30th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 560 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:
1 ) That the Ethnic Radio Hour in New South Wales broadcast in Croatian is controlled and run by members of the Yugoslav community and that the Australian-Croatian ethnic community is given no say.
That Australian passports have been denied to some Australian citizens of Croatian origin without explanation or possibility of appeal.
That discrimination has been exercised in the granting of citizenship privileges to migrants of Croatian origin.
That discrimination is being exercised by the Australian Parliament in the negation and non-recognition of Croatian nationality.
That discrimination is being exercised by the Australian Government in ethnic schools and university courses when it permits only the teaching of Serbo-Croat and not of the Croatian language as an alternative.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will consider these facts in the light of justice toward a people who came as strangers to this land, and that appropriate action will be taken to remedy the present situation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 1 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Subscribe to the view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the government of the day whatever political party.
Eschew all means, direct or indirect, of diminishing the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Reject all proposals for the introduction of advertising into ABC programs.
Develop methods for publicly funding the Commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence.
Ensure that any general inquiries into broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time shall be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the inquiry.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 6 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 there is a great concern and alarm of the removal of some government support for St Luke’s Hospital, Garden Settlement and for other institutions providing care for the aged within Queensland.
That the removal of grants is causing unnecessary hardship to those aged citizens of Australia who are dependent upon continued care and accommodation.
That the removal of grants has caused unnecessary unemployment and hardship for those who were previously employed in duties caring for the aged in those centres where reduction in grants have been made.
That the aged, and others within Australian society who are least able to defend themselves against the arbitrary acts of Governments should be spared from these unnecessary cuts.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Government should reconsider its decision to cut the budgets of these institutions and immediately restore the grants to enable these institutions to continue their high standard of dedicated and unselfish care for the aged and infirm in the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That the 1976-77 Budget allocation of $73.3 million for child care amounts to less than $23 per child per year which is totally inadequate.
That in 39.4 per cent of married couple families, both parents work and of these 59 per cent have dependent children.
That 38.6 per cent of female heads of families work and of these 64 per cent have dependent children.
That present government children programs are heavily biassed in favour of pre-school programs, 70 per cent of the funds being destined for pre-schools which only provide pan-time services for children and do not cater for the needs of working parents.
That existing government childcare facilities, schools and other government buildings which could be used for childcare programs are underutilised.
Your petitioners humbly pray that urgent consideration will be given to
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Guilfoyle (3 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Townley.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assemabled. The humble undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 1976-77 Budget allocation of $73.3 million for child care amounts to less than $23 per child per year which is totally inadequate.
That in 39.4 per cent of married couple families, both parents work and of these59 per cent have dependent children.
That 38.6 per cent of female heads of families work and of these 64 per cent have dependent children.
That present government childcare programs are heavily biassed in favour of pre-school programs, 70 per cent of the funds being destined for pre-schools which only provide part-time services for children and do not cater for the needs of working parents.
That existing government childcare facilities, schools and other government buildings which could be used for childcare programs are underutilised.
Your petitioners humbly pray that urgent consideration will be given to
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Ryan.
-I ask the Minister for Education: Does he agree that it is time that the Government revealed what it means by ‘less automatic’ indexation of education grants? Does this really mean a replacement of the former acceptable indices to offset the impact of inflation with annual haggling between his Department and the Treasury?
– Yes, I agree that it is time a clear statement was made on that matter. When the various reports of the 4 commissions are brought into this chamber in the weeks immediately ahead I will be happy to make a clear and precise statement on what the Government means with respect to this and all other aspects of education.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to the demonstration, leading to arrests, held in the Melbourne office of the Department of Social Security on Thursday night last. I understand that people were demonstrating against the refusal of her Department to pay special benefit in the 7-day waiting period for unemployment benefit to those in need. Were the people involved informed by a member of her Department that the special benefits in fact would be paid and would be available to those people? Has a decision since been made that it was not policy to pay special benefits in the 7-day waiting period? Who made this decision?
– There have been demonstrations on several days at the Melbourne office of the Department of Social Security. Several people have been demonstrating with regard to the payment of special benefits. The particular matter about which they were demonstrating related to a person who had voluntarily left his employment and was not entitled to unemployment benefit for a period of 6 weeks in accordance with the legislation. The demonstrations regarding special benefits have been discussed at great length with the persons concerned. At present those people are unwilling or unable to accept the Director-General’s decisions with regard to his determination of special benefit for those people suffering hardship. The honourable senator would be aware that the payment of special benefit is the responsibility of the Director-General. It is at his discretion that hardship is determined and special benefit is paid.
– I ask a supplementary question. Do I understand correctly that the decision not to pay supplementary benefit to people in such a situation is a decision of the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security and not a Government decision?
– It is true to say that it is the Director-General who determines whether special benefit shall be paid. The Act vests the authority in the Director-General to administer special benefit. The honourable senator seems to be referring to a particular instance.
– The particular instance concerned did relate to unemployment benefit. The special benefit is available to meet any necessitous circumstances as determined -
– I was referring to the general circumstances of unemployed people.
-As the honourable senator is referring to general circumstances, I inform him that it is the Director-General- not the Minister, not the Government- who determines eligibility for special benefit and whether that special payment is made.
– I refer the Minister for Administrative Services to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services which contain a provision of $ 1 .687m to compensate local fire brigades for the cost of protecting property owned by the Australian Telecommunications Commission. Have discussions with the States taken place about the distribution of these funds through them to the various brigades? Can the Minister say when support for individual brigades will be announced?
-As the honourable senator said, that sum of $ 1.687m has been provided for those purposes. On 6 August the Prime Minister wrote to the 6 State Premiers outlining the Government’s proposals concerning this sum. As yet, as I understand it, the Prime Minister has not received replies from all the Premiers. As soon as the replies are received- hopefully accepting our proposition- an announcement will be made.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of an article in the Medical Journal of Australia setting out details of a study carried out by a medical team from Brisbane’s Mater Children’s Hospital and the Queensland Department of Health? Is the Minister aware that the survey conducted by this team indicated that the infant mortality rate amongst Aboriginal children, particularly on Cape York Peninsula, is approximately 100 per 1000 live births and that the death rate among children over one year old is approximately 8 times the Queensland average? Will the Minister take appropriate action to investigate the health care methods used under the direction of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement and if necessary make available additional funding and medical teams to overcome the infant mortality rate which is now double the current mortality rate in the Northern Territory?
– I am unaware of the article in the Medical Journal to which the honourable senator referred. I am aware of many of the facts relating to Aboriginal health and mortality. I will refer to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the specific matter raised in the question and obtain an answer as soon as possible.
-I ask the Minister for Science whether he is aware of the concern expressed by the Australian wine industry over the import of inferior wines and brandies to Australia and the consequent adverse effect on the Australian industry. Can the Minister say whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is familiar with the laboratory tests employed to ensure that these imports comply with Australian quality and health standards? As it would seem that the screening of such products is inadequate, will the Minister ask the CSIRO to investigate this matter with the object of advising the Minister and the Government on how quality control of these imports can be improved?
-Yes, I will have the CSIRO look at this matter for the honourable senator. I understand from news reports that Senator Jessop originally raised this matter with one of the committees dealing with wine in his own State. Under the Department of Science, the Australian Analytical Laboratories has the obligation to test any materials presented to it. My understanding is that it has found that some brandies from overseas are not consistent with the definition of brandy contained in Commonwealth legislation. I think that is the matter which is being investigated. I will certainly have the matter looked at for the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the changes to be made in assessing income for pension eligibility which will come into effect on 11 November next. Can the Minister be specific as to the way income is to be assessed? For instance, if there is a weekly income of $40 derived from renting a house, will the gross amount be regarded as means, or will rates and tax be deducted first? Have specific guidelines yet been given to officers of the Department of Social Security?
– The Government has announced a change in the means as assessed for pensioners, and this is to take effect from 1 1 November this year. The test which will be applied in future is an income test, not a merged test of income and notional income assessed on property. I will look into the matter of deductibility of expenditure from that income and give a definite answer on that point.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer him to a letter that he wrote to me on 3 August 1976 in answer to a question that I directed to him on 6 May 1976. 1 asked:
Will the Minister obtain, through the Foreign Affairs office and through Senator Church, the Chairman of the Subcommittee 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 . . .
The Minister’s reply was:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has supplied the following answer to your question:
Volumes 3 to 12 of transcript of evidence admitted in hearings before the Sub-committee on Multinational Corporations of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, have been lodged with the Parliamentary Library. Volumes 1 and 2 which deal with the International Telephone and Telegraph company and Chile respectively are out of print, but copies can be examined at the National Library.
In view of the fact that in a reply to Senator McLaren the Leader of the Government said that all information received shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed to third parties or government agencies having no law enforcement responsibilities, is the reply which I received factual? Until yesterday I was unable to trace this evidence in the Library. Is this a new policy of the Government to keep information secret from the Senate?
-I thought Senator O ‘Byrne had been a member of this place for long enough to know the difference between evidence produced before a Senate committee, whether in Australia or in the United States, and evidence which law enforcement agencies gather and use in a prosecution for a breach of the law. What he asked and what was replied to referred to the former matter, namely, as I understand from what he said, evidence given before the Church sub-committee. The treaty which was entered into and which was signed a day or so ago in Washington is for the interchange of information, as I understand it, between law enforcement agencies leading, one hopes, to eventual prosecutions.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a report in today’s Australian quoting remarks of Mr J. B. Donovan, the chief economist of the management consultants W. D. Scott and Co., in an address to a meeting of the Building Owners and Managers Association in Sydney yesterday? Mr Donovan is reported to have said:
It should be quite clear that public sector spending on goods and services will rise in 1976-77 and beyond in real terms- the slump in the public sector has happened and is over and done with.
Mr Donovan went on to quote reasons for his statement. Would the Minister care to comment on the statement?
-I read the statement. Substantially it is a correct estimate of the position. One or two other things might equally be said. On the evidence that has been accumulating over the last 6 weeks, the construction industry in New South Wales, which has been an area of concern, shows signs of beginning to improve. The figures of power consumption have been increasing steadily. The indications are that this situation is as Mr Donovan has said and, in more precise terms, may even be a little further along the road than he thinks.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I ask whether the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has refused permission and funds for the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to meet as a national body. Is the appropriation this year for meetings of that body insufficient to permit such a meeting in the ensuing 12 months?
– I am not aware of the level of funding for the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee this year or whether what the honourable senator has posed is an accurate statement of fact. I am aware that the
Government is committed to the NACC’s continuing as a national body.
– As long as it does not meet?
– I do not take that as being part of the statement that I am making. I am saying that the Government is committed to the continuation of the NACC as a national body. I am sure that when the committee of inquiry, which has considered a wide range of submissions, takes into account the royal commission’s recommendations it will be found that satisfactory arrangements are made for the continuation of the NACC.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Repatriation, refers to the Toose report. I ask: Is it a fact that, since the report of Mr Justice Toose was tabled in the Parliament on 19 February, all ex-service organisations have made submissions to the Minister, generally supporting the recommendations of the inquiry, which has been completed. Can the Minister advise what action has been taken by the Government to legislate or to announce whether the items to which I have referred will be adopted?
-I thank Senator Bishop for raising this question. It is a fact that the Toose report was tabled in the Parliament on 19 February last and that the then Minister for Repatriation invited submissions from ex-service organisations. He requested that the submissions be made to him within 3 months. However, as the Senate will appreciate, submissions have been coming in from time to time since then. It is true to say that almost all of the submissions that we expected to receive have now been received. There is certainly very great interest in the recommendations of the Toose report. I do not know the specific number of pages but I think that there are over 700 pages in 2 volumes.
– There are 800 pages.
– I do not think that it is quite that number. There are 303 recommendations contained in that report which covers the whole gamut of the repatriation system. It covers such vitally important matters as eligibility, pension structure, the determining system and so on. The Toose report was a vast, comprehensive survey of the system and it was the first and only one of that character that has taken place in nearly 60 years of the operation of the system. Therefore it is a very major undertaking to process that report and the comments that have been made upon it.
I assure the Senate that both my predecessor and I have been very alive to our responsibilities in this regard. I hope to be able to make a fairly general statement in the near future on the method the Government is adopting in relation to processing the report.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that in many cases where employers have closed shop agreements with trade unions there is no legal requirement that employees be provided with copies of the rules of the trade union when starting work? While I am aware that some unions may object to this on the ground of cost, is it not an infringement of the rights of individual workers that this is not done?
– I think the question which Senator Messner has raised is important. I shall refer it to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for his comments.
– My question is directed to Senator Withers either as Minister for Administrative Services or as Minister representing the Prime Minister. I preface it by remarking that many members both of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, as well as many members of the public, were delighted to be able to view Governor Macquarie ‘s sword and dirk which were recently exhibited in Kings Hall. As the sword and dirk are no longer in Kings Hall will the Minister advise the Senate where these historical articles are now, for what reason they were removed from Kings Hall and whether they will be returned to Kings Hall which seems a most appropriate place for them to be displayed.
– I assure the honourable senator that Governor Macquarie ‘s sword and dirk have not been stolen. They have not been nicked. They were purchased for the Australian collection. One day we will have an Australian museum. They were not purchased just for display in Kings Hall. The 2 Presiding Officers of the Parliament kindly agreed that the articles should be displayed in Kings Hall initially. They are now- my New South Wales colleagues on both sides of the Senate perhaps can help me here- somewhere in the electorate of Mitchell in one of what are known as the Macquarie towns. I think there are five of them. At Windsor or another of those towns, there is to be the opening of a new civic centre, which will be quite an event.
