30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 69 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That reduction of the age limit from six years to eighteen months for patients eligible to receive cows’ milk substitutes as a Pharmaceutical Benefit under the schedules of the National Health Act will cause serious financial hardship to many families;
That the Government’s action is responsible for a severe increase in the cost of cows’ milk substitutes which penalise parents of children aged eighteen months and over who have a medical need for these substitutes.
That there is an urgent, humane need to restore cows’ milk substitutes to children up to six years of age to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that cows’ milk substitutes be restored to the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 83 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $2 1 m, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
as a matter of urgency, reverse the decision to cut the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote, so as to ensure that the full amount appropriated by Parliament for Overseas Development Assistance is spent this financial year to meet the pressing needs of those in the developing countries;
reaffirm Australia’s commitment of Overseas Development Assistance being a minimum of 0.7 per cent of GNP, and
establish a fully independent statutory authority to administer Australia’s official Overseas Development Assistance.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Planning Association and similar organisations throughout Australia contribute to the welfare and wellbeing of a great proportion of the Australian people both in family planning and in an advisory capacity on the prevention and control of social diseases.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, give urgent consideration to a favourable decision on the continuation of Federal Government finance to enable the activities of the Family Planning Associations and like organisations to proceed unimpaired throughout Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 2778 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
That Quality Education and Equality of Educational Opportunity for all Australians depends on continuing financial support for Education from the Commonwealth Government;
That long term planning for Educational needs will require the reintroduction of triennium funding programmes by the Commonwealth Government;
That National Educational Goals urgently require implementing recommendations of the Australian Schools Commission as outlined in its report (June 1975) for the triennium 1976-78 in that:
the Australian Government re-endorse the goal of 40 per cent and 35 per cent real resource improvement above the 1972 levels in primary and secondary schools respectively;
resources be provided as detailed in this Report to allow attainment of the primary target by 1980 and the secondary target by 1982.’
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members of: Bendigo Field Naturalists Club and North Central Environment Council, respectfully showeth that
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Greenwood.
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That since the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, thereby ensuring best possible use of limited Government resources, as shown by the fact that over 200 community projects have been initiated or funded through the AAP in the Outer Eastern Region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament will take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the Report tabled by the Honourable the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle in Parliament on the 4th of March, 1976 and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Accounts Committee Act 1 95 1-73.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer the Minister to Press reports in today’s Age newspaper, amongst other newspapers, which state that the relay of broadcasts of Radio Station 2JJ to Melbourne has been deferred yet again. In view of the fact that an appropriation was made in the last Budget to cover this item, why was the expenditure for this item not made at the time of the much vaunted expenditure cuts in February this year? If the reason for not providing the relay is not connected with expenditure cuts but is related to the current inquiry into broadcasting and television, will the Minister tell us what aspects of the terms of reference of that inquiry are relevant to an administrative decision which could have been made by the Minister?
– My only knowledge on the subject is similar, I take it, to that of Senator Button because I have read similar Press comments. I note from the Press comment a suggestion that the basic reason for the deferral is the inquiry which is now current. In case additional information is available I shall bring the question to the attention of my colleague the Minister in another place and seek further information for the honourable senator.
-Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister seen a report in the Canberra Times to the effect that the Government of Papua New Guinea wishes to extend its border with Queensland 1 10 kilometres south to within 16 kilometres of Cape York? Has the Minister also noted in that report that the Federal Government has sought a compromise with the Queensland Government on that proposal? Will the Minister seek from the Prime Minister a definite statement of the Government’s policy on this matter so that those members of Parliament who are determined to protect the interests of thousands of loyal Queensland citizens and the islands on which they live will know where they stand?
-My attention was drawn to that Press report this morning, mainly because I was listening to question time in the House of Representatives and a similar question was addressed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said quite categorically, as I recall it, that the newspaper article was not only false but also mischievous. I asked my staff to show me the newspaper article concerned. I think the honourable senator will see that the Prime Minister in his reply brands it as both false and mischievous. This matter has been under consideration for some time both by the previous Government and this Government. I think there is a great possibility of coming to a proper arrangement, but no arrangement with Papua New Guinea will be reached if statements are made which create a situation in which people are not prepared to sit around a table and talk sensibly about this proposition. As to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question, I think he should await the outcome of the talks that are going on at the moment. The Prime Minister will no doubt then make a statement on the matter.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs inform the Parliament whether there are to be severe cutbacks in staff employed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I further ask the Minister whether it is also a fact that most of those to be dismissed are Aborigines?
– The matter raised is one on which I have no information, but I shall obtain an answer from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister assure the Senate that, as was alleged in a recent report, the Commonwealth will wait until recommendations regarding the new national anthem are received from the State governments? Further, will the Minister assure the Senate that a repetition of the bungling approach adopted by the former Labor Government in relation to this matter will not occur and that the Government will not be relying on a non-random and absolutely minimal sampling of public opinion, as occurred during the Prime Ministership of Mr E. G. Whitlam- a period which, of course, all Australians would like to forget?
-As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I can assure him that we do not go about any of our affairs in government, be they concerned with a national anthem or a national song or any other matter, in the same bungling, ham-fisted manner as the previous Administration. The first part of the honourable senator’s question seeks an assurance that no decision will be made until the State governments have been consulted. I understand that this matter was raised at the last Premiers Conference. I do not think it was resolved totally, but I imagine that before the Government does make a decision there will be proper and full consultation with the Prime Minister’s colleagues in the various States.
-I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Is it a fact that the Family Law Court is now the only statutory authority dealing with maintenance proceedings insofar as persons who have been married are concerned and that it is the duty of the officers of the Court to take proceedings for the enforcement of maintenance orders when necessary? Is it a fact that wives in such circumstances need not incur any expenses when seeking enforcement of maintenance orders? Will the new regulations gazetted by the AttorneyGeneral this week affect this situation? Will they reduce the delays at present so obvious in seeking enforcement of maintenance orders?
-The questions asked by the honourable senator, particularly with regard to the operation of the existing State maintenance Acts in the light of the passage of the Family Law Act, concern one of the more intricate, complex and difficult sections of the whole field of matrimonial causes. I refer him to the debates in this chamber. I refer him also to the fact that a High Court decision is pending which is relevant in this area. In regard to the other questions raised by the honourable senator as to the effect of the maintenance regulations which have been made recently under the Family Law Act and to which the Attorney-General has recently adverted, I suggest that if precise questions were put on the notice paper that would be the best way of obtaining answers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that Australian exporters are handicapped by a high level of charges at privately operated container terminals? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether 40-foot containers are charged at double the 20-foot container rate, regardless of the content? Does it make sense that an empty 40-foot container weighing 3 tons should be charged double the rate for a 20-foot full container? How is it that in New York and other major world ports the differential rate is minimal or, at least, reasonable in relation to our figures? Is the differential rate in Sydney as high as $192.50? Can the Minister inform the Senate why this.is so?
-It is a fact that these high charges are of great significance. My attention was drawn to these double charges and, therefore, I have some information about the matter. My information is that current practice in Australia is for container terminals to charge for a 40-foot container twice the rate applying to a 20-foot container. As Senator Drake-Brockman has suggested, some terminals are in fact charging $192.50 for a 20-foot container. The setting of rates is the sole responsibility of terminal operators. As far as I am aware no other country charges twice the rate for a 40-foot container. Additional charges do not always apply overseas for 40-foot containers. I understand that in New York there is no additional charge. My advice is that in Hong Kong there is a 41 per cent additional charge on a 40-foot container as distinct from a 20-foot container.
There may have been some differences in the circumstances applying to the development of container traffic in Australia. Initially, the volume of 40-foot containers was very low and terminal operators faced additional investment and set-up costs to handle 40-foot containers. These factors may have justified a heavy surcharge for 40-foot containers some years ago but this may be no longer the case. It is difficult to make accurate comparisons of container handling charges because of the different bases used for measuring working time and constraints inherent in the layout of a particular facility. There is some evidence, however, that handling rates generally applying in Australia are somewhat lower than those generally achieved overseas.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In the light of the Green Paper circulated by the British Government on the future acceptance of some types of British passports, including those of residents in Australia, will our High Commissioner in the United Kingdom maintain close liaison with the British Government, since our policy of favoured nations does apply to United Kingdom nationals entering Australia?
-It seems a very sensible suggestion to me and I shall pass it on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. I refer to the 1975 interim report on criminal investigation by the Australian Law Reform Commission which contains figures of the ratio of arrests to proceedings by way of summons. The figures disclose that the ratio was one to two for the Commonwealth Police, one to 4 in the Australian Capital Territory and an extraordinary 5 to 1 in the Northern Territory- that is, 5 arrests to one summons.
Comparative figures in South Australia show a ratio of one to 3. Figures for arrests in the Nothern Territory per head of population show them running approximately 7½ times greater than other States and Territory figures. Is the Government concerned at these high discrepancies and taking steps to ascertain the reasons for, and/or taking action to remedy, this excessive incidence of arrests? Do the Government’s investigations agree with recent American research which indicates that expense to the Government in proceeding by way of arrest is approximately 5 times the cost of proceeding by way of summons?
-The honourable senator has asked a searching question which requires a comprehensive answer and I do not have it readily at hand. I will secure an appropriate answer for the honourable senator. However, it appears to me, as it would to Senator Missen, that the sparseness of the population in the Northern Territory compared with the more densely populated States and their densely populated centres may be a reason for the disparity noted by him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and is supplementary to the question I asked him yesterday about the area improvement program grant to the Baulkam Hills Shire Council. Has he had a chance to check the answer he gave with his Department, as he said yesterday he would do? Does he still maintain that his reply is substantially correct? If he has not had a chance to verify his response yesterday, will he give an undertaking to do this and to advise me today of the truth of the situation as there is considerable concern in local government circles in New South Wales about the cutbacks and the allocations?
– I have alerted my Department to the fact that I gave the answer. I have not received back from the Department an answer which would qualify or confirm the facts I gave yesterday. I would be grateful if the honourable senator would inform me specifically what the concern is that is felt. I repeat what I said yesterday: I was approached by, I think, the President of the Baulkham Hills Shire Council and one or two other councillors who were very concerned in the light of the general announcements the Government had made at the commencement of this year about its economic restraints. They had entered into a commitment to buy a very substantial property, for in excess of Sim and they feared that the Commonwealth contribution they had been promised of approximately $250,000 would not be forthcoming. I investigated the matter and was satisfied on what they had told me that Mr Uren and subsequently Sir Charles Cutler had each assured them of the support and endorsement of their government for this proposal and of the willingness of each Government to provide funds. In those circumstances it was regarded by me as a commitment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I am mindful that Senator Cotton has a background which includes membership of the recent Senate committee which investigated estate duties. I refer to the clear undertakings in Victoria and New South Wales to ease the impact of estate duty by removing it from estates passing from the deceased spouse to the surviving spouse and in Queensland the foreshadowed abolition of this destructive tax. I ask: Will the Government in its Budget deliberations, pending the abolition of estate duty, consider that the removal of the duty should apply not only to the surviving spouse but ultimately to surviving children, and that the shadow of this severe tax, plus the uncertainty of expectation of life, puts any form of investment in industry and commerce in people ‘s later years at risk? Surely the need to stay liquid sterilises a lot of potential industrial investment? Finally, does not this second point provide a logical and cheap solution to some of the problems faced in returning to a real measure of economic buoyancy with the employment opportunities and security which come with it?
-The honourable senator was good enough to refer to the work of the Senate in this area in which I was able to play a part for a period. It is perfectly true that estate duty problems, both Commonwealth and State, impose a great burden on people. It is equally true that a view in the Senate work on this matter was that the Commonwealth might consider it worth while abandoning the field. As to what the States have promised to do, that is a matter for them in their own home. As to what the Commonwealth might do in the coming Budget considerations and developments, one cannot comment on those because they are matters of normal secrecy and not for questioning. One ought fairly to say that what the honourable senator has said is something which will be raised by me with the Department of the Treasury. It wil be taken into account by it and by the Government in the total body of Budget deliberations. The observation which the honourable senator makes about the need for people to stay liquid in the latter part of their lives in order to cover probate duty, which is a matter about which they cannot be sure, is certainly a valid point in their inability to invest at some stage of their lives when they may wish to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he has noted the remarks of the Inspector General in Bankruptcy in his annual report dated June 1975 that the number of cases of bankruptcy until 30 June 1974 represented a marked fall but that during the following year there was a return to more normal numbers although the total number of cases reported was still 10 per cent below the average for the previous 10 years. As the average included the marked reduction for 1974 does not the report show the prosperity of business under Labor when compared with the previous 10 years?
– I saw some reference to that matter some while ago. As I have a tremendous anxiety to stay away from the Bankruptcy Court I did not direct total attention to it. The figures the honourable senator has cited are interesting. I need to study them to see whether the interpretation placed on them is correct. I shall certainly do that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. To my knowledge this subject matter has not appeared in the newspapers. My question relates to the question asked earlier in the week by my colleague Senator Messner concerning the transfer of Mirage jets to the Edinburgh airfield in South Australia which will involve Royal Australian Air Force control to 50 000 feet in a triangular area embraced by Bumbunga, Clare and Edinburgh. Can the Minister say whether the RAAF plans to use the area for low level radar controlled flying? Is the Minister aware of the intensive animal and poultry husbandry carried out in that part of South Australia. I know of Senator McLaren’s interest in that subject. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the concern expressed by the United Farmers and Graziers of South Australia Inc. that low-level flying would have an adverse effect on this important industry? Will the Minister seek an assurance from his colleague the Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives that the RAAF will not undertake this activity in that area?
I must hasten to add that the United Farmers and Graziers are well aware of the need for defence and are in no way opposing this move provided protection is given for animal and poultry breeders in South Australia.
-I was aware of the problem because both Senator Messner and Senator Bishop asked me questions about the matter on, I think, Tuesday. Their questions were asked on a slightly different slant, as I recall it, and concerned the effect that the taking of air space would have on light aircraft in that area and the possibility that some 200 jobs could be at stake. I said then that I would refer the questions to my colleague, the Minister for Defence, in another place. I have not had an answer back for Senator Bishop or Senator Messner yet. All I can say to Senator Jessop is that I shall do the same thing for him and shall see if the Minister can give the assurance the honourable senator seeks.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that section 83AAD of the Social Services Act is administered in such a way that payment of the supporting mothers benefit is conditional upon the would-be beneficiary taking action to enforce an existing order of maintenance of any kind? Are there not cases in which a woman otherwise entitled to a supporting mothers benefit would not get it because she did not take the requirement enforcement action as no legal aid was available to her? Finally, under such circumstances, what recourse does such a woman have to social security entitlements that she may well need?
– It is a fact that under the section of the Social Services Act that was mentioned by the honourable senator a person requiring benefits does need to take steps which in the opinion of the Director-General are adequate to obtain maintenance. That has been the way in which the Act has been written and administered. The other access to support that a supporting mother or other beneficiary would have is under the special benefits that can be administered by the Director-General. If there are difficulties with regard to the application of section 83AAD it is competent for the DirectorGeneral to give special benefit under circumstances that may be appropriate.
– I ask the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs: Is it a fact that early reports of a swing to the Australian Labor Party of about 7 per cent in last Saturday’s New
South Wales election have now been shown to be inaccurate and that the swing was in fact a relatively small 3.7 per cent? Is it a fact that the difference arises because the Australian Labor Party stood candidates in 6 more electorates than it did in 1973?
– I take it that my role as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs gives me a specialty in what is called, I think, ‘psephology ‘. It is a fact that the initial calculations by commentators and by newspapers on the evening of polling day and subsequently were based on false comparisons. Over some 3 decades now I have had some little experience in comparing election with election. The first thing that has to happen is that a comparison must be made on a common basis. In individual elections different numbers of candidates are fielded by particular political parties. In the recent New South Wales election it is true that Labor had, I think, some 6 more candidates fielded in electorates than previously so that this time it registered a larger vote, which last time was disguised in independent votes. The vote for Labor in the previous election was artificially lower because its vote was hidden in independent votes. In the 1973 State election a very large number of independents were standing. This time the vote was more polarised and was registered as a primary vote for the 3 main political parties. I draw honourable senators’ attention to the fact that a correction would have to be made also for an aberration in previous elections with regard to the State seat of Gordon. Because there was no Liberal candidate for that seat last time, that vote would have gone to the Democratic Labor Party. I have made a calculation myself, although I do not say that it is a scientific one, and I reached virtually the same conclusion. My own calculation supports that of Mr Mackerras, that is, that the swing, if properly construed, is of the order of 3.6 per cent or 3.7 per cent.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs and is in response to the answer he has just given. Do I correctly interpret his answer to mean that at the last election in the New South Wales Liberal Government was saved by independents and small splinter groups? In view of the decline in the significance of independents and minor parties in Australian politics, are we to assume from what the Minister has said that the road ahead of the Liberal Party will become increasingly difficult?
– One should simply disregard that question as being totally frivolous and on wrong bases. It is fundamentally not true that in 1973 the Liberal Party got in on the preferences of independents. The trouble with Senator Wriedt is that he did not listen. What I said was that the vote for the Labor Party in 1 973 was lodged largely in the votes for independents. So quite clearly the independent vote heavily favoured the Labor Party at the last election, and no doubt was distributed and went to the Labor Party. In Australia all evidence shows that the Liberal vote- as demonstrated on 13 December last year, as demonstrated in Victoria, and as will be demonstrated in future State electionsis polarising at a higher and higher figure. The only splintering that is happening is within the Labor Party and within its own Caucus.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Will the Minister advise whether early steps are to be taken to form a consultative committee of the Children’s Commission in the Northern Territory, in line with those in the States of Australia? If so, will resources for child care services be made available for such a committee in the Northern Territory.
