aware that there is no meteorological station between Bustard Head, which is on the coast approximately adjacent to Gladstone, and Double Island Point, which is some tens of miles north of Brisbane; so that, in fact, in an area of Australia which is cyclone prone there is a gap of several hundreds of miles between meteorological stations? Will he undertake to investigate the necessity for a meteorological station in between the 2 points I have mentioned on the coast of Queensland and give an early report to the Senate on his investigation?
– I will have the matter about which the honourable senator asks investigated. I am unaware that there is no meteorological coverage in the area of Bundaberg, as the honourable senator suggests. I do know that there is a vast area of coastline of Australia which is not covered by radar detection of any cyclones which may approach the coast, particularly in the north-west of Australia. I was of the opinion that Queensland was fairly well served by the services that the Bureau of Meteorology offers by way of general weather predictions. An enormous cost is associated with the provision of the services of the Bureau of Meteorology. In fact, these services cost Australia some $33m a year at the present time. In pursuance of the terms of a document which I laid on the table of the Senate last week, I hope that people and organisations within the community will indicate to the Government the types of services which they desire and for which they are willing to pay.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that a special committee of the United Nations dealing with decolonisation last year decided to send a mission to investigate the situation in East Timor? Does the Government support the sending of such a mission to East Timor? Will it cooperate with the sending of such a mission to East Timor? Further, has the Government made any positive attempts to send either medical or food supplies to people in the unoccupied areas of East Timor?
-I thought the record of the Government and of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this matter was quite clear. As I understand it my colleague in the other place, the Honourable Andrew Peacock, has said a number of times that we support the intervention of the United Nations in an attempt to bring this situation to a peaceful settlement.
– The question relates to what he has done, not to what he has said.
-It is all very well for the honourable senator to interject, but at least the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been doing things and not just talking about them. I do not think anybody in this Parliament would accuse the present Minister for Foreign Affairs of not working. At least he has stayed in Australia and worked and has not gone gallivanting around the world, week in, week out, like his predecessor in the previous Government. The present Minister for Foreign Affairs is totally in charge of his Department. He is running it and is not being a messenger boy for his Prime Minister as was his predecessor in that portfolio. If the honourable senator wants particular details I will seek them from my colleague and I think he will be more than delighted with the answer he will get.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory in a position to comment on a statement in the Northern Territory News of 17 February relating to a statement made by the Chairman of the Northern Territory Housing Commission and headed ‘Government Freeze on Home Repairs’?
– Yes. A question was raised on this matter -
- Senator Robertson asked a question 2 days ago.
-That is quite correct. The honourable senator on the other side of the House did raise the question and I have an answer for him in reply to his question of 19 February. Senator Robertson asked me about the reconstruction of Darwin and basically I think he was referring to the same matter- the reconstruction of damaged houses. At the time the honourable senator raised a query relating to new houses and their progress. At least, that is what I thought it to be. In 1975-76 the program of the Northern Territory Housing Commission included projects for the reconstruction of cyclone damaged houses in Darwin. A total of 200 damaged houses were listed and contracts involving eighty of these had not been let at the time when the Government was faced with the necessity to examine uncommitted projects and to review government expenditure.
Since that procedure commenced the Northern Territory Housing Commission has been reviewing its 1975-76 program in consultation with officers of the Department of the Northern Territory. It supplied final details of its proposals for further projects in the current financial year on 10 February this year. These projects are now being studied by the Government and the 80 houses for restoration are included. The Government is supporting the reconstruction of houses in Darwin in three separate ways- by capital expenditure under the control of the Darwin
Reconstruction Commission to rebuild Commonwealth staff houses; by the provision of capital funds for a 6 per cent concessional loan to private owners to rebuild their homes; and by appropriating funds to the Housing Commission to rebuild damaged rental homes. Without going into voluminous details it can be said that by these methods all houses capable of reconstruction should be restored within 2 years.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General although it may well be more appropriately directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has been widely reported that the Government has requested the AttorneyGeneral to draw up a legal opinion in respect of those sections of the Crimes Act 1914-1 966 relating to sedition. Are these reports true? If they are, is this an attempt by the Government to stifle legitimate critical analysis and objective criticism of the extraordinary and unprecedented action taken prior to and on 1 1 November 1 975 by the office holder of the position of GovernorGeneral of Australia?
– I ask the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory. In the light of the abolition of the Conveyancing Office has the Government taken any action to reduce the cost of conveyancing in the Australian Capital Territory, particularly with respect to domestic transactions? If not, will the Government examine the matter both from the point of view of simplifying the legal requirements and ensuring that legal costs are kept to a reasonable level?
-The question of control of lawyers’ fees in the Australian Capital Territory is not a matter with which I should deal as the Minister representing the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory. I suggest that the question should be directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General.
- Senator Greenwood, would you care to reply to the question?
-The fact is that a decision has been taken. It was a decision- taken by the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory, I understand- that the Conveyancing Office in the Australian Capital Territory should be discontinued. The basis of that decision was that the work provided by that Office could be provided on basically the same terms by the legal profession and therefore it was a sensible and economical step to take. If the answer which I have given and which my colleague has given is unsatisfactory to the questioner, I will pursue the matter further with the Attorney-General and endeavour to supply the honourable senator with further information.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: For what purpose did the Prime Minister order the confiscation of the radio transmitter operated by Mr Bella in Darwin on 25 January, thereby jeopardising the chances of the United Nations special envoy visiting East Timor? Did the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Peacock, in his discussions with his Indonesian counterpart Mr Malik, agree to have the radio closed down? If so, did Mr Peacock speak with his tongue in his cheek when on 8 February he said that he regretted that the United Nations special representative had not been able to proceed to East Timor?
-I have no intention of attempting to answer wild allegations about what Senator Primmer imagines the Government may or may not have done. The simple fact is- I think it is well known to the Australian public- that my colleague the honourable Andrew Peacock always speaks not only with a great deal of sincerity but also with a great deal of knowledge about all matters within his control.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to the lack of forward orders at Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyard in Whyalla in South Australia. Is the Minister aware that the general manager of the shipyard has stated that financial assistance by the Federal Government is the only way out of present difficulties? Is it a fact that the Minister undertook to present a submission to Cabinet and that high priority would be given to this matter? Has he made this submission? If not, will it be presented as a matter of urgency? Can the Minister state what plans the Government has to prevent a phasing down or even possible closure of that shipyard?
-There is no doubt that the Australian shipbuilding industry has a great number of problems due to the tremendous overcapacity and price cutting of other shipyards around the world. It is true that I have been to Whyalla to look at the problem. I have had many discussions. It is equally true that a case is being presented to Cabinet. Beyond that I cannot comment.
– Is the Minister for Administrative Services aware that ministerial Press releases, some of which were issued as long ago as the first week in January, arrived on the desks of honourable senators at Parliament House only this morning? Because the Minister has abolished the Australian Government Liaison Service and cancelled the weekly publication Australian Government Weekly Digest will the Minister ask his Department to review urgently its method of distribution of Press releases to ensure that senators and members receive them at a time when they are not well and truly out of date and, therefore, useful only as fodder for the waste paper basket?
– I hope within a day or so to be able to make a statement in this place, if the Senate is then sitting, as to a new method of distribution of Press releases, the basic intention being that if honourable senators are not in this place they will receive them in their electorate offices at least the next day, and whilst in Canberra the same day.
-I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that many people would like to know the makeup of and what chemicals have been added to any of the food that they eat. Does the Minister know of any recommendations from the Department of Health or of any directions to food companies to list the components of foods and any chemical that may be added, whether it be flavouring, colouring or as a preservative?
– I am not aware of any discussions or considerations that have been undertaken recently by the Minister for Health with regard to the matters raised, but I assure the honourable senator that I will obtain an answer to his question for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security on the subject of the Australian Assistance Plan. May we expect the early release of the Government’s promised
Green Paper on the future of the Australian Assistance Plan which has received wide community support and endorsement? In view of the apprehensions of persons working under the AAP, both professionally and otherwise, and the uncertainty that they feel about the future of the scheme, will the Minister take early steps to clarify the position?
– I have in my hands at present a report that has been prepared for me on the Australian Assistance Plan by the Social Welfare Commission. I expect that within the next day or two that report will be tabled in the Parliament. It is a matter of the mechanics of arranging for the tabling in sequence with other reports which are also to be tabled. With regard to the future of the Plan I can say at this stage only that following the release of the Social Welfare Commission’s report and the conference which is planned to be held in May of this year there will be an opportunity for discussion and evaluation of the operation of the Plan during the past 3 years. After that discussion has been held decisions will be taken with regard to the future of the Plan. I understand that many people who are associated with the Plan are anxious to know of future developments with regard to it but it will be recognised that it was a 3-year Plan and that an evaluation had to take place. That report will appear in May and decisions will subsequently be taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Does the amnesty recently granted to prohibited or illegal immigrants cover persons who are in Australia legally as visitors and who wish to settle in this country? If not, why not?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question in specific terms. I am not certain whether the amnesty granted to illegal immigrants would apply to visitors. I believe this is a complex question and is a matter for Government decision just as the amnesty decision itself was a matter of Government policy. However, I will undertake to have this matter investigated in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and have an answer for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
-I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development: As he has already eliminated the technical assistance scheme for voluntary citizen’s conservation and environment organisations in 1975-76, will the Minister indicate whether in the next Budget this Government will adhere to its election pledge, which was quoted as follows in the December 1975 Australian Conservation Foundation newsletter:
A Liberal-National Country Parry Government would seek to increase substantially financial support to approved non-government conservation organisations to compensate for inflationary pressures and to cover increased activity by these organisations?
– I am pleased that the honourable senator has given such study and attention to the Liberal and National Country Parties’ policy in regard to conservation matters. We hope that we can emulate and do better than what the Opposition was able to do in this area when it was in government. It is true that for the balance of this year, as a result of economies which the Government has publicly indicated it is committed to taking, no further grants other than those committed will be made to conservation bodies for the technical assistance needs which the honourable senator has indicated. In the future, as far as the economy and the Government’s budgetary considerations will permit, we will do our utmost to ensure that people who have a cause to put to enable the conservation issue to be tested and examined will be given assistance.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, relates to the national parks lands acquisition scheme and the Australian Heritage Commission. Is the Minister aware of a considerable amount of community anxiety in relation to the continuance of these programs? Can he give any information in relation to cutbacks in these spheres and the influence of those cutbacks on the future of the programs? Can the Minister say whether there has been any review of these matters and, if this is in hand, can he say whether there is any progress to report?
– I know there is some apprehension in some quarters because people have spoken to me about what they have read in the Press and heard on the media with regard to the future of these 2 projects. I do not know the source of what has been reported because, generally speaking, no one has raised these questions with me. In response to Senator
Durack ‘s question I have spoken about the Australian Heritage Commission, and I invite the honourable senator to take on board what I said then. The Government is committed to the support of that Commission. Equally, with regard to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, we are committed to the maintenance of this Service. But we recognise that there is enormous scope for duplication of projects undertaken by existing State bodies. There is a need to ensure, as far as possible, that the Commonwealth body and the State bodies work together. We are looking at this area at the present time and we hope that where economies can be achieved and duplication can be avoided, this will be done. I assure the honourable senator that it will be done in conjunction and collaboration with the States.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, refers to the question asked of him by Senator Mulvihill. Can he assure the Senate that all the things he said in his answer to Senator Mulvihill’s question will also apply in respect of the export of uranium from Australia?
-As I am unable to recall precisely every word that I said to Senator Mulvihill, I feel it would be imprudent to give a sweeping, generalised answer to Senator Wriedt ‘s question. My colleague the Minister for National Resources made a statement on the Government’s approach to the uranium question some three or four weeks ago. He also indicated -this is the point I emphasise- that no final decisions will be made by the Government until we have received the report of Mr Justice Fox who is conducting the environmental inquiry into the proposed Ranger leases.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware of reported statements by the shadow Minister for Defence, Mr Beazleywhich must be a sick joke- that the North West Cape Communications Base and Pine Gap have been established for the purpose of guiding nuclear weapons on to Soviet territory? Does not this statement display a reckless disregard for the truth?
-I do not think it is for me to make a judgment on whether Mr Beazley has a reckless disregard for the truth. I think that to make this charge after being in Government for 3 years- I understood then that the Labor Party’s policy was not to be opposed to the continuation of those 2 bases in Australia- shows the sort of attitude for which the honourable member for Fremantle is quite notorious; he often says one thing when he believes another. He has had this habit for rather a long time. One would have thought that if he had felt so strongly about this matter he never would have remained a Minister of the previous Government but would have exercised his well-known moral indignation about matters by resigning from such a Cabinet. I can only suppose from the fact that he did not so resign that he is indulging now in wild accusations in which he does not believe. The only other conclusion one can draw is that he swallowed his principles for the profits of office whilst he was in government.
– I raise a point of order on this matter, Mr President. We have stood for long enough the imputations against a member of another place. I think that to say that a member has swallowed his principles is beyond the pale.
– I raise a point of order which is in rebuttal of Senator Cavanagh ‘s objection. It is a well-known and understood fact on this side of the Senate that when a question is asked that is embarrassing to the Australian Labor Party its members take a point of order in order to have the matter expunged from the tape and from the rebroadcasting of Parliament. This is a simple illustration of that technique. I suggest, Sir, that you do not uphold the point of order.
– I wish to raise a point of order which is separate and distinct from that raised by my colleague, Senator Cavanagh. I invite you, Mr President, to give your attention to standing order 100, appearing at page 15, chapter XII of The Senate Standing Orders. It states:
In answering any such Question, a Senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
With respect, Mr President, I believe that apart from the imputations and reference to a member of another place, in answering the question of Senator Sim the Leader of the Government in the Senate in fact indulged in what could be described as ‘debating the subject matter’ rather than answering the question reasonably specifically. I know that some latitude is given and that is accepted. But I am sure, Mr President, that on reflection, having regard to your knowledge and understanding of the Standing Orders and of the general conduct and expectations of the conduct of senators and Ministers in this chamber, you would agree that in fact the Leader of the Government in the Senate was contravening standing order 100 and probably, standing order 4 17.
-Would you care to rephrase your remarks, Senator Withers?
-Mr President, if what I said touched honourable senators too deeply I have no objection to withdrawing those remarks which they took to be offensive.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: In view of the confusion and the anxiety in the minds of those who are concerned with child care matters in this country, will the Minister give a detailed statement of cuts to the proposed Children’s Commission expenditure? Will the Minister also clarify her statement that there will be a slowing down of approved programs? Does this mean the delaying of buildings and projects already started or does it mean that their starting time will be delayed?
– That question is not one to which a short answer could be given. A statement was released last week which dealt with the situation -
– The question arose out of the statement.
– Yes. I take it that the honourable senator is seeking further information which relates to those matters. When we talk of slowing down projects we are not talking about projects for which approval had been given. AH of the projects for which approval had been given- to the extent of $65m- will proceed. We are talking about the fact that the advisory committees in the various States of Australia have unnumerable applications, totalling something like 600, for approval under the child care, children’s services program. Some of those projects will be able to be dealt with in the next financial year; others are regarded by their State advisory committees as having high priority. The situation at the present time is that all State advisory committees have been asked to review their priorities and to highlight to this Government those areas of distinct priority in their States in which they believe that urgency does relate to the application. It should be said also that the Government has asked the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission to look very actively at those projects which could claim that their activities will be closed if they do not receive funding in this year. That task is being undertaken at the present time by the advisory committees. The State Ministers concerned with child care and pre-school facilities also have been asked to look at these projects. I hope that I will have some further information by tomorrow, in the case of Victoria, and that by 1 March I will be able to release details of all programs that can be funded in this year.
What does seem to have been overlooked is the predominance of expenditure on pre-school activity. In the areas about which I have talked, some 70 per cent of the funds in this year, for instance, have been related to pre-school activity. Of course, that has been due to the decisions of the previous Government and has been related indirectly to its decisions in the year prior to last year because of the ongoing commitment of teachers’ salaries for pre-school centres. The whole program is being evaluated at State advisory level and I hope that in the next few days some further information will be available and that all information will be available by 1 March.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Child Care Matters. It relates to the question just asked. Is the Minister aware of other such ill-informed claims that the Government has no specific commitment to funding full day care services for children? Could she perhaps comment further on claims that most of the $65m for this year will be spent on salaries for pre-school teachers? Can the Minister say whether such allegations are accurate?
– In regard to allegations about salaries for pre-school teachers, I think it would be more accurate to say that in this year some 40 per cent of the funds relate to salaries for pre-school teachers and the balance of the 70 per cent that I mentioned previously relates to the creation of new pre-school centres. It has also been claimed that not a great deal has been done in child care development, and the Government acknowledges this. It is only in the past 2 months that the Government has had any opportunity to place some emphasis on children’s services outside of the pre-school area, owing to the lack of development during the term of the previous Government in this area of work.
– What about the 23 years before that?
-It did take some time for the States and the organisations in the States to develop their activities and to have people ready with applications that came within services approved under the program. That delay has not been caused by this Government but rather has been a somewhat slower development of the whole program than may have been envisaged by the previous Government. Where some assertions have been made with regard to the Australian Capital Territory, it is of interest to note that the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission is not the body that has been allocating funds to the Australian Capital Territory. It should be recognised that pre-school activity in the Australian Capital Territory is funded by the Interim Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority and it is that body that has had the responsibility for development of pre-school activity in the Territory.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In view of yesterday’s announcement by the directors of Broken Hill South Ltd that the company intends putting its $10m mining operation at Kanmantoo in South Australia on a care and maintenance program because of rising stocks and depressed metal prices, will the Minister, in conjunction with his Cabinet colleagues, take urgent steps to safeguard the livelihood of the 150 employees affected, who are drawn in the main from the nearby country towns of Murray Bridge, Mount Barker and Strathalbyn?
-I did mention last week that the copper mining industry has some very substantial problems. A very heavy fall in copper prices has occurred on the London metal exchange. That is only pan of the problem. The other part of the problem is that there has been a very severe worsening of Australia’s cost of production position internally across the whole spectrum of activity. This occurred practically throughout the time of the previous Government. This is one of the defects of the current operating position of the mining industry. That position must be recovered carefully and progressively. What the honourable senator says about the position at Kanmantoo is correct. I know a little about it. But I will take his suggestion and see what I can do to help.
Regional Director in charge of meteorological services in Queensland, in speaking of the Bundaberg cyclone of storm, that the ‘storm slipped through’ will the Minister explain what is the responsibility of the service which he as Minister has the responsibility to administer? First, is this meteorological service scientifically and technologically oriented; or, secondly, is it socially based; or, thirdly, is it economically based simply to serve the airlines of Australia; or, finally, is it a service created solely in order to accept an obligation under section 5 1 of the Constitution to fulfil a commitment which the Government has undertaken to the United Nations Organisation?
– I thank the honourable senator for the question. The services provided by the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia are not based entirely on the requirements of any international agreement. In fact, the services provided by the Bureau go far beyond what is required by international law. The Bureau is certainly scientifically and technologically based. The equipment which the Bureau would need to be totally adequate in predicting scientifically and technologically all the problems of weather that apply to the Australian continent would require much greater capital expenditure than there has been in past years or is available at present.
The honourable senator mentioned the situation relating to Bundaberg. I acknowledge that the Brisbane regional office of the Bureau did not forecast the wind speeds which struck Bundaberg on Sunday morning. I am advised that the Bureau did issue warnings indicating that wind speeds of up to 40 knots would be achieved. In the event, winds reached a mean speed of 60 knots with gusts estimated to have reached 90 knots. I am advised also that neither the Bureau’s weather radar which covers the area or the satellite photographs which the Bureau utilises gave any indication that strong winds of the speeds experienced were likely to strike Bundaberg.
The Bureau has pointed out to me that it needs to be recognised by the public that at the present stage of development the weather observing and forecasting systems do not permit the accurate prediction on every occasion of an intense localised atmospheric disturbance of the type which struck Bundaberg. The value of a weather warning service needs to be judged on its performance over a period of years.
– Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware of a statement made by Mr Perkins of Chrysler (Australia) Pty Ltd that the Minister has had discussions with Mr Perkins regarding the motor car industry? Will the Minister inform the Senate when these discussions took place? Did they take place at a time when the responsibility for the motor car industry was properly that of Dr Cairns when he was Deputy Prime Minister and after Government committees had had prolonged discussions with leaders of the Australian motor car industry?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister responsible for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation whether on 10 December last a cablegram was received by ASIO from the American Central Intelligence Agency querying statements of our then Prime Minister. If the answer is in the affirmative, how did this cablegram come to the knowledge of the journalist Brian Toohey who published it in the Australian Financial Times of Friday last? Was it a leak?
– I have no knowledge of the questions which have been asked. I think they are questions appropriately to be answered after the question has been put on the notice paper, which I invite the honourable senator to do.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. I refer further to the storm which was experienced in Bundaberg on Sunday. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any truth in a widespread rumour which followed the storm that a vital Weather Bureau radar installation in Queensland was out of order for some days prior to the Bundaberg storm?
– I made inquiries this morning relating to all matters affecting the Bundaberg storm. I am unable to verify the honourable senator’s assertion. I am unaware whether any equipment was not in operation.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. As one of the major costs in the consumer price index is home interest and as encouragement to the home building industry is a quick way to stimulate the economy, will the Minister or the Treasurer consider implementing a scheme of tax free, low interest- say 5 per cent- deposits at savings banks and building societies to be lent to low income, first home applicants? Will he agree that such a scheme should get more young people housed, give some impetus to the home building industry and cost less than government housing?
– There is no doubt in my mind that lower interest rates would contribute markedly to increased housing activity and home purchases. It is also of note that interest rates went up quite heavily under the previous Government. I shall commend the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Treasurer and the Department of the Treasury for examination.
– Has the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development received a communication from the Surfers Paradise Chamber of Commerce criticising the Federal Government for repudiating its policy on tourism? Is it a fact that the Chamber of Commerce to which I have referred said that the national Liberal Party’s federal tourism policy could prove to be merely an election gimmick in the poorest taste? Will the Minister inform the Senate if it is a fact that the Government proposes to abolish all assistance to the tourist industry?
-The tourist industry belongs in my area of responsibility. I have not seen the statement referred to but will look it up and try to give the honourable senator a more definite answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Child Care Matters. In answer to a question last week the Minister advised:
There is to be a slowing down of some of the programs which have already been approved . . .
This is in the field of child care-
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.
Will the Minister therefore advise where cuts making up the balance of the $9m cut made in child care- that is some $7.25m- will be made? What projects will be affected?
– There is a variety of projects at various stages of approval through the State bodies and in the hands of the interim committee. I will obtain a detailed reply to the question asked by the honourable senator.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the considerable dissatisfaction with the quality of television reception in the Streaky Bay district of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, as demonstrated in a recent petition signed by 770 persons? Will he ask his colleague to request Telecom Australia to consider urgently ways and means of improving this service, perhaps through the erection of a translator installation in central Eyre Peninsula?
– I am not aware of the particular reception qualities in the Streaky Bay area. I will certainly endeavour to find out and give the honourable senator an answer to his question.
-I wish to add to an answer I gave to a question asked by Senator Keeffe regarding Thursday Island. I have a little more information. The plan concerning a broadcasting station on Thursday Island was the sharing of facilities with the Overseas Telecommunications Commission’s coastal radio service in order to provide a broadcast relay. I cannot give a completion date for the building; nor can I give the date of commencement of broadcasting, but I can say that there are technical difficulties which have been examined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Board is expected to present a report on the matter to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in the next week.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. The Minister would be aware that the Family Planning Association in Western Australia has been funded by both State and Federal government grants. With this funding it has been able to set up headquarters in Perth, providing a necessary service to the community. To continue to provide this essential service it is necessary for it and other such associations to know just what the situation is with regard to continuing and future funding. Will the Minister advise whether it is the intention of this Government to continue funding the Family Planning Associations in each State and, if so, to what extent?
– I have no information that would enable me to answer the specific question asked by the honourable senator. I will refer it to my colleague the Minister for Health for an answer.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the recent statement by Professor Russell Mathews emphasising the need for tax indexation to be fully introduced in the next Budget? Can the Minister explain the apparent divergence between the policy of the Government with regard to tax indexation and the recommendations of Professor Mathews, who chaired the inquiry into inflation and taxation?