The mayor and corporation asked whether the articles could be displayed there because of Governor Macquarie ‘s connection with towns in that area. I think the sword and dirk will be there for a month, or for some time. After that they will go on display for a time at Old Government House, Parramatta. I understand also that the Army museum at Victoria Barracks would like to borrow the articles to display them. Generally it is the intention of the Government that where people show an interest in displaying Governor Macquarie ‘s sword and dirk, the Government will try to meet their wishes. In spite of what we may think, not everybody in Australia comes to Canberra. I hope that something which was purchased for the nation will travel around the nation so that everybody can see it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he remembers my asking him a question in the Senate earlier this year in relation to an article which appeared in the Daily Mirror in May and which was headed;
PMG Men Accused of Swindle.
The article contained allegations by a former Australian Telecommunications Commission linesman who, incidentally, was a Justice of the Peace, that telephone subscribers were footing the bill for Australia-wide calls recorded on subscribers ‘ meters but made by Commission technicians with tapping devices. Does the Minister recall that I asked him at that time whether it was true that a linesman who did not report that he had made a call on a subscriber’s line could be dismissed, and if so, what attempts were made to detect this dishonesty and how many Commission employees were dismissed for this reason? Does the Minister recall advising me last week in reply to that question that in appropriate circumstances action can be taken to dismiss an officer found guilty of improperly using a subscriber’s line but that there was no evidence of any offences of this nature having been committed? In view of the conflict between the information provided in the Minister’s answer last week and the allegations made in the article by, I remind the Minister, a justice of the peace last May, I ask: What checks are or can be made on the improper use of private subscribers’ telephone lines and how can these subscribers be protected against a betrayal of a position of trust by such people? Has any attempt been made by the Commission to investigate the claims in that article and/or interview the individual who made them? If not, why not?
-I do recall Senator Martin’s question to me some time ago drawing attention to an article in, I think, the Daily Mirror in which it was alleged by a former linesman that improper use was made of private telephone lines by officers who were using them for their own personal use. I recall the substance of the question and that I sent the question to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Very recently I read the text of his answer in which he set out the procedures available in such circumstances. I am aware that he indicated that there had been no prosecutions although there were facilities available for taking this action if offences were discovered. I am not aware whether the Australian Telecommunications Commission contacted the person who made the allegation and I am not aware of what action was taken. However, I certainly will bring the substance of the honourable senator’s question to the Minister’s attention and seek a further reply.
-Has the Minister for Social Security been made aware of the flood of inquiries about the Medibank levy pouring into the Adelaide office of the Department of Social Security from supporting mothers? Can the Minister explain why supporting mothers are not entitled to pensioner medical service cards so that they can have the same level of income as pensioners before having to pay the Medibank levy?
– I am not aware of a flood of inquiries into the Adelaide office from supporting mothers. However, with regard to the second part of the question, perhaps the honourable senator can tell me why, when his Government introduced the supporting mothers benefit, it did not at the same time provide for the issuing of pensioner medical service cards so that supporting mothers could have same benefits as other pensioners.
– Everything was free.
-Senator Brown misunderstands the point that is being made. Other pensioners had medical service cards which gave them the opportunity to receive other appropriate benefits, such as State Government benefits. As to why supporting mothers do not have pensioner medical service cards, this is a situation that was inherited from the former Government which excluded them from receiving that service.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: What matters are currently being considered by the Incomes Security Review Committee? Has the Minister given urgent priorities to any of these matters?
– There is a range of matters which is being considered by the Incomes Security Review Committee. It is a continuing Committee made up of officers from a number of departments and 1 have not at this stage asked it to treat urgently any of the matters before it. It is looking at the whole range of benefits and pensions that are within my Department’s responsibility and from time to time will be reporting to the Government on these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Foreign Minister. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the latest developments involving a Canberra citizen arrested by the Uruguayan police force in connection with the assassination of the Uruguayan ambassador to Paraguay, who was mistakenly thought to be the Yugoslav ambassador?
-There was a Press report to that effect in the Canberra Times. I am informed by my colleague in the other place that on 9 June 1976 the Uruguayan Ambassador to Paraguay was fatally shot and as Senator Mulvihill says the Ambassador was apparently mistaken for the Yugoslav Ambassador. It has been reported that an Australian citizen of Yugoslav origin was among several persons arrested in connection with the shooting. I am instructed that the Australian Ambassador in Buenos Aires who is also accredited to Paraguay has asked the Paraguayan authorities for information about this report. As yet he has not been able to obtain confirmation that an Australian citizen was arrested. The Government is continuing its inquiries to ascertain whether an Australian citizen is in fact being held in Paraguay.
– I ask a question of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Has the Minister seen news sheets of the Local Government Association of New South
Wales indicating disquiet at the signs coming through of the New South Wales Government’s apparent intention to weaken the role and stature of local government? If so, how do these actions fit into the Government’s federalism policy?
– I have seen a number of publications from local government- the one to which the honourable senator refers and many others. The simple fact is that all local government in New South Wales is gravely anxious regarding the stated policies of the present State Labor Government. The State Government’s policy is essentially one of massive amalgamation, the aim being, as was sought some 20-odd years ago, to create a very small number of very large areas which would be the antithesis of local government- that is, that the areas themselves would lose their ability to relate to particular communities. Local government in New South Wales is extremely anxious because of this and other matters.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to statements by the honourable member for Murray, claiming, first, that the Government has handed the Australian Assistance Plan back to the States and is to allow additional finance for those States which decide to continue with the Plan; and secondly, that additional finance has been made available to the States so that they can now finance the AAP on a State basis, it then being up to each State to decide whether the Plan actually continues? As these statements appear to be incompatible, can the Minister say whether either is true, and if so, which statement affects Government policy?
– I do not make any judgment on the accuracy of the statements that have been referred to, but I do restate the position with regard to the Australian Assistance Plan. It was considered to be a program that was appropriate to be handed to the States for their determination as to whether they wished to develop or continue it. In view of the fact that State governments and local governments have had increased funds from the Federal Government in this year it is within their hands to decide whether they will continue to develop the Plan in their own way.
I read an interesting report today or yesterday that the Victorian Minister and his advisory committee were considering whether they would develop what they would term the Victorian Assistance Plan. In these terms it is for the States themselves to decide the future of what was formerly known as the Australian Assistance Plan. My advisors are continuously available to assist the States in this transition stage whilst we are at present funding those people who are professionally involved in it.
– I address my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to a statement made by the Minister in which he said that the Australian Tourist Commission should be able to reduce the rapidly increasing gap between Australia’s foreign exchange earnings from tourism and the amounts spent by Australian ‘s travelling overseas. I ask: What measures does the Minister envisage that the Commission could undertake to decrease this differential? What are the terms of reference of the committee which the Minister indicated he would appoint to study the problems of the tourist industry? When can the first report of that committee be expected?
-I think that what I would have said was that I hoped the Australian Tourist Commission would be able to direct its attention to the growing imbalance between external and internal tourism. I think that is what I would have directed to the minds of the members of the Commission. They would know that. They are currently studying the problem in detail. I have attended a meeting of the Commission and this problem is under examination with a view to finding out what possible range of solutions can be offered. I think all honourable senators will appreciate that one of the difficulties faced by the tourist industry has been the high cost of accommodation in Australia during recent years. Problems are associated also with the costs of charter flights, group travel and so on. The members of the Commission will be directing their attention to those problems. A committee on tourism is at present being assembled. Its terms of reference are currently being drafted. It is quite likely that I will be able to make public its terms of reference by tomorrow. That is my intention and my general hope. I reiterate that I see the tourist industry as offering potential for expansion and growth. We are directing attention to that aspect, both for external travel and internal travel.
-Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister seen a report that the Public Service Board plans to achieve, by December next, the complete 3.7 per cent cut in the overall Public Service staff numbers ordered by the Government for the year ended 30 June 1977? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn also to the recently tendered annual report of the Public Service Board and, in particular, to pages 30 and 31 which show that the growth that has occurred in employment under the Public Service Act over a 30-year period from 1945 to 1975 has been matched by that in non-government civilian employment? Will the Minister agree that the figures cited in the Board’s report explode the myth that the Australian Public Service became over-swollen under the Labor Government and that in fact when the full 3.7 per cent cut takes effect it will place the Public Service under a severe strain in providing efficient and effective services to the Australian public and to industry generally?
-The honourable senator asked me 3 questions. First, he asked whether I had seen the recent report of the Public Service Board. No, I have not seen that report. Secondly, he asked whether my attention had been drawn to certain pages of the Public Service Board report. My answer is no, I have not seen those pages but I accept the figures he stated. His final question was whether that exploded the allegation that the Public Service increased unduly in numbers under the Labor Government. I do not think that is a conclusion that one can draw from figures for the period 1945 to 1975. If in fact in 1972 the proportion was less than the 1975 equivalent to the expansion in civilian employment one could believe it correct to say that there was a growth. Without having the figures before me and without having made a proper study of them, I think it would be nonsensical for me to attempt to answer such a question in detail at this time. If the honourable senator places his question on notice I will try to get an answer for him from the Prime Minister.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Social Security relates to the Australian Assistance Plan. I remind the Minister that there are 3 regional councils for social development in the Northern Territoryan area that has no State government of its own. Can the Minister indicate how the decision regarding the future of the regional councils in the Northern Territory will be made? Specifically, can she inform me what role in that decision will be taken by the Federal Government, the Department of Social Security, the Department of the Northern Territory or the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly?
– The Australian Assistance Plan in the Northern Territory is a matter that will be considered by the Minister for the Northern Territory, my own Department and also, I would expect, the Legislative Assembly through the Minister for the Northern Territory. If I have any further information I shall see that it is released to the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government, refers to the Press statement of 7 July this year in which the Prime Minister announced that he had appointed Senator Cotton as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Does this appointment provide further proof that Liberal Party senators are totally subservient to the Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives?
-I do not know why the honourable senator should worry about who should be the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Government in this place. Perhaps it is because of the burdens he suffers under a lack of leadership or an inept leadership, not quite knowing who is the leader of his Party, whether it is a gentleman seeking to get into this place- I understand he is going to withdraw today- or whether it is the person his Party is prepared to elect for only 18 months in another place. I thought the honourable senator would know that it has always been traditional within the Liberal Party that the Prime Minister selects his ministry.
We did go through a short period in Opposition when we thought that because the Labor Party had been successful in 1972 there might be some merit in our electing our shadow ministry. But as the disastrous regime of the Whitlam Government proceeded and we saw all the errors of an elected ministry, within 12 months of making the decision to elect our shadow ministry we thought: If we are risking coming to office again with a ramshackle ministry like the Labor Party, for goodness’ sake let us go back to an appointed ministry. That is what we have done and that is what we have stayed with ever since. I can understand the honourable senator’s jealousy. His Party has an elected shadow ministry and a leader who is subservient to his Caucus. That is why they stay in opposition.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) It has to be on the same subject, Senator.
– It is on the same subject. The point of my question, which Senator Withers has failed to touch on at all, is: Are Liberal Party senators independent of directions from the House of Representatives?
-I suppose that the honourable senator, coming from a Caucus system where he is not game to blow his nose unless Caucus permits him to do so, just cannot understand that on this side of the chamber, both in this place and the other place, there is no caucusing in the Party room in the decision making process. The honourable senator will remember an incident earlier this year when a number of my colleagues voted with his side of the chamber contrary to Government policy. Honourable senators will recall that whilst the Government might have felt a bit miffed- that is a natural human reaction- there has not been, nor could there have been, any disciplinary action taken against those colleagues either by the parliamentary Party or by their Party organisations. But not one of the honourable senators on the other side of the chamber would be game to do the same thing because it would lead to automatic expulsion. If the honourable senator wants to get down to cases, I point out that as Labor Party senators are always outnumbered by their colleagues in the other place it is Labor senators who are always subservient to members of the House of Representatives. No member of the Liberal Party or the National Country Party is ever subservient to anybody.
-I ask the Minister for Science: Is the secretariat of the Australian Biological Resources Study now fully staffed and operative? Has it completed a study commenced last year on the distribution and ecology of Australia’s biological resources and, if so, with what result?
-The Australian Biological Resources Study is found in the Department of Science. Funds to the extent of a quarter of a million dollars have been directed this year to that Study. This represents a very substantial contribution for the work of that group to continue. The secretariat of the ABRS is governed basically by Dr Ride, who is a part time salaried officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I have heard no comment regarding a lack of staff available for the work. I have been to a number of the sites in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria where the work of ABRS is being carried out and I have not been alerted to any lack of staff to assist the program. If there is any information that I can give the honourable senator that I have not already given I will be pleased to do so if he puts his question on notice.
– I direct a question to Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. No doubt he is aware that many rural producers are eager to know the details of the income equalisation deposits as they apply to income for the year 1975-76. Can the Minister give me some indication when these details will be available?
-I had thought that this matter was on its way to the Senate. I shall check up to see how long it will be before it is available for notification.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in a position to advise the Senate of the truth or otherwise of the suggestion contained in an editorial in this morning’s Canberra Times that the World Peace Council could be the inspiration behind the independent and non-aligned conference to be held in Melbourne next month? Further, is he able to provide any information on the claim in the same editorial that senior officials of the World Peace Council, which is a Soviet front organisation, were refused permission by the British Labour Government earlier this year to enter Britain?
-I am unable to give an answer to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question. I will seek the information from my colleague in the other place. Everybody knows, or course, that the World Peace Council which was formed in 1948 and is currently based in Helsinki is, in fact, a communist front organisation. There is no doubt that the World Peace Organisation has been largely financed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and east European countries. There is no doubt that it has generally followed and supported Soviet foreign policy objectives. Unfortunately, it has been able to dupe a number of respected leading academics, and social and political personalities, in Western countries. That does not detract from the proposition that it is nothing but a communist front organisation.
– You are too narrow in your views.
-Oh, no. It is quite true. Regarding the allegations made in the editorial in the Canberra Times this morning -
– But you never read the papers.