– With regard to the formation of a consultative committee in the Northern Territory, I have made representations to the Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Adermann, to confer with me about arrangements to provide opportunities for consultation with Northern Territory voluntary agencies and others who are interested in child care matters. I have also taken steps to allow me, during my visit to Darwin, which will take place later this month, to seek views from interested bodies in Darwin with regard to the provision of child care services. It is true to say that, prior to this Government taking office, no programs for child care had been funded in the Northern Territory through the Interim Committee of the Children’s Commission. In the past few months I have been able to make grants to groups in Katherine and in Alice Springs. I invite the honourable senator, representing the community in the Territory, to take note of the fact that it is still possible for him to make applications for funds for holiday programs. There are still funds available which could be allocated to the Northern Territory if suitable applications were made. I invite him to direct that matter to the attention of community groups in the Northern Territory to see whether we are able to provide some holiday care programs during school holidays this year.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government and is consequent upon the question asked by Senator Maunsell. Has the Minister read reports that Torres Strait Islanders are threatening to ask Indonesia to intervene on their behalf at the United Nations against what they believe to be the threatened action of the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, to betray their territorial claims against Papua-New Guinea expansion? Is it not a shameful state of affairs for Australians to have to resort to a foreign country for help, a situation forced on them by the seemingly authoritarian attitude of the Fraser Government? Does the Minister not have any sympathy for the plight of the Torres Strait Islanders, who want to keep what they have?
-If there is anything shameful it is the fact that the honourable senator comes into this place and attempts to put down as fact a rumour he has read in some newspaper which he does not identify and whose author he does not identify. If that is the best sort of information with which he comes into this place his sole object must be to cause mischief between the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea. As I said earlier in answer to a question by Senator Maunsell, if this matter is to be resolved sensibly, quickly and amicably, it will be done a lot better without the making of mischievous comments like that just made by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will be aware of the depressed state of both the beef and dairy sections of the cattle industry. I now bring to his attention a report in this morning’s Melbourne Sun relating to the mass slaughter and burial of no less than 500 head of cattle at Tongala in northern Victoria. It is being organised by the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria and is scheduled to take place next Monday. It follows on bids ranging from 30c a head to a maximum of $2 a head for cattle at the weekly cattle auction sale last Tuesday. I now ask the Minister whether an urgent investigation can be made with a view to ascertaining whether some substantial increase in the food component of the foreign aid bill can be effected, having regard to the large surplus of meat and skim milk powder presently available in Australia and the urgent need for these commodities in a number of countries to which our aid is directed.
-I had heard previously that there was some suggestion of this but I had not seen the reference to the fact that the actual event will take place next Monday. I must say that I am very disturbed to hear it. I do not know to what extent it is the product only of low prices or also of the fact that a great part of Victoria is in a very heavy state of drought. It may be that at present cattle and beef prices people cannot buy feed or get feed to keep their cattle alive. It demostrates once again the difficulty of operating in primary industry in Australia- a fact with which most of us are familiar.
The suggestion that we might be able to do something in the food aid program is an interesting one. I know that the problem which we have regarding the food aid program is to be able to get out of Australia products which are suitable for the consuming habits of other countries which are in effect recipients of aid and which can use those products. Skim milk powder is a case in point in Mozambique. There are problems in the beef and cattle industry in being able to slaughter the animals and store and transport the products to the countries that need them. That in a hungry world we are seeing animals die in this country seems to me to be, to say the least, quite inconsistent. We all should be moving to try to solve this problem.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is it a fact that the strength of the Northern Territory police force is at present well below the numbers recommended by the McKinna report and below the ceilings imposed by the present Government? Is it also a fact that the present resignation rate in the Northern Territory police force, apart from normal retirements, is of the order of 2 officers a month. If these are facts, will the Minister indicate what steps are being taken to ensure security for the citizens of the Northern Territory?
-This information was given direct to the honourable senator and to the Estimates Committee which looked into the estimates for the Northern Territory yesterday. The point was brought out at that hearing that the police force in the Northern Territory was below the strength which the McKinna report recommended and below that which the force itself would desire at present. The proposition was put by the officer giving evidence that in his view the resignations that had occurred in the force occurred mainly as a result of the criticism that had been made of the Northern Territory police force. That was a matter of some concern to the honourable senator, as he raised it in questions yesterday. I think the point was well made by the officer that recruiting was not particularly difficult but that holding officers was difficult. Perhaps it will suggest to the honourable senator that we should be very cautious within our community in criticising police forces which, in actual fact, are there to protect the citizens of Australia.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Environment- and all the other aspects that he represents. Is the report in a newspaper this morning correct that the Minister is pressing for the continuation of the development of growth schemes in all centres in Australia, particularly in southern Australia, with the one exception of Townsville in north Queensland? If the report is correct, I ask the Minister why there is this discrimination in favour of the other States against the State of Queensland? Is it because he feels that the Queensland people are so independently minded that they do not want to be directed where to work and where to live in pursuance of the socialistic schemes generated by the Labor Government and being continued by this Government? If that is not the reason, what is?
– It is always refreshing when Senator Wood comes to the defence of his own State. I would be surprised if he thinks that anything which is done in Canberra by an Minister here will mean that the people of Queensland can be told that they have to do something which they do not want to do. If one examines the location of settlements around Australia, the point is very debatable whether Queensland or Tasmania is the most decentralised State in this Commonwealth. I would have thought that that is an aspect which the Government will have in mind in the consideration which it is currently giving to the whole range of decentralised development throughout Australia. The controversy to which I think the honourable senator referred was mentioned in a newspaper report this morning of a debate which had taken place in the House of Representatives yesterday. I can say only that the Government is considering these matters to which I have referred. The subject of growth centres is one of them. There is not at present and there has not been over the past few years any commitment by a Federal government to any specific growth centre project in the State of Queensland nor, as I say, in the State of Tasmania. I think that is because in each State decentralised development is well advanced.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Science or the Minister representing the Northern Territory. It follows a question asked by my colleague, Senator Robertson. Is it a fact that members of the Northern Territory police force are wearing uniforms which are part summer and part winter issue? Did this situation come about because of an error in computer programming which ended up with waist measurements of trousers being wrongly taken for thigh measurements, and vice versa, thereby making those trousers for the most part unwearable? What action can be taken to prevent a recurrence of this event which, in so many other circumstances- the possibilities are limitless- could lead to some quite incredible results perhaps with serious consequences, but in any event at some cost to the Treasury?
-This is certainly a question which should be directed to the Minister for Science. The facts that the honourable senator has stated are correct. There was a delivery to the Northern Territory of incorrectly fitting police uniforms. I understand that in all probabilityand this would be logical- they were ordered in the term of the last Government. There was some trouble. I can inform the honourable senator that the uniforms have been returned and that members of the Northern Territory police force are now being supplied with uniforms suitable for wearing both in summer and in winter. I understand that the only change has been with respect to underclothes to take account of variations in temperature.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. It relates to the question put earlier by Senator Brown. My question concerns the apparent anomalies between provisions for widows pensions payable to divorced women under sections of the Social Services Act and provisions under the Family Law Act. I ask the Minister whether, as reported in today’s Press, two committees of Government members have been asked to examine this situation? I ask the Minister further: What brief has been given to the committees? Can the Minister confirm not only that the Government is concerned about any hardship that divorced women may be under but also that it is determined to assess and resolve any anomalies which it might have inherited in this regard from the Twentyninth Parliament?
– The first part of the question relates to a matter that was reported in the Press, namely, that 2 Government members’ committees are looking at the inconsistencies between the Family Law Act and the Social Services Act. The brief that was given to the committee with which I have a close association- the Government Members’ Health and Welfare Committee- was for its members to look at the 2 Acts concerned and to have wide-ranging discussions and consultations with regard to the matters that had arisen through the inconsistencies in the Acts. I am sure that the AttorneyGeneral would have given the same sort of directions to the Government members’ committee with which he would be more concerned and which would be looking perhaps more closely at the matter from the point of view of the Family Law Act.
The honourable senator asks generally whether the Government is concerned about hardship to widows, divorcees or others who may be affected by these Acts. It is undoubtedly true that the Government has close concern for these matters. It has taken the step of asking 2 committees of members of Parliament to look at these matters and to report to the Government upon the implications that are involved in the matter. I also invite members of the Opposition to do likewise if they feel that they wish to pursue inconsistencies between the 2 Acts in order to enable the Parliament to resolve difficulties that arise therefrom.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that it is now approximately 1 1 months since the last manifest of VIP flights was tabled in the Senate, will he take the necessary action to have tabled at the earliest possible date a manifest showing the record of VIP flights and all passengers carried on those flights from 24 March 1975 to 30 April 1976?
-I will arrange for that to be done- I hope when Parliament resumes after next week’s recess.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Has the Minister seen a report in today’s Canberra Times that 69 per cent of residents in the Tuggeranong area of the Australian Capital Territory favour the construction of a television translator tower on Mount Taylor to improve poor television reception in Tuggeranong? Will the Minister have the needs of Tuggeranong residents in this respect examined urgently to discover whether such a translator tower might appropriately be contructed? Will the Minister ensure that in examining this matter, careful consideration is given to the possible impact on the environment of Mount Taylor and that before any action is taken to construct the tower, a detailed environmental impact study is prepared?
-I saw the report in the Canberra Times. I am acutely aware of the sensitivity of the people of the Australian Capital Territory in regard to translators or transmitters being erected on mountains or hills in the Territory. If I may say so, I share the sensitivity of the people of the Australian Capital Territory in this regard. My understanding is that the Kambah Residents Association conducted a survey of Tuggeranong residents in regard to their attitude to the translator station. My advice is- it is purely from Press reports- that 41.6 per cent of the people strongly favoured the station, 8.9 per cent strongly opposed it, 27.4 per cent had no strong feelings but were more for than against and 17.8 per cent were against it. Telecom Australia is preparing a final environmental impact statement. When it is received it will go to my colleague, Senator Greenwood, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development who then, as I understand it, will have 3 options open to him. He can recommend that the construction of the translator station proceed; he can recommend alternative courses of action be taken; or he can recommend that a public inquiry be held. Telecom Australia is still awaiting advice from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about possible alternatives. The project will then have to be costed and this will take some time.
-My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is rather related to the earlier questions asked of Senator Carrick by Senator Rae and Senator Wriedt. Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate noted the reported remarks of the Liberal member for Gosford in the New South Wales Parliament that if he, Mr Brooks, loses the seat of Gosford it will be principally because of the Federal Government’s decision to legislate to take away funeral benefits for pensioners? Will the Minister agree that if the seat of Gosford is lost by the Liberals, in all probability it will mean the election of a Labor Government in New South Wales? If that is so, will the Minister agree that, contrary to the utterances of the Prime Minister, Federal Government policy will have had a very direct bearing on the outcome of the election in New South Wales?
– The honourable senator is asking for an opinion. The Leader of the Government may wish to answer the question.
-I have not seen the report because, as the honourable senator ought to know by now, I do not read newspapers. I have said time and again in this place that if newspapers went out of existence most honourable senators would have a total incapacity to frame a question. I do not know whether the Liberal candidate for Gosford, if that is the correct term to use, did or did not make the statement to which the honourable senator has referred. Until the honourable senator can vouch for the claim that the gentleman who is the Liberal candidate for Gosford made those remarks I have no intention of speculating on speculative comments.
– Does the Minister for Administrative Services recall my asking him a question in the Senate some weeks ago regarding the Government’s intention in relation to the future employment of Commonwealth car drivers in Brisbane? Does the Minister recall that I asked him whether it was true then that the Government intended continuing their employment and whether he was aware that there were rumours circulating that their employment was to be terminated? Does the Minister recall assuring me at that time that that was not the Government’s intention? Is the Minister aware now that some of these drivers have again been told, I am informed, by certain Labor Federal members of Parliament that their jobs are once more at risk? Can the Minister please give a clear and final assurance so that these rumours can no longer be peddled for political reasons?
-I think I have answered questions on this topic about various places at least once, and I think twice or three times. Senator Martin has asked questions previously about this matter and I think Senator Bishop has asked about the drivers in South Australia. As far as I am aware- I imagine I am the person who ought to be aware- there is no intention at all to dismiss any of the Commonwealth car drivers. I think the Department of Transport is the relevant Department concerned. 1 regret very much that the honourable senator should again have to ask a question in order to reassure the drivers in Brisbane. I just wish that, if what the honourable senator says is correct, the people who go around telling the drivers these things would ask a question in Parliament instead of spreading mischief in private amongst the drivers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I fully appreciate his attitude towards newspapers, but by way of preface I would like to draw his attention to the presence in Australia of a former consultant to the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Dr Harold Koontz, Chancellor of the International Academy of Management and author of the best seller Principles of Management. While speaking in Melbourne he referred to alleged bribes by American corporations. In fact, he said it was impossible to do business in some countries unless such payments were made. He said he was not condoning bribery but that was how the system worked with all manufacturers. Will the Minister obtain, through the Foreign Affairs office and through Senator Church, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Multinational Corporations in the United States, a transcript of the evidence submitted in the United States Senate hearing into alleged bribes by American corporations and table that document in the Australian Senate to inform the people of this country fully on the matter of Lockheed operations in Australia and in other parts of the world?
-I shall refer the honourable senator’s request to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question which relates to the question asked by Senator Tehan. Will the Minister refer to the Treasurer the question of the destruction of drought affected dairy cattle with a request that the cattle so destroyed be subject to cash payment by the Government, as this would provide both cash at the time of need and some disincentive for the continued over-production, both of which would initially be preferable to social welfare payments.
-As requested by the honourable senator, I shall direct that proposal to the Treasurer.
TELEVISION PROGRAM: Bellbird
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He should be aware that there is a proposal by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to alter the format of the television program Bellbird from 4 quarter-hour programs shown 4 nights a week to a one-hour program shown one night a week at 6 o’clock. As this shows an appalling ignorance of the way of life of Bellbird’s vast country audience, few of whom could sit down for one hour at 6 p.m., and calls into question the bona fides of those staff members of the ABC who claim the move is aimed at improving the city ratings of the program, will the Minister point out to the Commission that ratings should not be the prime concern of the Commission but the interest and entertainment of country people is of great concern to this Parliament. I know that my colleagues in the National Country Party will support me overwhelmingly in this instance. Will the Minister urge the ABC to leave Bellbird alone?
-I am well aware that a great many Australians, including many Australians living in the country, have a very strong interest in viewing the television program Bellbird. I am unaware of the intention of the ABC to alter the format of its presentation. I shall be happy to arrange that the question of the honourable senator is brought to the attention of the ABC and I shall seek to get a response on her behalf.
– In regard to the first 2 questions asked by the honourable senator, I understand that the position as he stated it is correct. I must inform him that I say that presumably on the same basis as he relies, namely, what has been publicly reported. In regard to the last 2 questions, I am not in a position to confirm what action has been taken by the Government nor am I aware of the reasons- assuming the truth of the public reports- why the Church Committee and the Justice Department would have declined to make the names available. It would seem to be a very ready and sensible explanation, however, that that was the reason. May I suggest to the honourable senator, in view of the care with which he phrased his questions and the desirability of having a completely accurate answer, that I am sure that if those questions went on the notice paper directed to the Attorney-General, appropriate answers could be obtained.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the National Advisory Committee for International Women’s Year handed its report to the Prime Minister approximately a month ago? If so, when will the Prime Minister table this report, and when is it to be published and made available to the many people of Australia who are anxious to see it?
-I was not aware that the report had been handed to the Prime Minister but I accept what the honourable senator has said. I will take up with the Prime Minister the other requests she has made- when it will be tabled and when it will be published- and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters. Is the Minister aware that since the introduction of flexi-hours in the Commonwealth Public Service by the Labor Government there have been reports that it is causing inconvenience to the public through lack of continuity in work by public servants going off work during normal hours, and that time is wasted by public servants arriving at work before normal working hours and having little to do? Can the Minister indicate whether the introduction of flexi-hours has been a success or is it a waste of time and money and should it be scrapped?
– I am not aware of the merits of flexi-time but I am interested in the concern which the honourable senator has expressed. The point he has raised should and shall be referred to the Minister for a reply by him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and refers to the capital assistance for leisure programs involving South Australian recreational projects, in particular at Adelaide, Kadina, Port Augusta, Marion, Gepps Cross and Bowden. Is the Minister aware that on 1 8 December, Mr Bott, the Secretary of the then Department of Tourism and Recreation, advised local authorities that the Minister at the time had approved of the grants to those projects and that such notifications could be taken as firm commitments? Is the Minister aware that in most of the cases certain expenditures have been committed because of the progress, planning and feasibility studies? In view of that will the Minister consider representations from those bodies to give these projects some priority because they were commitments at the time, the Government had accepted them and the Minister then responsible had apparently approved them?