-Yes, I am aware of what he said because I was with him as a member of the seminar at which he said it. The problem of tax indexation is related to the problem of inflation and the attempts to bring it under control. The Government is quite firm in its wish to bring in tax indexation. It is a question of the overall economic balance.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I understand that the 1976 census is to be carried out on schedule but that no detailed tables will be available for over 12 months. Given that the information collected is of vital importance to the work of many sections of the community, including Government departments and planning agencies, and given that such costs as wages and computer time are likely to increase in the next year, what justification can the Minister provide for this seemingly false economy?
-I should think that it would be very valuable to have the census completed both accurately and as up-to-date as possible. From what I have heard there will be about 42 or 43 questions asked. I can see the people of Australia scratching their ears with a pencil as they fill in the answers to many of those questions. The honourable senator has made a point about the need for it to be done as quickly as possible. I will take it up with the Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is it a fact that the Gunn Point prison farm in the Northern Territory has been forced to close down due to a shortage of staff brought about by the Government’s economy measures? If that is a fact, will the Minister advise where the 50 inmates previously housed at Gunn Point are at present and whether the shortage of staff poses any threat to security?
-I am afraid that I am unable to give a satisfactory answer to the honourable senator’s question. If he will place the question on notice I shall secure an answer for him promptly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to the Prime Minister’s announcement of last week and, indeed, the Minister’s own words of a few minutes ago that victims of the New South Wales and Queensland floods who have lost their employment as a result of the floods will receive unemployment benefit immediately. Will the Government extent the same privilege to the sacked gold miners of Kalgoorlie and Mt Magnet who are victims of the Government’s repudiation of its pre-election promise to keep the mines operating?
– Even the honourable senator could not claim that the victims of the floods in Queensland and New South Wales suffered as a result of decisions of the Government. I do not quite see the parallel which the honourable senator draws in the question that he has asked.
- Mr President, I wish to direct a supplementary question to the Minister for Social Security. As she has stated that the flood victims in Queensland are not victims of the policies of the Government and implied that the sacked gold miners in Western Australia may be victims of the policies of the Government, will she not agree that the Government’s moral responsibility to the sacked gold miners is greater than its moral responsibility to the flood victims in New South Wales and Queensland?
– I could only add to the answer that was given that the benefits that were paid to the victims of the floods were classified as special benefits. They were not subject to a work test as an unemployment benefit would be. The members of the community who have been referred to by the honourable senator from Western Australia will be eligible to be tested for the unemployment benefit or any other benefits which are paid by my Department and which would be appropriate for them. When those tests have been undertaken with regard to the provisions applying, my Department will be able to facilitate whatever assistance is available to those people. But they will not be placed in the same classification as the flood victims who had a special benefit applied to them without the work test or without the delay that can be occasioned in the provision of any of the other existing benefits.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
- Mr President, may I add to an answer which I gave to a question asked by Senator Kilgariff on 19 February which concerned the Katherine South School. I advised then that my Department was endeavouring to find by reallocation of funds some $104,000 to erect and connect essential services to a demountable school in Katherine. I am pleased to advise that following my approach to the Treasurer last week, he has agreed to the reallocation of funds. This will enable the Department of Construction to commence work on this project immediately. I have asked that it be given the utmost priority.
– Pursuant to section 45 of the Pipeline Authority Acts 1973, 1 present the annual report of the Pipeline Authority 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.
– Pursuant to the provisions of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1973, I present the annual report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on these statements. Due to the limited number of copies available at this time, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to sections 8(2) and 8(3) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975, I present the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal.
Pursuant to section 1 2d (5) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975 I present a copy of a document entitled Academic Salaries Tribunal Determination and Report- February 1976.
Pursuant to section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975 I also present a copy of a determination of the Remuneration Tribunal relating to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Administrative Review Council, the National Superannuation Committee of Enquiry, the Commonwealth Commission of Enquiry, into Poverty and the Australian Dairy Corporation. The determination, dated 29 October 1975, sets the remuneration for offices for which the Tribunal had not previously made determinations. Mr President, I ask for leave to make a short statement in respect of the determination and report of the Academic Salaries Tribunal.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Academic Salaries Tribunal, the Honourable Mr Justice W. B. Campbell, has presented a determination and report on academic salaries, dated 1 1 February 1976. Under the provisions of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975, the Tribunal determines salaries for academic staff in tertiary education institutions established under Commonwealth or Territory legislation and reports on the rates of salaries for academic staff in tertiary education institutions in the States that should be used as a basis for Commonwealth Government funding.
The last academic salaries review was completed in December 1974. Since June 1975 the Tribunal has been conducting a detailed and comprehensive inquiry into academic salaries. The Tribunal expects to present its final determination and report by the middle of this year. Prior to and during the progress of this inquiry, the Tribunal was requested by certain interested organisations, including staff associations, to present an interim determination and report. The Tribunal’s determination and report of 11 February 1976 is in response to this request. The Tribunal has determined that it is not desirable that there should be any adjustments to academic salaries at this time, apart from those which might flow from national wage case decisions.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Withers has said in his Ministerial statement that the Academic Salaries Tribunal was asked last year by the Labor Government to conduct a detailed and comprehensive inquiry into academic salaries. That investigation commenced last June. One of the first acts I carried out when I was appointed Special Minister of State was to establish the existing inquiry. Senator Withers rightly has pointed out that the Tribunal makes determinations in the case of academic staff employed in tertiary educational institutions that are established under Commonwealth or Territory legislation, but in the case of academic staff in tertiary institutions that are administered by the States the Tribunal makes a report only on what it considers should be the rates of salary for academic staff and so acts, as it were, in an advisory capacity to the Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth is funding moneys to the States for educational purposes, the report of the Tribunal is taken into account by the Commonwealth.
I note that the report of 1 1 February this year is only an interim report and that the Tribunal hopes that a final determination will be made by the middle of this year. I think I am correct in saying- I speak only from recollection now- that a provision in the Remuneration Tribunals Act states that a determination made by the Tribunal shall run from the date on which the Tribunal tenders its report unless or until such time as the determination is disapproved by the Parliament. I point out to Senator Withers that if the report is presented to him by the Tribunal in about the middle of this year, to use the Tribunal’s terminology, it is quite likely that the Parliament will not be sitting at that time and that we would have to wait until August for the Parliament to be able to consider the determination of the Academic Salaries Tribunal. Therefore I suggest to Senator Withers that he might ask the Tribunal to see whether it is possible to bring forward its final report by the end of May or the first week in June so that the report can be presented to him and to the Parliament at a time when the Parliament is sitting.
So far as the last sentence of the Minister’s statement is concerned, namely, that the Tribunal has determined that it is not desirable that there should be any adjustments to academic salaries at this time, apart from those which might flow from national wage case decisions, I have noted that in its December 1 974 report the Tribunal stated that salaries it determined should be adjusted in accordance with national wage case decisions made after 16 October 1974.
The determination of the Academic Salaries Tribunal that the normal national wage case decision to flow on is a determination that it made in December 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926-1949, 1 present the report of the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Act 1973, 1 present the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation for the period 1 September 1974 to 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1973, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 31 (3) of the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions Transitional Provisions Act 1975, 1 present the annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I inform the Senate that, in accordance with standing order 36a, I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating Senators Brown, Collard, Devitt, Durack, Ryan, Wood and Wright to be members of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
– I seek leave to move a motion for the appointment of senators to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 February, on motion by Senator Knight:
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.
– The Senate is debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Mr President, at the outset I would like to add my congratulations to those of other honourable senators who have already taken part in this debate on the occasion of your becoming President of this chamber. It is an event which has given us all a lot of pride and pleasure. I join with my colleagues in wishing you well in your tenure of this high office. I would like also to add my congratulations to Senator Drake-Brockman who is the new Chairman of Committees. I say to the 3 honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches in this place that I hope their parliamentary careers will be fruitful and enjoyable. I wish the other honourable senators who have yet to make their maiden speeches every success in the weeks to come.
This debate, particularly the contributions from honourable senators opposite, has been characterised by a sense of retrospect. The Australian Labor Party has been intent on looking backwards at events that have passed. If that is the desire of members of the Labor Party, we are happy to accommodate them. It is probably not in their interests. I remind honourable senators opposite that a very great American Adlai Stevenson, who stood unsuccessfully as his Party’s candidate for the presidency of the United States of America, said without bitterness and in a sense of magnanimity after the 1956 elections:
Take hean- there are things more precious than political victory, there is the right to political contest.
In some ways the election we had last year is related to that assertion for we had to fight for the right to political contest, which is more precious in the end even than whether one or the other side wins.
The election was unique. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the assessment of Mr Whitiam when he spoke in the House of Representatives on 16 October 1975 and attempted to put in perspective what he saw the confrontation at that time as being all about. I shall quote the words of the man who was then Prime Minister, who with a little foresight could have remained Prime Minister up to the time of a properly called election but who chose another course. He said:
It is the Senate which is on trial. It is the Senate which will have to submit to the judgment of the people. It is the Senate which has rejected the Budget. It is the Senate which must face the people.
Mr Whitlam placed the matter as squarely as that. But what started out as an exercise in the rights of the Senate became very rapidly a confrontation between Mr Whitlam and the Senate as to whether our powers would persist or be destroyed. The election not only provided an endorsement for my Leader, the new Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, my colleagues who formed the caretaker ministry and who now form the Cabinet and Government of this country, and the policies of the coalition parties, but also asserted once again that the Senate has a role, rights and a place in our bicameral system, that the legitimacy of our Constitution overrides the wishes of any Prime Minister and that the Governor-General has and can use the reserve powers which are given to him in the Constitution.
Mr Whitlam was sure that the Senate’s powers would be destroyed. On 20 October 1 975 he was on a television program, A Current Affair, and during that program he said:
I’ve never been so certain of anything in my life as I am that the Senate’s money power will be broken as a result of this crisis. No future Australian Government will ever be threatened by the Senate again, with a rejection of its Budget or refusal of Supply. Never again.
That was Mr Whitlam ‘s concept of the issue and the confrontation and of what the outcome was likely to be. He was as wrong in that assessment and that prediction as he was in most of the other things which he said at that time and in the weeks that followed. He asserted the absolute supremacy of the House of Representatives in a way never envisaged or intended in our Constitution. He was rejected in this place when the Senate stood firm and that rejection was endorsed by the people of Australia at the election which followed.
The Senate of the Twenty-Ninth Parliament, of which most people now in the chamber were members, did its duty. It did its duty not only in the legislative sense by passing a whole mass of legislation but also in the constitutional sense and, if I may use the words which are used by the Clerk of the Senate in his book, in the institutional sense.
Let us examine some of the false assertions that have been made by the Labor Party about the Twenty-Ninth Parliament and about the rights of governments generally to an unlimited parliamentary term. It has been said incorrectly that the Senate was more obstructive than the Labor Party could bear. The figures which the members of the Labor Party brought out from time to time indicated that a massive number of Bills had been rejected by the Senate. Honourable senators will remember that we faced a considerable problem last year. Day after day, week after week the same unsatisfactory piece of legislation would be bought up to us simply so that the Labor Party could construct a score board of the number of times that we had voted against it in divisions. I have had prepared from the journals of the Senate a table setting out how many Bills were rejected. This is not some fiction or some phoney table.
I remind honourable senators that the Twenty-Eighth and the Twenty-Ninth Parliaments were very busy parliaments. I pay tribute to the Labor Party for the amount of legislation which was introduced during those parliaments. I ask the members of the Labor Party to agree that in spite of the fact that the Labor Party did not have a majority in the Senate, more legislation was passed through those 2 parliaments than had ever been passed through any parliament before. More than 200 Bills were passed each year in this place and yet the Labor Party talks about obstruction. I have a table which shows the number of Bills rejected by the Senate between 1901 and 1975. A copy of the table is being distributed in the Senate now. It shows that between 1901 and 1972 a total of 69 Bills was rejected. Between 27 February 1973 and 10 April 1974- that, I believe, was the life of the Twenty-Eighth Parliament- only 13 Bills were rejected. Between 9 July 1974 and 1 1 December 1974, 16 Bills were rejected in the Senate. Between 1 1 February 1975 and the date on which the Parliament was dissolved 15 Bills were rejected. The table includes a list of the number of second and third presentations of Bills which have not been incorporated in the table. Mr
President, 1 seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the Senate. The recent election was a disaster for the Labor Party partly because of the errors of judgment which went into its preparation and campaign.
One of the errors concerned the Labor Party’s assertion that any government, particularly a Labor government, has an untrammelled right to last for 3 years. I took the trouble to examine the records to ascertain whether the Labor Party’s assertions were borne out by history. I have examined the length of each parliament since the year 1900. This is the Thirtieth Parliament. There have been 29 completed parliaments before this Parliament. Only 19 parliaments lasted 3 years. I found that 7 parliaments lasted between one and two years, and one parliament lasted less than one year. That is, 8 parliaments, in fact, lasted less than the 3-year term. That is more than one-quarter of all the parliaments since Federation. It is worth noting some of the parliaments that were cut short. There was the Fifth Parliament in which there was a Liberal government. It was elected on 3 1 May 1 9 1 3. The government was headed by Prime Minister Cook. The parliament was dissolved on 30 July 1914 because of obstruction by the Senate. This was the first double dissolution, and the Labor Party should remember that well because it was able to ride into power as a result of that election. I remind the Labor Party of the Eleventh Parliament, which was elected on 1 1 November 1928 and dissolved in September 1929. That was a Liberal Parliament and a parliament of Prime Minister Bruce. The Twelfth Parliament which followed it -
-Would that not have been the United Australia Party rather than the Liberal Party?
– I am grateful to Senator Primmer; it was the UAP. There was the Twelfth Parliament which was elected on 12 October 1929, which was dissolved on 27 January 1931 and which was also a parliament with Mr Bruce as its Prime Minister. I remind honourable senators of the Nineteenth Parliament with Mr Menzies as Prime Minister which was elected on 10 December 1949 and dissolved on 19 March 1951 because Labor used its power in the Senate to engineer a double dissolution. I have listed 4 parliaments, none of them Labor parliaments but all of them lasting less than 2 years, two of them Liberal parliaments and 2 of them UAP parliaments. I have demonstrated that over a quarter of the parliaments since federation have gone for less than the 3-year period which the Labor Party tried to tell us was a necessary and automatic entitlement. There is no such entitlement; there is no such historical record.
I am intrigued that during the debate a number of the Labor speakers, particularly Senator Bishop, have sought to magnify the role of Mr Whitlam and to show how successfully he conducted his Party’s affairs. He managed to lead his Party to an election, of course, where it received less than 41 per cent of the formal Senate vote. I suppose that was an achievement. He led them to an election where our coalition parties achieved a swing of just under 9 per cent in the support of the Australian electorate. It was Mr Whitlam who really threatened the Senate. Having destroyed already a Speaker and having injured the conventions of Parliament in another place he then threatened to govern without parliamentary approval for his expenditure. He threatened and attempted to destroy a Governor-General who did not comply with his wishes. I believe that the victory our coalition parties have had represents a victory for the Senate. It represents a victory for the principle that no Prime Minister of any Party can govern without parliamentary approval for his expenditure. Of course, it is a victory also for our belief in section 1 of the Constitution which provides that the place of the Governor-General should be recognised and upheld. I was intrigued when Senator Bishop sought to equate closely Mr Whitlam with Mr Willy Brandt. He did not suggest, of course, that the comparison could be taken through to the method of their leaving politics. I wonder if Senator Bishop intends that we should carry the comparison through, remembering that Mr Brandt left his post in discard and disarray.
The response of the Opposition so far has been bitter, negative and destructive. I do not believe that it has been in the best interests of the Labor movement. I think that the absence of the Labor Party last Tuesday at the opening of Parliament was foolish. Among other things it enabled us to see how well an old-style Labor man, now expelled from the socialist Party, filled the seat of the Leader of the Opposition in this place on his first day here. He filled that seat well and we were proud to have that kind of Labor presence here in the chamber while the socialists were absent. I would have expected leading Labor men- such eminent men of the Opposition as Senator Mulvihill who has been trying to assist me with interjections- to be looking towards tomorrow, towards the development of new policy and towards some means of returning to office. Vox populi, vox Dei, as Senator Mulvihill and I often say to each other in our lighter moments, Mr President. If we believe this then the time has come to accept the judgment of the people. The time has come to stop whining, to stop whingeing and to get back to the job of Opposition and to start looking ahead. Many people in Australia have told me that they are sick of the Opposition being so obsessed about the mess it made last October; that it seems to be unable to get down to the job that lies ahead of it, the job of providing the Government with proper parliamentary opposition.
I should like to pay a brief personal tribute to the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. I have heard some terrible things said about him in this chamber. I believe that he is a man who is greater than the pygmies who oppose him and that his place in history is more secure than theirs will ever be. He is a man who took difficult decisions in a very difficult situation. I believe that the attacks upon him have been cowardly, unfair and inaccurate and that they represent the kind of complaining which is merely an explanation for the previous Government’s own errors, for its massive failure to understand what was happening and to understand what was inevitable if it refused to obey the Constitution.
As a consequence of the December election, I believe that the Senate now stands confirmed as probably the second most powerful upper house in the world, exceeded in its power only by the Senate of the United States, on which it is modelled. Its latent powers have neither atrophied nor have they disappeared, as some former Labor Ministers have tried to assert. Its capacities with regard to money Bills, as so ably outlined by the then Senator Murphy in 1970, continue. I was interested to see tabled in the Senate last week, and a motion for its printing passed by the Senate, the fifth edition of Mr Odgers book Australian Senate Practice. I should like to quote a few words from the preface to that book. Mr Odgers, referring to the power of the Senate with regard to money Bills, states:
Any criticism of the exercise of the power brings to mind the devastating comment of a man who knew what he was talking about in 1902 when the Senate’s financial powers caine under serious challenge. Replying to a claim by the Government of the day that the Senate could only suggest amendments to money bills but not insist on them, Mr W. M. Hughes, M.P., later Prime Minister of Australia 1915-1923, said:
If any man had dared to stand up and tell the smaller States that the Senate had only such a power, the Constitution would never have been accepted.
Similarly, if any man had dared to stand up and tell the Constitutional Convention of 1897-98 that the Senate could not reject or defer Supply the Constitution would never have been accepted.
So we have a situation where the Senate chose to exercise its power and an election followed. The Senate now is faced with examining the propositions which my colleagues in government put forward in the speech read last week by the Governor-General for trying to restore to this country some prosperity and direction out of the mess which has been left to the Government. Its program has been constructed against a background of economic disarray unparalleled in Australia. We have the worst unemployment for 40 years and the worst sustained inflation in this nation’s history. The latest Round-up of Economic Statistics, published by the Treasury in February 1976, shows that at the end of January unemployment numbered 343 900 persons, or 5.7 per cent of the estimated labour force. The statistics also show that in the year to December last the consumer price index rose by an actual 14 per cent. That was the inflation rate over the 12 months. I am intrigued that in the United States an economic committee of the Congress recently devised what it called a “misery index”. For the purposes with which the committee was dealing, it evolved this misery index by adding together the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. For example, in the United States in 1960 that combined figure was 7 per cent and in the bad days in America in 1 974 it was 1 6.6 per cent. But in Australia at the present moment the misery index is 19.7 per cent. Our position is worse than that of the United States. It is worse than that of many large comparable countries. That is our legacy from 3 years of Labor government. The most recent summary of Government transactions shows that for the 7 months to the end of January the actual Budget deficit is already over $4,000m, and there are almost 5 more months of this financial year yet to go.
The major objectives of the new LiberalNational Country Party Government are rational objectives- to bring inflation under control and to create jobs once again. Of course, as one who has an interest in welfare I can understand that it is against this background that the Government has had to try to develop a program where it can meet the desires and aspirations of those Australians who are in need. I was grateful to see the commitments which the Government has made in the welfare area which were outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech last week. Those commitments are that there will be an increase in social services pensions and benefits each 6 months in accordance with movements in the consumer price index; that the Government will carry on with the review of the income security system as a whole, a very important initiative; that, among other things, it will examine the effectiveness of guaranteed minimum income proposals; that it will look at the possibilities of expanding the area of choice in services available to the disadvantaged; that it will support once again the voluntary welfare organisations which have been so badly damaged, and many of which went out of existence under the Labor Government; that financial assistance to the voluntary agencies will continue; and most importantly, that it will assist by making public service resources available to some of the voluntary agencies so that they can tap into the expertise of the public sector and make use of it instead of being shut out, as they have been up to now. The Government has pledged to retain Medibank. It has undertaken to concentrate its resources on those in the community who are in need.
I am intrigued by the whole concept of need. As I read more and more about poverty- I refer of course to the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty set up in 1972 by Mr McMahon’s Government and extended and continued by the Whitlam Government- and as I read the papers and reports that come from that Commission I am aware of the necessity to alter our concept of ‘need’. What constitutes need is not necessarily just physical deprivation; it takes into account a whole series of other things. I am very concerned at the extent of poverty and deprivation in Australia which has been revealed by the papers and reports of the Henderson Commission. I see that my colleague Senator Scott is sitting in the chamber. He and I have discussed the reports on rural poverty and we are both concerned about the raw deal which those in non-metropolitan Australia get, many of them because they are farmers, when it comes to having access to the welfare system. I believe that we should concentrate on those in real need, and one of the Government’s tasks in the next few months will be to carry that through. I must say that I am looking forward with interest to the reports that are yet to come from the Henderson Commission. I await the reports from the Reverend George Martin on medical and sociological aspects of poverty, from Professor Ronald Gates on certain economic issues relating to poverty and from Dr Fitzgerald on educational aspects of poverty. We know that they are, all of them, important.
Let me return once again to the Senate, the role that it has played and the role it will continue to play. I refer again to the preface to the fifth edition of Australian Senate Practice by Mr Odgers. I wish to quote one further small section relating to the powers of the Senate. Mr Odgers writes:
Without the assertion of those powers, the Senate could not effectively fulfil its role as the safety valve of the Australian Federal system and of the nation. In the age-old struggle between Parliament and the Executive -
I interpolate the words ‘any Executive ‘-
As at 1976 the Senate is at the zenith of its powers. It enjoys a good electoral system in proportional representation, a successful committee system has been established and the Senate’s responsibilities and great financial powers are recognised. Above all, the Senate has won the confidence and goodwill of the people, without which no House of Parliament may flourish.
I feel that we are all very much indebted to the Clerk of the Senate for the clarity of his writing and for the way in which he has isolated these very important points. Any Executive must remain answerable to Parliament. Those of us who are parliamentarians must balance our duties to our colleagues in government and to our Prime Minister whom we support with our duties to the Parliament to see that its powers are not diminished now or at any time while we remain senators. I believe that the power of the Senate was written into the Constitution only after long argument and much thought. That power was asserted and tested in the fire of 1 975. It was challenged by Mr Whitlam, and that challenge was thrown back. I remind the Senate of one final quotation from Mr Whitlam who, speaking on A Current Affair on 20 October last, said:
And I’m determined on this occasion to end for all time the Senate’s power over Money Bills. I am going to see that what’s threatened now for the second time will never be threatened again.
The Senate was able to reject that challenge, to assert and maintain its power, and to strengthen that power in carrying through that exercise. I believe that, irrespective of the government in power, the Senate must be sustained by both sides of the chamber, by all of us here who are senators, not just for ourselves but also for our successors in this place. It is an old story. I was reading some old political speeches last week. I read a speech delivered in the House of Commons in England on 8 February 1576. A private member of the Commons delivered a speech on behalf of the liberties of Parliament, for which speech he was sequestered and sent to the Tower of London for a month. It may be no coincidence that his surname was Wentworth. Be that as it may, he was willing to speak up for Parliament at that time.