– I read what is drawn to my attention occasionally. Whilst there is no hard evidence, as it might be called, to support the allegation made, I think that the details of the report as published in the Canberra Times is most likely accurate enough.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the statement by her colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, that investigations are proceeding into misleading advertising by the Hospital Benefits Association in Victoria. As it is not known how long it will take for a determination to be made if the matter is referred to the Trade Practices Commission, will the Minister ascertain as quickly as possible whether the Health Insurance Commission can produce information for the public to refute the 8 incorrect and damaging assertions about Medibank cover compared with cover by HBA? I ask this question because it is clear that HBA is relying heavily on frightening possible Medibank subscribers who may not otherwise learn the truth about these claims until early next year, by which time they will suffer a severe financial penalty if they then attempt to transfer to Medibank.
– I will refer the question to my colleagues the Minister for Health and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. We want to see that accurate information is given to the public throughout Australia so as to enable people to make a choice as to what health insurance they require for themselves and their families. We certainly would not want to see misleading advertising making it difficult for people to exercise the choice which we believe they should have in this case. The Ministers concerned will reply in more detail to the more specific matters raised in the question.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Education, refers to a report by the Australian Capital Territory Teachers’ Federation in the Canberra Times on 25 August 1976 and to a letter from Mr J. Fleming, Principal of the Canberra Technical College, to the Department of Education on 10 August wherein it is claimed that the new staff ceiling restrictions will lead to a reduction from 167 teachers in 1976 to 126 teachers in 1977, and that this will result in cancellation of some existing classes and services and postponement of services and several new courses planned for 1977. How can the Minister reconcile these claims with his own claim, made often in this chamber, that there are to be no cuts in technical and further education funds for 1977?
– The honourable senator must have overlooked seeing my reply to this statement. In that reply, which was published in the Canberra Times, I set out the fact that, contrary to the argument that there would be cuts in the performance of the College, the staff ceilings would be sufficient to enable the full discharge of the work of the college. I made the point, quite emphatically, that there is no ground for the allegation that there will be cuts in the performance of the College. There is adequate staff there to perform the duties necessary.
– I ask the Minister for Education a supplementary question. Am I right in assuming that he has just assured the Senate that there will be no reduction in staff from 1976 to 1977?
– What I said was that the staff ceilings as announced would be quite adequate to perform all the duties of the Technical College.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Government given any consideration to supporting the efforts of Dr Kissinger to persuade the Rhodesian Government that Rhodesia must inevitably accept the principle of majority rule and work to that end? Is the Minister aware that the Government of the United States of America has won support for this basic democratic principle from the United Kingdom, French and other European governments as well as the South African Government? Can the Minister indicate whether the Government sees these steps as the only way to avoid an eventual bloodbath in Rhodesia?
-As to the third question, yes, I think the Government does agree with that proposition. However, I wish the Labor Party would make up its mind. Its members seem to spend most of their time abusing the Government for having anything to do with the United States. Now they come in here and criticise us because we are not.
– My question, which is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, arises from the answer he gave to Senator Walsh earlier. I draw his attention to a letter bearing his name and published in the Australian on 17 July 1974 wherein he stated that ‘whilst Liberal senators are representing their electors, they are also part of the total Liberal Parliamentary Party and are bound by decisions and policies made by that total Party, and have the right and indeed the duty to see that those decision and policies are carried out’. How does he reconcile the answer just given to Senator Walsh, that Liberal senators enjoy independence of action in this place, with his letter of 1 7 July which I just quoted?
– I am sorry that the honourable senator is so obtuse. He ought to have realised, if he had read the reports of the Senate debates over any period in this place -
– I have read your letter.
-The honourable senator quoted part of that letter. He did not mention the incident out of which it arose. He has not quoted anything else. He has done what so many of his colleagues were doing yesterday. They were taking 6 words which my colleague Senator Sim said and attempting to make a speech out of them. Senator McLaren is playing the same sort of trick again today. In those tempestuous days of 1974 one wrote and said many things. 1 would wish to look again at the context of the letter. It is not so much what I say; what is more important is how honourable senators on this side act. I gave the honourable senator only one instance of what happened with some of my colleagues earlier this year. There have been other instances in this place over the years, as Senator Cavanagh would know. He has been a senator for a long time. There are a number of us with many years experience.
I think it was the first or second division after I was elected as a senator that I voted against the Government. My friend and former deputy, Ivor Greenwood, and I were at one time somewhat notorious for voting against the Government. Maybe that is a reason for my promotion in my Party, but I do not want to encourage my back benchers too much. Senator Wright and Senator
Wood are still senators after more than 27 years. I think Senator Wood has voted against the Government more than 27 times. Senator Wright would have an equal if not greater record. I would not wish to cause trouble between my 2 senior colleagues in this place.
There is no automatic expulsion, there is no gnashing of teeth or wailing at the wall. I can remember when Captain Benson held the seat of Batman for the Australian Labor Party. Merely because he had the temerity to join an organisation known, I think, as the Defend Australia Organisation, he was virtually railroaded out of his Party. He was railroaded out of his Party for joining an organisation which was interested in the defence of Australia. Senator McLaren has too many warts on his side to worry about a letter of mine in 1974.
– May I ask a supplementary question?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) No.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, with the remark that it has been brought to my attention that a Queensland farmer was asked to provide a copy of his income tax return in connection with a claim for unemployment benefit. He duly provided the return but incurred a cost when he was obliged to ask an accountant to do this for him. Will the Minister investigate whether in circumstances such as this persons can be reimbursed for obtaining documents that are requested?
– One must establish eligibility for unemployment benefit. If a primary producer as a usual practice engages an accountant to prepare his income tax return for him that would be for purposes other than establishing eligibility for unemployment benefit. It would be required for income tax matters and probably for other matters that relate to his business. I have not given consideration to reimbursement of expenses incurred in this manner. If the honourable senator were to reflect upon the matter, I think he would see that it would be quite beyond the scope of the requirements of a government to enable a person to establish eligibility in the circumstances under which unemployment benefit is available to primary producers. These matters can always have attention and consideration. The specific one raised is not one which has had favourable consideration from the Government at present.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Was the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, stating Government policy when he addressed a meeting at Gympie arranged by the National Party of Australia, on Thursday, 9 September? A Press statement was released the same day. I ask whether he was expressing Government policy when he said:
I have no quarrel at all with the right of unions to try to look after the legitimate interests of their members- their industrial conditions, pay and so on- or with their right to take industrial action in seeking to achieve their objectives.
Does the Government dissociate itself from those remarks?
-I find nothing exceptionable in those words of my friend and colleague Mr Anthony and I doubt whether anybody else on this side of the chamber would do so.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In the light of the decision of the Government to operate ethnic radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, can the Minister say what future action is contemplated with regard to the ethnic radio programs being broadcast through station 5UV in Adelaide?
– I have no immediate knowledge of the matter. I will seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health provide the Senate with details of the World Health Organisation conference in Geneva, held from 3 1 August to 7 September, relating to the preservation of foodstuffs by irradiation, which I believe was found to be dangerous? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the irradiation method of food preserving has been experimented with in Australia? Further, are any products being sold in Australia which have been preserved by the irradiation method and, if so, which are the products and what is the incidence of their use?
– I do not have the information immediately available with regard to the World Health Organisation conference or the irradiation of foodstuffs. I will refer the question to the Minister for Health and obtain an answer. Perhaps the honourable senator would like to put the question on notice.
- Mr Deputy President, may I take this opportunity to complete the answer I gave to Senator Georges when he asked previously a question with regard to the deductibility of expenditure incurred in making income from property. I state that, as a general rule, expenses necessarily incurred in the production of income are allowed when determining eligibility for pensions. In the matter that was raised by Senator Georges, only the net income would be taken into account.
– I direct a question to Senator Carrick either in his capacity as Minister for Education or in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I refer to an article in the Courier Mail on 1 1 September 1976 in which the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, was reported as referring to some of the bird-brained teachers you have up here’. Was the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement merely a consequence of the fact that he was in Queensland to open a tourist complex termed the Big Cow, or does his statement reflect official Government policy?
– Since in no conceivable way could the question have any relevance to either of my portfolios no answer is required.
– I seek leave to supply an answer to a question raised earlier by Senator Colston.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-On 7 September Senator Colston asked a question without notice concerning possible pollution of the Great Barrier Reef by the use of fertilisers and insecticides in agriculture. I have received the following comments from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation:
CSIRO is not aware of any reported effects within the ocean environment of nutrients such as phosphatic and nitrogenous fertilisers carried to the sea from farming areas. Because of the very great dilution that occurs when these materials reach the ocean, it seems extremely unlikely that they would have any untoward effects on the Great Barrier Reef. Advice provided by the Australian Institute of Marine Science confirms this view. The only situation in which effects might be observed would be in the case of a direct spillage, and any such effect would be localised.
CSIRO ‘s only direct study in this area is a cooperative program with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Australian National University, called Lizard Island Marine Ecosystems Research. The cycling of nitrogen in reef ecosystems is being studied as pan of this program. The Australian Institute of Marine Science has advised that it is undertaking studies of the occurrence of pesticides in the Great Barrier Reef between Ingham and Mackay. This work is still at an early stage. Though significant pesticide concentrations have not been found so far, any definitive statement must necessarily await the conclusion of this study. The concentration of pesticides in the Reef area is influenced by distance from the coastal sources, the movement of water past the Reef from the Coral Sea, the quantities of pesticides used on adjacent agricultural land, and the wind direction.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
This day for me, the first Aboriginal parliamentarian, is indeed a momentous occasion, one which causes all prior events in my life, with the exception of that day on which I first came to this chamber, to pale into insignificance. For when this Bill becomes law, and become law it surely must, it will be a historic milestone in the betterment of the plight of the indigenous and island peoples of Australia, as defined in this Bill, one of whom I am justly and fiercely proud to be. This Bill can be likened unto the mythical phoenix, as it rises and triumphs from the ashes of oppression, discrimination, and mistrust, which for far too long has been the lot of my people; a cruel lot, thrust upon them by almost 2 centuries of harsh, unthinking and, generally, uncaring European rule.
I will digress a moment, Mr Deputy President and honourable senators, and trace the history of my peoples to refresh your memories, and in some cases to inform the uninformed as to the events which have caused the very real problems that exist for the indigenous and island peoples in their contact with the law, that is European law. After some 40 000 years of peaceful possession of this vast continent, living under a culture so totally different from, and in many respects much better than, that of their conquerors, many of my ancestors were unceremoniously butchered. Those far too few who escaped the guns, knives, and poisons of your so-called civilised ancestors were herded in droves into reserves and missions, there to live in enslavement, under conditions which were so completely foreign to their former life style. In that former life style they had lived in a strict rotational system, in clearly denned tribal areas, brother to all creatures, and so completely in tune with nature.
Those who avoided death, and the subsequent great round-up, and others who escaped from the missions and reserves, came to the cities and towns, there to be completely shunned by white society and forced to lead the life of pariahs in tin shanties, in bark humpies and in other degrading accommodation, on the banks of creeks, on the outskirts of the towns and, indeed in any place sufficiently far from the cities and towns so that they would not offend the delicate senses of their so-called superior white masters. These of my race were the fringe dwellers, the legion of the lost, the dirty, ignorant, mentally inferior, Abos’, Boongs ‘Blacks’ as you were want to call us, and treat us accordingly.
It was within this deprived society that I grew up; within these harsh confines of human degradation that I, Neville Bonner, suffered the cruel barbs of discrimination and depravity at the hands of my white brother. Is it little wonder that there is suspicion and mistrust. The wounds are still raw, and the resultant psychological scarring remains. The plight of my Islander brothers was no different from that of my race. They are not indigenous in the true definition of the word as they came or, rather, were brought to Australia after colonisation by the white man. The Islanders, or ‘Kanakas’, as white men so degradingly christened them, were proud people, kidnapped from their Pacific Island homes and brought to Australia as black slaves to white masters. Those who were not kidnapped were duped into signing false work contracts by cunning and sadistic sea merchants called ‘black birders’.
Between 1847 and 1901, about 54000 Islanders were ‘employed’- I use the term loosely as it was nothing more than a state of total slavery- on sugar and cotton plantations in Queensland and northern New South Wales. They too were clustered around the outskirts of towns and, like their Aboriginal brothers, were treated to the same cruel and ignorant discrimination and oppression, and shared the same fate as their culture and customs were derided and destroyed. This rampant destruction of our culture, and the socio-economic evils which followed are now indelibly and shamefully inked on the pages of history for all generations to see, a lasting monument to Australian man’s inhumanity to man.
As our culture was systematically destroyed and the tribal laws and customs which had sustained us for aeons were deliberately eroded, my forefathers were subjected to the white man’s law, laws which were incomprehensible to them and which, in many incidents, were in complete contrast to those which had formerly nurtured them. The white man’s law had evolved from custom- European custom- tailored to meet the requirements of the European civilisation and, I stress, a European civilisation that in no single way faintly resembled those codes of conduct which were socially acceptable to my ancestors and to their mode and style of living.
Surely honourable senators must agree that herein Les the conflict which has plagued my people since 1788. The conflict naturally has arisen from this lack of understanding and from, I will go so far as to say, the hostile unacceptance of a new set of rules which were forced upon them, rules which govern what is considered to be socially acceptable in the strict European definition. Align with this the suspicion, mistrust and fear of white authority which was spawned as a result of their early treatment at the hands of the conqueror. These seeds of suspicion, mistrust and fear were sown and allowed to flourish, watered by the hands of ignorance and callous indifference. Therefore, is it any wonder that in such conditions as these we have today the inescapable fact that the indigenous and Islander peoples of Australia are the most incarcerated race in the world?
These are not my findings but those of the late Dr Elizabeth Eggleston in her book Fear, Favour and Affection, which sketches the dimension of the Aboriginal criminal problem. Although her figures are basically for 1 964, 1 965 and some for 1968, 1 am quite confident that the figures have not improved, and I would venture to say that from my observations, they have in fact worsened. The late Dr Eggleston indicated in her book that of those offenders who were imprisoned one-third were Aboriginal in the
States of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. She also indicated that of female prisoners, 64 per cent were Aboriginal. Thus, honourable senators, what we are faced with, is the damning truth that in Australia there is Aboriginal incarceration to the extent of one-third of all prisoners. What a condemnation! What a malignant cancer on the much vaunted system of British justice’! This is an even more disagreeable state of affairs when it is considered in the cold harsh light of reality that the indigenous and Islander peoples of Australia represent less than 1 per cent of our total population.