– I am indebted to Senator Bishop for his question because it enables me to clarify the totally misleading statement by the South Australian Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation last Thursday in Adelaide. The fact is as Senator Bishop has stated it. The old Department of Tourism and Recreation stated in December last that the sum of approximately $650,000 had been approved for certain projects under the capital assistance for leisure program in South Australia. However, at the time that that approval was announced it was said that funds would not be available in 1975- 76 and that applications for funds for these projects would be considered in the 1976-77 Budget. Within the last fortnight I wrote to the South Australian Minister, referred him to what had been promised and asked him whether, in order to ascertain what funds would be sought in 1976- 77, he would be prepared to find out whether or not any of these projects were in the course of construction, whether contracts had been let, and what was the stage of development because if there had not been any commitment undertaken there would be difficulty, I thought, in securing funds in 1 976-77. The position now is that where commitments have been made to these various projects those commitments will be honoured. There was never any suggestion of any description that that was not the case. I am grateful for the opportunity to make that clear.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, relates to the television translator for Mullewa in Western Australia. I understand that the project was approved last year and that it is now ready to be installed. I ask: When will the equipment be installed? When will transmission commence?
-Senator Walsh was good enough to let me know that he would ask a question on this matter. I had some advantage because my colleague, Senator Thomas, has been doing some good work in seeking to get the matter resolved. With regard to the translator stations at Mullewa and Wongan Hills in Western Australia, work on completing the translator stations was temporarily suspended because of difficulties in funding. Telecom Australia is the technical authority which is erecting stations for the Australia Broadcasting Control Board. More than $100,000 has been spent in erecting the translator stations to date. Because of the substantial investment the Treasurer has agreed to a diversion of funds to enable $21,000 to be expended on the stations this year with a total commitment of $37,000. This diversion of funds will enable the work to be completed so that the stations will be operative in the near future. The work involved is the provision of the electricity supply, certain access roads and site works.
– I know that we are over time but the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to whom this question is directed, has agreed to answer one last question. Some weeks ago I asked the Minister about the intentions of this Government concerning the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the overseas loan raising activities of the previous Government. He said that he would refer the matter to the Prime Minister. I wonder whether he could give me an answer.
-As far as I am aware there is no intention by the present Government to establish a royal commission to inquire into the matters adverted by the Leader of the Opposition.
-( Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate)- For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Laverton Royal Commission 1975-76. Due to limited number of copies of this report available at this time reference copies have been placed in the Senate Records Office and in the Parliamentary Library.
-Mr President, I seek leave to propose a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
This is a lengthy report which needs some consideration. I have a few remarks to make. The report was tabled in the other place yesterday and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) made a statement at the time of tabling it. The statement is now on record. This is a matter to which I have given great consideration. I spoke about it on Tuesday of this week during a debate on the first reading of a money Bill. On that occasion I spoke about the decision of the royal commission. It found that there was wrongful and unjustifiable arrest and that wrongful action had been taken by police in Western Australia. The action of police extends far beyond what anyone would expect of a properly constituted police force. I told of difficulties which had been experienced. Everything contained in the report was known both to the Western Australian Government and to me in March of last year. The royal commission was necessary because of the evasion of the Western Australian Government. It failed to take any action which would remedy a similar situation in the future. The Western Australian Government attempted to whitewash the whole affair and to stop the facts coming out publicly. I visualise from the Press reports of Sir Charles Court that this is still the intention. I made a plea for the Federal Government, which has responsibility for Aboriginal affairs, to do something concrete to see that this matter would not be pigeonholed; that the recommendations would be carried out; that something would be done to ensure that never again, against an oppressed people of Australia, would a Skull Creek incident happen.
To my mind, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has indicated in his statement in another place that he is taking the line of not facing the recommendations of the Laverton Royal Commission concerning the actions of the police force in Western Australia, but again is trying to apportion blame between both the Aboriginals and the policemen. Yesterday the danger of this was evident when Mr Wentworth said in another place that the matter was not all one-sided and that the Aboriginals were bad. Debate in another place on this report by the Laverton Royal Commission was led with a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, which is reported in Hansard and which includes the following remarks:
The royal commission found that there were indeed a number of drunken Aboriginals in Laverton who had been behaving sometimes violently, throwing stones and using bad language for several weeks prior to the Skull Creek incident. Police reinforcements had been called from Kalgoorlie to help cope with the situation and the report states clearly that the police, in regard to disturbances m town of Laverton, had acted reasonably in difficult conditions.
That is a complete distortion of what the Commissioner said and it comes from the Minister. The Commission found that a good relationship existed between the Aboriginals in Laverton and a Sergeant Holmwood, who was the sergeant in charge- I believe that there were 4 other policemen at Laverton- and who followed a procedure of mixing with Aboriginals. When he found 2 Aboriginals fighting he would ask them to desist. If they did desist no action was taken. If a drunken Aboriginal was mobile and could get home the sergeant would send him home. If the Aboriginal refused to go home, he was locked up. Sergeant Holmwood appealed to the elders on many occasions to take home particular Aboriginals who were drunk and to bring them back to the station next morning because, in accordance with white man’s law, they were deserving of punishment for their behaviour. The co-operation was such that the elders of the tribe used to bring them back in the morning. There were no incidents between the police and Aboriginals until Chief Inspector Brown was brought to that area from Kalgoorlie. Brown was not sent for. Reinforcement was not asked for by Holmwood.
– Why do you not give us an opportunity to read the report before debating it straight off?
– I am giving the honourable senator the facts of the report which honourable senators will pick up when they read the report and debate it. The honourable senator has the opportunity to seek the adjournment of this debate for the purpose of studying the report and seeing whether what I am saying is accurate or not. Something has to be done on this issue.
The attempt by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to distort the findings of the Commissioner and the attempt by the Leader of the Government in this chamber to put off the matter -
– Order! The honourable senator must not make imputations against a member of the Parliament. He has used the words ‘attempt to distort’ and that is an imputation.
-Yes, Mr President, I withdraw those remarks. Perhaps it was not the Minister’s intention to do that. But I am pointing out that his statement is not a true reflection of the report of the Royal Commission when he claims that the report of the Royal Commission states clearly that the police had acted reasonably in difficult circumstances during the disturbances in the town of Laverton. He was quoting the words of paragraph 66 of the report, which covers the period from 1 December 1974 to 4 January 1975, where the Royal Commission referred to investigations of specific incidents not at Skull Creek but at Laverton itself.
It was reported that until 2 1 December there was complete harmony between police and Aborigines at Laverton. Their behaviour was ideal up until the time the publican made representations to Inspector Hilton to send reinforcements. The constable in the town made no representations for reinforcements but the publican did. Inspector Hilton, on the evidence of Sergeant Holmwood, said to him: ‘You are too soft with the Aborigines. You have been in the area for too long. You are thinking like an Aborigine. ‘ Whilst there had been complete co-operation and harmony between the Aborigines and the police, the attitude of the Senior Inspector of the western desert district of Western Australia was that police had to take a definite attitude. Rather than the Royal Commission saying that the actions of the police were reasonable in difficult conditions, he said that in specific incidents which they were considering in every case the Commission investigated there were complaints against the police. On one occasion there were 5 policemen in a car and there was no room left for anybody who was arrested, so the police having arrested 2 people, put handcuffs on them and conveyed them to the police station in the boot of the car, contrary to the traffic regulations in Western Australia.
– They don’t even do that to bobby calves in Victoria.
– They did it to 2 Aborigines in Western Australia. The police said that in a lot of cases the complaints were not true or the incidents did not happen. The Commission found that complaints against the police before 4 January had not been proved to its satisfaction, but where a finding was made against the police there was definite proof of everything that they did. Senior Inspector Brown was sent from Kalgoorlie and he decided to take a hard line with the Aborigines. He arrived on 3 January 1975 and during the afternoon he arrested 1 8 Aborigines. Of that number, 17 were arrested between 3.45 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.- in three-quarters of an hour. He gave evidence to the Royal Commission that when he arrived in the town there were drunken Aborigines everywhere; they were arguing, fighting and throwing stones. A number of residents who were in the town that day reported that quite the reverse was the case and said that it was a normal day. There were 12 arrests made that evening and ten on the following day. Then the incident at Skull Creek occurred on 5 January.
Brown was determined: ‘We have got to arrest them all but we have not the gaol capacity for them.’ On the evening of 3 January he constituted a court, which sat at 8.30 p.m. Four children were tried and sentenced to 7 days imprisonment, with no opportunity available to have the welfare officer present to hear the charges made against the children. That was done so that they could be sentenced and sent to Leonora in order to keep the gaols at Laverton open for the people he intended to arrest in the future. One Aboriginal was arrested for drunkenness and within 2 hours he had been tried by the court and convicted of his crime, before he had a chance to sober up. In another case where there was no opportunity for legal representation an Aborigine was sentenced to 28 days gaol on one charge. This was all done on this occasion for the purpose of implementing the plan of Senior Inspector Brown.
Then we come to the important question. Brown heard a radio message come through from Warburton that 100 Aboriginals were travelling in 3 vehicles. That was the message sent by a Mr Hewitt who, I believe, was the police officer in Warburton. The message said that the Aboriginals had left Warburton and were travelling to Laverton. Immediately this message was received and entered in the police record book, Brown reported to Hilton and asked for more reinforcements, a second lot of reinforcements, because there were 3 lorry loads of Aboriginals coming from Warburton, they were drunk, they had broken into a store at Warburton, they had stolen petrol, they were fighting and arguing, and they were heading down to Laverton for the purpose of doing the police over. When he was asked where he got this report Brown said: ‘I heard it on my radio in the car in the street’. But the fact is that the report was never sent. On making that representation to Hilton, Hilton agreed to send further reinforcements to be used for this attack upon the Aboriginals when they arrived. The Aboriginals were going on a mission of worship. They were going to rainmaking ceremonies at Wiluna. They were in 3 vehicles. One was a lorry which as I stated on Tuesday night, I had made representations to secure for them. The second vehicle was a station wagon, and the third vehicle was a Land Rover.
On the following morning, the 5th, Hewitt again radioed and said he had heard this report that someone was going to make trouble but that was not so. The police had received a radio message that the Aboriginals were going to Wiluna for a religious ceremony. They had all their sacred objects with them. It was important in that area that there should be an assembly of Aboriginals for this ceremony. Hewitt said that there was no intention on anyone’s part to cause trouble. It was in the record book at the police station. Brown says he was not told about it, but he organised this matter to make a show of force. He sent a convoy of vehicles containing policemen out at lunch time to meet the Aboriginals to see where they were. On this occasion the police found that among the group of Aboriginals were 2 Aboriginals who were wanted by the police for questioning. Then the police decided that when the Aboriginals reached Laverton they would stop the lorry for the purpose of questioning these 2 Aboriginals.
There were 5 police cars of different types conveying the policemen. Two policemen in one car, who were strangers to the town because they were part of the reinforcements, stopped the station wagon and found that there were 5 Aboriginal men in the station wagon. The police asked the Aboriginals where they were going. They said that they were going to Mount Margaret for the purpose of delivering the sacred objects that they were carrying. They were told: ‘You get into your station wagon and go down to the police station’. The police were too busy to accompany them as they, the police, had to get to the lorry. The royal commission interpreted this to mean that it was an arrest. It was not an arrest that one would make on a European. Bur the accepted custom is that an Aboriginal does what a policeman tells him to do. The Aboriginals drove down to the police station where Holmwood saw them. He knew them and he said to them: ‘What is your purpose?’ They said: ‘We are going to Mount Margaret’. He said: ‘Look, I would advise you to get there as quickly as you can get away. ‘ The Aboriginals were not arrested.
The next vehicle that came along was the Land Rover in which there were 6 Aboriginals. Two other policemen hailed the Land Rover, put the Aboriginals in the police paddy wagon, drove down to where the lorry was and arrested all the young able-bodied men at the lorry. Having arrested the young able-bodied men in the lorry the police took them to the police lock-up. As they got out of the lorry, Constable Watson took their names and claimed that he put down the names of the arresting constables. The policemen had a conference and decided that they could not identify who had arrested whom. They took a list of names and it was agreed: ‘You take this one. You arrested him. You charge him with this, this and this’, and so the arrangements were made.
The 5 Aborigines who were picked up from the Land Rover were charged with offences that occurred near the lorry. But this was at the same time as they were in the police wagon on their way to the police station. That was the only time when they were near the lorry. They were never out of that police wagon. The arresting constable of those 5 Aborigines was one of the constables who was not in the car which stopped them and who never saw them until they got in the lorry.
All those who were charged with offensive behaviour or hindering the police in the execution of their duty were charged as having committed those offences in Cox Street, Laverton. But at no time were those Aborigines within a mile of Cox Street. The relevant Act in Western Australia prescribes fighting as the offence of disorderly behaviour if it is committed in a public place. These Aborigines were stopped in the bush. What happened occurred in the bush off Aerial Road. It is questionable whether that area can be interpreted as a public place. At least the police would have to prove that it was a public place. But the statement of complaint, or the summons, said that they were arrested in Cox Street, Laverton. The Aborigines had not been there that day or for some days previously.
The next day, the police came to charge them and bring them before the court. Four people who were brought to the gaol were kept there all night, but no one could remember arresting them. No one laid charges against them. Their names were not recorded in the charge books. Inspector Harrison said to one policeman, Constable Bos: ‘Well, you charge him. You arrested him. He was yelling and shouting.’ Constable Bos said: ‘I had enough of this yesterday. I am not going to charge him.’ Harrison said: ‘All right. I arrested him. He was yelling and shouting. ‘ That got over the problem of one of the Aborigines. But there was another one, Benelli who was locked up, He was never arrested and never charged. He appeared in court and signed the bail discharge when the magistrate granted bail to these Aborigines.
– Where was this, senator- South Africa?
– This was at Laverton in Western Australia. Let me reiterate the position. A man was locked up, whether or not that was recorded. There is no record of it. The only record of the gaoling of this individual is his signing of the bail form. Bail was granted to a man who was never charged.
These police officers falsified charge sheets. They falsified those charge sheets which went to their Commissioner. Those were the actions of some members of the Police Force Association in Western Australia. I am not condemning the police force in Western Australia. I do not have any desire to condemn or find any pleasure in condemning policemen. The first aspect on which we must make up our minds is: What is the right attitude to be adopted between police and Aborigines? Do we adopt the line followed by Sergeant Holmwood who mixes with Aborigines and has no trouble with them? Or do we take the line adopted by Brown who arrests every one he sees because they are black and then sorts out the charges afterwards? I think that we must come down on the side of more lenient treatment of Aborigines. But what do we do in respect of ordinary policemen acting under instructions of their sergeant who have gone into Laverton, made mistakes, and lied their way through all the processes, lied even to the Royal Commission, for the purpose of covering up their defaults? Are these men who should properly be in the police force? Are these men who should have powers of arrest? I point out that nothing can be done because the West Australian Government is trying to protect its police force. Therefore, the only appeal I can make is to the Federal Government which has the right to intercede on behalf of people.
I will conclude my remarks by referring to 2 paragraphs of the Royal Commission. Paragraph 1 70 states:
In short, the police evidence was a farrago of contradictions between those who admitted and those who denied that there were some discussions about charges and the presentation of the facts and amongst the former group as to what the discussion was, who participated; the reasons for doing what was done and the understanding reached.
We are satisfied that there was an agreement or direction as to the nature of the charges to be laid and as to the contents of the facesheets but we do not believe that we have been told the full story regarding either.
The Royal Commission also made comments about the arrests. As I told the Senate last Monday, the facesheets had been changed. They at first stated that the Aborigines had been fighting between themselves. The police altered them for the benefit of the Royal Commission so that they stated the Aborigines were fighting with the policemen. The Royal Commission states in paragraph 139 of its report:
When the truck stopped at Skull Creek, its occupants were about their lawful business. When the police officers in car 2 arrived the Aborigines were peaceable, acting lawfully, unaffected by liquor and there was nothing in their behaviour then to call for police action. According to police evidence, within a matter of minutes, every able-bodied male Aborigine had committed an offence and been arrested for it. Nobody was arrested as a previous offender.
The Aborigines were locked up and were let out on bail the other day. I do not know what the position is at present in relation to the charges that were brought against them. But it could be that there are still convictions against them on the records in Western Australia. It is insufficient for the Minister to state that we are now doing something on a national basis in relation to drunkenness amongst Aborigines. In this case, Australian people with a lawful right were denied the rights of human beings. They were treated as second-class citizens. We see the crocodile tears that are shed from time to time for Aborigines, especially in the Northern Territory. Let us show our worth by doing something to see that the position is rectified.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
– On behalf of Senator Greenwood, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974-75, I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Western Australia over the provision of financial assistance for Urban Expansion and Redevelopment (Moore River study) 1 975-76.
– On behalf of Senator
Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security who represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Senate, for the information of honourable senators I present the first annual report of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd covering the period to June 1975.
-Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930-1973 I present the statement of receipts and expenditure relating to administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I seek leave to move a motion in relation to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business take precedence of General Business after 3 p.m. this day.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 18 May 1976, at half past two p.m., unless sooner called together by the President, or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
– I seek leave to move a motion to vary the time by which Estimates Committees must report back to the Senate.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I have arranged to have a schedule circulated setting out the proposed times of meeting of Senate Estimates Committees. It will be noted that Estimates Committees A, B and C are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, 18 May at 4 p.m., subject to prior suspension of the sittings of the Senate, and that Estimates Committees D, E and F are scheduled to meet on Thursday, 20 May, at approximately 12.30 p.m., subject to the prior adjournment of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5 May on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now. read a second time.