I am intrigued by the reference by Mr Odgers to ‘institutional members’. I suppose that the best service which any private senator can render is to strike this balance on any issue so as to support his party but also to support Parliament. The twenty-ninth Parliament, I believe, is an example of what the Senate can achieve. I look to the thirtieth Parliament and to its Senate to carry on this function; to ensure that when we finish here the chamber will still have all its powers of review over legislation, all its powers to hold back hasty legislation, all its powers over the supply of money and all its rights to an independent committee system. The Senate, after all, precipitated the last election. It was the election of which this Address-in-Reply is a direct result and I have pleasure in supporting the motion.
– I do not intend to discuss at any length the remarks of Senator Baume, who has just resumed his seat, but I shall comment rather shortly on what the honourable senator said in relation to this chamber. I remind him that one of the present Ministers of his own Party- I refer to Mr Killen, the Minister for Defence- is on record as having said, after the appointment by the Premier of Queensland of a non-Labor senator to this chamber to replace Senator Milliner, that the Senate was a ‘tainted House’. I am quite sure that I speak for the great majority of Labor senators when I say I agree with that remark. It is all very well for Senator Baume and others on his side of the chamber to eulogise the Senate as having been the body responsible for defending this and defending that in Australia. I believe, as I think the whole Labor movement which was supported by 43 per cent of the Australian populace on 13 December last believes, that it was the Liberal Party, with some help from the National Country Party, which was responsible for what happened prior to 1 1 November. The responsibility for those events does not lie with the Senate. The Senate was used by those 2 groups because they had the numbers. We well know and have always believed that the Senate is a numbers House and a party House; it has never been a States House or anything similar.
Having read the speech of the GovernorGeneral delivered last week I hold the opinion that Mr Fraser ‘s Government has set about undoing the initiatives of 3 years of Labor Government. Everywhere one looks today- this is demonstrated by every paper that one picks up- it is patently obvious that Labor’s initiatives over its 3 years of office have either been curtailed or are under threat. From Medibank to the Children’s Commission, through a whole range of projects the threat exists; the axe is held over their heads. I had occasion before the assembly of this Parliament to want some information on the attitude of the new Government to the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I asked my research officer to telephone the Liberal-Country Party to find out what the attitude of the new Government was, only to be told that the new Government had no policy on urban and regional development, or if it did have a policy it was not in print. It was certainly unavailable to me. The present Government has also scrapped Labor’s Australian Housing Corporation, at a saving of $29m. That Corporation would have made funds available to first time home buyers, young married couples, to enable them to achieve their desires. That has all gone by the board. How far can one go in a penny pinching in order to produce a credit squeeze?
In the city of Geelong, the former Labor Government set up an arbitration inspectorate. It supplied one car for the officers of that inspectorate to work in the south-western district of Victoria. Having had to ring that office with some queries a fortnight ago I was informed that that car had been taken away from the inspectorate and that in fact the officers concerned are now not allowed to use their own cars and to claim mileage in the course of their work. If they want to do any work in the area they must travel either on public transport or by Shank’s pony. I point out to anybody who does not realise the fact that the whole business of that inspectorate is to look after the workers covered by Federal awards. This means that every worker under a Federal award in Corangamite, the electorate of Mr
Street, and in Wannon, the electorate of the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, will, at the present time under this Government, receive no protection whatsoever. The only area which officers will be able to cover will be the city of Geelong which is in the Federal electorate of Corio.
What a miserly piece of penny pinching this Government has stooped to in curtailing the use of one car. Officers required it to cover an area of perhaps 1 50 miles by 60 miles. By no way known will workers under Federal awards in that area receive any benefit from what was a Labor Government initiative. How much further can the Government go? There was all the talk during the election campaign of the Liberal Party wanting to curtail unemployment and to do something about it.
The Labor Government as one of its initiatives during its 3 years in office set out to fund historical museums to try to retain some of the past history of this country which could be lost for all time due to natural causes and the neglect of mankind. A group of people in Warrnambool, the city in which I live, set out to establish a maritime museum because the whole of the southwest coast of Victoria is a graveyard for hundreds of sailing ships. I suppose one could say that these ships wrote the history of this part of the country. As I have said, in an attempt to do something about this matter these people decided to establish a maritime village. Under Labor’s proposals they would have received funds once the Victorian Government gave them a sufficiently high priority.
When the Liberal Party came to office it announced that under its cuts it would no longer fund any man-made historical projects. The result is that 26 men were put off their jobs a fortnight ago- in an area where the unemployment rate is such that 43 people vie for every position available and where 1722 people are registered as unemployed. This is a level of 7.9 1 per cent as against the national average of 5.66 per cent. Interestingly enough, of these 1722 people, 1040-odd are young people under the age of eighteen years. Under the guidelines laid down by Mr Fraser and his Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, all of these young people from 16 to 18 years of age will be liable to conscription in that they will have to move away from their homes or they will starve. It is deportation, or industrial conscription, or starvation under Mr Fraser and the Liberal Party for those young people.
One can go further in showing up the Government’s penny-pinching. Adjacent to the city of
Warrnambool is a small fishing village of some 2500 people. This is possibly the cradle of white civilisation in Victoria because sealers, whalers and others visited that area from Van Diemen ‘s Land long before Melbourne was discovered. This area was once a thriving port. Again, under the Labor Government, with funds from Canberra research was being conducted by a firm from Sydney to try to gather together the history of the small town and to have it written down in perpetuity and to have the many old homes recognised as historical homes, which they are. But again word was received a fortnight or 3 weeks ago that this plan had been curtailed. So much for the attempt by the Liberal and National Country parties to introduce a credit squeeze. I suppose it is understandable. We on this side of the chamber know that such projects as these are beyond the philosophy of the Liberal and National Country parties. Their god is the gross national product and tax deductions for big business.
Let us have a look at how their Prime Minister has been exposed for all time. He has been exposed by what he said during the election campaign and by what he said later on once he became the Prime Minister. I think that perhaps the best example of the duplicity of the Liberal and National Country parties and in particular of the Prime Minister is set out in a leading article in the Melbourne Age of 3 1 January by Allan Barnes. He starts his article by stating:
At 7 o’clock last night, Malcolm Fraser’s political credibility lay in tatters on the floor of committee room number one in Parliament House, Canberra.
In a Press conference lasting just 20 minutes, the Prime Minister had succeeded in casting doubt on every undertaking he gave in his election policy only 2 months ago.
To any ordinary person’s reading Mr Fraser had reneged on his pledge to support wage indexation, virtually admitted that his promise to make swift cuts in Government spending had been made rashly and hedged on his undertaking to index income taxes.
On top of that he had totally ignored a request made to him a “few hours earlier by Ministers from every State government, including the 4 Liberal-Country Party States, that he should delay until Monday an announcement of the Government’s decision on wage indexation.
But the Government’s decision also involves issues of justice and political integrity. People should be able to expect that a Prime Minister will abide by undertakings he gives in an election campaign, particularly in a carefully prepared, written policy.
The article goes on to expound Mr Fraser’s policy delivered some 2 months earlier. As I have said, this article shows the credibility of the present incumbent of the Prime Minister’s office.
In an address to a group of American senators on 7 January Mr Fraser said that America had no reason to be ashamed nor should she apologise for her foreign policy because it was right. So I expect that from here on while the present Prime Minister holds his position this country’s foreign policy will revert to the cold war theories of the 1950s and the 1960s. It will be back to all the way with LBJ. To say that America had no reason to be ashamed nor should she apologise for her foreign policy because it was right was a fairly dogmatic statement for anybody to make. Anybody who has been through the Vietnam fiasco- and we all have- will doubt such words and will wonder what is coming next. As I have said, we will see the old cold war logic or nonlogic. This is coming about at the present time. We are told that the Russians are coming. I think that the situation is shown up by Mr Fraser ‘s stance on such things as Diego Garcia, which I believe is nothing more than an attempt by the Prime Minister to turn the eyes of this country once again to false problems abroad in order to get the populace to look out so that they will accept financial and political screwing at home.
Last Thursday and again today I sought information from Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, on a matter which has given me some concern, namely, Timor. In my question on 19 February because I referred to the Government of Indonesia as neo-fascist Senator Withers replied:
At first I thought that this might be an attempt by the honourable senator to intimidate me. But I do not think he is quite that type of man. I assure him that if he thinks he can stop me asking questions by half threatening me like that, then he and I will have words about the matter. I asked another question today on the same subject but did not receive an answer. Perhaps Senator Withers is attempting to cover up the Timor debacle or perhaps he is not aware of what has gone on- I do not know. But it has appeared to me that in recent months mass genocide has been committed right on Australia’s doorstep by Indonesians. One can call them volunteers or what one likes; they are without a doubt Indonesians.
The complicity of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in this action was shown up, I think, by the actions of the Commonwealth Police and people from the Post Office in confiscating a radio transmitter which was operating out of Darwin. Quite frankly I believe that once that transmitter was confiscated all chances of the United Nations special envoy getting into East Timor were knocked on the head- and that was the way it turned out. It has been suggested with a great deal of force that Mr Peacock, in his discussions with his counterpart in Indonesia, Mr Malik, came to an arrangement to allow thai radio transmitter to be confiscated. We may never know whether that is the case. But whilst Ministers of this Parliament refuse to answer questions put to them by members of it I think we are entitled to suspect the worst.
There have been claims made by the puppet Governor of the Indonesian-held areas of East Timor, Lopez da Cruz, and published in the Australian Press that 60 000 people, mostly women and children, have been massacred in East Timor. That represents roughly one-tenth of the total population of East Timor. Not a word of protest have we heard from either the Prime Minister or his Minister for Foreign Affairs on this matter. What a golden opportunity was created for the militarists of Indonesia by the events in this chamber and another place of 1 1 November. The hiatus created an opportunity for Indonesia to move in and do what she could do and did in East Timor- to rape and pillage the people and the countryside- and then, as I have said before, tell us that volunteers were involved. Just how naive do these militarists of Indonesia think we are?
One of the things that worries me about the whole filthy episode is how many of the so-called volunteers may have been led by Indonesian army officers who were trained in Australia? Was any of the military equipment that has been bought from or given to the Government of Indonesia by the Australian Government used to massacre people? We do not know about that. We may never know. Quite frankly, I think it is time that Australia reassessed its attitude to some of the people in Indonesia. I have referred to some of them as neo-fascists and that is what I believe them to be- extreme right wing militarists. It is their second military venture abroad. The West Irian incident was the first one. Where is the next one going to be? Will it be in Papua New Guinea or to the north? We may find out one day.
There was a time when a great deal of respect was held by many people in Indonesia for Australia because of what was done in the years after World War II when we befriended Indonesia and gave her an opportunity to break away from her colonial past. I think a great deal of that respect still remains. But I do not think that any of us in this country should hold our heads high and regard ourselves as friends of the militarists of Indonesia whilst they massacre, rape, torture and pillage a minority group which happens to live adjacent to them. As I have said previously, particularly during the election campaign, I wholeheartedly support the attitudes and actions of those trade unions in this country which have placed black bans on ships, mail and what-have-you to Indonesia whilst war rages in Timor.
I think that the great majority of Australians -in fact all Australians- should hold their heads in shame at the pillaging and genocide that has been committed there on people who supported us staunchly in the 1940s, who laid down their lives alongside our own troops and who fought with them, protected them and helped them to get out when things became too tough. We are now not saying ‘boo’ to the generals and the leadership of Indonesia because they are alleged to be good friends. I certainly do not want friends like that and I do not know how many others in Australia do. I believe that the great bulk of the people of Australia also feels the same way.
It is interesting to read a couple of the Press statements that have been issued on this Timorese conflict, because if there is one figment of truth in them they make one suspect some fairly high people within government circles in Australia. I refer firstly to a Press release which was issued by the Campaign for Independent East Timor on 27 January, which reads:
Last Saturday I spoke with a senior officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. I had earlier been contacted by him indirectly when I was in Canberra last Tuesday (20 January) on other business. We then arranged, through a third person a carefully prepared rendezvous on the Saturday.
The senior officer informed me that he had decided to tell us of certain information concerning the situation in East Timor and concerning government policy, because he felt a moral duty to expose the pro-Indonesian policy of the government.
He said as a returned serviceman he was disgusted at the complicity of the government with Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, because the invasion would result and was already resulting in the slaughter of tens of thousands of East Timorese, who had so nobly helped Australian servicemen in World War II.
The senior officer said that during Mr Andrew Peacock’s visit to Jakarta and his discussions with Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik, Mr Peacock had agreed to close down the Fretilin radio transmitter operating in Darwin.
He also agreed that the Australian Government would do nothing to help the UN Special Envoy reach Fretilin-held areas of East Timor and would refuse the use of Darwin as a base for the envoy’s efforts to reach the Fretilin-held areas.
The senior Foreign Affairs official also said that Mr Peacock had promised Mr Malik that the Australian government would attempt to use its influence on the media to tone down articles critical of Indonesian involvement in East Timor.
The senior officer said the Government had in fact adopted the policy outlined in Australian Ambassador to Jakarta, Mr Wollcott’s secret cable, published in part in the Canberra Times earlier this month.
The Press release goes on in a similar vein. A second Press release from the same source on 28 January reads:
A group of prominent Australians, Portuguese and Timorese in Sydney and Melbourne met at 74 Homebush Road, Strathfield late last July to put the finishing touches to the coup which occurred in East Timor on August 11, and began the train of events which led to the Indonesian invasion.
The house they met served at the time as the private residence of Mr Deolindo Encarnacao, and also as the Portuguese Consulate in Sydney.
Mr Deolindo was for many years Portuguese Consul in Sydney. He is Timorese. Although the Strathfield house no longer serves as the Consulate and a new Consul arrived last year, Mr Deolindo still works three days a week in the Portuguese Consulate, now situated in Union Carbide House, Liverpool Street, Sydney.
Mr Deolindo has been receiving almost daily coded messages from Indonesian puppet forces and the Indonesians themselves since they captured Dili.
It is rather interesting to read the assertions made later on in this Press release which states:
An additional reason is the role of Mr T. Dodson, Portuguese honorary Consul in Melbourne, who is also chairman of Timor Oil. Mr Dodson is in almost daily contact with Mr Deolindo, concerning news and requests from UDT forces and the Indonesians in Dili since December 7.
It goes on to point out in the next paragraph:
Timor Oil began renegotiating its leases in East Timor last June with Portuguese representative, Engineer Barbosa. The Portuguese put stiffer conditions on the leases than previously, particularly on repatriation of profits. He also demanded that the company’s headquarters be in Dili, not Melbourne. He told our informant in Darwin after he was evacuated following the August 1 1 coup, that the Timor Oil representatives had continually stalled on negotiations. He believed Timor Oil was waiting for the coup or the invasion, as Indonesia gave much better conditions than the Portuguese, or Fretlin, were likely to offer.
It mentions other people including Mr Jaime Santos: . . Jaime Santos who had come to Australia shortly before obstensibly as a representative of Oceanic Oil Exploration, an American company from Denver, Colorado, which in December 1974 had obtained offshore oil leases of East Timor.
The Press release refers to arms smuggled into East Timor and mentions other people who attended the same meeting. They included Mr Michael Darby and former brigadier Bernard J. Callinan, a director of British Petroleum (Australia), a prominent member of the
National Civic Council and Australia Democratic Labor Party, a former captain of the Australia commandos in Timor during World War II and a frequent visitor to East Timor ever since. Mr Deputy President, as I said earlier, if there is one shred of truth in any of these matters asserted in those Press releases, there are a lot of people in Australia who have a lot to answer for in relation to the terrible tragedy that has happened in Timor.
I wind up my remarks by just saying this: If Indonesia is not told sooner or later by some other country or countries that it, we, or they are not prepared to stand by while Indonesia goes on military excursions which can only be likened to what Hitler did in the late 1930s, Indonesia will lose a whole lot of friends. I had hoped that Mr Peacock at least would stand up and tell these people, ‘Thus far and no further’. But, as I said earlier, it appears that because of the Prime Minister’s stance we will revert to the old cold war theories of the 1950s and 1960s. Diego Garcia is one example of this. The Indian Ocean is a very big place and the Russian Navy has just as much right to be there as any other navy. It is rather interesting to note that during the whole period when the American Congress, Press and White House were saying that all work on Diego Garcia had been curtailed because of a vote in the Congress- the supply of funds had been curtaileddespite those statements work never ceased. In fact, the necessary goods were being shuttled to and fro constantly to allow the project to continue.
Whatever honourable senators opposite may say about the former Labor Government’s performance during our 2 eighteen-month terms of office, at least we can say that not once did we try to distract the attention of the populace of Australia from problems at home by conjuring up mythical enemies abroad. Perhaps that was our downfall. Perhaps we should have been dishonest, as it appears the present Government intends to be, and conjured up a mythical enemy out there- the red threat or the yellow peril- as the present Government appears to be doing so that it can get away with anything with the populace here at home.
– I rise to support the motion relating to the Governor-General’s Speech so ably moved by Senator Knight and supported by Senator Kilgariff. Before I make a few general references may I, even in his absence, congratulate from the floor of the Senate chamber Senator Laucke on his election as President of the Senate. I believe that not only his personality and his character but also his long experience in this Parliament and in the Parliament of his home State of South Australia will serve him well to serve us well and to serve the Senate well. I should also like to congratulate my friend and colleague, Senator Drake-Brockman, on his election a second time to be Deputy President and Chairman of Committees. I congratulate those new senators who have delivered their maiden speeches and I understand fully the sense of relief that they feel. I wish well those honourable senators who have yet to speak in the Senate.
I feel some measure of despondency at the happenings in the first week of the Thirtieth Parliament in Canberra. It is a despondency which relates mainly to the attitude of the Opposition in coming to this place and then largely, in the first place, seeking not to take part in the traditional ceremonies of the opening of the Parliament. From that point on and in this debate in particular it seems that Opposition members, almost to a man, have consistently concerned themselves with what they believed were the unfortunate occurrences of October, November and December of 1975.I believe that the 60-odd empty seats in this chamber last Tuesday when this Parliament was opened in the traditional manner really provided mute evidence not of protest but really of insult to the institution of this Parliament, to the representatives of the people of Australia, to the Governor-General himself and, I guess, through him to the Monarch. I believe that those empty seats provided mute evidence not of protest but of insult to the very institution that the Australian democracy needs so desperately to maintain and develop.
– Democracy went out on 11 November.
– That is the sort of interjection and attitude that I find and I am sure most Australians find to be quite deplorable in the circumstances of this Parliament. I believe that mute protest, that insult, was proved later in the day to be in some measure humorous and in some measure ironical. When we moved to the Senate gardens to take some cool drinks and general refreshments a measure of the protest and insult had suddenly dissipated, because out there where the drinks were on and the sandwiches were around we found the former Prime Minister, most of his family and indeed many of his colleagues. I just remark as a matter of interest in passing the sort of relative importance that some of these people at least place on the institution of Parliament and on afternoon tea parties.
There has been continual talk in the Senate on the part of the Opposition concerning the problems surrounding the events of those days prior to 1 1 November and leading up to the election on 13 December, referring presumably to the improper use of power by the Senate itself in establishing a circumstance in which this Parliament was deadlocked. I want to suggest once and for all that if the Australian Senate does not have, as the people’s brake on the House of legislature, the ultimate power, the power, through control over money Bills as over other legislation, to force this Parliament to the people, to force, one would assume on matters of responsibility, a guilty government to face its masters, indeed the Senate has no real province in the parliamentary system of Australia. It has to have that ultimate power. It is a power that carries with it an extreme measure of responsibility. It is a power that was accepted and acted upon by the former Leader of the Government, now the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, as recently as the April-May period of 1974. Mr Whitlam saw fit at that time to take the circumstances of a deadlocked Parliament to the people, as was the traditional and constitutional necessity. In 1970, as Leader of the Opposition, he sought vehemently to oppose money Bills and to destroy the Government of that day. Members of his Party- Opposition members as they were in those days and as they had been for 20 years prior to 1970- opposed vehemently money Bills on 168 occasions. So, it is an extraordinary circumstance that suddenly at the beginning of 1976 and at the end of 1975 we find a complete reversal in the Labor Party’s attitude to the proper power of the Senate.
I make the point that if the Senate is to be the useful, proper and responsible brake on behalf of the people of Australia on the House of legislature the Senate must have that ultimate power and in having it has an extreme measure of responsibility. It is quite ridiculous to assume that any political Party in this chamber could take or would take frivolous action that would send Australians to the ballot box. No frivolous or irresponsible action would be accepted by Australians in that sort of circumstance. Consequently the chances of the Senate’s misusing its proper power are virtually nil because of the extreme consequences that would follow in the Australian electorate. I believe great damage was done to the institution of the GovernorGeneral by the attitude of the Opposition in this circumstance and by the failure of the Opposition to accept the decision of the GovernorGeneral as the ultimate authority in the case of a deadlocked Parliament. This has been ruled upon by the Australian people clearly and absolutely.
I find it most extraordinary that we should be concerning ourselves today and over this last week with Opposition efforts in this chamber to assert that the action of the Senate was a threat to democracy and the action of the GovernorGeneral, as the ultimate force in the constitutional set-up of this country, was in some measure a threat to democracy. Surely if any democracy is to be retained in this country there must be the circumstance when a government can be forced to ask the people whether it should continue on the lines that it proposes or whether it should be displaced. The fact that such an election was forced is surely the very essence of democracy. Yet we are still being belaboured in this chamber by suggestions that on 1 1 November democracy was dealt a terrible blow by the then Opposition through the Senate and through the ultimate decision of the GovernorGeneral. I am reminded that this sort of circumstance cannot be allowed to continue, because the people of Australia have considered and they have given a clear and definite judgment. If the Senate had been irresponsible and if the Constitution had proved insufficient to the challenge the results that followed 13 December would have been totally and absolutely different. I recall Patrick White at that time saying of the events of 1 1 November that although there was no tanks, no troops around and no guns he felt that there was something sinister for democracy. What could there be sinister for democracy in a circumstance in the operation of a constitution, which saw the Australian people given the opportunity to go thoughtfully, responsibly and quietly to cast their vote in secret ballot. There is no threat or challenge to democracy in that. There is nothing sinister in that. While that remains the province of the Australian people I believe that democracy in this country is secure.
I find it disappointing also that in the week so far passed in this Thirtieth Parliament the Opposition seemed determined still to remain tied to policies which it promoted in the latter part of 1972, policies to which in the latter part of 1975 it had nothing to add. Surely it has become apparent that the Opposition in this chamber and the Government in this Parliament should be looking at the policies which people have voted upon, because those policies are policies which had developed in 3 years the most massive measure of unemployment and inflation and the consequent loss of confidence that this country has ever known. It is high time that we in this
Parliament set about changing that circumstance. Lack of confidence in the government ultimately will destroy a country. It is absolutely necessary to regain confidence if this great country is to get on its feet again and to overcome the legacy of inflation and unemployment.
I would be less than responsible if I were to suggest that none of the objectives of Labor Party legislation in the last 3 years were of any value. Of course, that is not true. But the objectives of the Australian Labor Party were pursued with a measure of recklessness that no country can support. They were pursued with such recklessness that this country developed a domestic deficit of $4.7 billion in the current year in spite of the fact that there had been a printing of treasury notes to the extent of $1.7 billion to keep the deficit at that figure and in spite of the fact that there was a huge escalation in receipts from taxation consequent upon inflation, unaccompanied by any sort of indexation or any change in the rates of taxation. The revenue of this country increased by 46 per cent in the 1974-75 financial year.
We surely must be aware that 3 years of socialist government in Australia has brought disaster. The socialist Government decided to pursue, willy nilly, ideological attitudes and relationships that were foreign to Australia. It decided to pursue those ideologies and relationships totally regardless of the economic and social consequences. Those consequences belabour us today and will continue to belabour us for a considerable time. Indeed, it must have been apparent to all Australians where the socialist Government was aiming when, more than 2 years ago, Dr Cairns, one of the most honest exponents of that Government, said that it had gone as far as it could go within the system. That ultimately, I suggest, was the warning of which all Australians took heed. Dr Cairns said that the socialist Government had gone as far as it could go within the system. Australians as a whole- unionists and Australians of all ages- when we get down to tin tacks were not interested in changing the Australian way of life and the Australian democratic system. When it was realised that that was under challenge the Australian people made a very clear decision.