Now, can honourable senators see the need for reform, the need for greater protection of my indigenous and Islander brothers in their dealings with the law. To me the need is painfully obvious, and it is with the utmost humility that I say that this Bill will be a giant step forward in this regard. I am not naive enough to think for one moment that it will totally solve the problem, but I am confident that it will allay many of the problems associated with the indigenous peoples and the law and law enforcement agencies. The Commonwealth Government, as a result of the 1 967 referendum, has the power to make this Bill law for all of Australia and it must not shirk its duty in this regard.
I thank honourable senators for their indulgence, while I have, with limited time at my disposal, traced the history of my people and, I trust, illustrated the dire and urgent need for such a Bill as I am proposing. This Bill proposed that Aborigines and Islanders be given legislative protection to ensure that when written records of review, confessions, or oral confessions, are given to police officers investigating the commission of offences, the Aborigine or Islander concerned completely understands the nature of the questions put to him and the fact that he has the right to remain silent. It would be fair to say that the Bill puts into legislative form the spirit of the Judges Rules as to the manner in which the interview should be carried out, and in fact follows closely the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission, chaired by Mr Justice Kirby, in relation to the investigation of offences as set out in Appendix B of that report.
The manner in which the confession or statement is to be recorded must be by mechanical means, which is to be put into the custody of an authorised person after the recording has been made, until the accused first comes before the court; it is then put into the custody of the court. Alternatively, where no tape recorders are possible, the statement is written out in full and signed by the Aborigine or Islander and the police officer and confirmed in front of an authorised person, either at the same time or before the first magistrate before whom the accused appears. The authorised person may be:
The purpose of his presence is to ensure that the Aborigine or Islander understands the meaning and import of the questions put to him, as well as his legal right to remain silent. This person is asked to fulfil the impartial responsibility of ensuring that the Aborigine or Islander knows and appreciates the import of questions and their answers as well as his legal rights. There often has been criticism by members of the legal profession at all levels of the practice of ‘verballing’ whereby false testimony can be given of a conversation between the accused and a police officer which inculpates the accused. This oral testimony is comparatively easy to manufacture and extremely difficult to disprove. One effect of this Bill should be to negate this practice, because any verbal conversation which is to be given in evidence must be recorded according to the provisions of the Act. On the other hand, if a person does give such verbal confession and afterwards denies it, it would be a most difficult procedure for him to extricate himself from the situation created by his verbal confession.
This Bill, therefore, will expedite the administration of justice without favour to the defence or to the prosecution. Indeed, I have heard of comments from both defence counsel and prosecutors indicating that the procedure whereby oral confessions are recorded by mechanical means with adequate safeguards, or, alternatively recorded in front of a third party and signed by all present, would prevent the wastage of court time which occurs when a prisoner who has confessed to police takes it upon himself to deny this fact at his trial. It would also prevent wastage of court time which occurs when a police officer says that an oral confession was given when, in fact, it was not. In this case, the court launches into an inquiry itself- mid-trial- to ascertain whether on the balance of probabilities the confession was made and whether it was voluntary.
I see that this Bill would give objective evidence supporting a prosecution case or, alternatively, would, if the facts suited the situation, prevent false evidence being tendered in court. It may be that in the fullness of time, civil liberties pressure groups, the legal profession or the community at large would wish to see a similar provision, as proposed by me in this Bill, extended to the community in general. Such legislation I understand can be done only by the various State governments concerned. However, I have taken some care to ensure that this Bill propounds and establishes a method of inquiry which is practicable to police officers so that they are not unduly hampered in the execution of their duty. At the same time, it provides safeguards for Aborigines and Islanders to ensure that they not only know they have the right to be silent but also that, in the heat of the investigative process, the enthusiasm of the police officers does not lend itself to improper short cuts. Aborigines and Islanders must be advised of their right to be silent as well as have full understanding of the questions being posed. Difference in language, education, culture, and general background between Aborigines and Islanders and their interrogators makes the safeguards proposed by this Bill worthy, I believe, of the support of all honourable senators in this chamber.
Honourable senators would be aware that many Aborigines and Islanders have problems understanding the English language because of differences of language, culture and education of society in which they live, where the English language spoken may bear very little resemblance to that used in this House, or, wherever English language concepts cannot be accurately translated into Aboriginal language. To dramatically illustrate this language difficulty, and other associated difficulties, encountered by my people and their dealings with the law, I intend drawing freely on pertinent passages of the judgment handed down by his honour Mr Justice Forster, in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia, when dismissing the charges against the accused in the case which is reported as ‘Nos 58-61 of 1975 The Queen v. Angas Anunga, Sandy Ajax, Clancy Ajax, v. Tjingunya and also Nos 207 and 208 of 1975 The Queen v. Nan Wheeler and Frankie Miller Jagamala To simplify matters these cases are commonly referred to as, ‘The Paula Sweet Case’ and, in fact, some of the glaring injustices surrounding the investigation of this case, were the subject of a documentary on Australian Broadcasting Commission television in its program Four Corners, which I sincerely trust that honourable senators had the privilege, or should I more properly say, the dismay, of seeing.
Mr Deputy President, under an arrangement between the Government and the Opposition I was given 20 minutes to deliver my second reading speech. In view of the time left to me, I seek leave to have the remainder of my speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
With regard to the language difficulties, Mr Justice Forster, on pages 3 and 4 of his Reasons for Judgment, says:
What I say, and I am authorised to say that Mr Justice Muirhead and Mr Justice Ward agree, may be taken as an expression of the Court’s view, not only my own. What I say is also not exclusive. I do not deal with the offering and application of violence, nor with the offering of threats or inducements. These are, I think, sufficiently well known to require no further repetition by me. I preface this statement of Guidelines by pointing out that Aboriginal People often do not understand English very well, and that, even if they do understand the words, they may not understand the concepts which English phrases and sentences express. Even with the use of interpreters, this problem is by no means solved.
Police and legal English sometimes is not translatable into the Aboriginal languages at all, and there are no separate Aboriginal words for some simple words like . . .’in’, ‘at’, on’, ‘by’, ‘with’, or ‘over’. These being suffixes added to the words they qualify. Some words may translate literally into Aboriginal language, but mean something different. ‘Did you go into his house?’ means to an English-speaking person, ‘Did you go into the building?’ But to an Aboriginal, it may also mean, ‘Did you go within the fence surrounding the house?’ English concepts of time, number and distance, are imperfectly understood, if at all by Aboriginal People, many of the more primitive of whom cannot tell the time by a clock. One frequently hears the answer, ‘Long time’, which, depending on the context, may be minutes, hours, days, weeks, or years. In case I may be misunderstood, I should also emphasise that I am not expressing the view that Aboriginal People are any less intelligent than white people, but simply that their concepts of certain things and the terms in which they are expressed, may be wholly different to those of white people.
Another matter which needs to be understood, is that most Aboriginal People are basically courteous and polite, and will answer questions by white people in the way in which they think the questioner wants. Even if they are not courteous and polite, there is the same reaction when they are dealing with an authority figure, such as a Policeman.
Indeed this action is probably a combination of natural politeness, and their attitude to someone in authority. Some
Aboriginal People find the standard caution quite bewildering, even if they understand that they do not have to answer questions, because, if they do not have to answer questions, then why are the questions being asked?
The honourable Mr Justice Forster and, as you see, with the concurrence of his brothers Muirhead and Ward, recognised a problem, and at least in the Northern Territory- one of the present ‘hot beds’ of Aborigine-police relationssaw that it was of such importance, that certain guidelines were laid down for police to observe when dealing with Aborigines. These guidelines are contained in the judgment, at pages 5, 6, and 7, for those senators who would wish to read them, and they are indeed in keeping with the concepts of this Bill.
The guidelines laid down by Judge Forster included the suggestions that:
The honourable justices considered that these guidelines, as laid down in their judgment, should be adhered to as is evidenced on page 2 thereof, and I quote:
It seems to me now, however, to be important that the Court should put on record, general guidelines for the conduct of police officers when interrogating Aboriginal persons, and to warn police, that material departure from these guidelines, will probably lead to the evidence of the interrogation, whether it be oral, or in the form of a record of interview, being rejected.
In other words, these three jurists who are, should we say, right in the thick of things, have promulgated their own ‘judges rules’, as they recognised the disadvantages which in most cases would be suffered by my people.
If there are those honourable senators who are thinking that the proposed Bill is weighted in favour of the Aborigines and Islanders and gives them an advantage over other Australians, then 1 would again draw freely on the learned Judge Forster, who says on page 9 of his reasons for judgment:
It may be thought by some that these guidelines are unduly paternal, and therefore offensive to Aboriginal people. It may be thought by others that they are unduly favourable to Aboriginal people. The truth of the matter is that they are designed simply to remove or obviate some of the disadvantages from which Aboriginal people suffer in their dealings with police. These guidelines are not absolute rules, departure from which will necessarily lead to statements being excluded, but police officers who depart from them without reason, may find statements are excluded.
In other words, Mr Justice Forster has gone as far as he can in his court and has locally dealt with the accepted conduct of police investigations of offences alleged to have been committed by Aborigines. We in this Parliament fortunately can go further and make this Bill law and give the necessary teeth to his honour’s recommendations. I pray that this will be the case.
Some honourable senators might think that this Bill provides a haven for hardened criminals. However, I submit that this would not be so. These people, I understand, do not make oral or written confessions to the police. However, there is another group who may orally indicate implication in the offence, but after a remand period in gaol, where they are ‘tutored ‘ by more experienced hands, later deny in court that the oral confession was ever in fact made. This Bill, when passed into law, should remedy that situation. The special need experienced by Aborigines and Islanders in respect of oral and written confessions springs out of a real difficulty they experience when conversing in English; a real ignorance as to their civil rights; a real ignorance of the law, and a different set of social values. Any barrister who has cross-examined or interrogated an Aborigine or Islander in court will be aware that there is also an underlying tendency in many cases for the Aborigine or Islander witnesses to say what he thinks the questioner would like to hear by way of answer. This tendency may spring out of a social insecurity felt in a foreign environment, compounded by a willingness to please. Also, vague language by way of answer can often times be equally given to mutually contradictory questions. It is for this reason that the authorised person needs to be one who has had some experience in dealing with Aborigines and Islanders, has empathy for us Aborigines and Islanders and our culture and has knowledge of the law, or at least knowledge as to the provisions of this Bill.
The provisions of this Bill apply only to offences which entail 6 months imprisonment, or more, as a maximum penalty. There has been excluded, by section 4(2) and (3) of this Bill, any interrogation which is carried out in a manner specifically authorised and required by any Act of any State parliament, or other Act of this Parliament. This is to ensure that minor matters, such as traffic offences- where a person may be obliged to give his name and address and certain other information- and inquiries specifically authorised for example under bankruptcy legislation, do not have to comply with this Bill. The Bill is intended for the great bulk of criminal prosecutions which are today before our courts, and in which a relatively free hand has been given to date to the investigators. I repeat again, this Bill is not designed to hamper, nor will it hamper, proper investigations. It is designed to ensure that lawful conduct by police officers is efficiently carried out in respect to Aborigines and Islanders. For this reason, I commend the Bill to the Senate and submit that it merits the universal support of all senators.
-Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
- Senator Bonner wanted to introduce his Bill to the second reading stage today. By agreement between the Opposition and the Government Parties provision was made for him to introduce his Bill into the Senate. It is essentially a private member’s Bill. Of course, at this point of time we do not know whether it has the support of the Government parties. There is a lot in the Bill and the Opposition would like to examine it at length. Under the circumstances, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from Senator Button. 15 September 1976
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 give notice that today (Wednesday, 1 5 September) I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The failure of the Government to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute of Australia’s National Broadcasting Service ‘.
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
The words of that motion are carefully chosen because there is a lot of public concern that the qualities which are attributed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the words of that motion are now under threat. In the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s brief history since 1 932 it has built up a high reputation for providing a comprehensive range of services to the Australian people- services in education, the arts, music, drama, current affairs and news. Public opinion polls show that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has an extraordinarily high approval rating- more than 70 per cent. People are confident or have been confident in the past, in its independence, its integrity and its repute. Although the ABC can perhaps be criticised for its essential conservatism since 1932, Australians are justifiably proud of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, just as in Great Britain the British people are justifiably proud of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Since its inception as a national broadcasting service it has gone along pretty quietly providing a vast range of services, subject from time to time to criticism, attack and comment by the Press and elsewhere. That is as it should be. But in this motion we want to deal with some of the questions which have arisen in recent months. Since this Government came to power the sort of situation which I just described has changed and this has become a matter of public concern. First of all there were the cuts announced in the ABC budget in May this year. Those cuts led to programs being taken off the air or the production of programs being discontinued- programs like Bellbird, Rush and other programs of a current affairs nature- which have resulted in cut backs of the staff of the ABC. In the Budget recently announced $4m was cut off the ABC budget for the next financial year, which led the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sir Henry Bland, in his only public defence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission since he got that job, to say that the cuts left the ABC pretty close to the bone.
Following those cuts we had the extraordinarily spectacle last week on 9 September of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr
Eric Robinson) appearing on a television program and giving a little homily on the need for objectivity in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whatever the Minister might think that expression means in any news service, whether it be national or commercial and in whatever country.