– I am at present continuing my response to the second reading debate on the States Grants (Schools) Bill. In that response I have drawn attention to the fact that the honourable senators from the Labor Party colouring the whole of their debate, had made a series of assertions and statements particularly relating to the Schools Commission. I was in the process of examining those assertions and pointing out that in fact what they were saying was this: Do not do as I do; do as I say. Fundamentally, on each point, the Labor Party was advocating that the Government do something which it had failed to do. In fact, it had done the reverse in the past. I pointed out by way of example that Labor Party senators argued that they were the unique inventors of the policy of appointing a statutory body- the Schools Commissionas an adviser, and I showed the fallacy in that argument. I pointed out that they advocated strongly throughout yesterday’s debate that it was imperative that a government should carry out all of the recommendations of the Schools Commission, and then I demonstrated that last year they rejected those recommendations out of hand and that, indeed, they are proposing to do so in an amendment which is before the Senate today. I pointed out that they said, and said emphatically, with all the tears and in the most ersatz fashion that an Opposition can manage: ‘Do not cut, do not freeze, education expenditure’. They had been massive cutters and freezers of education expenditure.
– That is not right. You know that is not right.
– I welcome that interjection. Last year the then Whitlam Government, of which Senator Wriedt was a prominent Minister, cut the schools program by a real value of 10 per cent as compared with that of the previous year. Indeed, I will give the honourable senator the figures for capital works, which show a reduction of 40 per cent in expenditure. In fact, it was a slaughter. In 1975 the Schools Commission program for capital works was $220m. Last year, in the teeth of the recommendation of the Schools Commission, the Whitlam Government reduced the amount to $ 130m- a reduction of 40 per cent. In the face of that, the Leader of the Opposition said: ‘It is not true’, when I said that the Schools Commission program had been cut.
– It is not what you said earlier and you know it is not. You are very careless with words.
-Is not that interesting? Senator Wriedt now admits it. I ask him: Does he admit that in fact the Whitlam Government, of which he was a member, cut the capital works program of the Schools Commission by 40 per cent from $220m to $ 1 30m?
– That is not what you said earlier.
-Senator Wriedt, of course, now tries to get out of that. Indeed, the Opposition is now saying to the Government: Do not cut the Schools Commission’s capital works program’. Yet, when the Whitlam Government was in office it cut expenditure massively. The Opposition is now saying to us: ‘Do not alter the structure or nature of the Schools Commission’. But when it was in office it was busy trying to introduce a Bill to amalgamate 2 tertiary commissions. It was all right for the previous Government to do these things but it is not all right for us to do them. We have not heard a word from the Leader of the Opposition or from any of his colleagues about the terrible unemployment created by their Government, and particularly the unemployment of school leavers.
– Have you fixed it?
– We are in the process of fixing it. The Leader of the Opposition has left the chamber. I should like to add some more figures to those I have related. I do this because the Opposition has said to the Government: ‘Do not cut education expenditure’. Not only did the previous Government make it impossible for school leavers to get a job, a vocation or a career but also it made it difficult for them to get into post secondary, tertiary institutions. The previous Government made cuts which resulted in a net reduction of 8000 enrolments in the colleges of advanced education. Yet, the Opposition is now saying to the Government: ‘Do not cut expenditure on education. You cannot do that but it is all right for us to do it’. Those are the statistics. We have heard a great deal of propaganda and nonsense about the present Government’s attitude to the Schools Commission. Let me say emphatically that the policy of the present Government is to retain the Schools Commission. The fact is that the Opposition only has an appetite at present for propaganda. Members of the Opposition are living on distortion and propaganda. I say emphatically that the -
– It was a product of the Labor Government.
-I repeat for the benefit of Senator Mulvihill that it was governments of Liberal faith which created federal intervention into education and the concept of statutory corporations to advise and make recommendations to the Government. Now, when the world has shattered around honourable members opposite, because all of the propaganda we heard from them last week and the weeks before is now in ruins around them, they are now trying a little diversion. The very government that cut education expenditure, shattered education and created unemployment is now squealing and saying that we must not cut expenditure on education. The Liberal Party policy is to retain the Schools Commission and to have it, along with other commissions, as an impartial adviser and an independent investigator which can recommend policies to the government of the day. Once again we have humbug from the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said with gall that the wicked Federal Government is seeking to steer the Commission. Last year, the then Labor Government steered the Schools Commission totally. It told the Schools Commission precisely what it should do and set guidelines for the Commission. The Labor Party has said to us now: You ought not to have guidelines’. It was all right for the Labor Government to impose guidelines when it was in government but it is not all right for anybody else to do it.
I give honourable senators a classic example of the nonsense we have heard from the Opposition. We had heard speaker after speaker in this debate say: ‘We, the Labor Party, believe in equality of opportunity’. Senator Button demonstrated this by saying: ‘We brought social justice to the independent schools’. For 2 decades in the post-war years the Labor Party proudly boasted of a policy which emphatically and without qualification rejected any help to the independent system of schools. It took a government of our faith to break through the prejudice which the Australian Labor Party had created, and bring about social justice. The Labor Party has the nerve to get up in the face of what Senator Harradine has said- and well he might say it- and talk of equality of opportunity. Yet the only 2 State Governments that do not meet a 20 per cent matching grant in aid to independent schools are the Tasmanian and South Australian Governments. So outrageously behind is the Tasmanian Government that it is a subject of major controversy there at this moment and a running fight in the Press. The Tasmanian Government had pledged in its policy a 20 per cent matching grant and has failed to provide it.
– It never intended to.
– It is as Senator Archer interjected. He will be very well aware of that Government’s failure, a failure which I have been studying in recent weeks. How can it be that this proud Labor Party which sits in Opposition can now talk of equality of opportunity? Let me say quite emphatically that the Fraser Government not only believes in equality of opportunity but also will pursue those policies which will bring it about. In doing so however it will not level downwards. It will not compromise people and press them downwards as is the socialist concept of education that Senator Mulvihill supports. What we will do across the whole field of education is seek to create and maintain excellence for all individuals wherever they are. We regard it as the responsibility of government to provide the best education possible for all students in all schools.
– But some will be more equal than others.
– Nobody can demonstrate better than the honourable senator who interjects how some are less equal than others. Nobody could possibly do so.
– You are the people who think you are ahead of everybody else. That is the reason people like me are in the Senate.
– Here we have an attempt to shout down orderly argument. As soon as one shoots down the propaganda of the Labor Party a great squeal goes up. I repeat emphatically that we will maintain the Schools
Commission as a vigorous body of advice and recommendation.
– You will nobble certain schools though.
– The principle of equality of opportunity has been the principle that has motivated this Government over the years and lest the Senator Mulvihills of this world should want to learn about equality of opportunity, I commend them to 2 documents, the writings of Professor Henderson. In the first place I refer to Professor Henderson in 1972 describing poverty in Australia and then Professor Henderson 3 years later and after 3 years of Labor Government. What Professor Henderson said in effect 3 years earlier was that in Australia in the 2 decades before there was greater equality between rich and poor than in any country on earth.
-Don’t be bloody silly. What about my own school?
– What he said 3 years later was that now there was a significant increase -
– Order ! Senator Mulvihill ‘s remark was most unparliamentary.
– I will not cop it from him or you- get that into your head. He refers to my career. If my father was a gas worker he was a better man than his father. He slurs the working class attitudes.
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, you will note what I say to you. You will take your seat and apologise.
– Every time he will get it back between the eyes verbally.
– Order! Order must be maintained in this place. You will withdraw the unparliamentary words you used.
– When he withdraws the slur against my family and anyone else of the working class I will do it. I will always respect you, Mr President, but not certain Ministers. I resume my seat and for you withdraw my remark.
– I want to make it perfectly clear that nothing I said reflected upon Senator Mulvihills family. Like Senator Mulvihill ‘s father I too was a gas worker at a time when my family was unemployed. So we share a common economic origin. What I said was that in other facilities some, including Senator Mulvihill, who now demonstrates it, are less equal than others. I will not have this nonsense of inverse snobbery as though there is some elitism on the part of somebody who can say: ‘Was I not clever. I am now important, but I was poor in the depression’. The honourable senator happens to be picking the wrong person for that kind of trial. Let us have none of this nonsense because it is a diversion in an attempt to alter the thrust of the debate. What I said was that the Australian Labor Party had been demonstrated by Professor Henderson to have created more poverty in the 3 years that it was in office than had occurred beforehand. In fact, Professor Henderson said that. There has been considerable interest and discussion about community involvement in education. An amendment has been foreshadowed on this matter. I make it clear that it is the Federal Government’s policy to bring about profoundly important community involvement in education. I draw the attention of the Senate to the policy as stated in our policy statement which states:
We are pleased to see moves by the Schools Commission and the State Governments to encourage a more active role for teachers, parents and local communities in school management and decision-making.
Recognising the thrust from school communities for a greater voice in determining educational priorities and programs, we would consult with the States to determine ways in which a devolution of authority could be implemented and in particular how Federal Government funding could be structured to assist the States in promoting devolution of authority. Promoting community participation and increasing autonomy for the school community raises major questions concerning administrative and financial accountability.
It goes on to state that there needs to be massive consultation. I remind the Senate that the Bill provides that the State government of the day can allocate to any school or to any school board finance for developing community involvement. That power is totally there. Equally, the Bill provides that there can be in-service parent training and that the expenses of parents shall be paid. So the recommendations of the Schools Commission in this regard, which are parallel with the policies of the Federal Government, are being immaculately carried out. The Federal Government agrees with the Schools Commission in its strong statement that there should be no coercion by way of legislation in funding these things. Here we have an extraordinary situation. The Opposition says: ‘Let us agree with the Schools Commission’, but on the other hand it says: ‘Let us go against it’. I read chapter 19 of the Schools Commission report which is headed Organisation and Administration. The section dealing with school based funding is headed General Recurrent Grants and Capital Grants Programs.
Thus the Commission will study with considerable interest the degree to which its strong support for devolution, which it believes should not be coerced through legislation, is in fact implemented by the systems which are the initial recipients of large grants.
There are 2 things running through the Commission’s report, chapter after chapter and clause after clause, namely, that there should be no coercion by the Federal Government; that there should be a great deal of discussion with the States and with school communities. There is a lot of advice. The only mention of figures suggests that there is a hope that by 1978 a 5 per cent goal might be achieved. I point out that this is 1978, not 1976. This Bill allows any State, if it so desires, to allocate money to community based programs. It does precisely what the Schools Commission indicates it should do.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-As was indicated during the second reading debate on the State Grants (Schools) Bill 1976, 1 wish to move on behalf of the Opposition an amendment to clause 7(3) which reads:
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure adequate consultation prior to the transferability of funds between capital and recurrent expenditure at the request of a State Minister. During the course of the second reading debate reference was made to this very question of the possibility of the objectives of the Schools Commission being interfered with after a proper analysis has been made of the needs requirements of the various States. It would be reasonable to assume that a State Minister, in simple consultation with a Federal Minister, could obtain a transfer of funds which in fact would take away provision for the basic needs which had been spelt out by the Commission.
I think it is intended under this legislation- but the insertion of the amendment I have moved would ensure- that the Commission would have the opportunity firstly to consider the request by a State education Minister and then to advise the Federal Education Minister accordingly and report to the Parliament. If we are to maintain the standard of education which so obviously has been improved over the past 3 years, bearing in mind the needs principle, it is important and, I believe, essential that this amendment be accepted by the Government.
The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has said on many previous occasions that he intends to maintain the Schools Commission. Of course, he will not give an undertaking that the Commission will be maintained in its present form. I do not believe that he believes that it will be. The Minister always evades that question. Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch we again heard a statement from the Minister which would strongly suggest that he does not intend to keep the Commission functioning as it has been functioning over the past 2 or 3 years. We of the Labor Opposition believe that that is absolutely fundamental. I do not wish to be provocative Mr Chairman, but I must say that I am becoming increasingly concerned about the manner in which the Minister for Education is handling the legislation.
During the course of the debate on this Bill contributions were made from both sides of the chamber, none of which, I believe, were designed to provoke the Senate and all of which reflected the particular views of and differences which exist between individuals and, of course, between the Government and the Opposition. At no time did anyone become vindictive or provocative. They simply stated their cases. Yet as soon as the Minister replied we had an exhibition bordering on a maniacal fanaticism on the subject which is before the Senate. I believe that that sort of provocation, which now apparently is the standard approach of the Minister, is to the detriment of the Senate and is to be deplored. I hope that either you, Mr Chairman, or perhaps the President, might take some action to ensure that during the course of the debate on matters which are under the control of Senator Carrick we might see a calmer and more reasoned approach by the Minister, to the benefit of the Senate as a whole.
It is quite wrong to suggest that under the educational program, which was implemented by the Labor Party, the Labor Party reduced expenditure on education in the 1975 year. Prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch I had to challenge the Minister on his continued statements that the Labor Party reduced expenditure on education. It is a different thing to talk about a reduction in expenditure on education as a totality and then, when challenged, to say that the reduction in expenditure was in respect of schools. As I was virtually challenged by the Minister to do so, let me put on record the figures for expenditure on education over the past 4 years. In 1972-73, under the last Budget of the McMahon Government, the total was $442m. In 1973-74, the first Budget of the Labor Government, it was $858m. In 1974-75 it was $l,671m and in the last year of the Labor Government it was $ 1,908m. I invite the Minister to challenge the accuracy of those figures. If he is not prepared to challenge them- if he cannot disprove them- I ask him in future not to make the assertion that the Labor Government reduced expenditure on education in 1975-76, because the truth is quite to the contrary.
Another matter to which I feel reference should be made is that concerning capital grants to schools in 1975-76. Senator Carrick has claimed that there was a 40 per cent reduction in these grants. That 40 per cent reduction is allegedly made up of $200m in the first of those 2 years, 1974-75, and a reduced amount in the following year. Of course there was a reduced amount because under the capital expenditure program, as the Minister well knows, it is not possible for there to be a completely uniform amount spent each year because of the bulge factor in the construction programs of the various State school systems. But there was an allocation of $270m for the 2 years and that amount, which was recommended by the Schools Commission, was the amount that was expended. So it is completely false and misleading to suggest that because in that second year there was a reduction in requirements for capital expenditure this indicates any reduction in the total program instituted by the Labor Government.
I return to the matter of transferability of funds. I believe that it would be retrograde if we were to allow this legislation to go through without the insertion of the amendment which I have moved. I do not impute motives to any State Minister of Education- nor do I impute motives to a Federal Minister for Education- of any impropriety in the disbursement of these funds. But any reasonable person would have to accept that this legislation as it is written opens the door to a departure from the principles which are intended and which ought to be written into this legislation. There is an argument that there may be some validity in providing for a transfer of funds from recurrent to capital expenditure in this particular year because this year is isolated from the triennium which was envisaged and to which both this Government and the Opposition is committed. But provision for this transferability of funds has been written into this legislation in such a manner that it will become virtually a permanent arrangement. There will be no grounds whatever to justify a departure from the principles which have been laid down. I trust that in the course of the debate on this amendment the Committee in its wisdom will see the great need to ensure that the amendment is carried.
– The Government will oppose the amendment, as it did in another place. The debate from the Opposition on this matter has suggested that some vital new principle would be involved which would offend the principles that the Opposition holds dear and that there would be opportunity for some underhand practice. Neither of those 2 points holds any water. It is a fact that the 1 973 Act, which is a creature of the previous Government, allows a transfer of funds within a program and therefore allows money to be transferred by a similar device. Nobody has said that that is an offence. Let me make it perfectly clear that a recommendation of the Schools Commission comes to a government as a recommendation. A government then decides its program. It ought to be competent for a government, in association with other governments of the several States, to vary that program in the course of a year if good and proper reason so dictates. No government could state that a decision made in August of a year should be immutable and bind governments for the rest of time. Quite clearly, in the course of a year emergent factors may happen which would bring about the need for such things.
Let us consider this situation. The first point to be made is that the amendment states that this should be done only after consultation with the Schools Commission. The simple fact is that the Schools Commission is one of the advisers- one of the essential advisers- to the government of the day. It would be quite fair and proper and imperative for the government of the day to consult the Schools Commission, since the Commission was the initial adviser for the schools program. That is a normal and necessary thing. It is not at all a normal thing to write into legislation the requirement that the government of the day shall consult its ordinary statutory advisers. That is a matter of ordinary course. The second point is that the Opposition has failed to mention that clause 7 (5) of the Bill states:
As soon as practicable after the Minister has given a direction under sub-section (2) or (3), he shall cause a statement setting out particulars of the direction to be laid before each House of the Parliament.
The Bill now before the Committee insists that the Minister, having received a request from a State Minister and having exercised his discretion in favour of that request, following upon consultations with his departmental advisers, shall as soon as practicable cause a statement setting out particulars of the direction to be laid before each House of the Parliament. In other words, it obliges the Minister of the day to report to the Parliament why he took the action he did. That is a normal principle and one which the Opposition, when in government, used in other features of the 1973 Act. It goes back to a well enshrined principle.