I refer briefly to a couple of short paragraphs which appear towards the end of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I believe that they are of such moment that they could perhaps have been better placed at the beginning of the Speech. The Governor-General said:
The purpose my Government has set itself is not merely to give Australia prosperity, predictability and stability- important though those things obviously are- it is also to develop in a rational and sensible fashion a new and exciting role for government- one which places more reliance on the commonsense and reason of the Australian people.
The Governor-General also said:
The Government is not concerned with power for itself. It is the servant of the Australian people. Its purpose is to work with the people to create an Australian democracy which will be an example to the world of what a free people can achieve.
I believe that the message contained in those 2 short paragraphs is the prelude to the whole matter which is divulged in the Speech itself. We, as a Government, are concerned to introduce legislation that will bring about those circumstancescircumstances we have lost in 3 years of socialist regime. The Governor-General referred to the role of government. I want to speak briefly about that. Surely the role of government must be to establish in Australia a climate in which the basic facets of Australian free enterprise democracy can survive, evolve and grow. This must be the purpose of our Government. This, I believe, is the clear message contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
What is this free enterprise democracy? It is very Australian in its character. It has developed this country and has produced the Australian character, both individually and nationally. I suggest that there are many basic facets of free enterprise democracy. Perhaps I can look at three or four of these facets in passing. The role of government is to establish a circumstance in which these facets can grow. The role of government is not to own and direct but to prevent exploitation, whether it be of man or of resources. These facets relate to the dignity and security of the family unit which is basic to our Australian society. They relate also to equality of opportunity. We must always continue to direct our energies towards establishing equality of opportunity. Having done that, we cannot assume- we would be totally wrong to assume- that equality is a total part of the human race. Human beings are not equal and choose not to be equal. Consequently, we must seek to provide a measure of freedom of choice. Equality of opportunity having been established, individuals will then be able to choose any of a thousand ways to run; individuals will then be able to pursue their own specific desires. They will have a measure of freedom of choice. Basic to this institution which we promote and which I believe the GovernorGeneral’s Speech promotes is a recognition of the profit motive within the law which is developed and imposed by the majority of Australians. To this point in the history of man nothing seems to have been able to satsify human nature as much as the profit motive. No form of government will be successful in the long term unless human nature is satisfied.
I mention one other facet of Australian democracy. I suggest that it is relevant to our assessment of freedom. I suggest that there is no freedom without a real measure of discipline. The value of our philosophy is that we must impose a discipline which is the discipline of the majority and not of some executive or of a minority. Freedom is meaningless if it is not related to discipline. Let us make sure- the GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicates the measures in which that assurance can be found- that that sort of discipline is the discipline which is required and accepted by the great majority of Australians. I hope, indeed believe, that I have indicated that the Governor-General’s Speech concerns itself with the very basic concept of the role of government, which became so apparent in the first 3 years of socialist government in Australia for more than a generation and which is related to the position of the state in our society. I believe we can never afford to have the state as the master of the people. As the Speech suggests, it must remain the servant of the people and only then will democracy survive. I believe it was a significant reflection of the Australian character that in the election of December 1975 the people were ultimately confronted with a choice that at long last had become clear to them and was relative to the position of the state in our society.
The Governor-General’s Speech refers to a number of areas in which we propose to take important and quick action. There is the suggestion that inflation and unemployment are related to excessive government intervention. In the 3 years of socialist government to which I have referred the level of resources devoted to the public sector ranged from 19 per cent in the first year to 34 per cent and 23 per cent in the third year. In that sort of circumstance individuals become more and more reliant on the government and on government enterprise and we have found more and more that an increasing amount of money has been seeking a diminishing number of goods and services-the classic climate for inflation. In that situation a democracy such as we propose and such as we have developed cannot survive.
Another subject in the Speech which I believe to be of extreme importance is the establishment of a centralised bureaucracy. Here again we have seen an enormous growth. In such a circumstance the individual becomes more and more reliant on the master state. We cannot afford it financially and it does not fit into democracy. When the state is absolutely supreme it becomes a small executive force probably backed by armed might and secret police. That is the ultimate circumstance, in which the state can be the total owner and controller of the country’s resources.
Welfare assistance is referred to in the Speech and is of extreme importance to any government and to any political party. We would be the first to admit the need for a state based on social service, but we have to be sure and certain that the great mass of taxpayers, whoever they are and wherever they may be, are not supporting the indolent. That is an examination and an exercise which must be of supreme importance to the current Government. The increased tax burden is referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. The greater the involvement of the public sector, the greater will be the burden of taxation on the Australian people; and that has to be assessed, regulated and reduced. We must not permit vast increases in what one terms unlegislated taxation; that has happened in the last 3 years. People have been receiving increases in salaries and wages only to find that because of inflationthere has been no indexation and no change of rates- they have been almost robbed on practically every occasion. We have to see that that does not occur so that when people receive increased salaries and wages they are real salaries and wages and not imaginary ones.
– And that the self-employed person’s income is real.
– That is quite true. In passing from the area of taxation, since we have been using the word ‘indexation’ and have been referring to the failure to change tax rates over the years, I wish to suggest that the time is more than ripe for there to be a severe look at death duties, certainly in the Federal area where, I believe, ultimately they must be abolished. It is a tiny form of taxation in terms of revenue. At the moment it represents .42 of one per cent of total revenue and in the current year it is estimated to be .39 of one per cent of total revenue. Yet it is a tax that in large measure destroys initiative, that breaks up economic units and that drives a lot of expertise from the various areas of industry and commerce. I believe it is a tax which we should examine and try desperately to relate to the inflation which has occurred during the past 20 years and that we should seek to abolish it in the very near future.
I do not propose to cover many other areas of the Governor-General’s Speech. Senator Primmer spoke about foreign affairs and referred to the Russians in the Indian Ocean and to the Timor situation. That is a dreadful situation which I am sure we all regret in the extreme. I cannot understand why the previous Labor Government, with the sympathies it has, did nothing in the last 3 years about this situation. It could well have been promoted in the United Nations with much greater authority than it has been promoted, if it has been promoted at all. I am afraid reality suggests that the Indian Ocean is not likely to become a dreamed of sea of peace. If it is to be a sea of peace, surely we will have to work for a more realistic balance of power in that massive and important ocean. I confine my remarks on this subject to those few words because earlier in this debate Senator Sim dealt with the matter at some length.
I wish to refer one or two of the measures which were brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) in his speech. He implied that the present Government had done nothing about the promises which it made to primary industry in particular and he was pleased to talk of what his Government had done for the wool industry. In some measure it did some real good for the wool industry. Far from abrogating our responsibilities to that area, in which Senator Wriedt has been interested for a significant length of time, what have we done? The superphosphate bounty has been reintroduced. That is only the implementation of an Industries Assistance Commission interim report. No doubt ultimately we will find that in some circumstances too much will be used, in others too little will be used and in others the wrong sort will be used. But pending the ultimate recommendtion, it was an IAC recommendation which the former Government refused to honour and is an election promise which we have already honoured.
In the beef industry we have abolished the 1.6c a kilogram export levy on beef. This was in accordance with our policy and it was a recommendation of the IAC. We have reintroduced measures which are designed to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis in cattle. Turning to the wool industry, I refer to the 250c a kilogram basic price for the Australian Wool Corporation. Whilst that commitment was honoured by the Labor Party when in government, let us not forget that in May of last year the Labor Party floated the proposal to have a 200c a kilogram basic price as some sort of a kite to test opinion. This created a Shockwave right throughout the world in areas which use, manufacture and retail wool. In the few short weeks that we have been in Government we have taken steps to ensure not only that the price of 250c a kilogram will be the base price for the remainder of this financial year but also that it will be not less than 250c a kilogram for 1976-77. This is surely a real measure of strength and stability to those basic in the wool industry in Australia and abroad. I close by referring again to the final paragraph of the Governor-General ‘s Speech in which he said:
The Government is not concerned with power for itself. It is the servant of the Australian people. Its purpose is to work with the people to create an Australian democracy which will be an example to the world of what a free people can achieve.
I believe that that is basic to the whole tenor of the Speech. It is basic to the whole concern of this Government in legislating for a better and solvent Australia. I have pleasure in supporting the Speech.
– During this debate on the AddressinReply Opposition senators have been constantly reminded by senators on the Government benches of the grudge that we bear against the Governor-General and of the role that he played in the activities prior to and on Remembrance Day 1975. 1 have no shame and I feel no shame in admitting that I bear a grudge. I was cheated out of a job that I was elected to do for a period of 3 years by the electors in Western Australia. I served only half of that period. My term of office was cut short because of the whims of the minority. Not only were my colleagues and I cheated, but the people who elected us and reelected us in May 1974 feel a sense of being cheated in that they also believed that we were being elected for a period of 3 years.
I did not feel any joy in the activities that took place in this chamber last Tuesday. I felt that it was rather a sad place and I was glad that I was not part of it. I felt sad on behalf not only of myself but also of the people throughout Australia who believed that they lived in a democracy. Democracy died on November 1 1 last year. Australia is not a democracy. We have to stop believing that it is a democracy. We are fooling ourselves and we are endeavouring to fool the people of Australia. Remembrance Day of 1976 and from then on will be the day when people of Australia -
– You are wrong. It was 1975.
– I beg the honourable senator’s pardon. If he would allow me to finish my sentence perhaps what I am about to say will become clear even to him. Rememberance Day of 1976 and of every year thereafter will be the day on which free-thinking Australians will bow their heads for the customary 2 minutes silence, not for those who died in the great wars but for the death of democracy in this country.
I believe it is now time that we Australians should start working towards becoming a republic. It is the only way that we can restore and maintain a democracy in this country. We live in a capitalist society and no social reform government can operate in a capitalist society. Most of the events that happened leading up to and including 11 November 1975 are known. They are on record. It is not a very nice record. The fact that a celebration was planned for Tuesday, 1 1 November, in this Parliament House and that a booking was made on 7 November by the then Opposition does not contribute to what in actual fact took place on that day. We heard the gospel according to the minority and honourable senators opposite were in a minority in the House that matters, the democratically elected House of Representatives, at the time of the coup on 11 November. We all are aware of the role that particular people inside this Parliament played at that point of time. We all are aware of the role that the Press played at that point of time, leading up to 11 November and between 11 November and 13 December.
– Come on, you tell us.
– If Senator Baume can read the newspapers, he does not need me to tell him what is happening. But perhaps he needs eye treatment. I suggest that he should see an optician. We all are aware of the part that the Press is playing at the present time. We all are aware that the Press is playing down the stories which if they had happened while a Labor Government was in office, would have been headline news throughout Australia. We are aware of the cuts in Government expenditure, reports of which are being held back on pages 30, 3 1 and 32 of the national Press. The Press obviously does not want to accept its responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Press to disseminate the news as it happens, not as it thinks it happens; not as the Press thinks it sees the news happen, but as it actually happens. That is not what the Australian people have been getting from the media operations in this country. It is the Australian people who should feel outraged at what they are not being told by the media. It is the Australian people who should revolt at what they are not being told.
Senator Missen on Thursday said that he was surprised and disappointed at the speech of my colleague Senator Mulvihill on that day. I was not surprised. Senator Mulvihill has my complete support. I think that he has the support of all of his colleagues on this side of the chamber when he says: ‘The day will come when we will do unto you as you have done unto us’. The only thing about which Senator Mulvihill and I disagree is the time. I do not believe that it will take 20 years. I believe that it will take a simple 3 years for the Australian people to realise that they have been conned by this Liberal-National Country Party coalition Government. They will recognise in that 3-year period the injustices that have been done, that are being done and that will be done. These things have been done not to the Labor Party- I am not talking about party politics. I am talking about what is being done to us, the Australian people. I believe that in 3 years the Australian people will see through the facade of this Government. Senator Missen also said that he thought it was a good idea for countries to have a change of government. I agree with him. It is a good idea that at the end of each term of office there should be a change of government if the people believe it necessary, but only if the people believe it necessary- not if they are conned into believing it because of the minority Press or because of the extravagant use of the word ‘socialism’.
I would put it to honourable senators that we in Australia lived under a socialist government for 23 years prior to 12 December 1972 when the Labor Party was brought into office. I believe that we lived under a socialist government that had no cares and no thoughts about the dignity or the lives of the Australian people. It was a case of ‘I’m all right Jack and be hanged to the rest of you’. There was a period of nearly a quarter of a century when the wishes, the desires, the hopes and the needs of the Australian people were completely ignored. Already we are seeing some of the results of the meaningless promises that spewed forth during the pre-election campaign in 1975. We are seeing the erosion of the rights and dignity of human beings in this country. For instance, we saw that one of the first actions of this Government was to place a levy on hearing aids for pensioners. How petty and how disgusting that the disadvantaged should be the first to feel the knife. I am aware that the Government changed this situation. One of the good things that it has done is that it has admitted that it made a mistake and has reversed its decision. Nevertheless the damage has been done and the erosion has started.
– Everyone goes on the waiting list now.
– I am reminded that we are on a waiting list. We have heard so many quotations from this historic or hysteric document- depending entirely on your political point of view- which was read on Tuesday in this chamber by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, the man who played such a prominent part in the coup d’etat last November. He was commissioned by this Government to stand in this chamber and to say, reading from page 2 of the document:
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.
My Government believes that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social services provision, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best. The disadvantaged must be helped in ways which leave them the maximum independence.
Perhaps we can assume from that that the Government thought that if people could not afford to pay the $10 levy which was placed on hearing aid appliances then they could not hear and they would remain in ignorance. Are we to assume that the disadvantaged pensioners who were able to take advantage of the pensioner funeral benefits would believe what the Governor-General read in this chamber last week? Were pensioner funeral benefits less important than the superphosphate subsidies? I believe that according to this Government they were. One can only assume that in the eyes of this Government superphosphate comes before all else. Obviously this Government does not believe that people should be allowed to live in dignity, to die in dignity and even to be buried in dignity.
We turn now to look at the Government’s role and at its pre-election promises in relation to the workers of this country. We look at the assertions made before 13 December when the present Government said: ‘We will support not only wage indexation- full wage indexation- but also we well keep tax indexation uppermost in our considerations’. Fewer than 2 months after taking over the Treasury bench this same Government appeared before the national wage case hearing in an endeavour to ensure that the Australian workers did not get full wage indexation. The people of Australia are not fools. They can assess for themselves whether in actual fact the pre-election promises that the present Government made are going to be kept. Yet the Government wonders why the Australian Council of Trade Unions does not want to involve itself in further discussions on industrial relations.
Then we have the issue of the order of dress for the unemployed, which was raised by one of our colleagues here in this chamber. We heard Ministers actually saying that the unemployed should adopt certain standards of dress if they were really serious about looking for employment. I can just imagine- just barely imagine- a person applying for a job as a builder’s labourer and turning up in a suit. I know what the employer would say. But, quite frankly and honestly, I can imagine people who are unemployed who do not even own a suit of clothing because I know of such people. I know people who are unemployed who do not own what perhaps could be considered to be a decent style of dress.
It might be very difficult for honourable senators on the Government benches to appreciate that a person who is unemployed has a number of other considerations before he worries about his or her dress. He worries about such things as making sure that his family is fed and housed. He makes sure that adequate health facilities are available to his children and to his spouse. He makes sure that to the best of his ability he can look himself in the mirror each morning and say: I am doing my best to stand on my feet’. It was said in the Governor-General’s Speech last Tuesday that the Government wants people to stand on their own 2 feet. But when the time comes that a man needs the assistance of governments it is to be hoped that none of us here ever find ourselves in need of assistance of governmentsit is to be hoped that not only will he find that assistance but also that he will find the compassion that should go with the assistance.
A number of issues concerning the Government’s policies have not been uncovered. For instance, we have not been told the exact nature of the cut of $9m in respect of the Children’s Commission. I understand that Senator Guilfoyle, in answering a question concerning this matter this morning, promised that a reply would be made available as soon as possible. These are things that the people who are operating the Children’s Commission centres need to know- the people who felt that they could do something for the children of Australia under the Children’s Commission Act. Perhaps the people who need assistance most are the children. But already in Victoria we are hearing people expressing some concern that funds may not be available in the coming months. In most instances of course the Government is remaining conspicuously silent. Departments, associations and organisations, be they voluntary or governmental, are being kept in the dark as to their future.
The women’s health refuges do not know whether in the future they will be able to provide facilities for the people who come to them in their hour of need. They know they have funds only until June 1 976. After that time their destiny is in the hands of the Government. The Family Planning Association which operates in Western Australia and which I mentioned at question time this morning, knows that it has funds until only June 1976. What is going to happen now to the people who come to this organisation for advice and for assistance? What will happen to them in the future is an unknown quantity at this point of time. The Family Planning Associations throughout Australia are doing a tremendous job.
I do not know comprehensively about the other States but I do know that in my own State of Western Australia we do not have a comprehensive sex education program in our high schools. People have to rely on the facilities that are available to them through such organisations as Family Planning Associations. Yet these organisations, with their inadequate facilities, not knowing just how much money they will have to continue during the coming years, are uncertain at this point of time. These are the people who need to know that the Government in actual fact is aware of their drastic situation or of what could develop into a drastic situation in the future. The women’s refuges in Western Australia are dealing to a large extent with people who find it necessary, sometimes in the middle of the night and for a variety of reasons, to quit their matrimonial home. They arrive at these refuges with their children in tow and in a distressed and distraught condition. They need not only mental help but also physical help and financial assistance. We on the Opposition benches need to know what is going to happen.
A lot of the welfare programs that were introduced by the Australian Labor Government had only just got off the ground at the proroguing of the Parliament. It is to be hoped that at least some of them will find favour in the present Government’s eyes and that some of the programs will be continued. We have had a number of ‘on-again, off-again’ policies. Prior to the election we had an ‘on-again, off-again’ Medibank and still we are not terribly sure what is going to happen to it. We have had an ‘on-again, offagain’ Prices Justification Tribunal and still we are not sure what is going to happen to it. As yet we need to have defined what are the Government’s policies as far as our foreign affairs and our friends and compatriots in countries overseas are concerned. I am hopeful that the Government truly means what it says on page 3 of this document, and because it is a very short paragraph I intend to read it. The Government states:
In all policy areas the Government will be alert to opportunities to increase the freedom of Australians to choosewithout exploitation- the kinds of goods, services, and styles of life they want, and to minimise direction by Government and the unnecessary redirection of resources through the Government’s bureaucracy.
The Australian people want to live a life of their own choosing. They want to live the life style that they choose. They do not want governments telling them how they must live and how they must think, but they do need to have some direction by government. I hope that this Government will direct its financial resources and its mental resources in the right direction for the Australian people. I want to conclude on a warning note. Whilst the present Government may have criticisms to make of my Party’s government when it was in office, let me assure Government senators that we intend to be as vigilant in Opposition as we were at that time.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I should like to extend my congratulations to Senator Laucke on his appointment as President of this Chamber. I have had the opportunity of working with him on Estimates Committees and I am aware of the conscientiousness and sense of responsibility that he will carry into this office. My colleague from Western Australia, Senator Drake-Brockman, is to be congratulated also. I in my turn would like to welcome the new senators on both the Opposition and the Government benches who will contribute to this session of Parliament.
– In the short time before the dinner adjournment I should like to take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Laucke on his elevation to the very high position of President of this exalted chamber. I should also like to say how pleased I have been with the compliments that have been paid to him by Opposition senators as well as by senators on this side of the chamber. Senator Laucke being a South Australian, of course, we are all proud of him. He has earned a reputation for being thoroughly gentlemanly and very fair in every respect, and I am sure that he will do credit to his predecessors in the position of President.
-Do you think that he will arbitrate on your cricket problem over there?
– Everything is resolved now, Senator Mulvihill will be glad to know. Let me say for the benefit of honourable senators that the cricketers are back at work and looking forward to defeating New South Wales at the first opportunity. But please allow me not to be distracted by Senator Mulvihill. I continue my congratulatory remarks with respect to Senator Tom Drake-Brockman, whom I have come to regard as a good friend and a very competent member and former Minister of our Government. I congratulate him on his appointment to the position of Chairman of Committees and I know that he will fill the office particularly well. I believe that the new senators who have come into this chamber and who have already made their maiden speeches have shown themselves to be a credit to the chamber. I refer particularly to my colleague Senator Messner, who last week gave us a very informative address on the problems associated with small business and taxation matters, on which he is an expert. My colleague Senator Kilgariff from the Northern Territory also demonstrated his capacity. I welcome also the new senators on the Opposition benches and wish them well in their maiden speeches, if they have not yet made them.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, Mr President, in your absence I was extolling your virtues and extending congratulations on your elevation to the high office that you hold. Now that you are in the Senate chamber in person, may I very briefly congratulate you in that respect.
The previous speaker, Senator Coleman, continued with the vitriolic type of speech that we have heard from Opposition senators following the presentation by the Governor-General of his Speech in this chamber last week. She said how those people who elected the Australian Labor Party felt cheated. I wonder how the honourable senator can sustain an argument of that type when the people of Australia, many of whom voted for the Australian Labor Party in May 1 974, decided in December last that it was time to return to true democracy and gave the Liberal-National Country Party resounding support. The arguments that are put forward by Opposition senators on this occasion are hollow and certainly fall on deaf ears as their former supporters in the electorate consider the activities of the Labor Party in this place and in the other place nothing short of childish when they continue to attack the integrity of the GovernorGeneral.
I will not say anything further in this vein other than to add that the people of Australia realise that this Government has inherited from the previous Government a pretty shocking state of affairs. I do not suppose anybody in Australia is surprised that we are faced with a deficit approaching $4,500m. The Budget that we inherited from the Labor Government and its Treasurer, Mr Hayden, in essence assumed that the wages of Australians would rise by 22 per cent. Inherent in that assumption is the fact that taxation receipts from Australians would rise by 43 per cent. I recall very clearly that in 1974 the Labor Government presented a Budget for which the estimated deficit was $570m; it ended up being approximately $2, 600m. On this occasion, the Budget which we inherited contained an expected deficit of approximately $2,500m. Now, well before the end of June, we face a deficit which by the middle of the year could certainly be approaching $5,000m. This is why the people of Australia opted for a LiberalNational Country Party administration. We have a proven record in business management. The people recognise that we were the appropriate Parties to get the economy of Australia back on the rails.
The Speech by His Excellency does recognise in broad terms the areas upon which we must concentrate. Immediately after the election, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicated some of the measures that would be taken, and acted immediately upon them, to try to curtail the expenditure that was occurring in the publicsector. Our policies as enunciated in the Governor-General’s Speech imply quite definitely that we aim to revive the private sector upon which the Australian economy depends. It is all very well for the Opposition, as it has done in the past, to go about its program of social welfare while denigrating, in effect, the private sector. We on this side of the Senate recognise that the private enterprise part of our economy is responsible for 75 per cent of employment. Because of this, we have set on a path of revival and of re-creating incentive in that important sector of our economy. This will be to the ultimate advantage of all Australians, including pensioners.
I heard Senator Coleman refer to some of the actions taken with respect to the removal of certain privileges received by pensioners. I support her to the extent that I do not agree entirely with some of the decisions that have been made. I do not wish to see pensioners deprived of the funeral benefit. I have recorded my protest in the appropriate manner and I hope that the Government will pay regard to my protestations in that area. I also was a bit disappointed about the $1,000 provision with respect to the 40 per cent investment allowance. I have made my protestations about that aspect. After all, the private sector is of great importance. Small businesses in Australia suffered under the previous administration to the degree that approximately 1 50 000 such businesses went broke. This occurred especially as a result of the policies perpetuated by the previous administration. I believe that we must revive confidence. An allowance level of $1,000 would be important in my view to a person in an accounting business, or perhaps an accountant with a small operation, who wanted to acquire an item of equipment such as an electric typewriter.
– What is the basis for your figure of 150 000?
– My basis is fairly sound. I have regard to the records that are available from the various chambers of commerce and industry bodies. A figure of 150 000 may be an over estimate but the figure is in excess of 130 000. It is still a lot of small businesses, which the Labor Government purported to represent. It is our job to see that those businesses are reinstated in the community. Therefore, I have some criticisms of that provision. I hope that, as soon as the economic climate improves, the Government will review that decision.