Quite apart from budget cuts and quite apart from the comments of the Minister and of some of his colleagues, let honourable senators look at the situation of the ABC as it is today. I took a rough count last week: There have been 25 cartoons in national newspapers which have taken as the subject of their ridicule the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its Chairman. There have also been numerous editorials about the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the last fortnight. The Chairman has become a figure of public fun. The Commissioners of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are disagreeing in public about what the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be doing and what its program policy should be. Staff morale and public confidence in the Commission are perhaps at an all time low and they have been undermined by the Chairman’s confusion and misapprehension about his role as chairman of a national broadcasting commission.
Let honourable senators look at the newspaper headlines of the last few weeks: Think again Sir Henry’, ‘Alvin Sir Henry’s Comedy of Errors’, ‘Purple Sparks ABC Blue’. One could go on and on with headlines from newspapers over the last few weeks about the Australian Broadcasting Commission- the same Australian Broadcasting Commission which, as I said earlier, since 1 932 has enjoyed a reputation for integrity, impartiality and high repute in the Australian community.
I want to refer to some of the grave errors which the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has made since his appointmenterrors of judgment and confusion- which have led to such damage to the integrity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. But before doing that I want to fix quite squarely where the responsibility for the appointment of the present Chairman lies. It is well known that Sir Henry Bland has worked very closely with the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) over many years. It is well known that for 4 months at the end of last year and the beginning of this year he was on the personal payroll of the Prime Minister as an adviser. It is well known that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the Minister responsible for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, privately disowns the appointment of Sir Henry Bland as Chairman of the ABC saying: ‘It was all fixed up before I became a Minister’. If one wants any confirmation of that, let us look at what Sir Henry Bland says. The National Times of 23 August 1976 reported him as saying:
Everybody knows the Prime Minister was my minister in Defence. I have a great respect and affection for him and he seems to like me. He asked me to do this job several months ago and I said I didn’t see myself cut out for this sort of job.
But he is a very persistent man. He just kept on to me and I finally took it on because it was a challenge.
Sir Henry Bland said in August that he did not see himself as being cut out for this job but the Prime Minister was a very persistent man and insisted on his taking it. Let me make it quite clear that when I criticise the Chairman of the ABC I do so in this context: I share his view expressed to the Prime Minister earlier this year that he was not cut out for the job.
– A little bit of character assassination.
-The honourable senator may call it that if he wishes but I will continue in that vein because I am concerned about the subject matter of this motion. In the circumstances I have just outlined, Sir Henry Bland ‘s appointment might, if a Labor government had been in office, be said to come within the category of jobs for the boys ‘. The tragic fact of the matter is that Sir Henry Bland is no boy, although, in the context in which some of my colleagues in the Government use the expression, he might be described as an ‘old boy’. That perhaps explains something of the nature of the appointment.
In Sir Henry Bland ‘s own words he was not cut out for the job. The purpose of my comments in this debate is to show that the ABC has suffered because the Prime Minister was not prepared to take Sir Henry Bland’s advice earlier this year. It is said by people such as the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) that it was a prestigious appointment. Senator Carrick said that Sir Henry Bland is one of the most distinguished Australians of our generation. I do not know to which generation Senator Carrick is referring. That might be an important question when considering Sir Henry Bland’s present role as Chairman of the ABC. I do not want to debate Sir Henry Bland ‘s past career as a public servant. Voltaire once said that history was fables which had been agreed upon. I know the history of Sir Henry Bland and I do not want to debate it. Whether it is fable is another question.
I contrast the appointment of Sir Henry Bland with previous appointments made by Labor and
Liberal governments alike. I mention the following previous appointments as Chairmen of the ABC: Sir Richard Boyer, Sir Robert Madgwick, Dr Darling, Professor Downing and Dr Earle Hackett. Every one of those men was an eminent Australian in his own right, independent of government and public service. Every one of them had a cultural eminence of which every Australian could have been proud. Sir Robert Menzies, who appointed three of those men, understood the role of Chairman of the ABC and made appointments in that light. Every one of those men was capable of making statements consistent with the sorts of statements which have been made over the years by the great chairmen of the British Broadcasting Corporation like Lord Reith and Sir Hugh Green. As an example of the sort of thing we should look for in a national broadcasting service I cite the views of Sir Richard Boyer, the first Chairman of the ABC, regarding the role of a national broadcasting service.
His view was that there should be: . . a position of special independence of judgment and action for the national broadcasting instrumentality . . . The ABC cannot be measured by the constitution of other semi-governmental boards or agencies which do not impinge on the tender and dangerous realm of moral, religious, aesthetic and political values.
His hope was that the ABC should always ‘err on the side of liberality’. Sir Richard Boyer was appointed by a Liberal government, confirmed in his appointment by a Labor government and was, by all standards, a distinguished and great Australian. He laid down the pattern which concerned people in this country hoped the ABC would continue to follow.
Following the appointment of the present Chairman on 4 July, the first announcement from which we could glean something of his attitude to the standards that Sir Richard Boyer laid down was made shortly after in the same month. It was referred to in an editorial in the Melbourne Herald in these terms:
Think again, Sir Henry . . .
Sir Henry Bland, recently appointed ABC chairman, looks to have stumbled already into a vague twilight land where no experienced news executive would tread. Clearly, he cannot have thought ahead about the full results of a memo that is too sweeping in effect, provoking fears and questions.
The editorial then deals with news of demonstrations being broadcast on the ABC station 2JJ and states:
Surely if 2 JJ has been transgressing the normal bounds of legitimate news interest, then rectification is the job of an ABC executive, and not of Sir Henry Bland. In such areas of judgment, blanket bans are more likely to provide further troubles than worthwhile solutions.
Projected, such administrative bans will be represented as censorship. The kindest thing to say of this action is that it displays an unfortunate detachment from a need for news freedom. Sir Henry will be a wise ex-bureaucrat if he explains at tomorrow’s meeting of ABC commissioners that the direction should be withdrawn or substantially modified.
The next incident which concerned the same fundamental principles arose in the context of the peculiar saga of the program Alvin Purple. The great cultural debate for this Government in 1976 is about Alvin Purple, or ‘Purple Alvin’, the 1976 version of debates in 1973 about Blue Poles. Whether it be Blue Poles or ‘ Purple A Alvin ‘, that is the cultural level to which in 1976 public debate about such issues has declined.
Before referring specifically to the matter of Alvin Purple, I will refer to the sorts of comments which were made by the Chairman of the ABC about such matters in his Press conference on 16 August. He said:
With respect to the controversy over Alvin Purple, Sir Henry Bland said that the controversy:
Subsequently the program was banned at the instigation of the Chairman himself, following a private viewing. First it was subject to cuts and finally it was banned. In the same Press conference on 16 August he said that the role of the Commissioners was to support management and occasionally offer some wise guidance. I invite honourable senators to compare that with the memo issued to the staff of the ABC yesterday by Sir Henry Bland. After saying that the ABC Staff Association’s Federal Council would be allowed to meet with the Commission only in certain circumstances, he sets out what the circumstances are and concludes with these words: . . only if Council unreservedly acknowledges that the Commission has the unqualified right to, and responsibility to, determine the character and content of all ABC programs and therefore when in individual cases it appears to them desirable to do so to exercise their own judgment as to what should or should not go to air.
That statement is in contradistinction to his views about the role of ABC management as expressed on 16 August. The role of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is, and has always been traditionally accepted as being, to lay down guidelines for the programs of the ABC. The guidelines are contained in the Broadcasting and Television Act, vague though they may be. Those guidelines are ‘to provide adequate and comprehensive programs. ‘ That is the charter of the commissioners of the ABC. The role of management and of professional broadcasters is to prepare and present programs within these guidelines as laid down by the Commission and, indeed, as they were already laid down by the Commission in the case of the present controversy. In contradistinction to those guidelines to which I have referred the Chairman has made public statements about the program Alvin Purple, first of all saying that it was in bad taste, a comment with which I personally agree and in which he was supported with great gusto by those moral vigilantes from the Festival of Light and others, on his own admission.
The important point and the important failing in this public comment about a program of the ABC is that the Commission is required to present adequate and comprehensive programs for viewers and not for voyeurs, and there is a very important distinction. If the programming taste of the ABC is to be dictated to by a small fringe group of voyeurs who take it upon themselves to try to influence the programming policy of a national broadcasting body it is contrary to the charter laid down in the Broadcasting and Television Act and contrary to the traditions of the ABC.
The next criterion which the Chairman offered for criticising the program Alvin Purple was given in a news conference on Monday of last week. It was not that it was in bad taste but that it was boring, a comment with which I again agree. But if that is to be the new criterion laid down by the Chairman of the Commissioners of the ABC for Australian television then we go back 21 years to the time before television came to this country. There would be very little television in Australia if that was the criterion and it was properly policed. Every honourable senator here knows that and knows it to be true.
I have deliberately drawn attention to the role which the Chairman of the Commission has taken upon himself in relation to programming on the ABC because clearly he is in breach of his own charter. Under the Broadcasting and Television Act the Chairman is a commissioner and the commissioners are instructed as to what they can do in laying down policy guidelines. If there is any doubt about that perhaps it is worthwhile to examine section 77 of the Broadcasting and Television Act because there the only power to direct that programs be taken off the Australian Broadcasting Commission airwaves is given to the Minister. It will be interesting to see how concerned the Minister is to go in to bat on this issue. Section 77 says:
The Minister may do that but not the Chairman. I am not inviting the Minister to do that, for reasons which I will point out in a moment, but I am concerned to make the point that confusion has arisen and that the repute of the ABC has been damaged by a complete misapprehension on the part of the Chairman as to his own function. The results have been confusion, uncertainty, poor morale and public disputation about a meeting of the Commission to take place on Thursday and Friday of this week. A further result has been that the South Australian Advisory Committee of the ABC has publicly condemned the Chairman. The business of what was previously a respectable institution, in terms of the way in which it conducted its affairs, has been publicly exposed and publicly debated.
Not only that but we have commercial television channels in Australia at this time vying to buy the film rights of Alvin Purple. The publicity for Alvin Purple, to which Sir Henry Bland referred earlier, has been counterproductive in terms of his own intentions. On the basis of the sort of publicity which this course of conduct has brought about the commercial channels are seeking the film rights and are investigating the possibility of obtaining the television rights to the Alvin Purple sequence. What this does is to revive the old censorship debates of the 1950s. It is dividing the viewing community in this country on a completely trivial issue. The debate on the national broadcasting system of this country is reverting from the needs of 1 976 to those of 1 948 when these sorts of issues were continually debated in a very parochial society. That is the problem with which we are confronted in this motion and in the current situation of the ABC.
The issue of principle was put very well in the House of Representatives on 8 September by the honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp, when he asked this question:
Will the Minister convey to Sir Henry Bland the deep concern of myself, other members of Parliament -
We hope he includes members of the Senate- and many people in the community that a self-appointed arbiter of viewing tastes has acted in this way- not necessarily in relation to the program under discussion, but on a matter of principle that similar unilateral action might be taken in the future on more important matters, such as questions of political and social significance? Will he convey to the Chairman that censorship of the programs of the ABC should be exercised only after full discussion with all members of the Commission and then only for overwhelming reasons and in rare circumstances?
That is the view of a former Minister in a Liberal Government, and it was put very specifically in a question not relating to the trivial issue of Alvin Purple but relating to the fundamental principles involved in relation to a national broadcasting service. The same sort of principles were again well put today by Mr Charles Stokes, a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Queensland. He said this:
Sir Henry Bland seems to have completely misinterpreted the role of the chairman of the ABC. He should be fighting for independence for the professional broadcasters and program planners, not trying to stifle it. It is certainly not his job to meddle in the minutiae of daily broadcasting or to act as Grand High Censor of all the national broadcasting output. As Sir Hugh Greene, a former BBC director-general said, a broadcasting organisation must recognise an obligation towards tolerance and towards the maximum liberty of expression. Sir Henry Bland and the other ABC commissioners should be defending those ideals, not imposing censorship and, worse still, a climate of timid self-censorship on the creative artists and writers who must, as Sir Hugh Greene put it, take risks and undertake those adventures of the spirit which must be at the heart of every creative work’.
Mr Stokes went on to say:
I believe, with Sir Hugh Greene, that a public broadcasting organisation has a duty to take account of changes in society, to be ahead of public opinion rather than always waiting upon it. I believe the ABC should be adventurous and courageous, and that it should give its producers a high degree of self-responsibility.
– Hear, hear!
-I am glad Senator Martin says ‘hear, hear’ so timidly.
– No, it was Senator Walters.
– I apologise. I have difficulty in distinguishing the dulcet tones of Senator Martin and Senator Walters. I am grateful for the enthusiastic support which Senator Walters gives to propositions which Sir Hugh Greene and former chairmen of the ABC have always put in relation to the independence and integrity of a national broadcasting service. I look forward to hearing from her on this subject at a later date. Those sorts of comments by Mr Chipp on one hand, who perhaps is not the most distinguished authority on the subject matter, and Sir Hugh Greene on the other hand -
– You must not rubbish your own authorities.
– I was comparing the 2 authorities. If the honourable senator waits sometimes he will understand the point better. These sorts of comments lead one to ask whether Sir Henry Bland was right earlier this year when he said: ‘I am not cut out for the job’. This question could also be asked: ‘What is the job, and should not this Parliament be concerned to uphold the principles which previous chairmen of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and of the British Broadcasting Corporation have upheld in the sons of comments from which I quoted?’ There is another question: ‘What is the job? What should it be?’
The further question which one is prompted to ask is: ‘What are the much vaunted administrative skills which the Chairman allegedly has, and how are they showing up in his administration of the ABC?’ One would have thought that administrative skills would have produced good staff morale, good relationships with management and staff, a smooth operation, the ABC not being the subject of cartoons, ridicule and contempt by public commentators. One would have thought that administrative skills would have produced those results, not the sort of results which we have seen in Australian papers during the last few days. None of the things that have happened to the ABC since this Government came to power could have happened under any previous chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or any chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and they have not happened in relation to either of those national broadcasting bodies.