There is no way on earth that any gross departures from programs will occur, but the important thing to remember is that the democratic system places sovereignty in government, not in advisory bodies or in anyone else. It is the sovereign right of the Government, subject to the legislation and the programs, to make decisions which alter original decisions. Indeed, if it is considered valid elsewhere for transfers to be adjudged to be proper as within a program, why should there not be adjudged to be reasons for transfers to be proper as between capital and recurrent expenditure, or vice versa. Bearing in mind that the ultimate sanction is on the Minister, he ultimately must set before the Senate and before the Parliament generally the fact that he has taken such action and the reasons why he has taken it. I give a clear undertaking to the Committee that in these matters there will be the fullest discussion with the departmental advisers, including the Schools Commission, and as to that situation there is no need at all for legislation. As to the question of reporting to the Parliament, the Bill provides for that. I commend to the Senate that it reject the amendment.
– If I may take up briefly the point raised by Senator Carrick, I accept his proposition that the Commission is there to recommend to the Government, and that is as it ought to be. I am also aware of clause 7(5). which requires any statement setting out particulars of the direction to be laid before each House of the Parliament. Of course, that is only after the act; that is after things have been done. Again, I accept the position of the Minister in saying that there will be the fullest discussion. But if he wishes to inform the Parliament to the fullest extent, as I believe he should, I ask him to give an undertaking that he will inform the Parliament of the advice he receives, either from his Department or from the Commission or from both bodies jointly, as to the reasons why such a request from a State Minister has been acceded to. I do not think it is good enough for the Minister simply to say that there will be full discussions. I do not question that naturally he will discuss these matters with his advisers, but at the same time he ought to lay on the table of the Parliament, even if this amendment is not carried, as obviously it will not be, a report from his advisers on any of the sanctions of transfers.
– In reply, Mr Chairman, I regard it as the responsibility of the appropriate Minister to interpret the words ‘a statement setting out particulars’ to mean that some explanation ought to be given to the Parliament. The Senate is entitled to know what was the nature of and reason for the request from the State Government concerned and, therefore, why the responsible Minister acceded to the rquest. To the extent that I interpret that to mean that an explanation should be given to the Parliament, I will endeavour so to carry it out. While I am on my feet, I draw the attention of the Committee to clause 44 of the Bill, which provides for a similar situation. Indeed, sub-clause (6) of that clause provides for an identical situation as a post facto situation. So there is a parallel, and 1 believe that any Minister acting in this way is entitled to be questioned by the Parliament as to why he has so acted. I would adjudge myself to be available for such questioning.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I now refer to clause II, which reads in part:
The financial assistance to a State constituted by a payment of moneys under sub-section (1) (in this sub-section referred to as the ‘relevant financial assistance’) is granted on the conditions that-
On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
This amendment, of course, is in accordance with the report of the Schools Commission. In its report the Commission also advocates this very principle. I believe that the amendment should be seen to be consistent with this Government’s continual reiteration of its so-called anticentralist policy. We as an Opposition wish to see a greater role for parents in the decision making process in schools. If the Government is to be consistent I assume that it will support this amendment. At no stage during the whole of the program under the Schools Commission in the last two or three years has there been any desire to centralise control or the decision-making process in the government school system in the States. That being so, I would have thought that the Government now would accept this amendment as part of its own alleged program of extending decision making down to the school level. Consequently, I ask the Committee to accept this amendment.
- Mr Chairman, the Government will oppose this amendment, first, because the amendment is entirely unnecessary. The Bill provides that once it is passed it will be competent for a State government to allocate money to a school or a school board. There will be no need to come and consult the Federal Minister or the Schools Commission. Basically, if we look at this amendment we see that it suggests the very reverse of decentralisation. It suggests that an arrangement can be made between a Federal Minister and a state school with the complete omission of any thought being given to the fact that a State government has sovereign rights regarding state schools. Here we have a classic example of the policy of the Federal Opposition. When it talks of so-called devolution and its principle of devolution it never ever recognises the existence of State governments. The whole of its principle of devolution is aimed at by-passing State governments and having a direct relationship between the Commonwealth Government and the school. This was the device that was to be used with regard to municipalities and shires. It is the device that is sought to be used now.
There is no way on earth in which, under the Constitution as regards sovereign States and the Federation, a government in Canberra ought to enter into a compact whereby it can make decisions about the allocation of money without having regard to the State governments. Let me look at the perfectly ridiculous situation that has arisen. I remind honourable senators that the States were told in December that upon the election of this Government it would undertake to implement the calendar year program for schools. The States were told that they could go ahead and expend their money according to that program. They all went ahead and, quite clearly, by January-February of this year would have committed all their money. Had they not done so, the Opposition, as with the Government, could very readily have said: ‘You mean that you have held surplus funds in the face of the fact that there is, according to the Opposition and according to many people, an acute shortage of teachers in various States? You mean that you had the general recurrent grants made available to you and you did not use them?’
What is implied here is that there is at this moment- in May of the year, nearly half-way through the calendar school year- money available and not committed by the States and that the Federal Government can insinuate itself, quite contrary to federalism, and direct that part of that money be deflected. In other words, what this amendment says is: Disregard the fact that the recurrent grants are given allegedly without strings, we now give to the Commonwealth Government the right to move in and direct the ways moneys will be spent, and without limitation.
Oddly enough, the amendment itself is directly contrary to the recommendations of the Schools Commission. I am bound to say to the Committee that the Schools Commission did not include in its program as such, as distinct from suggestions, any proposal other than at the suggestion level for these kinds of community participation programs. The Schools Commission said in the whole of its basic report for 1975-76 something like this: We believe that there ought to be greater community participation. We believe that this ought to be achieved through persuasion, through dialogue and through discussion. We believe that it ought to be done and that there should be introduced a considerable dialogue to achieve these ends. We emphatically oppose coercion by legislation to achieve this devolution. Right through the five, six or seven paragraphs that I have extracted from the report of the Schools Commission this thread runs.
I repeat, because it is important to do so, that honourable senators should look at chapter 19 of the report for the triennium 1976-78. In paragraph 19.3 the report deals with school-based funding. Honourable senators should look to the meaning of this sentence:
Thus the Commission will study with considerable interest the degree to which its strong support for devolution, which it believes should not be coerced through legislation, is in fact implemented by the systems which are the initial recipients of large grants.
I am happy to report to the Senate that in accordance with the stated policies of the Government for community participation, I have asked my Department and the Schools Commission to consider ways in which a dialogue can be introduced between the Commonwealth, the States and the various educational organisations involved so that in the future there shall be decentralisation, the setting up of school boards and the provision of more authority for parents, teachers and community so that we can bring about the policies that we seek.
In opposing the amendment I repeat that the amendment itself is totally unnecessary. It is possible now for the States to apply money out of their recurrent grants for the purposes concerned. It can be done; there is no need for the amendment. Secondly, the amendment in itself is opposed to the Schools Commission report. Thirdly, its adoption would be a vexatious intervention at the moment some 4 months or 5 months after all State programs were committed if a Federal Government, by-passing the States, were to seek to direct moneys which are now the property of the States for other purposes. On those grounds, we oppose the amendment.
– I rise to support the amendment to clause 1 1 moved by the Opposition. In doing so, I disagree very strongly with the suggestion by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that that amendment is contrary to the recommendations in the Schools Commission report. Whilst the Minister is accurate in saying that the Schools Commission says that there should be no coercion he is not accurate in suggesting that the Schools Commission report opposes the principle of legislating for some degree of schoolbased decision making. We in the Opposition would agree that there should be no coercion. Certainly no element of coercion is suggested in the amendment. The amendment simply seeks to legislate to commit a certain degree of schoolbased decision making with proper consultation. There is no question of coercion. I am surprised that the Minister has suggested that such a question did arise.
However, throughout both of the Schools Commission reports to which the Minister has referred there is a strong argument suggesting specific legislation of this kind. I quote from the Schools Commision report for the triennium 1976-78. Paragraph 13.39 reads:
As a result of the general recurrent grants the Commission expects that all States will move expeditiously towards cash disbursements to schools for discretionary purposes. The Commission believes that it is not unrealistic to establish a goal for 1978 of S per cent of each school’s total costs being provided in cash for allocation in ways determined, within reasonable limits, by the school itself; given the overall expenditure upon schools, that will be a substantial sum. Moreover, there is no reason why systems should not substantially exceed that figure.
Again, in the 1976 report, which was endorsed by Senator Guilfoyle when she was speaking on behalf of the then Opposition in the December election campaign last year, we find provided in paragraph 2.3:
Through its recommendations the Commission is seeking to move a greater range of decisions to the school community, where teachers, parents and students may particpate in making them. The Commission sees influence over expenditure as a fundamental part of this process and believes that within systems the first steps should be taken to make some of the operating funds for schools available to those who work in them.
I suggest that the amendment moved by the Opposition is such a first step. It is not coercion. It is merely permissive legislation that would allow that first step- that first small step- towards school-based decision making to be made.
The Minister has said that the amendment is not necessary. He states that he supports the concept of school-based decision making but that it is not necessary to include it in this piece of legislation. Indeed, this piece of legislation as it stands does not prevent schools having some funds to use at their discretion. But I think that something as novel in the Australian education scene as school-based decision making will not occur naturally. It will not occur out of a tradition where there has been no such phenomenon. It will not occur unless there is some encouragement, some legal facility, for such a development.
If the federalism policy of the Government is not simply a policy for centralisation by the States and is not merely a policy of decentralisation to State levels and centralisation after that, I can see no reason why the Government will not accept this amendment. It is not in opposition to anything that the Minister has said with respect to parent involvement, community involvement and school-based decision making. It is not contrary to anything contained in either of the Schools Commission reports to which we have been referring in this debate. It is not coercive in any way. It simply gives effect to the sentiments expressed so often by the Minister in this chamber and on other occasions to the nation that it is time that we should be moving towards the situation when people involved in the running of schools at the grassroots level have some small say in the disbursement of some of their budgetary allocations.
I do not think that the Minister up to this point has given us any reason for resisting this amendment. I am surprised that it was omitted from the Government’s draft legislation, since what we propose is so clearly in line with what has been recommended by the Schools Commission and what has been said on so many occasions by the Minister himself. It would simply permit something to happen which we have all agreed in the course of this debate it is desirable should happen. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
-Mr Chairman, I have no wish to extend the debate in Committee for long. We had a very long second reading debate on the Bill. We seem to be covering some of the same points again, but I feel that I must reply to a couple of things that have been said. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has pointed out already that there is nothing in this Bill that prohibits the devolution of discretion to school boards. Senator Ryan has said that the amendment does not apply to coercion, that it is merely a first small step. She has agreed that the action that she would like to see is not prohibited now. We have agreed in the course of the second reading debate that we would all like to see that happen and that it is not prohibited now. The honourable senator went on to say that it will not occur naturally and therefore she cannot see why we object to the amendment.
I have to admit to an objection to having legislation made to look like nonsense. Clause 1 1 (2) states, in effect, that financial assistance to a State is granted under certain conditions. If we were to insert the words that this amendment seeks to insert, the clause would read that money: . . is granted on the condition that- . . . (aa) after consultation with the Schools Commission the Commonwealth Education Minister may permit the allocation of a specific amount from the schools allocation to be spent at the discretion of the school board.
We appear already to have an agreement that the Minister is not now precluded from using his discretion. I cannot imagine why we need it written into the Bill that the Minister needs permission to do something that is not precluded anyway. I suggest to you, Mr Chairman, that the amendment makes for nonsense reading.
If honourable senators opposite really want to bring some sort of moral pressure to bear from the Senate on to State governments to set up school boards and find the means whereby responsibility can be handed down to groups which are interested in the running of the schools, I suggest that she move a motion during a debate on general business and we can vote on it. I do not think she would meet with much opposition to it. But for the sake of just putting in words that do not need to be there -
– It is irresponsible for someone in the senior chamber of the Commonwealth to say something like that. Moral persuasion is a good thing, is it not?
- Senator Button can have his turn. He can rise, and catch the Chairman’s eye and when he receives the call he can say what he wishes to say at very much greater length. I have no doubt he will because he has done it in the past. I am pointing out that I have an objection to a Bill being made to look like nonsense just for the sake of having inserted in it an opinion on an aspect of educational theory. The Minister has pointed out that the Schools Commission does not believe there should be coercion. The Opposition agrees that there should not be coercion. The Opposition says that its amendment is not meant to have the effect of coercion. If it is not meant to have any effect other than a moral effect, it has no place in the Bill. What I was saying- perhaps Senator Button was not listening very closely at the time- is that if honourable senators opposite want an expression of general opinion on the matter or if they want to take a moral stance in the chamber and tell the State education departments what they should be doing in this area, there are alternatives open to us other than amending the Bill.
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 May on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not be opposing the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1976, which I think is probably a good thing because one would need to be an actuary to understand the implications of the Bill. It provides, of course, for alterations to the retirement and death benefit entitlements of ex-servicemen. The legislation flows from the recommendations of a committee of inquiry which looked into this matter in 1972. There has been some delay in implementing that committee’s recommendations. The delay, I believe, was not deliberate on the part of the previous Government or on the part of this Government. It is a complicated piece of legislation and one to which I feel all of us can give our support. We all recognise the need for a proper scheme of this nature to be implemented for retired members of the defence force. It is for that purpose that the adjustments are being made.
I will not attempt to speak on the actual formula because, as I have indicated, it is based on actuarial calculations and I feel that few of us here would be properly conversant with the application of that formula. Nevertheless, it is quite obviously a move forward, although one which may not be as much as some of us would hope. Then again, we have just debated the new superannuation legislation for Commonwealth public servants. Although the Opposition disagreed with the provisions of the legislation and the fact that it did not provide as many benefits for Commonwealth public servants as the Labor Government tried to introduce last year, both that legislation and this Bill are definite steps forward for the beneficiaries under them. Although those aspects of the Bill which relate to the formula would be a proper subject for debate, personally I feel that it is not necessary for me to debate them. I simply indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the legislation.
– I join in the debate on the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1976 to mention a few matters. First of all, I welcome the Bill, although it is long overdue. The Bill is related particularly to those people who retired from the armed Services prior to 1 October 1972 when the new Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits scheme came into operation. Those people, therefore, were at a certain disadvantage compared with those who were fortunate enough to be able to join the new scheme and who may have retired shortly after doing so. They were at a certain disadvantage because, as honourable senators will probably appreciate, those who were still serving in the armed forces on 1 October 1972 were given the opportunity to join the new scheme on a basis that if their contributions during their period of service had exceeded 5.5 per cent of salary they would receive a refund and that if their contributions had not reached 5.5 per cent they would have to pay into the scheme. In most cases a refund was granted. So those people who left the scheme after 1 October 1972 not only got a refund of contributions that they had made over a period of years but also were able to retire on a much better basis than those who retired prior to that date. Therefore, I believe that this Bill does enable those people who are disadvantaged in that way to get some sort of remuneration. Therefore, the legislation is long overdue. I think those people have been waiting for this increase for a number of years, dating back to the time not only when we were in Government previously but also when the Labor Party was in government.
One matter which I would like to raise concerns those people who retired before 1972 and who believe that a quinquennial investigation should be made into the contributors’ fund. They believe that there is a surplus of something like $ 1 lm in the fund and that that money should be distributed to them as it is their entitlement. Let us face it; a contract was drawn up between the contributors and the Government as to what should be the contribution of the serviceman and what the Government’s contribution to the fund should be. Every now and again an actuarial investigation would be held to see whether there was a surplus in the fund. Those people who were able to join the new scheme on the basis I mentioned- that is, contributions of 5.5 per cent of salary over the period of service- have no rights in that scheme. They received their handout when they left the old scheme in order to contribute to the new scheme. Since their contributions were not taken into account in joining the new scheme I do not see that they are entitled to any handouts that may be found to be available after an investigation. But those who were discharged prior to 1 October 1972, I believe, have a moral right to any surpluses that may be in the fund to which they contributed. I think there was supposed to be a quinquennial investigation in 1969, but it was put off until 1972 so that it would coincide with the introduction of the new scheme. That is the story I am told. If that is the case, I would just like to know when the results of that investigation are likely to be made known, and whether in fact an investigation has been initiated. I believe that we should do justice to those people who are entitled to some refund.
– They are the ones who were more seriously disadvantaged than any others.
-Yes. As Senator Devitt will remember, the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation recommended a new scheme for new recruits. We offered those who were still serving in the armed forces at that time an opportunity to join the new scheme on the basis that I mentioned earlier. But we had no jurisdiction, in the terms of the inquiry that we held, to do anything about those who retired before the implementation of the scheme. However, we did recommend to the Government of the day- of course, that recommendation flows on to succeeding governments- that it should initiate an inquiry to discover any injustices which may have occurred to such people and whether they were in fact entitled to some sort of increase in benefit.
It should not be forgotten that the old scheme was based on age of retirement. No matter when a person joined the Service, his years of service were calculated only from the age of 2 1 years. In our scheme the number of years of service was calculated from the time of enlistment. So in the case of some people contributions were calculated from 16 years of age when they joined the Navy or 18 years of age when they joined the Army or the Air Force, or whatever might have been their age on joining the Service. In those cases years of service would be taken into account.
– Some could have had 20 years.
– Yes. I mention that to the Government and I hope the Government will note what I have had to say because there are a lot of people who accept the fact that they are not getting as good a pension as those who retired after 1 October 1972. They agree that there was a contract between themselves and the government of the day but they do feel that they have an entitlement to any extra funds which may have accrued. I support the Bill.