This Government has inherited the effects of mismanagement by the Labor Government. I suppose we must suffer for that. The unemployment level has increased. It is not our fault that it has increased. Whereas I believe that the concept of the National Employment and Training scheme and the Regional Employment Development scheme in essence was good when the Labor Party introduced those schemes, I think that the guidelines were wrong and that abuses occurred with respect to those schemes which cost the Australian taxpayer dearly. I can think of examples in South Australia where wives of doctors have been able to attract a grant of $80 or $90 a week so that they can be retrained under the NEAT scheme. That retraining was to the disadvantage of people in industry who were forced out of their jobs by the policies of the previous Government and who were genuinely looking for some assistance to re-inject them into industry, perhaps in some other area, so that they could contribute to the economy. Basically the concept is fine, but I think that the experience of the people was that the Labor Party was incapable of proper management. The Regional
Employment Development scheme is another concept which met with my approval in its basic terms. Again, many examples can be brought forward which show where this scheme has been abused. I believe that the Labor Party set out with the right thought in mind, but it allowed itself to be carried away with vote catching gimmicks and excessive expenditure and this has resulted in the economic state which we are facing at the present time.
Unemployment benefits were overemphasised by the Labor Government. I recall the example of a mechanic in South Australia who was able to find a job at a garage in that State. He was paid $20 above the award rate by the employer. He worked conscientiously with the business. A fortnight after he was employed he was given another $10 because he happened to be an expert tradesman in that field and the employer was well satisfied. But 6 weeks later this chap tendered his resignation. He said to his employer ‘I cannot stay with you any longer because it is my turn to go on unemployment benefits. I am living with three or four friends and it is my turn to have a month off’. Those are the things which we believe are bad. There has been an insufficient follow-up procedure with respect to that type of case. We hope to examine very carefully the administration behind unemployment relief. Plenty of jobs are available in Australia today. I have friends in industry who can offer employment. But a person will not accept employment because the job may not be related to his sphere of expertise, or he may not like the work because it is to heavy or too dirty, or perhaps he wants to have an outside job and the job for which he applies is inside. These are things which concern me and the taxpayers, who I believe are paying inordinate amounts to keep people who could be employed, albeit temporarily, until some other job comes forth which appeals to their expertise. I believe that such people in all conscience ought to be able to take a job which is offering at the appropriate time. These things worry me and they certainly worry former supporters of the Labor Party.
Only last week I received representations from the Coober Pedy Progress Association in the opal mining area of South Australia. This is a tragic case. These people were led to believe that they could attract a benefit under the RED scheme to purchase a community hall worth about $45,000. They purchased the hall in good faith, only to learn, towards the end of the last Government’s administration, that the money was not forthcoming because that Government had run the country almost into a state of bankruptcy. I took up the case with the former Minister for Labor and Immigration only a few weeks before the election. I asked him to see what he could do for that organisation. It is now discovered that the $1,500 which was forthcoming has to be repaid. I believe in all sincerity that we have to look after that community. I hope that representations which I have made with respect to the Coober Pedy Progress Association will be recognised by the present Government and that the repayment of $1,500 will be waived. I know that we have to be extremely careful about the money which we spend at this time. No doubt everybody in the chamber has some example similar to this in his own area. Cumulatively, I suppose these examples could amount to a lot of money. I believe that those cases in which there is genuine hardship as a result of the extravagances and misleading policies of the former Government ought to be considered on their merits. I hope that we recognise that we have some obligation in this regard.
As I mentioned at the outset, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was in fairly broad terms. I have been somewhat critical of one or two things mentioned in the Speech. I shall direct my remarks largely to an area of great importance to the future of this country. I shall spend a few minutes of the Senate’s time in pointing to the need to recognise that our future depends largely on energy. This is a subject that I have raised in this place on many occasions. We have to recognise that our resources are plentiful when compared with those of countries which are less fortunate than ours. We have to recognise that there are other forms of energy upon which we have to concentrate rather than the accepted or conventional forms of oil and coal. I hope that after what I say here tonight the Government will recognise the urgency of the matter and of providing research and development facilities so that some co-ordination can occur in this important area. One of the things that escape us when we think of energy is that practically all forms of energy come from the sun. There is only one exception to that, and that is atomic energy which originates from the earth’s interior. Of course, industry has exploited the coal and oil resources of the world and, in particular, of this country. It is the easiest and most vulnerable form of solar energy. We know that this accumulation of the sun’s energy takes millions of years to form. This is the obvious area which industry has to exploit first. But we have to look at the present rate of consumption in Australia and in the world. We have to look ahead. This is one criticism which I have of the former LiberalCountry Party Government. I do not think it looked far enough ahead. Certainly, the Labor Party had no foresight with respect to these matters. We have to consider the present rate of consumption. The fact is that by the middle of the next century the conventional forms of energy as we know them today- that is oil and gas- will probably be exhausted.
– In the present light of knowledge it might be 1 985.
– I am being conservative in my estimate and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack may well be right.
– Are you accepting coaching from the side?
-I have already told Senator Mulvihill that the South Australian cricket team is back at work. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack could well be right. But if Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has a look at the coal resources in this country I think -
– I am talking of the world position.
– Please address the Chair, Senator Jessop.
– I accept your kind rebuke, Mr President, and I will endeavour not to offend again. Anyway, I have made an estimate. I think it is subject to argument. The conventional forms of energy might be exhausted by 1985, but I think that my estimate may be more accurate. Let us be conservative and say that they might be exhausted by the middle of the next century. Nevertheless, whatever figure we look at or whatever time interval we look at, it is in my view a crisis point. Not only has the demand for power created problems with respect to resources -
– The previous Government wanted all power for itself.
- Senator Young has intervened in a somewhat facetious vein. Nevertheless what he has said is perfectly true- the previous Government had its sights set on power in a different way. We believe that we have to look after the future power resources of this country. When I was interrupted by my colleague I was about to put the point of view that, apart from the depletion of our resources, we have another problem, that is, the question of pollution. Anyone who lives in Sydney will realise that the emission of gases from the conventional sources of power is creating a problem in that city.
– Is it not capitalist philosophy to do what one likes and to ignore government regulations?
– Order! There are too many interjections.
-Mr President, I have suggested on previous occasions that Sydney is a classic example of pollution in the environment.
– The State Government is a Liberal-Country Party one, too.
– It happens to be one of the worst polluted areas in the world.
– Neville Wran will take care of that.
-It behoves us all not to treat this matter lightly, as Senator Mulvihill appears to be treating it. We have to come to grips with the problem irrespective of what State government happens to be in power. I can tell Senator Mulvihill about what happens at Port Augusta in South Australia. You know the area very well, Mr President. In fact, you visited there on an occasion when you were a member of a committee dealing with air pollution. The power station at Port Augusta is emitting extraordinary amounts of pollution into the air. I lived there for fifteen or sixteen years and I know how irritating it was to get up on a Sunday morning, having cleaned my car the previous evening, and see the scum that had settled upon it. I can understand the distress that would be experienced by the average housewife because she could sign her name on the piano at any time of the day.
I believe that the Government of South Australia, under its progressive socialist Premier, ought to have done something about this a long time ago. I am glad to say that as a result of pressures that have been brought to bear upon that Government by the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, which is under the capable leadership of Dr Tonkin, something is going to be done about the precipitation of a station which is causing the offensive pollution in that city. I will applaud that move. I pay some regard to the fact that through persistent effort we have been able to persuade the State Government to become more progressive in that way.
To get back to the subject matter of my speech, the only alternative source of energy that has been put forward as an answer to the world ‘s energy problem, due to the ever increasing demand for power, happens to be atomic energy. In my view it is only a temporary measure. We have to look forward to other alternatives that will be less pollutant- I am sure that this will appeal to
– and less damaging to our environment.
– I was a member of the Water Pollution Committee, which was a very illustrious committee.
– I can imagine that Senator Mulvihill would have an interest in water pollution. In my opinion the question of nuclear power, nuclear fusion, brings with it problems of pollution. I speak of highly radioactive wastes. Therefore, in my opinion, it is a transitory form of energy to overcome our problems in the immediate and perhaps middle-distant future.
Obviously Australia has many energy resources. Each must be exploited under various headings, bearing in mind the economics associated with the operation, the quantitatives and qualitative aspects of the source of energy, the life span of it, the environmental effects of the continual use of it and the need for an on-going program of research into the development of alternative sources of energy before our conventional methods are exhausted. It is with this in mind that I fully support the establishment of an energy resources authority whose role ought to be to allocate priorities with respect to the best use of our existing resources and to establish a co-ordinated program of development of the less conventional methods of providing energy.
To do this effectively it is desirable that a body be established with personnel who are able to bring to bear practical as well as theoretical influence on the subject. It is also highly desirable to avoid people who may be unduly biased towards any particular energy source and who might unduly influence a particular technique without due regard to the need for a sensible allocation of priorities. It seems obvious that the existing resources I have mentioned- coal, oil and gas- must be developed and exploited first of all because it is quite clear that economics dictate that we have to do that. Bearing in mind our limitations in oil and gas it would be my suggestion that we ought to establish within reasonable accuracy the quantity and quality of coal deposits in Australia and send samples of each to either SASOL- the South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation- or West Germany for an assessment as to the cost-benefit of liquefication and gasification and the production of various by-products associated with this type of technology.
I understand that some work already has been done on this matter by the Department of National Resources, as it is now called. I notice that last year, I think it was, the Premier of Victoria, being a very progressive Premier, suggested the appointment of and, I think, appointed a committee to investigate this subject overseas. I believe that this is a matter for the Federal Government to have a look at because of its national implications, but I do pay a tribute to Premier Hamer for his foresight in recognising the particular need in this respect as far as his State is concerned.
– He knows more about the liquefication of hydrocarbons than anybody else in Australia. His Government has been dealing with that for 20 years.
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack reminds me that Mr Hamer has some special expertise in this area. T. would suggest that the Minister concerned consult with him in the true spirit of federalism to attract any information and support that Mr Hamer might have in respect of that energy technology. In Australia we have a large quantity of coal. For example, in South Australia we are still producing the cheapest power in Australia at Leigh Creek. We have discovered quite large quantities of coal in South Australia in the Lake Phillipson area up near Coober Pedy.
– And at Balaklava and Moorlands.
- Senator Young reminds me about Balaklava and Moorlands. However, the magnitude of the deposits in the Lake Phillipson area would be considerable. I believe that we should be looking towards the establishment there of a SASOL plant. I know something about such plants and I believe that you, Mr President, have some information about them also. At present in South Africa low grade black coal is being processed in this way. Low grade brown coal also can be similarly processed. The coal is being liquefied and sold in the pumps in that country at prices comparable with prices for oil obtained from overseas sources.
– But they have the advantage of cheap black labour.
-I am glad that Senator Primmer mentioned cheap black labour. I would suggest to him that he examines the economy of South Africa. If he does so, he will realise that the black people of that country are far more affluent than the people of any black African state.
– That does not mean a great deal, does it?
-We are talking about South Africa and I am “ot frightened to talk about it. I believe that that country is working towards the ultimate goal of providing its black people with complete autonomy, complete independence. Senator Primmer will find that on 25 October this year there will be a prime minister of the independent State of the Transkei which will have the capacity to maintain diplomatic posts from China and Russia. That will appeal to my friends in the Opposition. The country will have a defence force in its own right and will be trading with the Republic of South Africa. I believe that is an aim that ought to be recognised and applauded by the Opposition senators who are very quick to applaud what is happening in Angola where the Russians are exerting their influence and where the communists have some supremacy at the present time. I would be very careful about criticising the motives of South Africa. While I am on that subject, I would like to suggest that one of the best ways of understanding people in other countries is to go and talk to them and get to know them as I have done.
– Listen to what the Anglican bishops say about them.
-Senator Mulvihill, why do not you go over there and look for yourself; why do not you go over there and talk to the President of the Olympic Games Council in Johannesburg? Why does Senator Mulvihill not discover that there are black people on the Olympic Games Council? Why does he not discover that in that country whites are playing sport with the black people? Why does he not understand the reasons behind the evolution that is going on in that country? Why does not he understand that as a result of the policies, some of which I do not agree with -
– You are qualifying it now.
– I am not qualifying anything. Why does Senator Mulvihill not understand that behind every nation’s internal policies there is a motive. I know that the black people in South Africa happen to be very satisfied with their economic situation.
– What is the position in the South African gold mines?
– Let me get back to my subject matter and disregard the interjections from my environmental friend on my right. Let me return to the SASOL plant that is the real subject of the point that I am trying to make. Whether members of the Australian Labor Party like it or not, they have developed the most sophosticated method of liquefaction of coal in the world. I happen to know a little of the company in
Orange Free State which is engaged in this process. It will appeal to the socialists on my right as it is government owned. I do not like that. I reckon that it ought to be privately owned. It is intended to build a factory with twice the capacity of the present plant. That will be done by way of a private enterprise-government partnership which will be far more efficient. They will be able to sell the product far more cheaply if that method is employed. Mr President, let me say to Opposition senators, through you, that at the present time 8000 people are employed in that area. Four thousand are black people and 4000 are white people. The company makes available this facility to all employees: They can borrow money to build a home at an interest rate of about 4 per cent. The black people are being housed in very pleasant circumstances at a very low rate and are able to pay for it. So I say to Senator Mulvihill: Please do not start talking about things you do not know anything about. I would like to redirect Senator Mulvihill ‘s attention to the subject with which I was dealing. Because of the environmental and emotional aspects related to uranium mining- transport, processing, storage of wastes and ultimate long term problems associated with the obsolescence of plants- I place a lower priority on this sort of energy than on others. I have stated already that in my personal view- this does not reflect the opinion of my Party- uranium ought to be used as a bridging source of power to give us a chance to develop other technology which even Senator Mulvihill would applaud. I suggest that solar energy is the most attractive environmentally. Senator Mulvihill is trying to interrupt me again. He should not, because I am saying things upon which we ought to be in agreement.
– We do not quarrel with you on that.
-I invite Senator Mulvihill to listen to me in silence.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! Interjections are out of order.
- Mr Deputy President, now that you are in the chair, I would like to congratulate you personally on your appointment to the important positions of Deputy President and Chairman of Committees. I was in England last year and I took the trouble to talk to people in the environment department which is fast becoming an octopus enveloping practically every other department in Great Britain. Probably that is the reason why the socialists in that country have the biggest inflation rate in the world. No doubt the pressures applied from within the trade union movement are dragging that once great country down to its knees. While I was there, as a matter of fact, I had a counter lunch in an hotel- an old pub. For lunch I had bangers and mash- the traditional meal over there- with a pint of bitter. While I was eating I became engaged in a conversation similar to those which I am sure my friends opposite have had on similar occasions. The hotel owner came up to me and said: ‘My name is Michael Donellan’. I said: I am Donald Scott Jessop.’ He said: ‘What do you do’. I said: ‘I happen to be a member of Parliament’. He said: ‘Where do you come from?’ I said: ‘I come from Australia ‘. He said: ‘I notice in the Press that you are having problems out there with your trade union movement. We are having troubles in the UK as well’. He said: ‘Do you know the best thing you can do in Australia?’. I said: ‘No’. He said: ‘Ban every communist trade union leader you have in Australia because they have been -
- Senator Young will not have any British migrants. He blames them.
– I notice how this excites the members of the Opposition, but these remarks came from a small businessman in the UK. Honourable senators opposite may be interested to know that taxi drivers with whom I was able to talk- I know many have glass screens in their taxis which they close- had a similar view, and they said that the reason Britain has been dragged down to its knees and is suffering almost impossible inflation is the undue influence of the left wing trade union movement in that country. Let me go further and say a little more about this subject. While I was overseas I went to Paris for a day. I did not go to any nightclubs, unfortunately, but I managed to speak to the Chairman of the Finance and Development Commission in that country who- I may be a bit ignorant about this- I think would sit on the front bench as he a prominent member of the Government party. He said that he was very worried about the situation in the UK because the people who are running the country happen to be trade unionists who are trained by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Let honourable senators opposite work that one out. I would imagine that the intelligence section of the French Government would be working pretty accurately. The European Economic Community has a real fear of the insiduous influence, the dragging down influence of the union element, the wrong union element in the UK. I was a trade union member at one time. I was in the Miscellaneous
Workers Union. I believe that the trade union movement is an essential part of our society. I think the majority of the trade union movement would recognise that. I also believe the majority of the trade union movement would recognise the need to replace some of the militant people who act quite contrary to the interests of their members. They ought to be replaced with people who are responsible. That is the reason, of course, that we have brought out a policy whereby we advocate that the trade union movement ought to be provided with a facility to have secret ballots for the election of union officials.
– They already have them.
– I agree with the honourable senator- our friend who talks about Timor with such expertise and who has made some quite extraordinary statements about Timor which are completely ignorant in their basis as far as I am concerned. The honourable senator ought to be ashamed of himself for saying some of the things he has said. What the honourable senator said then I agree with; the facility is there. I know a lot of trade union people who are genuine and I know a lot of people who have got sick and tired of being manipulated by the minority.
– Why do they not attend their meetings and have a bit of guts?
– Let me answer the question that has been posed by my honourable senatorial friend from New South Wales. The reason the members do not go along is that they happen to be sick and tired of being intimidated by some militant union officials.
-That may be rubbish to the honourable senator but I have heard from Transport Workers Union members that they have been threatened and intimidated at meetings and that their families and their homes have been attacked by militant members of their union. That is why we believe some responsibility ought to be injected into the union movement. I know that people over the years have got sick of this and they ask themselves: ‘What is the use of our going along to trade union meetings with respect to strikes, because the same people are pressurising, the same people are intimidating’. I was talking to a chap at Whyalla only a few months ago who said: ‘I did not go to a meeting, I was at home mowing the lawn’. He said that he felt ashamed to say that. I said: ‘You ought to be. You are one of the responsible members of the trade union movement who ought to be sticking up for your mates and making sure that members get a better deal than they have been getting in Whyalla recently’. At the time wives of trade unionists were demonstrating against the inordinate and irresponsible -
– They look to representative Laurie Wallis for leadership, not to you. Why did representative Laurie Wallis get reelected?
– This gives me an opportunity to suggest that the Labor Party ought to be very careful about the retention of the seat of Grey. The gentlemen on my right will recall that the 1969 election, when I happened to be the member for Grey, was held under a redistribution that was introduced by my Party which excluded no less than 8000 votes from one of my blue ribbon rural areas. I was able, with the support of my Party, to be defeated on preferences when the present member for Grey was saying that I was going to be beaten by 7000 votes. We went to preferences. I am glad the honourable senator reminded me of this. The present member for Grey won the seat by about 550 votes. That is the rough figure. A swing of 0.6 per cent will mean that the present member for Grey will be history. I believe that will happen in 3 years time. The honourable senator should not talk about Grey to me because I know just how dissatisfied the electors were with the Labor Party administration.
Let me refrain from being distracted any further by these unruly, disorderly interjections. I will go back to my subject which I am sure Senator Mulvihill, the shadow Minister for the Environment, must applaud, and that is that solar energy is the most attractive environmental source of energy. In my view it is the long term answer to our energy needs and indeed could form the basis of an energy exporting industry for Australia. Senator Cavanagh interjected when he was a Minister while I was making a speech on this subject. Obviously he did not know much about it but he has probably studied it a bit more since then and knows that what I say is true.
– If militant trade unionists are employed on it I would agree.
-I am glad Senator Cavanagh has become educated since he last interjected on this subject. In my view this is very important. The amazing part about it is that domestic solar energy can be introduced immediately. This, of course, would mean a tremendous saving on the requirement for energy in Australia. In fact, I suggest that our Government ought to do everything in its power to encourage the installation of domestic heating and cooling solar units in houses throughout Australia. It would save about 25 per cent of the demand on our conventional sources of power.
How can we do it? We ought to be looking at a proposition to waive the sales tax on such appliances. We ought to get State governments to look at ways and means by which they can encourage the use of solar energy. It was not long ago, of course, that the South Australian Government was penalising the people who put in solar energy units by depriving them of the off-peak tariff rating. I think it was called the J tariff rating. I am glad to be able to say that last year the Electricity Trust of South Australia altered its policy. It is now allowing these people to attract that low tariff rate. I do not know what the situation is in New South Wales or Victoria. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood), who is in the chamber, may be able to tell me whether the Victorian Electricity Commission pays regard to that aspect. If it does not, it ought to. Mr Hamer, being a progressive Premier, will probably announce such a decision during the current campaign, if he has not done so already. Perhaps Senator Wright will inform me whether the Tasmanian Government has any regard for that aspect. Some States may not be as well endowed with sunlight as the Northern Territory.
– We do not have the sun down there, but we do not allow a discount for it.
-That is a point that ought to be looked at by the Tasmanian Government because I am sure that Senator Wright’s State would profit by it. Senator Kilgariff, who lives in Alice Springs, knows very well that the average number of sunlight hours a day there during the whole year is about nine. As a matter of fact, I intended to advocate later the establishment in that area or the northern part of South Australia of a solar farm that would provide energy resources for the whole of Australia. I hope that at some future time Senator Kilgariff will give me some support for that project. Knowing his foresight, I am sure that he will.
– It has been mooted already.
– That is good. I am am advocate of it. A significant point is that we can introduce domestic solar energy in a very short time. We ought to be looking now towards the long term development of energy from the solar source. In South Australia some useful work is being carried out by several organisations and institutions. Members of the staff of the Institute of Energy Conservation at Flinders University in South Australia have been working along the lines that I have suggested. They have been directing their attention towards the long term development, of the conversion of this energy source. The work is confined to a very modest grant from the general revenue of the University and local industries. It is interesting to note that that institute has recognised the need to bring private enterprise into its research projects.
The Australian Mineral Development Laboratories, established some years ago as a combined Commonwealth, State government and private enterprise institution, is not being fully utilised. The staff is becoming restless and frustrated because of lack of activity in research work. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government ought to examine its commitment in respect of the original agreement. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the scientific section of the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury, which my colleagues opposite will realise is experiencing difficulties now due to the phasing out or caretaker policy which was advocated by Senator Bishop’s Party and has been pursued by our Party, are worried about their future. They ought to be engaged on this type of research work.
I would like to dwell for a few moments on the Flinders University which has, I believe, an ideal set-up. It has an Institute of Solar and Electrochemical Energy Conversion. The last occasion on which I visited that institution was earlier this year. I had discussions with scientists associated with meteorology and physical sciences in all categories. They emphasised, above all, the need for co-ordination in research and development of solar energy conversion on a national scale. This nation’s unique wealth in energy, minerals and even in more abundant replenishable energy resources- that is, the sun, wind and possibly tide- demands the establishment of a long term energy policy. Such a policy must give high priority to the introduction of a national research plan to exploit alternative energy resources. The scientists indicated a willingness to assist in and contribute towards the definition of this policy and the establishment of a national plan. I was given the opportunity to see some of the current projects and was given an explanation of some of their planned activities.
Firstly, the Institute provides testing facilities for industrial interests developing alternative energy devices, for example, the Dunlite 2 kW wind generator, Philips silicon solar cells and Exide storage batteries. The Institute has plans to establish an environmental energy testing laboratory. I was shown a model of this circular building. The Institute in the past has made attempts to establish a solar energy conversion laboratory with funds provided by industrial interests. However, in the absence of government involvement in this project all attempts have failed. I recall that Professor Bockris was most loud in his condemnation of Mr Connor and his lack of interest in this particular area.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Before I commence my main remarks, I should like you, Mr Deputy President, to convey to Senator Laucke my congratulations on his elevation to the high office of President of the Senate. Last week the Senate conferred on Senator Laucke the highest office that it can confer on any of its members. Knowing Senator Laucke as I do, I feel perfectly confident that he will discharge the duties of his office with dignity and with justice. I would also take the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr Deputy President, on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. I hope that your tenure of office will be a happy one, even though a short one. I say that without any reference to personalities.
Last week we heard some splendid maiden speeches in this chamber. I believe that tomorrow and the day after we will hear some more contributions from honourable senators who will be making their maiden speeches. I only hope that when the honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches are in their party rooms they will endeavour to persuade their parties to adopt the ideals that they expressed in their speeches. If they succeed they will be worthy members of the Senate.