People who are concerned about our national broadcasting service are hoping that tomorrow the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be giving its attention to the problems of ethnic radio, for which the ABC is now responsible, the Commission’s intentions about it as from 1 October, the extension of FM services to a greater listening public throughout Australia, the extension of services to country people and perhaps to disputes in the ABC, according to Press comment, between news and current affairs departments. These sorts of things are of concern to intelligent viewers of and listeners to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and they should be the prime subject of discussion at the Australian Broadcasting Commission meeting this week, not the sort of farce with which the Commission will be concerned, and that is the debate which has been engendered in relation to the Alvin Purple series. It is for these sorts of reasons that public concern about the integrity, high repute and independence of the national broadcasting service in Australia has been so great and has been the subject of so much discussion in the Press and elsewhere during the last few weeks. It is for these reasons that the Opposition has moved the motion of concern for the independence, integrity and high repute of
Australia’s national broadcasting service. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– This motion, which is allegedly a motion of urgency, has already expired by inanition. There has never been a more enfeebled argument brought before this Senate in the guise of a motion of urgency. Neither in any explicit form, in any full frontal capacity nor in exposing the facts of the case has Senator Button attempted to relate himself to the subject matter. Unlike Alvin Purple, he could not have attracted, at least with his talents, any support for his arguments. He had no case. He put forward no case. His case was dead before it started. The simple test is this: Did the Australian Labor Party put one point to suggest that there had been any tampering with the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Was there any evidence that the Government of the day had told a chairman of the Commission or to a commissioner to do this or to do that? Where are these suggestions?
– It was because of the appointment of the present Chairman.
- Senator Georges interjects that it was because of the appointment. In other words, he is crystallising this matter by saying that the whole threat to the independence, the integrity and the high repute of the Australian national broadcasting service rests on the appointment of the new Chairman. It is a pretty poor reflection on all the other commissioners whom the Labor Party appointed that one man and one man’s ideas can outride the others. As the honourable senator must know, the Commission is a commission. It functions as a cornmission. It has total independent authority, and no one person has the final say. The reputation, the independence, the integrity and the high repute of the Commission must be reflected by all the commissioners acting independently.
What an extraordinary memory Senator Button has. The past takes on a saintly attitude when he recites one by one the 3 1 post-war years and suggests that never before have there been in public any incidents, any trouble about the ABC, any queries on programs, any queries about the action of a commissioner or of a chairman of the Commission. There has never been a year in the whole history of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and quite rightly so, in which there has not been public inquiries, public discussions, public controversies about some action of the Commission or of the Chairman of the Commission. They are now all saintly people. That is an extraordinary situation. For 23 post-war years governments of Liberal faith were in power in Canberra. In those 23 years, according to Senator Button, those governments of Liberal faith respected the high integrity of the Chairman and the high integrity of the Commission. However, the Hansards of the past are full of Labor Party vilifications of the government of the day and of appointees to the Commission. Suddenly Senator Button decides that these people are good people because they are of the past. Apparently they have more stature than the man who is Chairman today.
From 1945 to 1961 Sir Richard Boyer was Chairman. He was appointed by a Labor government and was reappointed by Liberal governments, in an acknowledgment that there should be no politics in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Sir James Darling was Chairman for 6 years. He had been an eminent school principal. Professor Sir Robert Madgwick was chairman until 1973. Professor Richard Downing was chairman until his death in October 1 975. Now it is said that all those people were good, but the new Chairman is bad. The reason he is bad is that he has created controversy. I could take the Senate one by one, month by month, year by year, over the debates in the Senate in which it was alleged that the Chairman of the Commission had done something wrong, that the commissioners had done something wrong, that the government of the day had intervened. Suddenly everything is different. Suddenly the Commission is allegedly under threat. Under threat from what? There has not been one allegation that this Government has given either direct or indirect instructions to any member of the Commission.
A former Labor Party Minister for the Media said quite unblushingly that he frequently leant upon the Commission to get it to do his bidding. That confession appears in the Hansard for March of this year, from which Senator Button drew the tattered remnants of his speech today. It is the left-overs of an attempted speech, an enfeebled speech, by Mr E. G. Whitlam at that time. Hansard records the confession of the former Minister for the Media: ‘I tried to get it to carry out the policies I wanted’. It is in Hansard. Now there is something wicked about this. On the other hand, I make it perfectly clear that nobody in my Government attempts to give instructions to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or to persuade it in any way. Senator Button stood on his feet for 30 minutes and gave absolutely no evidence of how the independence of the ABC, its integrity or its high repute are threatened.
He raised one or two interesting matters to which I will come in a moment. The whole thrust of his speech was that Sir Henry Bland was inadequate for the position and was not a man of balance judgment. I recall a very great Labor man of the past- Albert Monk- one of the great Australians, eminent in his generation and any other, saying repeatedly what a great man was Sir Henry Bland. He was then Harry Bland. He was the head of the Department of Labour and National Service from 1952 until 1967. Mr Monk said that he was a man of great experience, great judgment, great administrative ability, great objectivity and a man utterly fair in dealing with people. I say to Senator Button that youth does not acquire any real experience, as was demonstrated today. Presumably Senator Button would rather rely on Mr Monk’s hapless successor, the man Hawke. Unlike Senator Button, Mr Monk- a former and great Labor man- had the highest regard for the eminent capacity of the man whom honourable senators opposite are attempting to vilify today.
Sir Henry Bland, along with others, has served governments. Other chairmen of the ABC have served governments but that has been overlooked. Senator Button apparently sees some evil in serving governments. Others have done it, apart from those who have served on statutory corporations. So far nothing has been said. It was interesting to hear Senator Button say that there have been criticisms and that is as it should be. In other words, he says that the principle of criticising the ABC for what it might do is a good thing. I agree with him. In fact there should be more and more constructive criticism of the ABC. The technique of the Australian Labor Party in past years and now is to look at any critical comment that this side of politics might make on the ABC and to attempt to suggest that it is a form of duress or pressure on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The aim of the Labor Party is to suggest that we must keep away from any kind of criticism at all. It will be a sad day for the Australian people if that should be the test.
Senator Button said that the test of whether Sir Henry Bland is good or bad can be measured by the fact that there were 25 cartoons featuring Sir Henry Bland last week. I tell him that there were more than 50 cartoons featuring Mr Whitlam and Mr Hawke last week and, in his terms, making them out to be clowns. He says that the test of why Sir Henry Bland ought to go is that there were 25 cartoons and they made him out to be a clown. Sir Robert Madgwick and Sir James Darling could tell him how often they featured. I could go back over the years and mention other eminent people. If the measurement is to be in terms of news headlines and cartoons, the Labor Party’s temporary leader is gone forever because by that measure he would be an utter failure. These are the kinds of arguments that Senator Button used. He said that it is good fun for the Australian people to laugh at a thing like Alvin Purple. Senator James McClelland, who was the former chairman of a Senate committee, sits opposite me. The suggestion was made that there must be no censorship. That is bad. I remind Senator James McClelland and I remind the Senate that he and I visited the Australian Broadcasting Control Board during the time when he was chairman of that committee. We saw evidence of censorship of commercial films- of programs such as No. 96 and The Box- of the kind of general bawdiness which might be used to describe Alvin Purple. I have not seen that show. I did not hear Senator James McClelland or any Labor senator say- incidentally, they were then in government- ‘Do you know that this wicked statutory corporation is sitting there with scissors?’ He and I would agree that the censorship carried out unthinkingly made those programs more obscene than they would have been had they not been censored.
One sees attempts at destruction of my argument when I point out that honourable senators opposite say that censorship is wicked and must not take place. What the Labor Party Opposition does not say is that when in government it had the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the duties of which are to maintain standards in the commercial sphere. Every day of the week the Australian Broadcasting Control Board goes about its business making these judgments. It rejects here, modifies here and accepts there. In the whole of Labor’s 3 years in office did we hear from the Labor Party or from any Minister a rejection of the idea of censorship of these kinds of things? The former Minister for the Media, who is sitting here, knows that, whereas the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is the censor in terms of standards and taste for the commercial sector of the media, the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself must accept the responsibility for these kinds of standards. He knows that there is great conflict between the commercial sector of the media and the Australian Broadcasting Commission because of this conflict of standards between them. I have tried very carefully to discover what in the name of goodness Senator Button was trying to establish.
He said that he was trying to establish that censorship took place, yet for 3 years his Government not only tolerated but knew, observed and inspected the Australian Broadcasting Control Board every day censoring films and deciding what the viewers should see in the commercial field. Not a word was uttered then, but suddenly it is suggested that the judgment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is wrong, that it is wrong to intervene in the running of the ABC but it is right for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to maintain a tight censorship. Where does that kind of nonsense lie?
Let us look at the situation. I come to Senator Button’s next point. He referred to a memorandum, presumably relating to radio station 2JJ and the reporting of demonstrations. Senator Button found fault with this. It is an interesting situation and I remind the Senate of it. In 2JJ broadcasts on 24 July reference was made to a demonstration which was being organised against the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, who was to attend a dinner in Sydney that night. Not only was the venue and time stated; listeners were also told where they could get placards and leaflets and where they could catch buses to go to the demonstration. Is that comprehensive, adequate and objective programming? Recently I was honoured to know that trade union members were directed to come and join me and to help me along at the Wollongong University. I greatly appreciated the tribute paid to me. When this reporting came to the attention of the senior management of the ABC a direction was issued to all relevant radio departments stating that, effective immediately, references to further demonstrations which could be construed either as ABC support for them or as encouragement for people to take part in them were not to be broadcast. The ABC has no editorial position. The Chairman stated at a Press conference on 16 August:
The ABC has no politics and can have no politics.
It was also made clear that the direction was not to be interpreted as an embargo on the normal coverage of events the reporting of which should be continued on the basis of their newsworthiness, which should be judged by the officers responsible. Senator Button raises this matter as alleged censorship. Where lies the censorship? Employees are freely permitted to report events, but the ban is simply on their taking sides. They are not to go in and take sides and to urge people into demonstrations.
– They did not do that.
– I repeat that not merely was the venue and time stated but listeners were told where they could get placards and leaflets and where they could catch buses to go to the demonstration. We see the kind of nonsense which Senator Button, standing in his place today, is talking when he tries to intimidate us and prevent us drawing attention to these facts. In other words, honourable senators opposite do not want objectivity in reporting. Of course they do not. They want to stop any kind of criticism so that there can be partisan, biased and subjective reporting. I make it abundantly clear that the reason why the Australian Broadcasting Commission is given the status of a statutory corporation is not to give it licence in any way to do subjective things. It is given the status to give it freedom from outside pressures to carry out balanced programming. The words are ‘adequate and comprehensive programs’.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has an implacable duty not to be partisan but to be absolutely balanced and fair. To have Senator Button representing the 2JJ radio announcement on the Kerr demonstration as being an example of censorship is to show that what the Australian Labor Party is advocating is an urging of bias and of licence. It is an urging of people into partisan political activities. That we will not wear. If I heard aright, I heard an interjection suggesting that Sir Henry Bland had some political association or bias. It is fair to say that I and my Government have no knowledge of any political qualities or any political association which Sir Henry Bland has had throughout the whole of his public lifetime. In no way has he disclosed his political leanings. He has been totally objective. I remind the Senate of Albert Monk’s many tributes to the man in this regard. I have in no way any method of judging the rights or wrongs of the program Alvin Purple. Thank God it is not for me to do that. I do not have time to see these things.
– You might enjoy it.
-I say to Senator Wriedt that for many years I had more than adequate opportunity to be a voyeur had I wished. It is a poor occupation. Senator Button could not have been more wrong when he cited section 77 of the Broadcasting and Television Act as being the only way in which an ABC program could be taken off. Section 77 is a measure under which a Minister can act in the extreme. But I remind the Senate that in fact the duty of the Commissioners of the ABC is primarily that of programming. It is primarily their decision as to what is put on and what is left off. They can decide that at any time at all.
Let us look at the alleged infringement, as I understand it, regarding Alvin Purple. My advice is that no further episodes will be screened before the next meeting of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on 16 and 17 September. That is not uncoincidental I think, with the origin of this debate. The Chairman of the ABC stated on 4 September that the decision about Alvin Purple had been taken after consultation with senior management and after discussions with all the Commissioners. He stated:
At the forthcoming meetings Commissioners expect to have before them management reports on episodes not yet screened, together with a recommendation about the future of the series. This matter is properly being dealt with by the ABC itself, the Commission and senior management exercising their independent authority.
Where is the Government interfering with the independence, the integrity and the high repute of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? What is happening is that the programs will be judged primarily by people whom the Labor Party, when in office, appointed to the Commission. One presumes that they are people of eminent judgment because otherwise the Labor Party would not have appointed them. Where is the guilt in this situation? I was totally intrigued by Senator Button’s use of the words ‘viewers’ and ‘voyeurs’ suggesting that the action of the Chairman had been taken in something of a voyeur situation. I tell the Senate that a voyeur has a vested interest in leaving the blind up, not in pulling it down. I run out of belief that the Labor Party could come before the Senate and put such a weak case. I shall draw it together. What is the Labor Party saying? In the first place it is saying: ‘Look here. We have a flutter. Have a look at the cartoons. Have a look at the newspaper headlines and at the television stories on this matter. This is terrible. Because this has happened, and it is unique, we ought to do something about the Chairman.’ Demonstrably, month by month, year by year, over the whole 40 years of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, this has happened all the time- and good enough. As Senator Button has said, it is a good thing when we have criticisms. Then the honourable senator said: ‘My goodness. There is censorship’.
Senator James McClelland has reminded me about that statutory body, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which for 3 long and terrifying years for the Australian people used its scissors every day and snipped out segments under the supervision and with the approval of the Whitlam Government. So it was all right to snip the naked scenes out of The Box and Number 96. It was all right to do that kind of thing then because it was the paternalism of the Whitlam Government which was making the judgment. But honourable senators forget that it is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to make similar judgments. As soon as the Australian Broadcasting Commission considers whether something might be in bad taste then, horror, there is censorship.