– It is not my intention to delay the passage of this Bill. I think it is fair to say that there is general agreement on both sides of the House that this legislation, which will have a beneficial effect on those persons involved, is long overdue. It is fair to say also that this is not the fault of honourable senators on either side of the chamber. I believe that this legislation embraces the principles which were either in legislative form or in advanced draft legislative form when the previous Government was in office, prior to 1 1 November last year. For that reason alone, I naturally support the Bill. It is a genuine attempt to simplify- if I might use that term- a very complex piece of legislation. To that extent, one could, I think, say that it is hoped that there will be some greater refinement in due course to further simplify this legislation so that there can be embedded in the legislation a permanent formula which will guarantee the maintenance of the value of the pensions payable and the benefits otherwise payable, consistent with the movement in money values and the cost of living from time to time. However, I was interested to read at page 1860 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4 May, when the debate on the second reading of this Bill took place, a comment made by Mr Calder, the honourable member for the Northern Territory. He said:
I make a point to the Minister concerning members of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund who join as married serving men, whose wives subsequently die, who marry again and who leave the Services. It seems to me that there is an anomaly in the fact that the man who was a member of the DFRB Fund paid his money to that fund on the understanding that the pension would go to his wife, whether it was his first or his second wife.
He went on to point out:
I have not been a member of the DFRB scheme and have not studied it very closely but I hope that somewhere along the line the pension of the man who joined, whose wife died, who took another wife and left the forces would not be lost on the desert air. After all, we are endeavouring to assist servicemen and their dependents. I just make that point and support the Bill.
In response to that matter raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in his reply, which is reported at page 1 862 of Hansard, said:
The last point to which I turn is that raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). It has been brought to my attention already that a number of people have been disadvantaged because remarriage has occurred and the claim of the relevant spouse to the DFRB pension or the DFRDB pension has subsided. I acknowledge that. The House may recall that when the Superannuation Bill went through this House recently provision was made to overcome that difficulty.
That Superannuation Bill, of course, was the Bill affecting public servants. The Minister continued:
I have issued instructions to my Department that an appropriate amendment be prepared to make a mutatis mutandis alteration to the legislation so that in the future members of the 2 Service funds and members of the Commonwealth Public Service will be placed in exactly comparable circumstances.
Those comments attracted my attention in particular. I have been pursuing a matter on behalf of a constituent for the last 3 years. The debate on the second reading of this Bill affords me an opportunity to cite to the Senate the circumstances of the representations I have made on behalf of this constituent. I trust that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who is handling this Bill in this place may be able to indicate to me what the Minister meant in his reply to Mr Calder’s question. I would like to know what the Minister really means. I should like to know also whether the circumstances of the representations I have made over a period of 3 years and which are still in train- the matter is before the current Minister for Defence but I have dealt with 3 Ministers for Defence to date without receiving any satisfaction- are being considered. The Ministers with whom I have dealt have come from both sides of the chamber, so I am not making a criticism of any party in particular. I am hoping that the Minister- in response to the matter I am raising today- will make it his business to ensure that a satisfactory answer will be provided to me in the not distant future, if not today. I am sure that the Minister will do this.
I now deal with the particulars of the case to which I have just referred. The matter first came to my attention in July 1973. For purposes which must be obvious to members of the Senate, I prefer not to mention the name of the gentleman concerned. He is a retired major. He had 35 years’ service with the Armed Forces. He was with the 2/2 Pioneers in the Middle East. He served in New Guinea and also in the south-west Pacific. He had a total period of active service during the 1939-45 war of 5 years, together with 30 other years which means that in total he gave 35 years’ service. He has a distinguished record. I am not attempting to use that as the basis of merit to justify any special consideration for this person. From what I can gather, he acknowledges that he is only one of many in the same circumstances. However, I think it is fair to say that he served this nation well both in war and in peace. In a letter dated 20 July 1973, which was written as a consequence of a letter sent by the former member of the defence forces to whom I have referred, the Secretary of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority, Mr R. J. Perriman, said:
The Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973, which received Royal Assent on 19 June 1973 and applies to all who were members of the Defence Force as at 1 October 1 972 provides for extended widows benefits.
There is provision in the new Act for payment of widows benefit in the case where a recipient member marries after the date of his retirement; however, these provisions apply only to those who were members of the Defence Force on 1 October 1972.
As you retired on 28 February 1 970, your pension is payable under the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1 948-7 1 as amended from dme to time. Section 65 (4) of the Act stipulates that:
Where a male pensioner marries after his retirement, pension shall not, upon the death of the pensioner, be payable to the widow or in respect of any child of the marriage’.
I regret to inform you therefore, that in the event of your marriage, your widow would have no entitlement under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1 948- 1 973.
It was as a result of that letter that the gentleman to whom I have referred contacted me. I asked him to furnish me with details of his circumstances. In his letter giving me particulars, he said:
I am a DFRB pensioner. I am a widower. I wish to remarry. The lady of my choice is-
This is critically important:
Though I initiated this proposal I am not eligible for the benefit as I retired in 1 970.
If the lady was to live as my de facto the fund would pay her more than $22,500 over the next 10 years, she is only 50 years of age now.
I am 60 years of age on the 25 September 1973 and we will be happy for her to forgo her pension for the opportunity to live a normal married life providing she is provided for in the event of my death. Both her late husband and I contributed to the fund, my wife died during my service so received no benefit.
Whilst I feel that this benefit should be extended to all pensioners under the old Act I consider that a case for special consideration exists where 2 pensioners are involved.
In other words, the gentleman was a DFRB Fund contributor and pensioner. His wife died before he left the Services and, therefore, the entitlement that would have passed to his wife had he predeceased her obviously would not have had to be paid. Under the provisions of the Act as it then was, the lady whom this gentleman now wishes to marry, notwithstanding that her late husband was a DFRB Fund contributor and predeceased her which entitled her to the DFRB pension, would have forfeited her pension if she had married this ex-serviceman. She would have had no entitlement to a DFRB pension if her second husband had predeceased her. In other words, there were 4 losers. This probably is a unique anomaly but, nevertheless, is a real situation.
I immediately conveyed all that information to the then Minister for Defence, the Honourable Lance Barnard, on 25 July 1973 and Mr Barnard’s private secretary replied to me on 1 August. I subsequently received a letter from the Minister. I will not read the whole letter. In part he said:
I recognise, of course, . . .’s difficulties and I have a great deal of sympathy with the case he has presented. You may recall that during the debate on the relevant retirement benefits Bills in the House of Representatives on 30 May, 1973, 1 mentioned that if any anomalies arose in relation to the rights of widows, I would be pleased to have them examined. The review is currently under way and you may assure him therefore that the circumstances of his particular case will be receiving the most careful and sympathetic consideration.
That letter was written on 12 September 1973. 1 received a futher letter on 8 April 1974 from the honourable Lance Barnard. I had jogged his memory between the date of the previous letter and the receipt of this letter. He said:
The review is not yet complete. The position is that a number of proposals tor changing the reversionary benefit provisions of the public service Superannuation scheme have been put to the Government for consideration. It is important, of course, that there be a firm measure of consistency in the treatment of widows under both the Superannuation and DFRB schemes and . . .’s case will be re-examined as soon as a decision has been reached in regard to the Superannuation proposals.
I shall let you know the results as soon as I am in a position to do so.
There have been some adjustments to the superannuation provisions relating to public servants. I received a further letter from the Honourable Lance Barnard on 26 November 1974. He reminded me that he wrote to me on 8 April concerning my representations and then went on to say:
I explained that a general review of these provisions was awaiting the outcome of certain proposals put to the Government for changing the reversionary benefits arrangements of the public service Superannuation scheme. I understand that these matters have not yet reached finality. As soon as the Government’s intentions in regard to the Superannuation proposals are known, however, the way will be clear to proceed with the investigation of the various DFRB aspects listed for attention.
I shall keep you informed of developments.
I wrote again on 1 8 February 1 975 because I had not heard anything of a satisfactory nature and asked the Minister:
Could you please advise me if there have been any further developments in the subject raised by . . .
I received a reply on 28 May 1975 simply indicating:
Any proposed changes to the DFRB reversionary benefits arrangements will, of course, require Cabinet approval and amending legislation. I shall write to you again about . . . ‘s case as soon as the outcome is known.
The matter then passed into limbo for some time until the gentleman contacted me again as a consequence of a report published in the Australian Financial Review which dealt in some detail with the provisions of the proposed amending legislation in respect of Public Service pensions.
I wrote to the present Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on 16 February incorporating the whole of the file to which I have just referred to bring him up to date, and I pointed out:
Apart from the obvious reason for reviving the matter with you I was also prompted by a Press report in the Melbourne
Age of 13 February on the proposed new superannuation scheme for Commonwealth employees which among other things said, ‘this also means that pensions paid to spouses of dead public servants will not end if they re-marry ‘. 1 believe . . .’s case stands on its own and the DFRB Act 1 948-7 1 should have been amended accordingly.
Whilst the abovementioned quote from the report is not necessarily analogous to . . .’s case, it appears to me to embrace the same principle in general and add weight and justification for the DFRB Act to be amended as suggested.
Would you be good enough to give this matter your most urgent and favourable consideration.
On 22 March 1976 the Minister replied and among other things said:
These matters were listed for examination in the course of a general review of the DFRB reversionary benefits structure initiated by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Lance Barnard. The review was deferred, however, pending the outcome of proposals for incorporating amended reversionary benefit arrangements in the new Public Service superannuation scheme.
That was true. The letter continued:
As a result of the recent announcement by the Minister Assisting the Treasurer of the Government’s plans to introduce a new superannuation scheme with effect from 1 July 1976, 1 have asked for a full report on the DFRB review to be furnished as soon as possible for the Government’s consideration.
My speech has been a little longwinded and I regret the time I have had to take, but I sincerely believe that the circumstances of this case, which I believe is not unique, warrant the detailed submission that I have made on behalf of this constituent. It is germane to the question, in part if not completely, asked by the honourable member for the Northern Territory, Mr Calder, and I am hoping that the response by the Minister to that question as recorded on page 1860 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4 May 1976 may have some bearing upon the case I have referred to the Minister. I will not be critical if the Minister does not have a ready answer to my question because I have been pursuing this matter for at least 3 years and through 2 Ministers. I have not got particularly far. But I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to take this matter to the Minister for Defence in the hope that he may be able to give us some satisfactory reply in due course.
– I had not intended to speak on the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill even though I was a member of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Committee which sat some years ago and which evaluated a substantial quantity of evidence. I do not think any committee of the Parliament has been supplied with more evidence or submissions than we were on that Committee. I seem to remember that when we invited submissions from the broad spectrum of people involved in the armed services and from former servicemen we received over 500 submissions. It was necessary for us to look very carefully at those submissions so that we gave every point of view which was raised a proper hearing and evaluation. It would not be reasonable for me to pursue the matter now at great length because time is getting on and I had not indicated that I was going to speak.
Senator Maunsell during his remarks reminded me of one or two things which I think I should say from this side of the chamber in order to give a rounding out of the proposition which he put. We started with a basic concept when we commenced to make our recommendations, after hearing the evidence and evaluating it. We said that nobody who was a beneficiary under the scheme, either as a pensioner or as a serving member, should in any way be disadvantaged to the extent that under the provisions of the legislation which was to follow they should not receive anything less than they then had. I think that substantially we achieved that objective. Frankly, I think the Committee did a very good job because it was a most difficult brief. We had to bring together the provisions of 2 schemes, namely, the pre- 1949 and the post- 1949 defence forces retirement benefits schemes. We had to blend them and bring them up to a modern standard. We had to provide benefits to serving and ex-service people who had been members of the schemes in previous years and who had been members right through the life of the schemes.
We realised at the time that it was impossible to bring down any sort of a recommendation and ultimately to provide a scheme which, based upon legislation, would make everybody happy. We anticipated that that would be the case. We did our best. I think that in the subsequent legislation there were enshrined some of the best provisions that one could possibly see in legislation. As a matter of fact, when we were dealing with the Superannuation Bill, which the Parliament has just passed, I had some discussions with members of my Party. I am quite convinced that there are provisions in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act which are superior to the provisions embodied in the Superannuation Act. However, be that as it may. Under the provisions of the DFRB Act as it now stands we thought there was a section of the ex-service community who were to an extent disadvantaged. They were people who were affected by the cut off date for the commencement of the scheme and for the dropping off of the past section of the scheme. We received representations from some of these ex-service people. Some of them were very high ranking people who gave great service to this country. There is no question about that at all. They gave service both in war and in peace time in the branch of the service in which they served. We were conscious of this.
Those of us who had been former members on that Committee made some representations to the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, who had been a member of the Committee in the days when it had sat. He was sympathetic to those representations. After he had considered the matter quite deeply and looked into all aspects of it he felt that there was no way he could meet that situation. Senator Maunsell raised the interesting point this afternoon that in the actuarial survey or the quinquennial evaluation of the scheme which is taking place or which is to take place or which may have taken place a sum of money was mentioned, namely, $llm. Was that it, senator?
– That is what I was told. It is only an estimation.
-Let us accept that as the proposed figure. I understand that there are not many people involved. They would be quite readily identifiable. If there is a surplus in that fund and if it is at all possible to do so I seriously suggest that the matter again be taken up. If there is a hope of providing some additional benefit to those people, that should be done. They were people who came within the range which we said would not be disadvantaged. They more or less broke even. Most other people in the scheme got some additional benefits. In fact, some got quite substantial benefits. That was a good thing. But if there could be some evening out so that those people to whom I am now referring could, even as late as this, obtain some benefit from any surplus in that fund, which would be revealed by an actuarial survey or the quinquennial examination of the fund, I think we would achieve the purpose which we originally set out to achieve. We wanted to ensure that servicemen, that is past beneficiaries under the scheme and present serving members of the forces who will have all the advantages of the scheme if circumstances arise during their active service or when they go into retirement, for one reason or another will get some quite substantial benefits.
However, it is important- I am sure I am referring to those people to whom Senator Maunsell alluded when he spoke- that these people get some additional benefits so that justice will not only be done but also it will be seen to be done. Those people who feel aggrieved- I know that they have made representation to me and to others- then would be very happy people. They would feel that justice had been done to them for the years of service they gave and because they were the people in the early stages of the scheme who actually carried it along. In some instances they were paying substantially more to keep the scheme going. They paid substantially more than a reasonable figure. That is one of the reasons why the scheme had to be amended in the past. I hope that in the consideration of the totality of this matter of DFRB entitlements and the like, that quite small, but nevertheless significant, section of former servicemen might get some additional benefits. I will be happy to see that come about.
– in reply- I thank all honourable senators for the unanimous support they have given the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill. I will be brief. I draw the attention of Senators Maunsell and Devitt to a statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund which he made when he tabled the report which was tabled in the Senate on 28 April 1976 by Senator Greenwood. I draw the attention of both honourable senators to the following words:
The further report will refer to 2 groups of contributors: First, those who were contributors on 30 September 1972 and transferred to the new scheme on 1 October 1972; and secondly, those who were contributors for portion of the period 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972 with pension entitlements falling due before 1 October 1972.
With regard to Senator Brown’s contribution, concerning generally the problems that emerge for widows, a study is being undertaken at this moment by the Department, with particular relationship, of course, to the superannuation legislation. The honourable senator alluded to a particular case. I shall invite my colleague, the Minister for Defence, to study the case and shall direct his attention to the concern expressed by the honourable senator in respect of the constituent involved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 29 April on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– By the introduction of this Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill the Government seeks to amend the Grants Commission Act 1973-75 in 3 principal ways. Firstly, it seeks to alter the name of the Grants Commission, which is a highly respected, expert, apolitical and quasi-judicial body, to that of the Commonwealth Grants Commission because it is now proposed in this legislation that there should be 6 separate States Grants commissions established to consider in a non-uniform way the needs of local government in the various States of the Commonwealth. Secondly, the Bill seeks to alter the system introduced by the Labor Government of requiring the Grants Commission, bearing in mind the principle of equalisation, to inquire into and make recommendations to the Government on applications for assistance received from local government organisations. This Bill seeks to make the Grants Commission merely- in the terms used by the Minister in his second reading speech- an advisor to the Government on matters relating to assistance to local government under the socalled new federalism policy.
Thirdly, the Bill proposes to remove the obligation presently imposed upon the Grants Commission to inquire into and to report upon the local government applications that already have been referred to it. Fourthly, the Bill spells out in theory, but with much of the detail lacking, I suggest, the proposed new system of a per capita grant for all councils with a possible weighting- I emphasise the words ‘a possible weighting’ which are taken from the Minister’s second reading speech- and then, as though it were a mere afterthought, an equalisation or topping up grant to be distributed to local government organisations through the various States Grants commissions that will be established, and I dare say appointed, by the respective State governments. Fifthly, the Bill varies the definition of ‘local government bodies’ by referring to them as local governing authorities’, established by State law, which fall within provisions not yet spelt out but to be defined by way of regulation.
I believe that Australia as a nation, and local government in particular, will rue the day when this legislation was enacted. We of the Labor
Party believe it to be a retrograde step and for a number of reasons the Labor Opposition intends opposing the passage of this Bill at the second reading stage, in the course of the Committee deliberations and also at the third reading. We oppose the legislation for a number of reasons. Firstly, we believe that it overlooks, deliberately chooses to ignore or fails to fully utilise the tremendous and great expertise that has been built up over the past 3 years by the Chairman, the members and the highly competent officers of the Grants Commission. Secondly, by involving to a much lesser extent in the future than is the case at present the Grants Commission in the Government’s new federalism scheme and by insisting upon the creation of a States grants commission in each of the 6 States, the Government will be creating unnecessarily a multiplicity of administrative arrangements, with the consequential employment of unnecessary ancillary staff and additional overheads.