Before proceeding further I feel that I should put the record right as far as Senator Jessop is concerned. We heard a great discourse about solar energy. One could be forgiven for thinking that the honourable senator had spent too much time out in the sun, because he said that under the Australian Labor Government 150 000 small businesses went to the wall. He is an optometrist by trade. I think he should prescribe for himself a pair of glasses, particularly in this International Year for the Blind, unless he falls into the category of people about whom it can be said that there are none so blind as those who can see and do not want to see. The number of small businesses which have gone to the wall, to use Senator Jessop ‘s expression, is not 150 000, as he erroneously and misleadingly claimed. The figures which the Treasury has supplied are as follows: In 1972, 2460 small businesses collapsed when a Liberal government was in power. In 1973 the figure was 1800. In 1974 it was 1400. In 1975 it was 2100. There is a big difference between those figures and the claim of 150 000 which was made by Senator Jessop.
Someone once described the rhinoceros as a wicked animal because when attacked it defended itself. I submit that we of the Australian Labor Party find ourselves in a somewhat similar position at present because since we were elected to government in 1972 we have been threatened with a type of political terrorism that has been unknown in this country. To honourable senators opposite I say: Just think what you achieved on 11 November 1975. You achieved all that could possibly have been achieved as a result of a successful civil war. You achieved the same results as were achieved as a result of a civil war at the time of the Great Rebellion. By their actions honourable senators opposite will be known to history as having established the Governor-General and, to a lesser extent, the Senate as the most autocratic, the most unchecked and the most unbalanced authority in the whole of the Western world.
The gory details of the deplorable proceedings leading to that eventful day and the eventual plundering of the Parliament have been adequately and eloquently dealt with in the speeches of my colleagues who have, spoken in this debate before me. This evening I do not propose to say anything more on that subject except that I did not think in my wildest dreams that the Governor-General would have acted in the manner in which he did. I may best express it by telling the Senate that I addressed a good gathering in Chifley Square at Maryborough a week before the eventful day. At that time Government members were travelling the length and breadth of this continent to tell the electors the truth and to prepare them for what was likely to happen. At the conclusion of the meeting the chairman invited questions and a questioner asked me whether I thought the Governor-General would sack the Prime Minister. I said that it could not possibly happen and it certainly would not. I based my assumption on the fact that it had happened only twice in British history. It first happened when Charles I .sacked the reigning Prime Minister, which was the start of democracy. Honourable senators know the fate of Charles I- he was beheaded. It happened again when King George III sacked Lord North, who was a bit round the bend. That happened in 1713. I said to the questioner: Do you honestly think that Queen Elizabeth would walk into the House of Commons and sack Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of Britain? Nobody in Australia had ever entertained the thought that a thing like that was likely to happen. If the Monarch herself was not prepared to carry out that activity one could be forgiven for thinking that her representative would not act in any different way.
My opinion is reinforced because recently the Australian Rugby Union team returned after a very succesful tour of Europe. While in England the were given a reception at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty and Prince Charles. The reception was to last for 45 minutes but it lasted for 1 hour and 55 minutes. Members of that team told me on their return that one could draw no other conclusion from the conversations they had at Buckingham Palace but that the Queen of England herself would not have acted in the same manner as her representative, the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr. Not only has Sir John Kerr acted in a most unAustralian and unprecedented manner but he has also been a serious embarrassment to the Monarch whom he represents in this country.
As a result of all this there can be no doubt that the Government has come into office in a murky atmosphere. Government members feel uncomfortable I know they do- and that is why they do not like being reminded of what happened. In all the Labor Party has had truth and principle on its side and there can be no doubt that history will treat us much more kindly than the electorate did. Of course at the general election we received a serious setback but we will fight back just as we have fought back previously. After all, are we not the oldest major political Party in this country? We will still be here when the Liberals and the National Country Party are no longer with us and have changed their names for the umpteenth time. Government senators should not deceive themselves by thinking that their victory at the polls was an endorsement of their action in blocking Supply or an endorsement of the action of the Governor-General. Certainly it was not and they know as well as I do that it was not.
We paid the penalty for being in office at a time of international economic recession. The fate of our Government was exactly the same as that meted out to other governments in other parts of the world which faced the polls in the same economic climate. The fate of the Labor government was the same as will be the fate meted out to governments, whether they are of a conservative, a socialist or any other persuasion, that go to the polls in the future when the world is in the grip of inflation. It is just impossible to survive in this climate of inflation and economic recession. That was the reason why the Labor Government went out of office. People will not forget what this Government when in opposition did to the popularly elected Labor Government. In time the truth will manifest itself and history will prove that the Labor Party was right. Just as history proved the Labor Party right in its opposition to the exporting of pig iron to Japan when the Liberal leader was referred to as Pig Iron Bob, in its support of independence in Indonesia, and in its stand against the phoney war in Vietnam, history will prove the Labor Party right on this occasion. When we were in opposition on those issues- at the time they were very unpopular issues- the Labor Party did not sink its principles for the sake of political expediency.
– What about the 500 kids who were killed in Vietnam?
– As my colleague Senator Brown asks: What about all the soldiers, the teenagers, who were killed in Vietnam? Having said that let me turn to a matter of grave concern to all of us in Queensland. The Queensland coast has been lashed by an unusual number of cyclones leaving in their wake destruction, devastation and thousands of Queensland families homeless. The pattern of cyclones has been unusual during the last year. Out of every 4 cyclones detected, three have savaged the Queensland coast, whereas previously three out of four cyclones have changed course and gone out to sea. A storm which caused at least Sim worth of damage in Bundaberg and Maryborough last Sunday took the Queensland Weather Bureau- to quote what the Bureau said -‘completely by surprise’. This was freely admitted by the Bureau Director, Mr Shields. He said that the storm had slipped through the Bureau’s best section of cyclone detection network along the Queensland coast. The velocity of the winds had not been suspected an hour before they hit Bundaberg. The Mayor of Bundaberg, Alderman Nielsen, said that the storm warnings were not issued in time to alert emergency services.
What satisfaction is this to the hundreds of families in Bundaberg who are today homeless and for whom the future holds no more than bitter hardship? All that they have saved and put together throughout their working lives has been swept away. What is the Government doing about it? Has any action been taken by the Government? How can the Government be satisfied that the cyclone detection system along the Queensland coast is adequate? It is not, as is evidenced by the Bundaberg disaster. As a senator from Queensland I ask whether the system will be corrected? Is the Government moving to prevent people from being caught unawares in the future? What proposals is the Government putting forward so that I can reassure the people of Queensland whom I represent in this chamber?
What information can the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) who sits in this chamber give me, as a Queensland senator, so that I will know that the Government is doing everything possible for the people of Queensland? I ask the Minister: Is the equipment in use at the present time sophisticated enough to predict cyclone movements accurately? Is the present use of satellite pictures which are taken from an altitude of 800 miles or 900 miles providing satisfactory protection? Can the experts reliably predict movements and detect critical spots by this method, or do the layers of clouds quite often make the trouble spots impossible to detect when the cyclone is some 300 miles or 400 miles off the Queensland coast? At the moment, as a senator from Queensland, I have no concern in this place other than to know what the Minister and the Government are going to do for the people of Queensland in this matter. That is my only concern, and I will not rest until I am given assurances by the Minister that the Government will do something practical in this matter.
Will the Government urgently introduce aerial cyclone reconnaissance along the lines now working most efficiently in the United States of America? I now make a positive suggestion to help the Government to strengthen cyclone protection. Aerial cyclone reconnaissance could be a function of the Royal Australian Air Force. A special squadron of 3 Orions or a special squadron of 3 similar aircraft that are functioning most successfully in the United States could be employed to detect cyclones hundreds of miles from the Australian coast and give the much needed warnings. The Orions, or some similar aircraft of the type which has proved successful in the United States, could be strengthened with highly sophisticated navigational and radar instruments. These aircraft would not wait until the cyclones were off the Queensland coast or any other coast but would actually fly into the storm 800 miles or 900 miles out to sea, dropping their instruments into the storm area and obtaining 3-dimensional pictures of what is actually happening. That is what is done in the United States of America, and it could be done here. The squadron of cyclone reconnaisance aircraft could be increased to deal wiith other possible trouble spots such as the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Northern Territory and the Western Australian coastline.
No doubt we will hear from Government Senators the cry that the cost will be very high. But this activity could become a valuable adjunct to training in the Royal Australian Air Force. This would meet the argument that the introduction of cyclone reconnaissance squadrons would be too expensive. As a former, well-performed squadron leader in the Air Force, you, Mr Deputy President, will recognise the force of the argument that I am putting. Anyhow, what is expense when measured against the suffering and hardship of thousands of families who have been left destitute by cyclones? We know that aerial cyclone reconnaissance will not prevent cyclones, but by being able accurately to predict their movements, by being prepared, we will be able to minimise the amount of damage that they will cause. For what it is worth, I offer that suggestion to the Minister for Services and to the Government. I hope that they will not delay in their considerations and will come forward with some practical and better method of cyclone detection than we have had at the present time for Queensland and for the other areas that I have mentioned.
While I am on my feet I would like to address myself briefly to the record already established by the present Government. How mean and miserable can it be? I did not believe it until I read it a second time. Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security, decided to withdraw the funeral benefits for pensioners because it appeared to be of little significance. Good God! That benefit amounts to the paltry sum of $40 which is paid to the pensioner wife or husband of a deceased pensioner but subject, remember, to a shockingly stringent means test. We are told that this sum is insignificant. To the impoverished bereaved it is anything but insignificant. Its withdrawal simply will add more hardship to bitter hardship. I ask the honourable senator not to be a grave robber. If there is a spark of humanity in her, as I believe there is, let her return the benefit at the earliest possible date. The Liberal manifesto stipulates also that the means test for the age pension for people 65 years of age and older should be abolished. That is included in the manifesto but when will it occur? In the nevernever. The same department, the same Government and the same Minister have cancelled the abolition of the means test for people of 69 years of age, which was to have been introduced on 1
July. Having done that, when can the Government be expected reliably to carry out its election promises- the promises contained in its manifesto? As I said before, on the Government’s past record we can expect it in the never-never.
I turn now to the matter of unemployment benefits. Apparently a person shall be judged by the clothes that he wears. A new system is in operation: As far as the payment of unemployment benefits by the present Government in concerned, clothes make the man. At page 56 of the Liberal Party manifesto it is stated:
The Liberal Party is pledged to the retention of a Ministry of State which includes tourism as a major responsibility.
I challenge any honourable senator on the Government side to show me where this gets a mention in the 25 ministries that have been listed as the Fraser administration. What about the repudiation of wage indexation? If we had time at our disposal this evening we could go on and on with these matters. I warn the Government that already the electorate is having grave misgivings about its style of Government. When the electors feel the real impact of the Government’s economic policies, as my colleague, Senator Bishop says, the Government will be regarded as the most notorious pickpockets in the history of Australia.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (9.22)- Mr Acting Deputy President, I am sorry that the opportunity is not presented to me at this juncture directly in this place to congratulate the President on his election to the high office which has been referred to by other honourable senators, namely the office of the Presidency of the Senate. However, I have done this in private and I know that Senator Laucke, the President of the Senate, is aware of my sentiments on this because I had the singular pleasure of having him sail with me for about 10 days before the events took place last week. I know that in the close association I have had with him in the Parliament and in the confines of a small vessel under circumstances -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)-Order!
-I should be grateful, Mr Acting Deputy President, if you would direct the attention of Senator McAuliffe, who is attempting to interject, to the fact that I might be heard in reasonable silence. I also regret that I have not the opportunity at the present moment to congratulate Senator DrakeBrockman on his being elected as the Deputy President. I have known him for many more years than I have known Senator Laucke. I think
I can say, I hope without affront to anyone in the Parliament, that probably he is the most experienced Chairman of Committees in this Parliament and he is a man of true and total integrity.
I have been interested in the speeches made by honourable senators who are addressing the Senate for the first time. The occasion on which I had to address the Senate for the first time took place many years ago and I think it was a Senate of much cruder terms than it is now, at least it was of tougher character and quality than it possesses at the present moment. It was an occasion, of course, in 1951 after the double dissolution of that time. Immediately after the ceremonies were concluded- after the Governor-General’s Speech had been made and all the other relevant matters relating to the Senate had been fulfilled -without any warning to me the President of the day said: ‘Senator Cormack to move the motion for the Address-in-Reply’. I have never been in such a sweat in my life. I had no speech prepared. I did not know what to do or to say. I stumbled along for about 10 minutes with the sweat pouring down underneath my clothes. Finally I staggered out into Kings Hall where the present Lord Casey happened to be crossing. He said: ‘You look pretty worried. What is the trouble?’ I said: ‘I have just been called upon to make my maiden speech without any preparation, without any knowledge and without any warning.’ Being the humanist he was, he said: Well look, I have had to go through this once myself. I said: ‘Not under the terms under which I have undergone it’. He said: ‘I have got a cure. Come down to my office.’ There he picked up a tumbler and half filled it with whisky.
That is my remembrance of my maiden speech. What I know from this is the feeling that exists in honourable senators when they first get up to make their maiden speech. It is an extraordinarily difficult task even if one is prepared. One is talking to a cold audience. The conventions provide that one is heard in silence. There is no emotive aura anywhere in the Senate. My heart always turns over when I hear any honourable senator who has to get up and make his maiden speech. So far I must confess honourable senators have made maiden speeches of an order and nature far beyond those speeches that were made in my generation.
I have paid the obeisances that are due to the Senate and I propose now to move onto areas where undoubtedly there will be some form of acrimony. I must go back to the matters that confronted this Parliament on the occasion when His Excellency the Governor-General came to this place to open Parliament, which he is bound to do under the terms of the Constitution under which we all live wherever we are. In the same way, we who live here in the Senate are bound by what I have called from time to time either the statutes of the Senate’ or the ‘common law of the Senate’. Unless these statutes and, as it were, the common law of the Senate are obeyed we cannot live in this place. People cannot live together and conduct their businesses together unless there is some obedience paid to forms and conventions. But what happened that day, what has happened since and what in fact happened before, create an alarming situation for the young Australian electorate which is growing up. The alarming situation is that the Australian Labor Party has embarked upon an enterprise which most of its fellow socialist parties in other parts of the world have embarked upon; that is to create a one party State. A one party State exists in Queensland. One party States exist in every socialist country of the world that claims to be a socialist country. The significant character and quality of a one party State is that the Prime Minister of the day usurps the constitutional functions which should be carried out either by a Governor-General, in the case of Australia, or in the case of a republic- which Senator James McClelland so earnestly advocates for Australia and which Mr Whitlam prophesied would be established here in his own liftime- by a President, who would be turned into a cipher. The Prime Minister of a one party State would then become the master.
– The honourable senator is talking of Menzies, of course.
-I am talking about what Mr Whitlam was attempting to do in Australia. If the honourable senator likes, to take the matter of a stage further we come to the Russian, Czechoslovakian or Polish system or wherever the extreme socialist left has its writ. We have Mr Podgorny in Russia. Who has heard of the President of the USSR? There is one, but no one hears about him. He is a cipher. He counts for nothing. He is there merely as a symbol of something- no one knows what. The person who is important is the Chairman of the Party. As I watch the passing parade in Australia at the present moment I begin to wonder whether the Australian political scene is being contrived to create the leader of the parliamentary party as the leader unimpugned- no one can attack him- or whether, for example, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is going to be the equivalent of the Chairman of the Party. No honourable senator sitting opposite me could deny that.
What is further developing is that the Governor-General of Australia, who is charged with responsibilities under the Constitution, and it is not an accidental Constitution, is being vilified. He is being vilified for taking an action which he was compelled to take by the Constitution under which we live. I think the GovernorGeneral is a man who it must be acknowledged by most thinking people- and the Australian electorate seemed to think so- had to take a decision on behalf of the Australian people, however difficult it must have been for him. It was equally difficult for Sir John Kerr as it was for Sir William McKell. The oddity of this situation is that two socialist parties nominated and obtained the sovereign’s consent to the appointment of a Governor-General over and above the Commonwealth of Australia, and on each occasion those men had to assume the responsibilities of the office to which they had succeeded and to which they had been appointed. On each occasion they had to make a determination which resulted in the dismissal of a government. Sir William McKell had to make a decision to cause a double dissolution in 1951 and Sir John Kerr had to make a decision to withdraw the commission of the Whitlam Government and have double dissolution. I assume those men were appointed in terms of their previous associations and when they were appointed and had to fulfil the job to which they had been appointed they were then met with circumstances which they had to resolve.
This problem was foreseen when the Constitution of Australia was drawn up. The relevant sections of the Constitution are section 61, section 57 and section 1, of which I think I should remind honourable senators, who very rarely get back to it. Section 1 states:
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and House of Representatives, and which is herein-after called ‘The Parliament, ‘ or ‘The Parliament of the Commonwealth. ‘
Section 5 goes on to state:
The Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament-
Coming to section 6 1 , it states:
The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exerciseable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.
Going back to section 57, it lays down certain things that may happen if the Governor-General of the day is not satisfied that the Constitution is being obeyed and that the laws and statutes of the Commonwealth are being acknowledged.
The terrible facts are that in the months preceding the double dissolution of 1 1 November the Governor-General of Australia had witnessed time after time a defiance of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia and of the statutes, laws and customs for the good order and government of this country.
– When and where?
-Let us go back to the much derided affair known as the loans affair, where a conspiracy existed. A conspiracy was performed in which a so-called meeting of the Executive Council took place, attended by 4 Executive Councillors under summonsthe Prime Minister, the Attorney-General of the day, Mr Connor and Dr Cairns. They, obedient to a fictitious definition of the relevant sections of the Constitution as to how money should be raised, proceeded the next day, without even the Vice-President of the Executive Council being present, to put before the Governor-General upon his return from Sydney a recommendation that he should authorise certain matters. That recommendation was supported by a minute from the Attorney-General of the day stating that the loan was for temporary purposes.
– Did he not sign it?
-It took this Senate days and weeks to discover finally -
– Did he not sign it?
– He signed it all right, but he was advised by his Executive Council, quite illegally- a rump Executive Council, a conspiratorial Executive Council- to sign a minute to give to one particular Minister of the Crown a mandate to raise thousands of millions of dollars. It was not even disclosed what the interest rate was going to be or how the loan was going to be repaid. That is one illustration. There is another illustration, of course, in the corruption involved in the ACTUSolo business and the mysterious 400 000 barrels of oil. There are dozens and dozens of illustrations which in the final analysis must have indicated to the Governor-General that the Constitution was being warped, that the laws and the statutes of the nation were not being obeyed. Finally, when the Senate reached the situation where it deferred the Supply Bill (No. 2), he had to take some action and he took that action. I think he must have been driven by a remorseless pressure of constitutional understanding to do what he did that day.
I want to say to honourable senators that the chronological series of events that took place, about which there has been an enormous amount of lying, have never been made clear. Therefore, I am going to read out some of the events that took place. I will read them out because I intend to support them with documents, which 1 shall ask leave of the Senate to table in a moment. Against the background which I have mentioned in a cursory sort of way and with which 1 do not wish to weary the Senate by traversing any more, I want to take honourable senators through the events of the day of 1 1 November. This is chronologically consecutive and it will be supported by documents which I have here and which I shall table. At 9 a.m. on 1 1 November Mr Whitlam and others and Mr Fraser and others met to discuss a political crisis. Note that. At 10 a.m. Mr Whitlam telephoned the Governor-General and informed him that he wished to call at Government House to advise an election for half the Senate. At 10 a.m. Mr Whitlam telephoned Government House and informed the Governor-General that he wished to attend upon him in Government House and advise him to hold an election for half the Senate. At 10.30 a.m. Mr Whitlam announced to Caucus that he intended to recommend to the Governor-General a half Senate election. I might add that that is from a Press statement, so there is no argument about it. That was a statement made by Mr Whitlam. At 1 1.40 a.m. the House of Representatives met and Mr Fraser moved a motion of censure on the Whitlam Government and the sitting was suspended at 12.55 p.m. At 1 p.m. Mr Whitlam called on the GovernorGeneral and was informed that his appointment as Prime Minister had been terminated.
– What time did Mr Fraser call on him when the car was sent around the back?
-All right, Senator McLaren, I know. You are used to the noises in the hen house. Perhaps you could just pay attention to me for a moment and hear some of the these chronological events. These events are of historical importance. No one has yet admitted to the matters that I am putting before honourable senators for the first time. At 1 p.m. Mr Whitlam called on the GovernorGeneral and was informed that his appointment as Prime Minister had been terminated. Mr Whitlam proceeded to the Lodge and conferred with senior Ministers. That was at 1 p.m. In the meantime, Mr Fraser was sworn in as a caretaker Prime Minister. He returned to Parliament House. At 1.45 p.m. Senator Withers visited Mr
Fraser and was informed of earlier events. At 2 p.m. both Houses resumed their sitting.
– Was that 2 p.m.?
-Yes, 2 p.m. I thought that I would go down to the House of Representatives to see what was happening there.” I could not get a seat in the gallery reserved for senators because it was full of Australian Labor Party senators. At 2.15 p.m. the Appropriation Bills were passed by the Senate on the voices on a motion that was moved by Senator Wriedt. This is interesting. Here was Senator Wriedt sitting in the chair reserved for the Government Leader at the table, calling across, I assume, to the then Leader of the Opposition as to what would be the next item of business before the Senate and suggesting that the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 be called on. Senator Withers said: ‘Yes, call it on’. So, it was called on. Senator Withers rose and said: ‘We offer no objection. It should be passed’. It was passed on the voices. But the unfortunate Government Leader in the Senate, who was neither the Government Leader in the Senate -
– Nor a Minister.
-He was not Leader of the Government in the Senate because his commission had been withdrawn. He knew nothing about it. He had never been called into conference by his Prime Minister, who had been defeated.
– It was not his Prime Minister who should tell him; it was the new Prime Minister.
-It is not the function of the Governor-General to inform the President of the Senate as Senator O ‘Byrne claims; it is the function of the Prime Minister to inform both Presiding Officers and both Houses that his commission has been withdrawn. Mr Whitlam did not inform either of the Presiding Officers that his commission had been withdrawn. The last dreadful, dishonest action of his was not to inform his own Leader of the Government in the Senate or his own President that the commission had been withdrawn. I can well understand the bafflement of Senator Wriedt and the then President of the Senate and the discomfort that they felt because of the discourtesy which they felt had been extended to them. But it was not a fault of the Governor-General; it was a fault of Prime Minister Whitlam, or ex-Prime Minister Whitlam, who had not fulfilled his duty.
– When did you know, Senator?
-Well, let us go on a little bit. At 2.34 p.m. Mr Fraser announced to the House of Representatives that he had been commissioned to form a caretaker government. He then moved the adjournment of the House, which motion was negatived. At 3 p.m. Mr Whitlam moved a motion of no confidence in the Fraser caretaker Government, calling on the Speaker to wait upon the Governor-General and ask him to commission Mr Whitlam as Prime Minister. At 3.15 p.m. the sitting of the House of Representatives was suspended till 5.30 p.m. At 4.45 p.m. the Official Secretary to the Governor-General read a proclamation dissolving both Houses of the Parliament. He did so from the steps of this Parliament. At 5.40 p.m. Mr Whitlam had a Press conference. I witnessed the previous conference which he had on the steps of Parliament House and in which he incited the poeple in front of him, the mob that had been gathered there, to violence. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to table all the supporting documents that relate to that chronology.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I table those documents.
– I hope that you now have Mr Fraser ‘s timetable and will indicate when he went to Government House. You did not tell us about that. Yet you claimed that you had the events of the day in chronological order.
-Well, if Senator McLaren, likes, I have another chronology here which I could read out to him and which would leave him flat on his face. But I do not intend to weary the Senate with this aspect any more.
The next event to which I wish to refer occurred last week. Speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, Senator James McClelland stood in this place and made a dramatic speech in which he recounted to the Senate the events, as he saw them, that took place. He said that the Governor-General had involved himself in a conspiracy and had in fact been lying. That was the essence of his speech. This comes very odd to me because Senator James McClelland on the occasion of which he was speaking was a member of the Executive Council. I suppose that Senator McLaren and other honourable senators who are involved in this problem and who know something, about it know that when a Minister of State is sworn in he is also sworn in as a member of the Executive Council.