– It is the Chairman, not the Commission.
- Senator Georges says is the Chairman, not the Commission. How right that is because methinks his slip is showing. It is not those whom the Labor Party appointed. No, it is not them. It is the Chairman who has just been recently appointed. Of course, it is not to be taken notice of that tomorrow and over the next few days the Commission in full will meet. It is not to be taken notice of that senior management is involved. Little by little there has been an attempt at character assassination of a very great Australian. Let me make it abundantly clear that in the whole of the two or more decades of Liberal government in the 1950s and the 1960s never at any time could it have been said that there was any interference with the independence of the ABC or that any directions were given to the ABC.
Yet Dr Cass is unashamed in saying that that is what he tried to do. Dr Cass was on the telephone almost every day of the week ringing up the staff and visiting them, high, wide and handsomenot the Commissioners, not the General Manager or the Assistant General Manager, but the staff- intruding all the time into the affairs of the ABC, and there was never a whimper from Senator Button. Morality is all right if he practises it but all wrong if somebody else does. Look at the humbug he brought forward today when he set his own standards; but when he is hoist on his own petard he does not like it. The simple fact is that if we want integrity, independence and programs and management of high repute in the Australian Broadcasting Commission we have to look back to the times of Liberal governments because that is when they were demonstrated. If we want interference, meddling and pressure on the ABC we have to look back to the time of the Labor Government. Let me make it quite clear. Dr Moss Cass never even blushed when he said he was frequently trying to force his views. That is the general picture.
Here is a motion which was conceived in a frenzy because there is nothing left to be done. It is an attempt to persuade by melodrama and yet when analysed what is to be found? There is not a tittle of truth in the whole proposition. There is no fact produced to show that the Government is interfering with the independence of the Commission. There is no fact produced to show that the Government is interfering with its integrity or its high repute. All it suggests is that somebody exercised a judgment on a program, something which the Labor Party did day in and day out, month in and month out for 3 long disastrous years. The Labor Party saw this as a virtue in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and a vice in respect of the ABC.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I have listened to Senator Carrick trying to defend the actions of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. During the course of his remarks Senator Carrick, representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) in this chamber, in his usual flippant way asserted that no one person has a say in the affairs of the Commission. With that statement I positively agree. Then he went on to say that the Chairman of the Commission is responsible to the Commission. And with that statement also I agree. However, I would add that under the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act the Commission as such is responsible and accountable to this Parliament. While Senator Carrick referred to a statement by Sir Henry Bland that the action taken by him was taken after consultation with senior management and after discussion with all commissioners, 1 note that Senator Carrick did not say that Sir Henry Bland said that his action was taken with the approval of senior management and with the concurrence of all commissioners. I suggest to the Minister that Sir Henry Bland took the action that he did after a ring round of the commissioners and not as a result of a general, all round discussion of the Commission. What Sir Henry Bland as Chairman of the Commission did was determine between meetings of the Commission that a series of episodes of a program that had previously been screened were to be taken off the air until further notice. That was the decision of one man subject to a further meeting of the Commission which, as the Minister has said, is to be held tomorrow.
As far as I am aware this is the first time ever that any chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Commission itself has taken a program off the air after that program had been running in episode form and had been advertised. It is the first time that a chairman has ordered from the airwaves of the nation a program that was produced before he became chairman of the ABC. We are told that this program cost the Australian taxpayers about $500,000. That is the charge that the Opposition makes against the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and ipso facto we charge the Government also, since it and the Commission are accountable to this Parliament, with failing to take action to see that the integrity and impartiality of the Commission in all its forms was preserved.
Senator Carrick mentioned the question of censorship by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I assume he was referring to section 99 (2) of the Broadcasting Television Act which says:
If the programmes broadcast from a commercial broadcasting station or televised from a commercial television station are not, in whole or in part, in accordance with the standards determined by the Board . . .
I interpolate that it is not for the Government but for the Board, an independent statutory body, to determine - the licensee shall, if so directed by the Board . . .
Not by the Government but by the Board - vary the programmes so that they shall conform with those standards.
If Senator Carrick doubts the validity of what we tried to do perhaps he will remember that when in office we tried to have the Broadcasting and Television Act amended on 2 occasions in this Parliament to provide that the standard of programs determined by the Board was not to be subject to the approval of the Minister but to the approval of both Houses of this Parliament. On 2 occasions the then Opposition, the Liberal and National Country Parties, opposed that proposal. They refused to give that legislation a second reading. So how can the Minister come in here today and say that we condoned when in office the sort of conduct we are complaining about now when his Party in opposition refused to pass our Bill which would have amended the Act to give this Parliament the opportunity of approving the standard for programs.
When the Labor Government came to office in December 1972 the ABC was operating within Australia about 80 medium wave transmitters and 6 short wave transmitters for radio and 52 transmitters and 38 translators for television. When we went out of office in December 1975, 3 years later the ABC was operating within
Australia 86 medium wave transmitters, 4 frequency modulation transmitters and 6 domestic short wave transmitters for broadcasting and 84 television transmitters and 54 television translator stations. Those figures give some indication of what the Labor Government did for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Australian broadcasting in 3 years. And those figures do not take into account the Radio Australia transmission facilities. Prior to our election in 1 972 the Commission was literally starved for funds for development purposes. From recollection it received about $70m which was somewhat related to the amount of revenue then collected by the Treasury from the broadcast listeners’ and television viewers’ licence fees. The Commission in its 1972 annual report to this Parliament went on record as saying:
The Commission intends to expand its Australian production to the limits of its resources; but those limits have very nearly been reached. This year has again been a difficult one financially, with increased expenditure being absorbed almost entirely in meeting increased salaries and wages and inflated costs, so that once again worthwhile plans for new developments in programmes have not been implemented. While total expenditure increased by 12.5 per cent over the previous year, only one-tenth of the additional funds were available for new programmes.
A national broadcasting service, especially in Australia, must experiment and innovate to maintain its initiative and leadership in new programme developments. The ABC has done this consistently in the fields of music, drama, religion, education, current affairs, opera, and many other areas where the commercial stations are relatively inactive. In some departments, such as drama, science programs and education, the ABC has now developed skills and talents to a level where significant and high-quality programmes could be produced in greater quantity. However, unless more money is made available for the development and exploitation of these resources of expertise and experience, they will be largely wasted. Deterioration in the quantity and quality of Australian programmes because of a continued lack of adequate funds for programme development would be unfortunate.
What have we found in the first Budget since this Government assumed office? We have found a depletion, a rundown, of finances made available to the Commission this financial year. That statement in the annual report, I suggest, gives some idea of the frustrations that existed for ABC programmers during and before 1972. One of the first things the Labor Government did on assuming office was to make available immediately to the ABC a sum of $300,000 for program initiation purposes. In three short years we nearly doubled the amount of finance made available by the previous Government. Of course, we abolished broadcast listeners’ and television viewers’ licence fees. We provided funds for experiment and innovation. We encouraged the Commission to initiate and to give leadership.
In those years the ABC unquestionably became recognised as one of the world’s leading broadcasting authorities. I went to Japan as Minister for the Media in March 1975 and I recall that senior people connected with the Japanese broadcasting authority expressed amazement at the great progress that had been made by the ABC since 1973. The Labor Government provided special funds to hold an educational broadcasting conference in Australia because the broadcasting world acclaimed the ABC to be the pace-setter in that field. There was no restriction on finances; there was no restriction on programs. Despite what Senator Carrick had to say in the debate this afternoon there was not one suggestion of government interference. Might I say that those who are in the management of the ABC and those who are in the employ of the ABC now regard those years as the golden years of ABC development. During those years the ABC moved forward under a vigorous, dynamic and independent Commission. Tragically today the ABC, its management and staff have become polarised as a result of the latest decision to appoint the present Chairman.
We know that the present Government thrives on division; it thrives on polarisation. Regrettably the Chairman of the Commission is engaging in division and polarisation within the ABC today. True it is that some pressures were put on the Labor Government in respect of program arrangements. Some false suggestions were floated during our term in office. I remember question after question being asked in this chamber as to whether the Labor Government was trying to do away with the religious broadcasting section of the ABC. I always said at the time that this was not a matter for the Government, that it was purely a matter for the Commissioners of the ABC. In contradistinction I was also asked about programs emanating from broadcasting station 2JJ. I was requested by the then Opposition senators to do something about Late Line on the ABC; to see whether I could have this program removed from the air. Not once did we as a Government deviate from our policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of the Commission.
I think it is probably fair to say that as the Minister for the Media I was probably criticised by ABC commentators more than any other Minister. Naturally I did not like it, but I took it and had to accept it because it was Labor policy- our policy- that the ABC should remain completely independent. Unfortunately we went out of government. Many false accusations were made. For instance, the Executive Officer of the
Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters asserted again and again that radio station 2JJ was never what the ABC wanted. He said that the ABC responded to an offer, a conditional offer, by a political government and it accepted the offer. I have heard that accusation repeated in this chamber. I can tell Mr Foster now that he is wrong, quite wrong, to put that proposition forward and that one day when Cabinet documents are able to be released it will be seen that the decision clearly was taken by the Labor Government to offer additional transmitters to the ABC to be used by it as it saw fit. There were no strings; there were no conditions.
My colleague Senator Button has already indicated that the late Professor Downing, the former Chairman of the ABC, passed away in October or November 1975. The present Government was elected to office in December 1975. On 21 December 1975 Sir Henry Bland was appointed Chairman of the Administrative Review Tribunal that was established by the Government. He was tied up for some six or 8 months in the affairs of the Tribunal. Dr Earle Hackett was made Acting Chairman of the ABC. When Dr Hackett’s term expired in July, Sir Henry Bland was appointed by this Government as Chairman of the ABC. I rather feel that his appointment was related to the words of Senator Withers in this chamber on 24 March when, referring to Labor senators, he said:
You blokes have been leaning on it -
That is the ABC- for years. It is full of your supporters and has been pumping out your propaganda year in and year out. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of notoriety. The sooner it is cleaned up the better as far as I am concerned.
That is the attitude of this Government and that is why, in our view, Sir Henry Bland was appointed to the position.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– What an extraordinary exercise the Opposition in this place has launched the Senate into this afternoon. Under the indulgence of the Standing Orders of the Senate the Opposition claimed that it wanted to discuss a matter of urgency. Under the indulgence of the Senate Senator Button, who has lost interest in the debate, in fact launched something that could be construed as nothing but a personal attack on the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I wondered at times during the speech we just heard from Senator Douglas McClelland whether we were not in fact debating a condolence motion for dear departed former commissioners of the ABC, because there was very little substance in either of the 2 speeches made by Opposition senators and there is no substance in the case that they put forward.
During the course of his speech Senator Button saw fit to say that Alvin Purple is the cultural debate of 1976 in the Senate. For that, the Labor Party can take full credit. It was meant to be some sort of a reflection on the current Government but, in fact, it is the Labor Party which has seen some political mileage in launching this fatuous debate today. I suggest that this debate is the non-event of the Senate so far this year. One could reflect for a moment and think: What if Sir Henry Bland gets the support of the Commission at the Commission meeting? What is then made of the whole case we have heard so far today?’. Of course, we do not know whether Sir Henry Bland will get the support of the Commission. That is the whole point of the exercise, is it not? This disgraceful debate has been launched because tomorrow Sir Henry Bland will be seeking the support of the Commission.
Senator Button, as I said earlier, launched nothing more than a personal attack on the Chairman of the Commission, Sir Henry Bland. He made a statement that the criticisms that have been made of him were ‘in the context of sharing his view’- that is, Senator Button sharing Sir Henry Bland’s view- that he was ‘not cut out for the job’. That is unworthy of a debate in this place. I previously would have believed it to be totally unworthy of Senator Button. As his authorities on this matter he quoted from the ramblings of Whitlam, the writing of Voltaire and his own personal survey of 25 newspaper cartoons. On that basis, we have spent hours of the Senate ‘s valuable time debating this matter.
Senator Button commented, in passing, that there was need for an objective public debate on the ABC, and indeed there is. I would have no objection to him launching an objective debate on the ABC in the Senate. I do not say that because I want to criticise the ABC but I think it is important that statutory corporations operating with public financing be subjected to public debate, if not public criticism. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), according to Senator Button, said on television that there is a need for objectivity on the ABC. When Senator Button stands up here and says: There is a need for objective public debate on the ABC, that is laudable. Yet, when the Minister says in a television interview that there is need for objectivity on the ABC, that is damnable.
One statement is made by a Labor Parliamentarian and the other by a Liberal Parliamentarian. It is part of what is merely a political case put to us today- a disgraceful case at that. It is all right if the Opposition says that there is need for an objective public debate on the ABC. It is all right for the Labor Party to say that in Government or in Opposition but it is not all right for members of the Liberal Party or the National Country Party to say it. It is all right for the Opposition but if we do it, it is dealt with as a matter of urgency.
It is interesting to note how much time Senator Button then sought to spend developing his own point of view on what should be the position of the ABC, the Chairman of the Commission and management. It is interesting to note in that context what the Prime Minister said yesterday in the House of Representatives in answering a question relating to alleged censorship in the ABC. He was asked whether he would give an undertaking to intervene with the Chairman on another matter. The Prime Minister said:
The Australian Broadcasting Commission makes its own decisions about programming and matters of that kind. If the honourable gentleman has some complaint, I suggest that he contact the Chairman of the ABC or the ABC itself. The Government will not interfere in the programming of the ABC.
That is the real complaint of honourable senators opposite. Their complaint is that the Government will not interfere or intervene in the domestic matters of the ABC. The responsibilities of the Commission are adequately and clearly outlined in the Act and we abide by them. In contrast to the allegation contained in this motion that somehow or other we are endangering the intelligence, integrity and high repute of the Australian national broadcasting service. Section 59 of the Act states: . . THE Commission shall provide . . . adequate and comprehensive programs and shall take in the interests of the community all such measures as, in the opinion of the Commission, are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcasting and television programs.