Thirdly, the Bill, when passed, will considerably reduce responsibility on the part of the Commonwealth for the provision of finance for local government and thus will eventually weaken the influence of local government in the sphere of Commonwealth-State financial relations. Fourthly, the Commonwealth virtually will be enabled to wipe its hands of responsibility for the way in which finance is allocated to local government throughout Australia, more commonly referred to, if I may say so, as ‘the technique of the brush off’. Fifthly, the development of regionalism throughout Australia and all the advantages flowing therefrom virtually will be cut away by this Bill and local government thereby will be very much affected. I do not intend using this debate to challenge in detail all of the aspects of the Government’s new federalism policy.
I am pleased to see that the Minister at the table at the moment is Senator Carrick, the Minister in charge of Federal-State relations. 1 know that the Government, and particularly Senator Carrick, believes that the Government’s policy in this area is the right one. I believe that they believe that espousal of that policy by the Australian and New South Wales Governments had nothing to do with the result of last week’s election in New South Wales. But frankly, all I can say is that Senator Carrick must not have campaigned very vigorously in New South Wales. If he did, I suggest that he obviously chose to be the proverbial ostrich because everywhere that I went in that State- I can assure the honourable senator that I travelled to distant places in New South Wales during the State campaign- the matter was one that was invariably raised with me. I can assure the Senate- and the Government could well find this out for itself if it wished; it need not take my word for it- that one of the reasons why the rural vote in New South Wales swung so markedly to Labor in last Saturday’s election was that we of the Labor Party were able to get across to rural voters and to local government organisations in rural areas in particular that under the untied and unconditional grants made available to local government by the Australian Labor Government consequent upon the recommendations it received from the Grants Commission, the ratio of payment was of the order of $3 for the country to $ 1 for urban areas.
Having regard to the principle of equalisation and to the methods that were used by the Commission, one can see how much the rural areas of local government had been neglected previously so far as financial arrangements were concerned. The ratio was something of the order of $3 for the country to $1 for the city so far as local government Grants Commission grants were concerned. I suggest to the Government that if it were to ask some of its candidates in rural areas what happened and what were some of the reasons for the marked swing to Labor in last Saturday’s election, they would say that was one of the principal reasons.
As I have said, I do not intend to use this legislation to debate that issue at length. I intend to try to show some of the vagaries, some of the uncertainties, some of the ambiguities for local government that are embodied in this Bill. Let me say at the outset that one could be pardoned for inferring from the widespread publicity given in recent times to Federal-State financial relations that problems in this regard arise only as a result of the policies pursued by the Whitlam Labor Government. In fact, the question of how the total revenues raised by way of. taxation, by way of surcharge and by way of rating should be allocated between the Commonwealth, the States and local government has agitated political leaders and parliamentarians in this country for nearly a century. Long before the Federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, local government bodies had been incorporated in most of the populous areas of our continent. The transference over the years to local government authorities of a greater measure of responsibility for social and welfare functions to serve the Australian community generally was ignored by Australian governments in relation to financial assistance for the added responsibility carried by local government. It took 71 years for an Australian Government to recognise those added responsibilities of local government, and it was not until the passage of the Grants Commission Act by the Australian Parliament in 1973- a Bill introduced by my then colleague, Senator Willesee on behalf of the Labor Governmentthat any comprehensive attempt was made to provide substantial subsidies to local government from the avenue resources of the Australian Government. Of course, those revenue resources come in the main from the levying of income tax on the Australian community.
– That was the first time ever, was.it not?
-As my colleague Senator Devitt said, it was the first attempt ever to make direct grants of an untied and unconditional nature available to local government. In the last 2 years of Labor administration, $135m of untied and unconditional grants was poured into local government by the Australian Government consequent upon recommendations received from the Australian Grants Commission. Those grants were based on the principle of equalisation. As the Chairman of the Grants Commission, His Honour Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, said at a local government conference in Sydney last Saturday:
These programs represented a breakthrough by local government because they manifested the recognition of the obligation of the Federal Government to provide financial assistance for local government purposes as a supplement to the revenues which councils were able to raise from their traditional revenue sources.
That system of inquiry, report and recommendation by an independent, apolitical and quasi judicial body- a body whose recommendations, as I recollect it, have never been rejected by any Australian Government, irrespective of political persuasion- is now apparently to be replaced by a new system under the new policy of the Government. We are told that a fixed percentage of personal income tax will be earmarked for distribution through the States to local government organisations in order to provide per capita grants that are possibly weighted, to use the terms of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), to all local government bodies. Then an equalisation or topping-up grant will be distributed to local government via the State grants commissions that are to be set up. We are told also that the precise role that the Grants Commission, to be known as the Commonwealth Grants Commission, will play in the implementation of the Government’s new federalism policy has yet to be determined finally.
Let us consider firstly the fixed percentage of taxation for distribution through the States to provide per capita grants, possibly weighted to all local government bodies. Just what does that mean? Local government seeks at least 2 per cent of income tax revenue this coming financial year. As I understand it, on present figures that would amount to about $200m. Of course, local government also says that that amount must be in addition to present specific purpose grants at levels which would account for inflation. In a statement of policy issued as recently as 8 April by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, on the eve of the Premiers Conference in Canberra on 9 April, it is stated at page 4:
The Association seeks from the Premiers Conference at least 2 per cent of income tax revenue this coming financial year, which would on present figures amount to about $200m. This must be in addition to present specific purpose grants at levels which account for inflation.
In considering what local government is insisting upon, let us look at the statement on local government assistance attached to the Prime Minister’s opening speech at the Premiers Conference last February. Turning to page 3 of that statement, referring to the question of State by State distribution of assistance to local government in 1 976-77, sub-paragraph (5) states:
It is envisaged that the percentage distribution between States determined for 1976-77 would apply until 1979-80, when the Grants Commission (as is proposed in respect of the States’ tax sharing entitlements) would be asked to review the matter.
So it would appear to me that the percentage to be struck today is to apply for 4 years. But if the Government proceeds with the introduction of tax indexation- as late as yesterday the Prime Minister affirmed that that is the intention of the Government- I suggest that the value of personal income tax as growth tax is likely to be substantially reduced. This appears to be recognised by all States; indeed, it appears to be recognised by the Prime Minister. Because of that factor the States certainly have sought guarantees from the Commonwealth in respect of the likely reduction in the value of personal income tax as growth tax. But as I understand it, no such guarantees apply to local government. Because the percentage struck in the first year of the scheme is to last, or it is envisaged that it will last, for 4 years, I suggest that if local government does not do exceedingly well in the first year of the scheme it will steadily fall behind. When, after 4 years or even earlier, local government has to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth, I can well envisage the relevant Minister then being able to say to those who seek assistance: ‘I am sorry, but you will have to seek a better apportionment from your State Grants Commission. We have struck a percentage. It is to apply for 4 years. We cannot do any better for you’. This, I suggest, is the letout or the escape clause that will apply after the passage of this Bill so far as the Commonwealth’s providing assistance for local government is concerned.
I also suggest that the method of assistance envisaged Will not generate the benefits which the Australian Government hopes will flow from the scheme. It proposes a most complicated system as regards local government assistance. This was explained by the Prime Minister again in the statement that was attached to his opening speech to the Premiers Conference in February 1976. It reads:
I interpolate: Not of course in consultation with local government or not by local government. All the decisions will be made apparently at the Premiers Conferences at which local government will not be present. The statement then sets out how the scheme will operate. It says:
That is the Australian Grants Commission, or the Commonwealth Grants Commission as it will be called in the future. It continues:
the Government will ask the Commission to advise it, by May 1976 -
That is, this month- on what would be an appropriate percentage distribution, as between the States, of the assistance to be provided in 1976-77;
That is the legislation with which we are now dealing. The statement continues:
the Commission will also be asked to advise the Commonwealth Government on an appropriate definition or coverage of the term ‘local government authorities’ for the purpose of the arrangements as a whole.
After the Commonwealth has determined the amount that will be made available to the States, the apportionment to the States, the States Grants Commissions which the States will establish, will apportion the apportionment that has been doled out to the States by the Commonwealth. In comparison with the existing machinery, the expert body which is known as the Australian Grants Commission, I suggest that this new arrangement is complicated, complex and unnecessary. We have built up in this nation this highly expert and competent body in the Grants Commission which in all its recommendations to date has taken into account the special needs of each local government body throughout Australia, having regard to the methodology and the equalisation principle that it has used. Although during the 2 years of the Labor Government the Commission’s methods so heavily favoured or appeared to favour the rural areas, we as the Government accepted in toto the Commission’s recommendations because we knew that they were based on a fair and just principle and that they had been reached after detailed investigation and inquiry. The method now proposed by this Government is a combination of revenue sharing on a per capita basis and equalisation, and it would seem not to place paramount importance on needs or on equalisation. I believe that many less fortunate councils, particularly those in the outer urban areas of the great metropolises of this country, should be very apprehensive about the Government’s proposals.
Recently a news sheet was published by the Local Government Association of New South Wales. It is News Sheet No. 1 of 1976 and it was published on 24 February 1976 and issued by Mr N. T. G. Miles, the Secretary of the Local Government Association of New South Wales. On page 2 of that news sheet, contemplating the measures that would be embodied in a Bill of the type that is now before us, this statement appears:
In the new procedures, much will depend on the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in determining the budget figure. Some observers are saying that local government nas benefited in the past from an independent body such as the Grants Commission being able to recommend the actual amount which should flow to local government overall.
I emphasise these words:
In the future, representations by local government as to the total amount will have to be made at the political level.
I spoke earlier briefly about the concept of regionalism. The development of regions throughout Australia as advocated, espoused and attempted by the Labor Government enabled planning at a regional level. It tended to overcome the fragmentation of local government bodies. It enabled the Commonwealth and State governments to deliver programs at a regional level having regard to regional priorities, and it certainly gave local government greatly increased political muscle in order to make it, local government, a genuine partner in the Australian Federal system.
May I say that, as far as I am aware, all of these regions which were drawn up were proposed as a result of consultation with the various and respective State governments. I understand that at a conference of chairmen of regional organisations last July in Victoria, local government in that State totally endorsed the concept of regionalism. I suggest that those advantages to which I have alluded will be emasculated by the provisions of this Bill.
The constant uncertainty of phrase used so many time by the Minister in his second reading speech rather makes one uncertain about the Government’s proposals. These proposals are not even half-baked. I rather think that the recipe has been hastily put together. I suggest to the Government for instance that it should provide in the legislation at least for regular annual reviews to be made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, as it is now to be known. Indeed, the provision should be inserted somewhere to enable the Grants Commission to exercise some sort of oversight of the way in which these moneys will be distributed, used and administered by local government organisations.
I believe that this Government does not want any Commonwealth department, instrumentality or agency to be talking in depth to local government again. I think that in time any local government official, mayor, shire president, alderman or councillor coming to Canberra after this to seek assistance for his or her organisation will find that the Australian Government will be able to say: ‘Look, we do not have to talk to you any longer. Every one of the 880 local government organisations throughout Australia can now go to their State local government grants commission to put their case to that grants commission. We are making the money available to them. It is their responsibility to dole it out. Do not come here to Canberra wasting our time. Do not waste your time by coming here’. That, really, I think is the gravamen of this legislation. Certainly at least if it is not the gravamen of the legislation, T prophesise that that will be the result of it.
Let me return to the uncertainties that I see written in the Minister’s second reading speech. We see a phrase such as ‘per capita grants, possibly weighted’. We see sentences such as: ‘Local government will have a guaranteed and substantially predictable addition to its financial resources’ and : ‘The precise role that the Grants Commission will play in the implementation of the Government’s new federalism policy has yet to be finally determined’ and: ‘Its role’- this is the role of the Commonwealth Grants Commission ‘in relation to local government finances will be considerably modified’.
Whilst it was in office, the Labor Government genuinely set out to make local government a partner in our federal system. Not only did we use the expense of the Grants Commission to make recommendations to the Government on the needs of local government based on the principle of equalisation but also we accepted in toto the recommendations that were made to us by the Grants Commission. Indeed, we also tried to elevate the status of local government by a referendum that was held in conjunction with the May 1974 Federal election, namely, to seek a power to enable the Australian Government to make grants direct to local government throughout Australia.
As I said at the outset, the Labor Opposition believes that the measures proposed by this legislation will rechain local government as the underdog in the system of federalism rather than have it run free and unleashed. For all of the reasons that I have outlined, the Opposition will vote against the second reading of this legislation, will oppose the legislation in the Committee deliberations and will vote against the third reading of the legislation. I urge the Senate to reject the passage of the Grants Commission Bill.
– It is not surprising that the Opposition should indicate that it will oppose this legislation, that it will seek to defeat its second reading and to amend the Bill in the Committee stage. I think that the Opposition quite rightly would regard this legislation as being quite fundamental to, and as indicating, one of the basic differences which lie between the Government and the Opposition. Senator Douglas McClelland said late in his speech that the previous Government had endeavoured to enter into a partnership with local government and to elevate its status. He can point to some extent to the increased financial assistance which flowed to local government in the life of the previous Government.
At the same time, there is another interpretation which is to be placed upon the attitude of the now Opposition to local government. That is that it was seeking to use local government firstly as an arm of central government and secondly as a means of doing away with the federal system and with the State governments which are essential to that system. That is not a matter of putting a sinister interpretation on good works. If honourable senators want support for that interpretation of Labor’s approach to local government, I would commend to all honourable senators, indeed to local government and to all electors of Australia, a reading of the various formal speeches of the now Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, who, in a series of lectures starting, I think, in the 1950s and proceeding through the 1960s, sketched Labor’s approach to the Australian Constitution. In those lectures, it is made quite clear that Mr Whitlam and his Party see it as being desirable that the State governments should wither away and that Australia should be served by a central government in Canberra and a series of regional arrangements through building on what is now local government in Australia.
That view happens to be a vision of Australia that we in the Government are utterly opposed to. This Bill, representing as it does one step in the process of restoring the federal system of Australia, is something on which we place considerable significance. As a member of the Opposition under the previous Government I became quite used to hearing that Government speak of matters in respect of which it claimed to have a mandate. If there is one area in which the now Government can say it made its position patently clear it is in this area of its federalism policy generally. That policy was prepared in the life of the previous Government and presented to the Australian people. It made it quite clear that we would enter into the sorts of arrangements which are now being thrashed out by the Federal Government, State governments and local government.
Let me refer in this debate to the federalism policy which was produced by the now Government when it was in Opposition and to the references to local government in that policy. That makes it quite clear that this has been envisaged for some time and that the electorate embraced the concept of the federalism policy. It is stated in that policy that a fixed percentage of personal income tax for distribution through the
States to local government would be implemented and that this percentage would be shown on the tax form. It was made clear in the policy that that money would be dealt with in 2 distinct ways: Firstly, there would be a per capita grant to all local government bodies with a weighted formula in contemplation; and secondly, there would be an equalisation or topping up grant to be distributed through the State grants commissions. This concept has been well aired and discussed. It has been subjected to campaigning in the last Federal election campaign. I believe it has been widely embraced in local government circles and, indeed, in the community.
One of the reasons why it has been embraced is because of the deficiences of the approach of the previous Government. I have not had the close association with local government that many honourable senators have had. I have never served as an alderman or councillor. But I know from my normal electoral contact with local government of the intense irritation that was engendered in local government at the waste and inefficiency that was involved, particularly in the early administration of the Regional Employment Development scheme and in areas in which the Commonwealth was seeking apparently to assist local government but making its own demands for control and supervision. Local government found this irksome and it flies in the face of what we believe should be involved in local government, namely, a spirit of independence and self-reliance, and not the spirit of a servant carrying out the orders of the central government. So this is a matter which has been aired and which has been placed before the people. I believe that their response reflected the deficiencies in the approach of the previous Labor Government.
Our policy went on to say that this would assist local government and that it would be a vital reform because it would enable it to have revenues of known dimensions and to enter into forward budgeting. I think that point, when tied to the point of some part of the money being available in per capita grants, goes very much to the theory which activates the Government in putting forward this legislation. After all, if we really believe that local government has value because it is local- that there ought to be an element of local independence- it is essential that the local governing body should have a degree of financial independence and that it receive money which is not subject to direction as to how it should be spent and which will not be cut off if, through the efforts of the local government itself, it raises its standards to a level at which, on a needs basis, it will cease to qualify for assistance. In other words, it is no good having a system which removes the incentive for local government to help itself.
Quite frankly, I think one has to step back from the very worthy needs principle but not in totality. Of course, the policy contained in this legislation does not suggest that we would step back from it in totality. But if we are genuine in our wish to retain a degree of local independence and discretion, we have to step back from simply doing everything on a needs basis. Once that is done, it becomes inevitable that there is a supervision of standards, of revenue-raising and of every aspect of activity in such a way as to remove, in the long run, all local independence. It is difficult sometimes to put that argument to local government when it has had a relatively short experience of receiving moneys from the Commonwealth. The parallel which really ought to be looked at by those in local government who worry about the change in system is that of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. In that sphere we have the same laudible objections that there should be equalisation and that the individuals within the States should be treated fairly and on an equal basis around Australia, notwithstanding the different tax bases within the different States. But, of course, the history of our Federation is quite clear. It is quite clear that the financial power of the Commonwealth has led to the steady weakening of the State governments. It has led to a system under which the truly local nature of the State governments themselves has been reduced.