What is the oath that a Minister takes? Well, I do not know the precise terms of the oath; but I have been doing some investigation of this matter. I find that the oath takes 2 forms. There is the usual oath which is based on the Christian dogma, or there is the oath by affirmation. I do not know what form of the oath Senator James McClelland prefers; but it may be of interest to honourable senators if I read the oath that an Executive Councillor takes. Obviously this is an oath that Senator Withers feels very deeply, because when he was asked a question about certain matters the other day he said that he would not reply to any question that related to his oath as an Executive Councillor. Obviously Senator Withers is a man of principle.
The oath that is taken by an Executive Councillor when he is sworn in, as far as I can discover, is as I will relate. The normal historical oath is: . . public affairs of Australia … I will not directly or indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will in all things be a true and faithful councillor. So help me God!
That is the traditional oath. The oath by affirmation for an Executive Councillor, as I discover it- I think Senator James McClelland normally takes an oath by affirmation- is:
As an Executive Councillor for the Commonwealth of Australia for the time being for the good management of public affairs of Australia … I will not directly or indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will in all things be a true and faithful Councillor.
Was Senator James McClelland a true and faithful councillor when he stood -
– It was in his home and Hansard records that it was in his home.
-Some people seem to have very odd ideas about how behaviour patterns in terms of contact between people should be obeyed. Let me take it outside the area of an Executive Councillor. Senator James McClelland is an eminent barristeratlaw. As an eminent barrister-at-law, he knows perfectly well that he may approach a judge in chambers to discuss with that judge matters that concern both the judge and the barrister-at-law. He knows perfectly well that in his practice as a barrister-at-law he does not disclose in the open public hearing the events that took place between himself and the Judge in chambers.
– He can, if the judge deceives him and if that is part of a corrupt act, surely.
-I know that, in the terms of the Hippocratic oath that he took, Senator Grimes will not divulge the things that take place in his surgery. I ask him to concentrate on that, and to leave me to discuss the matters that take place in the legal profession. A barrister-at-law is entitled to go to a judge in chambers and to discuss matters that are related to the law, on the understanding on the part of both parties that the judge does not comment on what the barrister said in chambers and the barrister does not disclose in the courts what was discussed between the judge and the barrister in chambers. Senator James McClelland knows this as well as I am standing here, but he appears to me as a politician to have a light conscience. When it comes to the oath of office as it relates to him as a member of Her Majesty’s Executive Council, he has no hesitation in divulging matters which took place between the GovernorGeneral and himself. I consider that that was dastardly behaviour. A man who does that is no longer to be trusted by honourable senators in ‘ this place.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Surely in his last remark Senator Sir Magnus Cormack was casting a reflection upon a fellow senator, and that should be withdrawn.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, you used the expression ‘dastardly behaviour’.
– The expression about which I am complaining is that Senator James McClelland cannot be trusted by other members of the Senate.
– That is a reflection.
-Mr President, in deference to you and to Senator Grimes who feels that I have been overemphatic in what I have been saying I say that I personally will not trust Senator James McClelland in future because his oath is not worth anything.
– I requested a withdrawal and I really do not think that is a withdrawal.
– No, that is not a withdrawal.
-Mr President, do you wish me to withdraw?
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, I wish you to withdraw.
-I shall withdraw and expunge the phrase. I go on to say that Senator James McClelland was not obedient to an oath which he took as an Executive Councillor.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, that is a reflection on the honourable senator.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. In my room 1 heard some of the remarks which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack made about me. I think that before the honourable senator makes the sorts of strictures upon which he is now embarking he should read more carefully what I said. I did not disclose the secrets of an Executive Council meeting. The matter to which he is taking exception was the subject of a private telephone conversation between the Governor-General and myself. If there is any question of impropriety I think it was on the part of the Governor-General. The Governor-General had no right to telephone me as a private individual in an attempt to exert pressure on me.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I put it to you that Senator James McClelland is indulging in a personal explanation for which he has no authority at this moment and that he is not addressing himself to the point of order which relates to the words which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack used in his speech.
- Mr President, I raise a further point of order. I can understand Senator Carrick ‘s excitement about this matter because he was at the height of the conspiracy from the very beginning.
– Order! Honourable senators know the Standing Orders. It is essential that if we are to have free flowing debate in this chamber each honourable senator should seek not to contravene Standing Orders. A contravention is occurring and that will not be tolerated. Senator James McClelland, in debating a matter of explanation at this stage you are not in order. You may speak to the point of order but not debate the matter.
– I assert that the reflections which were being made on me by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack are not based on a correct assessment of what I said in this debate. I suggest that the honourable senator is importing into this debate sanctimonious reflections on what I thought was a completely warranted comment on the Governor-General’s actions. If standing order 417 is to be interpreted as meaning that there is no possibility of any comment on any action of the Governor-General, I remind the Senate that this is something which is not asserted in Britain and it is upon the British
Standing Orders that our Standing Orders are based. Comment on the actions of the monarchy has been accepted for many years as being in order. Far harsher reflections have been passed on the conduct of the monarchy than on anything that I said about the conduct of the Governor-General. If Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is suggesting that everything which the Governor-General does or says is sacrosanct and above comment I suggest he is importing into our institution notions which have no warrant whatsoever in our practice.
– Matters relating to the double dissolution of 1975 may be debated but in the debate there must be no disrespectful reference to either Her Majesty or her representative in the Commonwealth. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, there was a reflection in your comments when the first point of order was taken.
-Is that a reflection on Senator James McClelland?
– Yes, on Senator James McClelland.
-What is the point to which he objects?
– The honourable senator said that Senator James McClelland could not be trusted.
-I have said that I withdraw that.
-Therefore I ask you to proceed, Sir Magnus.
-I remind Senator James McClelland by reading the oath of an Executive Councillor again. It states:
- Mr President, I must raise a point of order. The remarks of the Governor-General on which I commented the other night were remarks made to me and to the then Prime Minister at the instigation of the Governor-General at a luncheon which succeeded the meeting of the Executive Council. They had nothing to do with anything that transpired before the Executive Council.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I submit to you that Senator James
McClelland is again indulging in a personal explanation. All that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has done since he received the call from you and the request to proceed has been to read the affirmation which Senator James McClelland would have been required to take when he was sworn as a member of the Executive Council. There is nothing in that statement of fact to which Senator James McClelland could be raising objection.
– That is a cheap debating point. The fact is that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack was attempting to show in what he has just said that in some way I was in breach of the oath of secrecy in matters -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President.
– Will Senator Carrick wait until I finish my point of order? Mr President, I ask you to sit Senator Carrick down until I finish saying what I am saying.
– Senator James McClelland, I shall hear your point of order before I call on Senator Carrick.
– My point of order is that by implication Senator Sir Magnus Cormack was suggesting that I was in breach of my obligation to maintain secrecy about what happened at a meeting of the Executive Council. But it is quite clear from a reading of what I said the other night that I was not talking about what happened at the Executive Council. I was talking about what happened at a luncheon which followed the meeting of the Executive Council at which the Governor-General freely volunteered suggestions to me and to the then Prime Minister. I think that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack should clearly distinguish between what my obligations were as an Executive Councillor and what I am entitled to say as a member of Parliament and as a guest of the Governor-General.
- Mr President, my point of order is this: As I understand the Standing Orders no honourable senator is entitled to interrupt and to interrupt repeatedly to attempt to refute a debating point put by the honourable senator who is on his feet. As I understand it, quite clearly, if an honourable senator feels that he has been misrepresented in any way his right comes to him at the end of the speech and not during the speech. I ask you to uphold that point of order.
– That is a correct interpretation of the Standing Orders. Senator James McClelland, the reflection to which you took objection has been withdrawn by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
– He then repeated the reflection indirectly.
– Order ! The matter is closed. I call Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
-I do not wish to allow the Senate to get itself into a bind on the matter so I shall not pursue it any further. I hope Senator James McClelland will understand that. I now pass on to my old friend Senator Cavanagh. Last week, on 19 February, at page 114 of the Senate Hansard- I refer to that so that there can be no argument, although I heard what the honourable senator had to saySenator Cavanagh is reported as saying:
I have seen the write-up in the Canberra Times today on the new fifth edition of Australian Senate Practice by our Clerk, Mr Odgers, the printing of which we approved yesterday. He-
I suppose the honourable senator means Mr Odgers- upholds the power and independence of the Senate.
Of course the Clerk must uphold the power and independence of the Senate because the Constitution upholds the power and independence of the Senate. The most recent judgments of the High Court clearly demonstrate that the Senate has these powers.
-It has these powers unequivocally. I do not care what all these academic lawyers who would not know how to conduct themselves in a court of law say. I doubt whether they know how to conduct themselves on a basis of argument in relation to the Constitution. They put their own construction on it. There are dozens of academic lawyers- they are as plentiful as seagulls- who are proffering their expert opinions at the moment as to what the Constitution means, whereas the High Court of Australia has unequivocally ruled on what are the Senate’s powers.
– When did it rule that?
-If Senator Georges goes to the records section of the Senate he can obtain a copy of the most recent judgments of the High Court, not the least of which is the one which is now in the Commonwealth Law Reports and which is known as Cormack v. Cope, and he will see there quite clearly, without any shadow of a doubt, that in relation to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, for example, the High Court upheld the arguments that my counsel put before it. If the honourable senator reads the Commonwealth Law Reports of the case of the State of Victoria v. the Commonwealth he will find that the judges of the High Court of Australia have stated in most express terms the powers and authority of the Senate. The Senate has been put where it is by the Constitution and is elected by the people to see that the powers embedded in the popular House- the House of Representatives- are not distorted by the adventitious governments that may come about from time to time because of other circumstances in the electoral pattern. Senator Georges and all the other honourable senators who are sitting across the chamber from me at the present moment should look at the most recent polls that have been taking place on this matter. They are a fair reflection of what the Australian people think. Eighty-one per cent of the people canvassed by one poll said that they wished to have a Senate because they are scared of what has been happening over the last few years.
The people have made their judgment. They made their judgment in the elections following the double dissolution. They made their judgment in December of last year. They not only overwhelmingly supported the candidates of the Liberal and National Country Parties in the House of Representatives election but also returned to the Senate under various labels those people who stood before them as upholders of the Constitution and the proprieties of the Senate. In doing so they put into this place thirty-five of the honourable senators who, with the exception of one, are sitting here at the present moment. So the people have made a decision, the judges of the High Court have made a decision and the Governor-General of Australia has made a decision. Not only has the GovernorGeneral made a decision but also the people of Australia have upheld the decision that he made.
I want to put an end to this matter once and for all. That is the reason why I sought the leave of the Senate to table a document showing in chronological order the series of events that led to the dismissal of Mr Whitlam and the withdrawal of his commission. I have only one regret and it is a genuine, emotional regret. It is that Senator Wriedt, with whom I have served in the Senate for a long time, should have had to sit at the table and suffer the indignities that he suffered because his own Prime Minister betrayed him. I close the remarks I wished to make by saying that I support the motion concerning the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech.
- Mr President, Senator Cormack quoted from some document and in relation to one of them he said that if he tabled it I would fall flat on my face. I ask him to table that document.
- Mr President, I did not. quote from any such document; I said I had it. I have tabled one document which gives a series of events in chronological order. I said that I have a document which, if I showed it to Senator McLaren, would cause him to fall flat on his face. I did not quote from it.
– I am asking him to table it, Mr President.
– If he wants it he can have it, but I do not think he can ask for the tabling of a document from which I have not quoted.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack did not read from the document to which you have referred, Senator McLaren, and the other one has been tabled.
– I have the answer. He has backed off.
– The Opposition naturally is opposing the motion moved by one of the newly-elected senators in relation to the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. Of course, one has only to listen to the debate to appreciate the sensitivity expressed by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack concerning the events of 1 1 November 1975. 1 think it has to be said that those events have polarised this country, that it will remain polarised and that the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Labor movement and progressive public opinion will not rest until such time as the real issues that were involved in the conspiracy of 1 975 are laid bare before the Australian people.
I think it is part of our responsibility to probe constantly what prompted the events that took place on that fateful day and to make understood who were the main characters that were involved in the whole shameful episode. There is no point in editorial writers or individual honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber trying to lecture members of the Australian Labor Party about what their responsibilities should be to the parliamentary system when in fact we have found that the events of last year have seriously undermined public confidence as well as the confidence of the Australian Labor Party in the whole of the system. The country is still divided on and sensitive about the particular issues and every member of the Australian Labor
Party in this place will not rest until the truth of the events of last year is unearthed.
When two or three intrepid journalists in the United States of America sought to determine what had happened in the famous event that has come to be described as Watergate the same conservative forces in that country in the media, Congress and public office endeavoured to silence those who were seeking to unravel that mystery. Just as Watergate had its effect in opening a whole new page in American public life insofar as there as now been a penetration into other areas of government activity, of corruption and of undue influences being brought to bear, so it behoves members of the Australian Labor Party to persist in their endeavours in this respect in this country until we know what are the facts and until we know why it came to be that we had the events that were spoken of by Senator James McClelland and that were a part of the historic journey on which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack took us this evening. Until we know the facts I can give an assure that we will keep probing on this matter.
Mr President, it is the usual practice in such a debate for honourable senators to express felicitations to those who have been elected to high office and it is in order to welcome the newlyelected senators and to congratulate those who have made their maiden speeches as well as, of course, to extend to you and the Chairman of Committees congratulations on reaching the office you and he now hold. But what has to be said and certainly what the newly-elected senators have to learn is that what one says in this place has very little relevance, very little value, in terms of parliamentary democracy, in terms of one’s contribution to the maintenance of parliamentary democracy and in terms of one’s understanding of the way in which our society operates. As honourable senators endeavour to persuade the members of this chamber of the truth or otherwise or the objectivity or otherwise of their contributions to the debates, the whole exercise is futile when in point of fact the decisions already have been reached in some other place and we have to rely upon trying to present a point of view that might reach beyond the 4 walls of the Senate chamber to a lone journalist who sits up in the Press gallery listening to the debates and who probably writes stories which are never printed unless they have some sinister or melodramatic tone. Of course, if one were to rise in the Parliament and accuse a Minister of being a pervert or apply some such similar descriptive characterisation to him, one could imagine that this would be the sort of story that would be published in the newspapers the next day. I am referring to news sensationalism. The new senators will come to realise that the value of their contributions is very limited in the success of the whole parliamentary operation. Of course, this raises the question of where power really lies in Australia. Does it really lie in the Parliament? Does it really lie in the Senate? What has a political party got to do to be elected and to carry out its responsibilities to those people who put it into public office?
On 2 previous occasions at the opening of Parliament, prior to the Governor-General ‘s Speech in the Parliament last week, we heard contributions from the Governor-General, which expressed not the view of the Governor-General but the view of the Prime Minister of the day. That speech can be described as a hedonistic speech in tone and objective. We were seeking to bring into legislation policies to create a more happy and equal society. But we found how limited were our opportunities to do that even within the parliamentary system. We had obstruction placed in our way. On 2 occasions we had to face not only general elections but also double dissolutions of the Parliament. One is entitled to ask, when dealing with the speeches of a Governor-General in relation to which we spend countless hours in preparation and oratory in this chamber, what really is the value of all of that activity when, in fact, power resides outside the Parliament. There are other centres of power outside the Parliament, centres that clearly are more powerful than the Parliament. I refer to the board rooms of the big industries and centres of commerce, the board rooms of the big media centres that own not only the newspapers but also the television and radio stations. I refer to the power that resides in the judiciary and, of course, the power that clearly is now accepted by honourable senators and unfortunately by the community generally to reside in the representative of the Crown.
I put it to honourable senators that what we are really talking about are the events of 1 1 November. It is a matter of political judgment and a political view point as to whether the estimation of honourable senators opposite was correct or whether our estimation of the action that the Governor-General took was correct. It is a political difference. Honourable senators opposite say that he had justification for taking the action that he took. We say that he did not and that is a political judgment which the GovernorGeneral exercised. It will be argued for a long time whether there was a justification. We say from our side of the Senate that there was no justification. Honourable senators opposite say that there was. I put it to honourable senators that we are entitled to say that the precedent has now been established that the Governor-General can act as he sees the situation, whether or not there is justification. We say that there was none and honourable senators opposite say that there was. We say that the principle or precedent has been established that the Governor-General has the power to dismiss an elected government.
Hypothetically we could say that the National Country Party could have a major division of opinion with the Liberal Party of Australia. The Liberal Party could still have a majority as they do in the House of Representatives. But in this place the Liberal Party does not have a majority. In the terms of some public disputation a Governor-General in the future could make a decision that he considers, in fact, the circumstances require him to resolve a particular political difference of opinion. We say that the Governor-General had no valid reason. Senators Shiel, Baume, Sir Magnus Cormack and a whole number of others hold the other point of view. The regrettable feature is that I believe the Australian people did not understand the issues, just as they would not have understood them if they had been in the United States at the time of the start of the Watergate inquiry. It has to be said that if the American people had been asked to vote on the matter at that time they probably would not have cast an affirmative vote for such an inquiry. We say that just because the Australian people gave an endorsement, that does not make the position right.
In point of fact, if we are to believe the arguments of Government senators, there is no appeal against the decision and we are not entitled to express our point of view here or anywhere else. We are being criticised for this by honourable senators on the Government side and by the editorial writers. We are told that we should behave ourselves. The rules have been broken and the conventions have been torn up. The so-called reserve power which nobody had ever spoken about in either House of the Parliament in this country before now is suddenly elevated to be a major principle. All of a sudden we find not only honourable senators but even those who write books on the Constitution trying to establish the supremacy of the Senate as being more important than the House of Representatives which, under the whole Westminster system and under the American system, is the popular House in which governments are made or broken.
I well recall a lady writing a letter to the Sydney newspapers in the early pan of the election campaign asking when we would know who would be the government on election night if the government that won the majority in the lower House was not recognised as the Government prior to the election. She made a valid point by saying that we really find little significance in the actual election results if we do not accept the fact that it is in the House of Representatives- in the popular House- where governments are elected. I will deal with the Governor-General’s own understanding of his role in public life in Australia at greater length at a later stage. I do not want to deal with it this evening. I accept the people’s verdict; make no bones about that. The people have made a decision. That does not make the decision right and it does not say that they cannot be enlightened about the constitutional issues, about the morality of the decision or about any of the other subjective factors involved. I give to this Parliament an assurance that everybody in the Labor Party is aggrieved about the decisions that were taken on 1 1 November 1975. One is entitled, based on all the objective evidence that is available in regard to the activities of that period and the degree in which other countries exercised influence and interest in the internal affairs of other countries, to examine in more detail those events of 1975. After all, Senator Withers is on record, within 5 months of the Parliament being assembled in early 1973, as saying that the Opposition- that is the Liberal and Country Parties- sat down and conspired to bring about the defeat of the Government. Within a year or so that nearly became a matter of reality when the first double dissolution took place in 1974. Of course, we know that Mr Snedden was removed from office because of his failure to consummate the coup when the Senate again was used, in April 1 974, to force the Whitlam Government to the polls.
I do not dispute substantially the journey into the past by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. In point of fact, I have here a copy of Quadrant. I do not think anybody can accuse a journal of that nature of leaning towards the Labor Party or of adopting a radical posture. In it there is an article by Allan Fraser. Some may say that because he is a former Labor member of Parliament perhaps he has a somewhat jaundiced point of view. Leaving that aside and accepting the fact that he has written a pretty straight sort of article, I find that his summary of the events of the day pretty well fit the picture painted by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. It is interesting that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack never referred to the most relevant portions of the events of that day. Mr Allan Fraser talks about the fact that Mr Malcolm Fraser and Mr Whitlam met and both stuck to their guns. He said that they did not give way at 9 a.m. on 1 1 November. Mr Allan Fraser goes on to speak about Mr Malcolm Fraser reporting to his colleagues. Mr Allan Fraser says:
The general opinion- this can be checked out in any of the articles that were written at the time-
. including myself, hardened that Mr Malcolm Fraser was now in serious trouble and must soon agree to a Senate climbdown or face a pre-Christmas half Senate election.
That was the opinion of the hardened people who sit up in the Press Gallery, who help to mould public opinion, who are not fools and who know the Canberra scene probably as well as, if not better than, any of us. That was their opinion. That was the opinion about which Senator James McClelland spoke. It was the opinion about which Mr Whitlam has spoken on a number of occasions. The article goes on to state:
Mr Fraser told his colleagues
I interpolate and say ‘in the Caucus room’- to trust him, and new interest was aroused-
Let honourable senators disagree with what I am saying- . . when it was learned that he had added that the situation would be fully unfolded within 24 hours.
Of course, it added significance to the Vice Regal notices in the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. I hope honourable senators will forgive me for quoting only from the Canberra Times. The Vice Regal notes, which are of course a relic of the old days, in the Canberra Times of 11 November 1975 stated: ‘The GovernorGeneral, Sir John Kerr, received the Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, at Admiralty House yesterday morning. Later Sir John entertained Sir Garfield at luncheon at Admiralty House’. It appears that the Chief Justice spent several hours with the Governor-General the day before. We had Mr Malcolm Fraser telling his colleagues, who were getting restive, to trust him. We all know that several of them were threatening not to support the denial of Supply. Let me go to another part of this very interesting article, in which Mr Allan Fraser says:
And I heard Ken Begg of the ABC report that he had heard from an undisclosed source to be ready for a dramatic announcement in an hour or two.
This was prior to the Governor-General summoning either the Prime Minister or the usurper Prime Minister to meet him at Government House.
– Do you think that is all recorded in the papers that Senator Cormack tabled?
– I am sure that the details to which I am referring are not recorded in Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s brief historical account. Of course, there can be no doubt about many of the things that went on in that period. I recall reading an article in a publication called Nucleonics Week which was published in the United States on 6 November and which was received in Australia on 12 November. One surely must assume that it was written, published and printed several days before 6 November. The article talks about the problems of uranium supplies for a given number of American companies and refers to what will happen ‘when the elections take place in Australia in five or six weeks time’, which virtually meant 13 December. One is entitled in those circumstances to say that there is a prima facie case for the Labor Party to probe a little more deeply than we have been able to do so far. We should examine the whole sordid story of the interference in the internal affairs of other countries by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. I am not making any assertions. The facts are before the American Senate. Inquiries are being conducted officially by the American Senate. Already admissions have been made in the depositions of those inquiries that people involved in that organisation have brought about the overthrow of elected governments and assassinations of elected leaders. One is entitled, therefore, to raise very sharply whether there is any relationship, when Australia is regarded as a treasure house in terms of its mineral resources, natural gas and all the other resources that we have in this country.
We know that during World WarII we were marked down by the Japanese because of the great potential that existed within this country. It is not outside the realms of possibility that there are people who were concerned about the development of the democratic tendencies within Australia and about the feelings that existed within our country for Australians to run their own affairs and for Australians to own the great natural resources in respect of which many people such as Sir Philip Baxter, have already expressed very strong views. Sir Philip Baxter speaks of the facts that our known uranium resources are worth $ 18,000m and that it will cost only about $6,000m to mine and enrich that uranium to be sold overseas as a new powerful energy source. There is a tremendous profit margin. Sir Philip Baxter, a former Chairman of the
Australian Atomic Energy Commission, has suggested that $ 12,000m profit is involved in the uranium resources of our country. One therefore is entitled to look a little more closely at the events which cut off in one swoop the attempts that were being made by a decent Australian Government to try to maintain Australian equity in our natural resources.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally propose the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Before putting the question, I lay on the table my warrant appointing Senators Baume, Brown, Drake-Brockman, Grimes, Messner, Sibraa and Sim to be members of the Senate Standing Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
– I wish to raise a matter tonight that is of great concern to all the followers of the premier sport in Australia which is known as Australian Rules Football. It is well known that the Whitlam Government, through its Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Frank Stewart, was most generous in providing funds for all sporting bodies embracing participation of individuals of all ages and in particular juniors. The present Government has abolished the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation together with the funding which was promised to many of these bodies by the Whitlam Government on a dollar for dollar basis for an unlimited amount. The present Government’s policy has now placed in jeopardy a very worthwhile national coaching scheme for Australian Rules football.
I quote from an article which appeared in the Canberra Times on 17 February 1976. It is headed:
Rules Scheme to go ahead Despite Aid Cut.
It is an article by Barry Rollings. He wrote his story after Mr Daryl Hicks of South Australia- a well known South Australian league footballervisited Canberra. Mr Hicks is well known to me, of course, because he learnt his football in the River Murray League playing for the country team of Jervois. He went on to play for Sturt where he played, I suppose, under one of the best known coaches in Australia, Jack Oatey. He was a good winger and a rover. I do not think the people who play Rugby would know those terms. When Mr Hicks retired from football he was appointed as the National Director of Australian Rules Football Coaching. I quote this article so that what I am saying tonight can be put in proper perspective for those who have not read the article. I also want to read into Hansard record a letter which I have received from the South Australian National Football League Incorporated. The article by Barry Rollings in the Canberra Times of 17 February 1976 states:
Mr Hicks, the national director of Australian Rules football coaching arrived yesterday-
This is in Canberra- on a 3-day visit to study the code in Canberra and Queanbeyan. He took up his appointment with the National Football League of Australia late last year.
We were hoping for Commonwealth assistance from the then Department of Tourism and Recreation, Mr Hicks said yesterday.
A submission was before the previous Government on the understanding that money would be available for the scheme and the appointment of technical development officers.
It may be that now some will be part-time rather than fulltime officers.
This will unfold as I point out that the present Government has ceased to pay the subsidy to these sporting bodies. The article continues:
Last night at Eastlake Football Club Mr Hicks gave a general outline of the new scheme to school teachers, junior coaches and some senior officials.
Tonight at the Manuka club -
This was on Tuesday 17 February which, of course, was a very important day for some people in Canberra; it was not so important for others. The article continues: he will meet coaches and managers of all Canberra and Queanbeyan junior clubs and organisations to discuss all aspects of the scheme.
The introduction of the scheme was due not only to increased competition from other codes but also because of an internal awareness of the need to improve coaching techniques and standards, Mr Hicks said.
The NFL now has accepted its promotion and development role and the emphasis in the future will be on the formation of a national competition involving all States to begin in 1977’, he said.
However, because of the influence of the media and the focus on the physical contact aspect of the game, the NFL; new philosophy will place the emphasis on enjoyment of the sport at the junior level’.
To this end consideration will be given to introducing the modified rules style of Australian Rules football, as first introduced in South Australia’.
I interpose here to say that this was introduced some five or six years ago in South Australia - on a nation-wide basis for under- 10 competitors. Modified rules are designed to reduce the degree of competitiveness and physical contact.
Initially the national coaching scheme will place the emphasis on training junior coaches so that wherever Australian Rules is played every team will be controlled by an accredited coach’.
In Canberra it is hoped to form a coaching committee similar to the national body, comprising experts in such fields as administration, physical education, sports medicine and coaching, and to appoint a technical development officer for the ACT Australian Football League’.
This technical officer would be, under my direction, responsible for setting up a certificate course in Canberra and it is also envisaged that he will have the duel role of being responsible for development as well’.
Although Mr Hicks was referring to what would take place in Canberra, this embodies the events which would take place in every provincial centre in Australia which wanted to take advantage of this national coaching body. The article continues:
During 1976 a panel of experts from Melbourne will conduct a coaching seminar in Canberra for selected coaches and administrators in the ACT with the idea of introducing the basic certificate course in 1 977.
The basic course will take 16 hours to complete, covering eight topics such as the role of the coach, psychology, principles and methods of coaching, prevention and control of injuries, physical conditioning and the laws of the game.
In addition to the eight basic topics there will be elective which can be taken. By 1 980 we expect to have expanded the scheme to three levels of proficiency- basic, advanced and senior.
The scheme already is well advanced in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
When the scheme is established in Canberra I will be visiting here at least twice a year as well as whenever a problem rises.
When the national coaching scheme is established I will also be involved in setting up a resources centre where coaching aids, such as films, will be available.
At present the committee is having a national coaching manual writen and compiled.
Mr Stewart, the former Minister for Tourism and Recreation, told me tonight that the Whitlam Government had decided to finance the setting up and the printing of that manual entirely. The article then states:
The main advantages of the national scheme include uniformity of standard of coaching and the attendant saving of funds and duplication of work through a co-ordinated effort, and a new image of junior football.’
Mr Hicks, a former junior development officer in South Australia, was a school teacher in that State for 14 years in both departments and private schools and holds a diploma of agriculture.
Mr Hicks predicted that by 1977 the A.C.T. would field a representative side in a national competition involving 32 teams. The competition would include representative sides from Tasmania, N.S.W., Queensland and the A.C.T. as well as league sides from Victoria, Western Australian and South Australia.
That is the proposition that was outlined in the Australian Capital Territory by the national coach, Mr Hicks. As I said in my opening remarks, this scheme has now been thrown into jeopardy because the present Government has seen fit not to carry on the good work started by Mr Stewart.
Yesterday, I received a letter from a Mr Graeme J. Manning, the technical and development manager of the South Australian National Football League Incorporated. It is dated 16 February 1976 and states:
Senator G. T. McLaren Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
This league has been advised by the National Football League of Australia that their claim for assistance for the introduction of a National Coaching Scheme has been rejected by the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The refusal of assistance is a major setback to the development of Australian Football as a recreational activity, particularly at school-boy level. The matter is felt most strongly in South Australia as the National Coaching Scheme is to be a development of that program already operated by this League.
The SANFL sponsors, through the S.A. Department of Further Education, the two lower levels of courses planned by the NFL. The program provides for Coaching Certificate Courses for all coaches of Australian Football (particularly at school-boy level) so that, in time, all coaches would be accredited. You can appreciate the importance that parents of j junior players place on this program.
Since the program was introduced in Adelaide in 1972, over SOO have graduated from the Basic and Advanced Level courses. The continued development of the scheme is imperative when the number of graduates is related to the 1244 junior team, with 33 481 registered players, that participated in the game in South Australia in 1975.
It is only the lack of finance that has prevented the SANFL from extending this program into provincial cities. Of the 1244 teams previously mentioned 482, with 13 004 registered players, are country based.
A full time National Director of Coaching was appointed by the NFL in 1 975 on the assumption that a large portion of his salary and expenses would be provided by the Federal Government in line with the same assistance given to other sporting bodies.
Action taken by him to introduce a National Coaching Scheme is believed to be at an advanced stage in the other five states and the Australian Capital Territory. The appointment of State Directors of Coaching (Technical and Development Officers) by the NFL is expected to be made in the near future.
It is envisaged that the S.A. Scheme will be integrated into, and further developed by, the National Scheme. It was on this premise that the SANFL extended its own program and provided background information for the NFL plans.
The state appointments and the S.A. integration are dependent upon finance being made available to NFL. Although the previous Government indicated otherwise, that assistance has now been rejected.
I emphasise that point. The letter continued:
Whilst no discrimination between sports may be intended it is noted with interest that similar assistance has been previously granted to Soccer, Lawn Tennis, Gymnastics and a variety of other sports.
Sir, I respectfully request that you approach the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development with the view to having him consider, and reverse, his Department’s rejection of the NFL application for assistance.
S.A. National Football League Inc. GRAEME J. MANNING, A.A.I.M., Technical & Development Manager.
I make a plea to Senator Greenwood, who I believe is the Minister responsible, to re-assess his decision in the interests of junior football in Australia. Being a Victorian himself he would know how important the game is to young boys and their parents. I make this earnest plea to the Minister to re-assess his decision, to carry on where we left off and to make finance available for these very worthwhile enterprises in Australian sport.
– I think perhaps one of the most important occasions in this Senate chamber is an adjournment debate which gives us the opportunity of airing our grievances. Tonight I am conscious that some honourable senators in this chamber and some members in the other place are probably not aware of a situation which developed in relation to facilities available for the staff attached to the dining rooms and kitchens in Parliament House. An occasion arose last Wednesday when, after a particularly hot and humid day just prior to the evening meal when a large number of members, their guests and relatives were due to arrive for dinner, there was the threat of a strike by the staff. The problem appears to be that because it is necessary for the staff to wait on table for the members and their guests they find it necessary to eat at odd hours of the day.
For instance, their evening meal starts, I think, about, 4.30 in the afternoon when it has been the practice for them to be served what is left over from members’ meals at lunch time. Similarly at lunch they receive what is left from the servings that were not required by members or guests the night before. This is generally warmed up or reheated and sometimes even manages to reach the table in a fairly edible condition, but not always.
– Why did you not do something about it when you were in government?
– I shall ignore the interjection and perhaps even the honourable senator may understand at the end of my speech tonight why nothing was done. The conditions under which the staff are expected to eat those meals are less than humane in that the room which they occupy, which is required to house approximately 60 people, is designed in fact to accommodate 25 or 30 at the most. There is no air conditioning and because it is in the lower portion of Parliament House it is extremely hot and humid. The kitchen conditions themselves are unacceptable. On Wednesday night at about 9.30 I availed myself of the opportunity to see the conditions under which the staff are required to work. Taking into consideration that at that time the heat of the day had already passed, the ovens were not on, the stoves were not being used and the staff were at a minimum the conditions were still intolerable. The only electrical appliance that I could see in operation was an electric toaster, but the conditions were stifling. 1 understand that in April 1974- this will answer the interjection from the Government side- a log of claims was served on the employers and the double dissolution of April was the sole reason for no signatures being applied to the log of claims. I am given to understand that with amendments by the trade unions and the employers the log of claims has been re-presented and once again it was the premature proroguing of this Parliament in November of last year that prevented signatures from being applied to the claims that were felt to be justified.
Mr President, I am conscious that you are aware of the situation. I have been advised that you have received a report of some sort. I simply ask that for the smooth running of Parliament House, as members have experienced it in the past, both you and Mr Speaker get together and look at the log of claims that has been presented and make a decision at the earliest possible opportunity to circumvent action which could have taken place last week and may still take place this week or next.
– I speak tonight with a twofold purpose. In the first instance my speech is virtually a continuation of a plea which I made last week to Senator Guilfoyle who represents the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). Tonight I wish to deal with Chilean metal tradesmen and I direct my remarks to Senator Greenwood who represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The Sydney Chilean community has expressed views to me about that unhappy country. I shall not develop that line of foreign policy except to say that anybody who has read recent issues of the Christian Science Monitor will well know that the criticisms which have been expressed have come not only from Allende supporters but also from supporters of Frei, the previous President. I wish to quote to Senator Greenwood from the Hansard of Estimates Committee F of 30 September last year. I raised with Mr McKenzie, a very highly regarded senior officer of the then Department of Labor, a question about certain metal tradesmen and whether specific employment needs had to be spelled out in advance. When talking about moulders he said, in effect: ‘We know that we have a shortage of them. Therefore we will take them and work the rest out afterwards’. With regard to boilermakers I spoke this week to the National Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, Mr John Garland, and a senior Sydney official, Mr Merv Malcolm. I asked them: If we had a specific request for metal tradesmen from Chile, what were the prospects of getting them into Australia quickly? The reason I have raised this matter again tonight is that this Government broke up the previous amalgamation between the then Departments of Labor and Immigration. I am not cavilling about that, but I know that our manpower requirements are a major factor. I simply make an appeal to Senator Greenwood- it will have equal force, I know, to Senator Guilfoyle who is the Minister in this chamber representing the Minister for Immigrationon behalf of Manuel Sanhueza Eutierrez, a boilermaker. I have his identity card, names and other sorts of things here. I instance this case because the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot exactly remain passive. We know that before the United Nations Refugee Commission Australia under Senator Willesee- and I assume that the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, would adopt the same attitude- said that we would take a share of the people who were political prisoners and who have recently been released from prison.
I am simply making a request to Senator Greenwood in the manpower sphere. It is true that an application for this Chilean boilermaker was lodged in Sydney only this week, but there are other factors which should result in this application being given speedy transmission. I repeat that this boilermaker is a man who has served a gaol sentence for his trade union activities. He has been released from prison. I will quote the terminology that is used by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It says that people who have been subject to duress should be given sympathetic treatment. I will hand to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development other details about this boilermaker. I am treating Senator Greenwood in the same way as I treated my colleague Senator James McClelland.
There is another question which is distinct from the political refugee aspects. If we needed people in a certain category that was another reason to expedite the processing of applications. I can recall what happened last year- Liberal senators who were members of the Estimates Committees would also be aware of this- with the development of certain Spanish architectural considerations in the building industry. I pay a tribute to the former Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, and to his predecessor, Mr Clyde Cameron, for what they did in this area. When these questions arose the general pattern was that it was not impossible to get the applications for men in these trade classifications processed within a month. I simply say that as far as I know that precedent will apply-
Perhaps Senator Greenwood in his reply may be able to explain to me the dividing lines between the portfolio administered by Mr Street and the one administered by Mr Michael MacKellar because at some stage obviously their officers have to get together to evaluate the manpower requirements. I emphasise that Chile is a sad and unhappy country under a military junta. Just as the Labor Government was able to expedite the processing of the applications for the Spanish stonemasons and to get them here quickly, I hope that in the next month, at the request of a section of the Chilean community, this gentleman’s case can be rapidly processed. I leave it at that point.
The Minister might be able to explain this question to the Senate because it is important: When we fix our target from 1 July 1976, how will we know whether we have reached our previous target which was set by Mr Clyde Cameron and Senator James McClelland? Who will finally determine it? Does Mr Street have a say in the categories that we need, or does Mr MacKellar make a complete decision. I leave it at that.
– I wish to refer to the provision of services for children in the community for which $65 m is to be spent this year. I do so particularly because of statements made recently by some honourable senators opposite. I want to begin by emphasing that no capital projects will be stopped by the essential economies now being undertaken by the Government and that there will be provision for new projects. Priorities in this respect are now under consideration. I believe that honourable senators opposite who have suggested that the present Government has placed too much emphasis on pre-school funding to the exclusion of other facilities and the integration of childhood services in general have apparently not read or understood the statements by the Munster for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) or do not understand the previous Government’s policies in this respect.
The Minister for Social Security has given an assurance on several occasions that existing commitments for the provision of childhood services will be met this financial year. The Minister has also confirmed that the previous Government’s policy of providing 75 per cent of the cost of salaries of agreed staff in pre-schools will continue on the provision- I emphasise this pointthat they integrate their activities to cover other areas of family need such as occasional and day care facilities. This will ensure the fullest use of resources and facilities in the interests of both children and parents. It will ensure that the maximum number of children in the community are cared for in the most appropriate way and that their parents are thus free to participate in community affairs.
Statements made recently by some honourable senators opposite suggesting that the Government is placing too much emphasis on pre-school funding are, I believe, misguided and inaccurate. In 1974-75, for example, of $45m provided, 80 per cent was allocated to preschools in both recurrent and capital expenditure. Because of that policy pursued by the previous Government, in the present year 75 per cent of funding must go to pre-schools, as a result of provisions made by the previous Government. It has to be conceded that in 1 975 even the Labor Government began to appreciate that there had been an over-emphasis on the funding provided for pre-schools. It then announced a new system of funding for pre-school salaries. The arrangement had been that the Commonwealth paid 100 per cent of teachers’ salaries in new preschools built with Commonwealth funds. In addition, the Commonwealth funded existing preschools by paying the difference between the amounts allocated under State grants and the costs of increases in award salary rates. The new arrangement which the previous Government entered into to start from 1 January this year was to pay 75 per cent of salaries of agreed preschool staff in existing and in new pre-schools on condition- I emphasise this-that pre-schools extended and integrated their services to make provision for full day care needs, occasional care and emergency care.
The present Government, because it is anxious to place more emphasis on funding for a wider range of child care programs, announced its decision to continue this funding commitment. The long term aim of the present Government is to shift the balance of funding for children’s services from an emphasis on the single pre-school and kindergarten function to a balance between the full range of services, including full day care, occasional and emergency care, toy libraries and parent education programs. These arrangements will necessarily take time to implement, particularly given the previous Government’s emphasis on pre-school funding often to the exclusion of other services and the integration of facilities for children. Thus a significant percentage of funds to be allocated for child care services will go to pre-schools in the current year because of commitments that have been entered into by the previous Government. Contrary to some statements made recently by honourable senators opposite, it is our policy to ensure the integration of childhood services.
- Mr President, I rise to a point of order. Firstly, I do not think it is against the Standing Orders for a private member to make a ministerial statement, but it is contrary to the Standing Orders for a private member to read a speech on a question that he knows nothing about. As this question has nothing to do with the honourable senator and as this is a ministerial statement, I suggest that in accordance with the Standing Orders he should be prevented from reading his speech.
- Senator Knight, you are obviously adhering very closely to notes that you have prepared on this matter. Would you direct your queries to the Minister less comprehensively? In that way you may be able to present your case to the Minister.
– We thus want to ensure that there is an integration of facilities for children in the community- not just pre-school, but occasional, day care and other facilities- so that both children and parents in the community gain maximum benefit from such facilities. I shall refer to some projects approved already by the interim committee of the Schools Commission for the Australian Capital Territory. Under the Child Care Act there are a number of programs including grants for 2 centres at the Australian National University and one at the Canberra
College of Advanced Education. There is provision also for assistance for the Women’s Child Care Collective in Canberra. Under the childhood services program in the Australian Capital Territory provision is made also for assistance for the Canberra Technical College creche, for the. Marymead family day care scheme, for the Woden Community Association family day care scheme and for assistance to the Young Men’s Christian Association ‘children in need’ program.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I feel that the honourable senator is debating a matter which is quite contrary to the sort of thing we discuss on the adjournment. Two Ministers are in the chamber tonight and the points being raised by the honourable senator in fact come within the province of one of those Ministers. I do not know whether the honourable senator feels that those Ministers are incompetent. I suggest that the point of order raised by my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, was quite in order and I believe that the honourable gentleman ought to be ruled out of order in this particular debate.
– I just rise, Mr President, to say that the matter I raised in my point of order previously is covered by standing order 406.
– With regard to the point of order concerning the reading of a speech, notes are used by honourable senators which are closely adhered to. Honourable senators know that that is a practice in this place. I have extended that courtesy to Senator Knight on this occasion. I believe that Senator Knight is preparing a background to direct queries to the Minister. I ask the honourable senator, as expeditiously as he can, to put his questions to the Minister.
– Thank you, Mr President. I am referring, of course, to inaccuracies in statements and allegations made by honourable senators opposite. I should like to conclude simply by saying that these policies to be implemented by the present Government are in the interests of both children and parents. I believe that they are policies that deserve to be commended and that ought not to be misrepresented to the community.
– I respond to what Senator Mulvihill said by informing him that I shall take the matters which he has raised to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The honourable senator did intimate to me earlier today that this matter would be raised. I think a very real problem exists as to where the responsibility for processing lies. Does it lie with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations or does it lie with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar)? I think that we will be assisted in making the appropriate determination and in providing the honourable senator with the information he seeks now that the details have been given. I assure him that I shall do my part in getting the matter processed as quickly as possible.
With regard to the point raised by Senator McLaren, I understood it to be a plea on behalf of the National Football League of Australia with regard to moneys which it had been denied as a result of the financial cuts which this Government has imposed. I think that at the outset I should make 2 points: The first is that the present Government’s commitment to sport and competitive recreation is as strong as was the commitment of the previous Government and in performance will be demonstrated to be even better in its implementation. We desire to ensure that the sportsmen of Australia have adequate coaching, that they have the opportunity to represent their country overseas and nationally and that the Federal Government, in conjunction with the State governments, will fulfil a constructive role in enabling those objectives to be achieved. Secondly, we have a problem in this country which requires financial restraint. It is a problem which has to be underlined and there is the need throughout the community for everyone to share in the sacrifices which are being made, and sporting bodies, I believe, will recognise that the present economic climate is such that it is necessary for all sections of the community, including the sporting clubs, to bear some of those sacrifices.
Dealing specifically with the matters that have been raised, what the Government has done in terms of its financial cuts is consistent with the overall objective which I have mentioned. It may not be known to Senator McLaren, but in the year 1975-76 in the Appropriation Bills which passed through the Parliament late last year a sum of $ 1.527m was allocated for grants to sporting bodies. There has in fact already been committed- and some of the money has been paid and further money is to be paid- a sum of $ 1.285m out of that $1hm. So by far the greater purportion of that $l!4m has been actually expended or committed for expenditure for this year. The Government was faced with a sum of approximately $258,000 which had not been expended and what the Government has done has been to say that $208,000 is not available and $50,000 is available to ensure that coaching commitments may be met if otherwise difficulties would have occurred. The result of those figures I have mentioned is that the total sum involved in the letters which were sent to sporting bodies which had made application was a sum of $208,000 and that is out of a total sum of something like $1 tern.
As far as the Australian National Football League is concerned, I am unable to give precise responses to the questions which were asked but there is in the monies which were expended over the past year, or in the money to be expended- I am unable, as I said, to give precise details- a sum of $7,593 paid or payable to the National Football League of Australia. I do not know in respect of what particular amounts that sum was allocated but I do know that the League is also unsuccessful inasmuch as an application it made after 10 November last year has been the subject of a letter it recently received saying that because of government cut-backs it could not be granted.
I think it is wrong to say that this Government has decided that assistance which the previous government had indicated would be available has been rejected. The previous government never made any decisions upon these matters at all because the request for the application was made only on 10 November. I have listened to what the honourable senator has said. I will be able to read Hansard tomorrow. If there is anything further which I can add which would give him information I shall ensure that it is supplied to him. On his part, if he feels there is further information he wants, he has only to ask and it shall be given.
– I want to add my concern in respect of what Senator Greenwood mentioned about the problem raised. I simply refer to the acceptable occupations list which I am sure Senator Mulvihill is aware does exist in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The honourable senator would realise that any person requiring a migrant visa for entry to Australia is subject to an occupational test unless he qualifies for consideration as a relative of migrants already here. The occupational test is designed to ensure that as far as possible worker migrants are not brought to or granted permission to enter Australia for residence only to face unemployment.
– I have quoted the McKenzie precedent of last year relating to metal tradesmen. That may have changed; but in relation to key categories the sponsors did not matter. That is what I am getting at.
– That is right. I am just using this as background to saying that the occupation of boilermaking to which the honourable senator referred is in the list of skilled occupations that are required and that boilermakers in the various categories do have assisted passages to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. On the facts that Senator Mulvihill has given, his applicant does fit within the occupational test and I can say only that I will refer the specific application to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and endeavour to have some assistance given to the applicant in the manner that the honourable senator has outlined.
In response to the matter raised by Senator Knight relating to the provision of children’s services, I take the point that he wished to clarify statements that had been made in regard to the Government’s present programs.
– Did you write it for him?
– No, it was not at my request, as the honourable senator perhaps would appreciate. I believe that Senator Knight wished to clarify some statements that had been made relating in particular to the Australian Capital Territory.
– You told us at question time the other day.
– Yes. I think I have been telling people the same thing day after day. I have always attempted to clarify for Senator Cavanagh and for any other honourable senator the information that is available at the present time. With regard to programs for the Australian Capital Territory, I am sure that the outline given by Senator Knight is of assistance to those people who are interested. The only other comment I should make is that there are other programs for the Australian Capital Territory which I hope will have early consideration, and perhaps an announcement with regard to them can be made in the very near future. The other information that was supplied by Senator Knight in relation to child care programs, I feel sure, is of assistance and interest to the Senate.
– In response to a matter raised last Wednesday by Senator Coleman, I have received a report, as I believe the honourable senator understands, from the Secretary of the Joint House Department, Mr Hillyer. The matter received prompt attention at the time and I am assured that it will not happen again. The other problems to which the honourable senator referred I will discuss with Mr Speaker, as Senator Coleman suggested I might, and if necessary
I will have them raised in the Joint House Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
My Department has contacted the Department of Construction with a request that work be commenced immediately.
I much regret the unsatisfactory conditions under which some children will be accommodated until the buildings are available.
Senate adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 February 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760224_senate_30_s67/>.