I think Mr Whitlam ‘s suggestion in this respect was quoted in the Senate recently. He said that the tax system and the system of financial arrangements had debauched the States. I think that the lesson of history is extremely clear. If the States enter into long term relationships with the Commonwealth of the sort that the States have with the Commonwealth at this time, it would be inevitable that well meaning Commonwealth governments would gradually take to themselves more and more control, more and more of the decision-making, and require more and more administration to enable them to perform those functions and, in the end, the whole nature of local government would be destroyed. So this is an area in which to a great extent one ‘s approach is affected by the way one thinks the administration of Australia will best be organised. If honourable senators believe, as Senator Douglas McClelland believes, that the government of Australia should be run from Canberra with a degree of decentralised administration through regions, they would say that what we are doing is destructive. If, on the other hand, honourable senators believe, as the present Government does, that government must be brought as close as possible to the people- I take those words from the early part of our federalism policythen what we are doing is simple and logical and will lead to better government in Australia, including better local government in Australia.
Senator Douglas McClelland raised a number of specific objections. I would like to touch on a couple of those briefly. First of all, he seemed to be saying that the attitude that has been adopted by the Fraser Government would mean an end to regionalism in Australia. That is a view which I would oppose. It is absolute nonsense. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing to prevent local authorities, by their own wish and through their State governments, adopting regional arrangements for various reasons. Indeed, the federalism policy of our Party makes it quite clear that what we are against is the forcing of regions on to local authorities from Canberra. We make it quite clear- it is expressly stated- that local bodies will be free to establish formal or informal groupings from time to time for particular functional purposes. Our policy requires, however, that we will not use regions as instruments to by-pass the States and to amalgamate areas without their consent.
Once again, I will refer to my own electoral experiences. The regionalism policy which was adopted by the previous Government certainly seemed to cause a considerable amount of confusion and dismay among local authorities with which I have had contact. I simply make the point that what we are doing in no way represents a stance against regionalism, provided that regionalism is not being used for purposes other than the apparent purpose of providing better services and enabling local government to function in a better manner. Another point made by Senator Douglas McClelland was that if our policy is adopted and this Bill and associated measures are passed, it will mean that the Commonwealth will be able to brush off local government. Once again, I suggest that that is an interpretation which cannot be placed on this legislation. In fact, the legislation provides specifically that there is to be a continuing ability on the part of the Grants Commission to look at the needs of local government. It is proposed to insert the following new section 17 into the Act which shall provide:
The Commission shall inquire into and report to the Minister upon any matters-
being matters relating to the making of a grant of assistance to a State, under section 96 of the Constitution, for local government purposes; or
being matters relating to a grant of assistance made to a State, under section 96 of the Constitution, for local government purposes,
In my view, the importance of that provision is that while that power is there it would not be possible for any Federal government to allow local government to be neglected. It would do so at its peril because any critic within the local government area would be able to point to that section and say that authority was vested in the Commonwealth and that it should be invoking the power of the Grants Commission. He could say that since the Commonwealth was doing that, it was politically at fault. In other words, the normal political sanction would be there. I am sure that no one in this chamber will deny the political influence which is exercised by people who are active in local government. I suggest that the simple political fact is that it would not be possible for any Federal government to ignore the real needs of local government.
However, there is a structural arrangement which is proposed by the Government and which again has been extensively discussed and publicised. It is a matter of discussion between the Government, the State governments and local authorities and will ensure that local government has a direct public voice which it can use to influence the Government. I refer to the proposal to establish a council for intergovernment relations. As is stated in our federalism policy document, we see that council as being a vital institution of co-operation within the various forms of government. It is to be an independent statutory body. It will have major status. Its membership will include nominees of Federal, State and local governments and also some citizens. It will have an advisory and investigatory function and it will, by reference from either Federal, State or local government, examine in depth the problems which emerge between the various branches of government. That latter point is, in my view, extremely significant because it means again that local government will have a public vehicle within which it can exert a proper influence not only on the Federal Government but also on the State governments with which it is vitally connected. So I suggest that the objection of Senator Douglas McClelland- I think it was his objection numbered 4- that the Commonwealth will be able to brush off local government in the future under this arrangement simply does not hold water.
Another major objection that Senator Douglas McClelland raised is one which again I think has a philosophical base rather than a base of practical experience, because he said that by insisting on the creation of State Grants Commissions we were going to be less efficient. He said that it would be less efficient to have multiple units involved in the exercise of dividing up funds among local governments. That is a matter in relation to which, I suggest, there is a clear difference in the philosophical stance adopted by Senator Douglas McClelland and the philosophical stance adopted by this Government, because we do not believe that centrally administered programs are necessarily more efficient or that they are necessarily better. I suggest that there are many examples to be found both in government and in business which show that the creation of large units has resulted in a less responsive unit and a less efficient unit rather than having the reverse result.
My own belief is that the administration of a system of grants over 900 local government authorities is a mammoth task to be carried out by a single body. When one bears in mind the different composition of local government bodies in the various States, when one bears in mind the different functions that are carried out by local government in the various States, and when one bears in mind the extreme variety of conditions that exist around Australia whereby local government authorities are administering the affairs of a handful of people who live in an area as large as many European countries, I think one begins to realise that the whole concept of central administration is one which needs to be looked at terribly carefully. This Government is showing by this legislation that it has faith in administration which is dispersed and which is closer geographically- that factor alone, I believe, is important- to the units which it is seeking to assist. I am prepared to run the risk which the Opposition seems to believe we are running of having difficulties in this area, because I do believe that we will find that by decentralising administration in many areas and not merely in this area in fact we will improve government in Australia and make it closer to the people.
The remarks I have made have not touched on a good deal of what might be said about this Bill, but I would like to give Senator Gietzelt a chance to make a very brief start to his speech this afternoon, probably because I cannot resist irritating him late in what has been a long and hard week. So I propose to close my remarks with those comments. However, I would like to express my appreciation in closing for the fact that this Government, I think for the first time in the 75 years of Federation, has set about reversing the trend towards central government in Australiaa trend which is, I think, best and most simply documented in Sir Robert Menzies’ book Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth. I do not pretend that this is a matter upon which the Parliament can hope to reach agreement, as so often we can when we wish to see that the best interests of the country are served by a course of action on which we can be unanimous. The public often forgets how often it is that legislation passes through this chamber with all parliamentarians of one mind that it is for the good of the country. However, on this occasion we are now dealing with an area in relation to which there is a genuine difference of political philosophy between us. In the utmost good faith- I think this was very kindly and well acknowledged by Senator Douglas McClelland when he opened his speech- we are making changes which we believe will make Australia a better place and Australian government better. The Opposition believes to the contrary. I am grateful that we are being given the chance to put our theory into practice. I trust that it will be successful.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Non-government Tertiary Education Organisations
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I raise a matter which I believe may be subject to some confusion because of the ministerial responsibilities which were allocated temporarily during the term of the interim government before last year’s general election. Before that election Senator Guilfoyle, I understand, as Minister for Education, made a ruling in relation to some private tertiary education organisations and that ruling appears to have caused a great deal of difficulty in the running of those organisations. I refer in particular to the Hale’s colleges organisation which runs 3 business colleges in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. I raise this matter for no reason other than the principles involved. I do not do so because of any particular interest in one organisation, although, of course, it is a non-profit organisation. I am informed by the managing director that his colleges will go out of business unless the Government can increase the allocation that is made on behalf of students who attend those colleges.
The story as it has been put to me and as I understand it is, in brief, that when the previous Government removed the fees at government tertiary institutions the private business colleges which had to continue charging fees were, of course, at a distinct disadvantage. Their numbers of students dropped remarkably. In fact, the number of students attending Hale’s business college in South Australia dropped from 166 in 1974 to 99 in 1975. That was a quite understandable result of the private colleges having to continue charging fees. Some time during 1975-1 believe, about mid-year- the Government allocated $450 per student to the students attending Hale’s colleges. While in the somewhat interim position of Minister for Education, Senator Guilfoyle indicated to the Hale’s organisation last December that the payments made on behalf of students this year would be subject to the absolute ceiling of that amount which was paid last year. So the natural inclination of the student numbers to rise now that assistance is being given has not been matched by the same per capita assistance this year. The amount that was paid on behalf of 99 students last year- at $450 a student- now applies in absolute figures in South Australia to 165 students. This reduces the subsidy- the management rejects the word ‘subsidy’ and uses the figure of payment per student which, I believe, is a credible way of referring to it in relation to other colleges- and the effective payment per student to approximately $280. The loss that is being sustained this year by the Hale’s organisation is very considerable. The Minister has those figures but perhaps they are best left confidential to the Minister’s files.
Nevertheless, it seems to be a simple organisational and financial problem brought about by those simple events. The removal of fees for Government tertiary institutions reduced dramatically student numbers at the private colleges. The payment per student last year raised the attendances. If the payment per student is based on last year’s enrolment and the total applied to this year’s enrolment, the effective subsidy is halved or substantially reduced. This particular business organisation is a non profit teaching college. It does seem to me that an important principle is involved. I am told that between 45 per cent and 50 per cent of the students at the 3 schools are receiving living allowances under the Commonwealth tertiary education scheme, which seems to be a remarkable recognition that these colleges are fulfilling their proper role in the community as tertiary education centres. It is true also that they fulfil that role at a very much reduced cost in comparison with what it would cost the Government to run a government tertiary institution. It would be only a fraction of the government payment per student per year in this per capita payment form. What does seem to raise an injustice is the comparisons provided to me by the Managing Director of Hale’s Colleges Ltd, between what is paid on behalf of his students this year and what is paid to other colleges. In a letter to me, he stated:
I enclose copies of letters sent to Senator Carrick by the Staff and Students of our Adelaide School. I would like to assure you that both letters arose from the spontaneous indignation of teachers and students.
The decision by Senator Guilfoyle on December 11, 1975 creates two injustices. Students in our Schools face discrimination when compared to students in public institutions, but they also face discrimination when compared with other private Colleges, in which courses are approved by the Commonwealth Office of Education.
Mercury College Sydney (one of 5 approved Colleges, in New South Wales) received $450 for a six months’ course. A new six months’ course commences on June 28, so that Mercury will receive $900 per seat. Mercury was admitted to the Course after December 11, 1975.
Stott ‘s College Melbourne will receive $7 12 per student. Stott ‘s was admitted to the Course after December 1 1, 1975.
That is the important part of that letter. The Managing Director has assured me that the facts are as I have stated, that there are no hidden factors and that there are no other material matters which affect the comparisons which he has given. I must say that it seems to me that if this is the case- as I have presented it here on the material supplied to me- Hales suffers by desirable comparison with other colleges which are, no doubt, of high repute. But, of course, Hales also is of high repute as anyone in the business community knows. It is an injustice if these colleges have been admitted after the ruling given by Senator Guilfoyle at a figure which makes them viable, whereas Hales is retained because of the drop in its increase in enrolment at a figure which is utterly uneconomic. I present this to the Minister in the hope that he will take some action at least to provide an equitable basis as between the various business colleges and, to increase the support of the students attending Hales not only to bring them to an equitable stage with other colleges but also to take advantage of the much cheaper training they receive there in relation to government institutions and to provide a lighter load on the public purse. I may say- this should appeal to Senator Carrick- that surely it would be a blow for free enterprise if these colleges were supported because they are more economic for a purse which is already overloaded.
– in reply- I am grateful to Senator Hall for raising this matter because I share his view that it is a worrying problem and, on the face of it, one that could cause problems of apparent injustice. Let me say in a non-partisan way that this is one of the most messy problems that we have inherited from the past. I say that in no attempt to score a point but merely to say that what has happened is that a funding, which has been going on now for some years, of non-government or private tertiary institutions, is an arbitrary situation. There are no real ground rules. It is somewhat like Topsy, just growing. Because of the situation confronting these institutions- a fixed budget of the previous Government and a freezing of the budget by us- some severe anomalies have arisen.
The situation simply is that the government of the day decided that certain non-government institutions would be funded by way of student assistance fees if, indeed, the equivalent courses were not being provided satisfactorily by colleges of advanced education. It then placed a provision on that decision that these institutions should be non profit-making. That set a whole chain of events into motion. A number of institutions sought to put themselves into a situation in which they were non profit-making. That, in itself, presents some interesting headaches. To decide what is profit-making and what is not profit-making is not easy. Obviously, the previous Government decided that it could not open the door and let in a wide variety of institutions. Equally, it had indicated that if those organisations which converted themselves to non profitmaking made an application, it might be sympathetically received.
I acknowledge that Hales Colleges Ltd has a very high reputation and has served Australia well. Hales made a number of applications to the previous Government for financial relief. 1 believe it made some application for a loan which was not proceeded with. On 1 5 August the then Minister wrote to Hales, to Dr Plant, advising him, amongst other things, that he could not foresee any prospect of the Government approving greater increases. As far back as 15 August there was a clear indication that the previous Government was forewarning these private institutions that in the year ahead they would in fact suffer considerable financial stringencies. On 1 9 September, the Minister decided to increase by a further 5 per cent the fees assistance available to some 13 colleges, including Hales. This brought the total fees assistance to Hales in 1975 to $172,778 for its 3 capital city colleges. In advising Dr Plant of the Minister’s decision, the New South Wales office of the Department, in a letter of 29 September, stated:
I am not yet in a position to advise the fee formula for 1 976 but it is unlikely that a formula of 1 975 plus 20 per cent or 25 per cent will apply.
Here again, it was obviously an indication by the previous Government that it was facing real stringencies and could not move. On 24 November 1975 the caretaker Minister, Senator Guilfoyle, decided that in order to freeze expenditure under this scheme no college in 1976 would receive more by way of fees assistance than it did in 1975. This decision was in keeping with the Budget decisions of the previous Government to hold allowances under the tertiary education assistance scheme at the 1975 level and to defer triennial funding for government institutions. If indeed a college, as distinct from individual students in the college, were to have its total quantum frozen, quite clearly if it got more students it would have less per capita per student. That is what has been happening.
There has been a conjunction of events with an arbitrary system of ground rules which has allowed some of the non-government tertiary institutions to develop expectations higher that were justified and to move towards the starting barrier. Clearly throughout last year the Government was saying to these colleges: ‘You may have no great expectation of funding next year. ‘ Our pledge was to hold the Budget and that is precisely what we have done. As Senator Steele Hall said, it means that per capita some colleges at this moment are getting more on the face of it than others. I do not want to delay the Senate but I wanted to expose- in fact to admit- the problem because it has to be and to say that I have it under review at this moment. In view of the financial stringencies the problem is something of a minor nightmare but I will continue to look at it to see what can be done.
Senate adjourned at 4.57 p.m. till Tuesday, 18 May 1976 at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Treasurer has provided the following answers to parts ( 1 ) and (2) of the question:
and (2) The Commonwealth Savings Bank makes known the facilities of its insurance scheme to each applicant for a loan to build a new home or purchase a home already erected. It is not a requirement that a borrower insure with the Bank and, if the borrower wishes to insure the property with another insurance company, this does not in any way influence approval of the loan.
In the case of existing borrowers also it is not a requirement that they change their present insurance arrangements. However, if an existing borrower of his own volition asks the Bank to take over the insurance of his house the Bank could not refuse to offer him a facility which is available to a new customer. ( 3 ), ( 4) and ( 5 ) There is no express exception in the Trade Practices Act 1974-1975 for the Commonwealth Savings Bank, or any other statutory body. Whether or not any particular statutory body is bound by the Trade Practices Act is a question requiring a legal opinion as to the relationship of that body to the crown. It is not appropriate to give such a legal opinion in answer to a question on notice.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Who are the members of the Income Security Review Committee.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable senator to the information I supplied on page 420 of the Hansard of 4 March, in answer to her question without notice on this subject, at which time I stated that the membership of the Income Security Review
Committee consists of representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Social Security, the Department of the Treasury, the Taxation Office, the Department of Repatriation and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Previously, the Social Welfare Commission was also represented; but, in view of the proposed abolition of the Commission in the near future, it will not have continuity of representation on that Committee.
Repatriation: Transport of Ex-servicemen (Question No. 278)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Pensions: Payment into Bank Accounts (Question No. 504)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
CBC Savings Bank Limited
Bank of Adelaide Savings Bank Limited
Launceston Bank for Savings
Savings Bank of Tasmania
Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Public Service Staff Ceilings
– On 1 April 1976 (Hansard, page 979) Senator Bishop asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question without notice concerning staff ceilings. The question was in three parts:
The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Motor Cars: Duty-free Imports (Question No. 461)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
However, the following information concerning imports of second-hand vehicles generally may be of interest to the honourable senator:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has advised that the only available data for Aborigines in electoral divisions is from the 1971 Census of Population and Housing and is based on the 1968 electoral division boundaries. A table showing the Aboriginal Population in each electoral division, listed alphabetically within States, is attached.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What was the maximum number and the names of Soviet ships, other than merchant ships, in the Indian Ocean in each month of 1972 and 1975.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Detailed information on visits by Soviet naval ships to the Indian Ocean in 1972 and 1975 (to the extent that such information is publicly available) is contained in the following tables.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 May 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760506_senate_30_s68/>.