That is contained in the Act. The Act remained virtually intact when the previous Government was in office. The Labor Government made no moves to amend the Act in the way that Senator Douglas McClelland might have liked the casual listener to this debate today to believe it did. The two sets of amendments achieved by the Labor Government when in office essentially were in one case related to the method of fixing remuneration allowances of the members of the Commission and in the second to a refund of licence fees which had been collected just before the fees ceased to exist. If the Labor Party had some great scheme about defining the responsibilities of the Commission and management, it had adequate opportunity to put them forward when in government. Sections of the Act give the Commission power to delegate its responsibilities to management. The way in which that is done is defined but the scope of that delegation is not limited. The Commission can do that. It was therefore open to the Labor Party when in government to move whatever amendment it saw necessary. It was quite open to the Labor Party when in government to listen to Senator Button’s brilliant scheme.
The essential fallacy of this whole debate is in the wording of the motion. We are told it is a matter of urgency. The motion claims: failure of the Government to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute of Australia’s national broadcasting service.
What does the Opposition want? Today it has taken advantage of the opportunity to attack the Chairman of the ABC and to talk a little about its own policies when in government. Members of the Opposition have not really spoken to the matter of urgency. What does the Opposition want? In what way are we failing? In what direction should we move? Are we meant to move to direct the Commission? Are we meant to take it that we ought to amend the legislation to achieve the sorts of things about which honourable senators opposite have been talking? Either way, if we were to take the advice of the Opposition- if that was what it had intended to give but which it has not given so far- it would seem to be totally contrary to the matter that is before us. We are condemned by the Opposition. It is claimed that we are failing to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute of the national broadcasting service. The solution to that, apparently, is government direction, government action and government legislation. In those terms, the whole matter is totally fatuous. If we were to accept the suggestion of the Labor Party indeed we could be open to some sort of criticism.
It is interesting to note that Senator Button at the beginning of his speech said that the words of the matter of urgency were carefully chosen and that the standards indicated therein are now under threat. Indeed, they may be. We could welcome an objective debate on the ABC or any other statutory authority in this Senate. We could welcome the opportunity to debate all matters of great import that rise under that general heading. But how can we welcome an opportunity to attack the Chairman of the ABC a day before a meeting of the Commissioners of the ABC? As I said earlier, the Opposition’s timing is more than interesting.
Senator Button, of course, said that some questions have arisen in recent months. He attempted to detail them. He referred to Budget cuts and changes, comments of the Chairman of the ABC, comments of the Minister to which I referred earlier, the cartoons to which I referred earlier and to the public disagreement amongst Commissioners. They are the questions which cause concern. They are the questions which apparently have arisen. It is a great pity that the Opposition has chosen not to debate the issue. It is also a great pity that the Opposition did not choose to put a motion dealing with a matter of urgency to us in those terms. Of course, there is the chance that the Government might be tempted to stray away on some side issue or that it might be tempted to commit the same sin as the Opposition committed of making statements here which might affect the independent considerations of the Commission at its meeting tomorrow. There is every chance that that could happen. But I remind the Opposition that the motion is before us in writing and there it stands.
It is interesting to compare the sorts of suggestions that Senator Button makes for redrawing the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He quotes Sir Henry Bland as saying that the role of commissioners is to support management. This is certainly part of the role of commissioners. I suggest it is the role of the commissioners also to have a discretionary power because that is denned not just in a speech by Senator Button but in the Broadcasting and Television Act, which has remained intact. Senator Button went on to talk about the role of management to prepare and present programs within guidelines laid down by the Commission. Apparently he would like to deny the Commission the right to lay down those guidelines.
Senator Button sees it as a matter of great moment that there is some public disagreement among commissioners. The Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, in replying in this debate on behalf of the Government, went into great detail in outlining the history and the vagaries of the ABC and the controversies it got itself into over the years. Is any honourable senator suggesting that there has never been some sort of disagreement amongst commissioners or that there has never been any public disagreement amongst commissioners? Of course there has been. The sort of people who are necessarily chosen for their abilities to serve on the Commission will naturally differ in their attitudes.
The censorship of what I understand is a rather low grade program has been blown out of all proportion and then used by the Opposition to meet a short term political objective. Senator Button said that all this revived the old censorship debates of the 1 950s. That was a great piece of nostalgia indeed, as was his reference to At Last the 1948 Show. There will always be controversy about censorship and, as Senator Carrick pointed out, not just censorship by the ABC in all the many forms that that can take, but censorship by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the commercial broadcasters and not of the ABC. It is right that there should be controversy. We ought to be able to debate the role of censorship in our society. We ought to be able to debate whether standards are changing. But the hysterical approach of personal attack on a man who cannot answer for himself in here is no sort of debate.
– He can answer for himself.
– He cannot answer for himself in here. If I were in Sir Henry’s position I expect that I should not engage in any sort of public debate with members of the Senate via the media before tomorrow’s meeting. Sir Henry does not have the unique opportunity that honourable senators have to stand up here this afternoon and speak uncensored to the people and to say whatever we please. That is a great privilege and one that ought not to be abused. I suggest that that privilege has been abused in the treatment of this motion this afternoon. I suggest that it has been abused in the introduction of this matter of public importance. We acceded to the debate of this urgency motion. We ask only that the Opposition should prove its case.
– Given the terms in which this motion is couched, that is, the condemnation of the Government for its ‘failure to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute ‘ of the ABC, I think it is fair to remind Senator Martin, who has just resumed her seat, of some of the complaints which were cited by Senator Button, who led for the Labor Party in this debate. The Government has cut the funds for the Australian Broadcasting Commission effectively by 15 per cent. The Government has failed to take the advice of Sir Henry Bland that he would not be a fit person to be Chairman of Commissioners of the ABC. The Government failed to accept Sir Henry’s own assessment of his incompetence for that job. Moreover, the complaint in particular which has come from the Labor Party this afternoon is that the recent actions of Sir Henry Bland violate the Broadcasting and Television Act.
That legislation provides that the commissioners shall control the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The recent actions of Sir Henry Bland not only have been taken unilaterally and dictatorially but also he has been publicly repudiated on one such action by at least 2 commissioners of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. So far as I know none of the other commissioners has publicly endorsed the action which Sir Henry has taken. I think it is fair to remind Senator Martin of those facts.
Senator Martin piously complained with an allegation that the Labor Party this afternoon had abused the privilege of Parliament. I find it incongruous, to say the least, to hear this from a member of the Liberal Party, particularly a senator from Queensland, the State Parliament of which, we will remember, was recalled the week before a federal election so that the Premier could make entirely unsubstantiated allegations about the honesty of Cabinet Ministers in the former Labor Government. That was the degree to which the privilege of the State Parliament of Queensland was misused by a person who leads the political Party which is aligned in coalition in the Government of Queensland with Senator Martin’s Party.
I find it incongruous, to say the least, to hear this from people whose present Treasurer, just before the previous general election, accused the former Labor Party Treasurer of stealing files and had this allegation published by courtesy of the Murdoch Press. Mr Hayden was defended by none other than Senator Greenwood. The people who sit in alliance with and in the same parties as those who have abused that sort of privilege in the past have the audacity to complain about alleged breaches of privilege today. I remind all the members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party that they sit on the Government benches today because of actions taken in the Queensland Parliament, a Parliament wherein privilege has been breached more consistently and more outrageously than in any other Parliament in Australia.
This motion is an attack upon the Government. The fact that Sir Henry Bland is attacked is incidental because he is the appointee of this Government- appointed to do a particular job. Last year we saw a long campaign of intimidation directed against the Australian Broadcasting Commission by members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. We have seen a continuing attack on the integrity and the reputation of that organisation. Just before the Vietnam war ended- I think it was in February 1975 but I did not have time to extract the original quotationwe had none other than the National Country Party member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) vociferously complaining about what he alleged to be a left wing bias in the news department of the Australian Broadcasting Commission because the ABC had broadcast a report on an action in Vietnam which referred to ‘forces opposed to the Saigon Government’. This, Mr Nixon said, was outrageous. He said that the ABC was displaying its left wing bias; that it should have told the truth and said that they were Communist North Vietnamese forces which were engaged in that action. Two days later independent corroboration showed that the action was fought between troops of the Saigon Government and hill tribesmen of South Vietnam, who could scarcely be described as Communist North Vietnamese but who in fact had been described with perfect accuracy by the ABC as ‘ forces opposed to the Saigon Government ‘.
Then of course we heard Senator Withers, in one of those moments of candour for which he has become famous when he shows his mind before he has an opportunity to bite his tongue, say on 24 March this year in this very Senate:
Do not raise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. You blokes -
He was referring to the Labor Party- have been leaning on it for years. It is full of your supporters and has been pumping out your propaganda year in year out. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of notoriety. The sooner it is cleaned up the better as far as I am concerned.
-Who said that?
- Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government, said that on 24 March this year. Senator Withers again showed his mind before he had an opportunity to curb his tongue. Sir Henry Bland was appointed Chairman- Chairman ipso facto dictator- of the ABC to perform the task which Senator Withers sees as the task of cleaning up the ABC. This means, of course, to intimidate the ABC to stifle all objective comment and to turn the ABC into a timid mouthpiece of the Government which is in power.
Senator Carrick attempted to defend Sir Henry on the grounds that the Commission runs the ABC. He said that yesterday in reply to a question. He repeated it today. Apparently Senator Carrick has still not deduced that one of the major complaints of the Labor Party is about the very fact that the ABC, under its present Chairman, is currently under one-man rule. Sir Henry Bland has taken unilateral decisions without the consent of the other Commissioners. In the Melbourne Sun of 8 September, that is last Wednesday, an article by Laurie Oakes reported discussions between Sir Henry Bland and a number of journalists at a Canberra restaurant. The article stated:
People at the meeting said yesterday that Sir Henry also criticised top management of the National Broadcasting network.
They said he told them that no ABC chairman in 44 years had really run the organisation.
The only inference or conclusion which one can draw from that statement is that Sir Henry Bland clearly believes that he, the present Chairman, ought to run the organisation. No ABC chairman in 44 years had really run the organisation. That was true. Of course that situation has changed under Sir Henry. Sir Henry has publicly stated that fact.
Members of the Liberal and National Country Parties are attempting to denigrate this debate and pass it off as character assassination. The difference between this suggestion- if one must see it in terms of character assassination, and Sir Henry is really only incidental to the argumentand the facts presented by the Opposition is that we can produce evidence to support the charges we make against Sir Henry Bland. This is in contradistinction to the Premier of Queensland, for example, and the present Treasurer of Australia who have been unable to produce any evidence to support the outrageous charges they have made from time to time. The second great fallacy which Senator Carrick attempted to perpetrate in the Senate this afternoon is that Sir Henry Bland is a political neuter. I do not think he actually used that phrase but the substance of his remarks was that, so far as anyone in the Liberal Party knew, Sir Henry Bland had never been a member of the Liberal Party and therefore ought to be regarded as- and is- totally independent politically. That fallacy has been contradicted by Sir Henry himself. He said at the Garran Memorial Oration on 17 November 1975:
No senior administrator can be otherwise than sensitive of political thought and attitudes. He must take them into account in advising his Minister and in administering his department or agency.
It was Sir Henry Bland- a political neuter- who said that no senior administrator can be otherwise than sensitive of political thought and action! Certainly, no one would accuse Sir Henry Bland, the man appointed by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to head the ABC and to clean it up, as Senator Withers puts it, of being insensitive to political thought and action. No one could justly accuse Sir Henry of being other than extremely sensitive to the political thoughts of the Government which is in power. Indeed, that is the reason why Sir Henry was appointed to that position.
The long-standing close relationship between the present Chairman of the ABC and the Prime Minister is also relevant to this debate, as are the qualifications and the fitness of this particular Australian to hold some of the positions he has held. He was the chairman of the committee of investigation, the precise name of which I have forgotten, which was appointed soon after the present Government came to power.
– It was the Administrative Review Tribunal.
– My colleague Senator McClelland has reminded me that it was the Administrative Review Tribunal. Sir Henry was investigating activities of government regulatory agencies such the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Industries Assistance Commission. The Australian Financial Review of 9 July this year drew attention to the incongruity of Sir Henry Bland holding such a position, given his directorships and the fact that he is, and I quote from the Financial Review: on the board of Tubemakers of Australia Ltd, which was giving evidence before the IAC in Sydney yesterday.
Sir Henry is also a member of the board of United Bearing Corp Pty Ltd and Blue Circle Southern Cement Ltd.
This was the man appointed by the present Prime Minister to review and make recommendations upon the activities of government regulatory agencies. He was director of a company which, after Sir Henry had conducted that review, was giving evidence before the IAC in an application for industry assistance.
– What is the point you are making?
– The point is that the precedent which was established in appointing someone to a particularly sensitive position in government when he cannot, because of his other associations, properly fill that position, has been repeated in the appointment of the present Chairman to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
An attempt has been made to justify this chicanery on the ground that Sir Henry is a particularly competent and efficient administrator. As my colleague, Senator Button, said when opening this debate for the Labor Party, history is fable agreed upon. This fable appears to have been agreed upon in Canberra. It is a notorious fact in this city that after Sir Henry Bland left the
Department of Defence it was in such an administrative shambles that it took Sir Arthur Tange 12 months to clean it up. Sir Henry was the permanent head of the Department of Labour and National Service for I think 10 or 1 1 years. In all that time he did not manage to produce anything remotely resembling a manpower policy. Of course, these facts will be dismissed by members of the Liberal Party who follow me in this debate and written off as character assassination directed against a worthy Australian.
– And worse!
– I make two points. If members of the Liberal Party want to talk about character assassination I invite them to make some comments about the Premier of Queensland who called a special session of the Queensland Parliament in which to smear, without any evidence whatsoever, every member of the Ministry of the former Labor Government. I remind them that they sit on the government benches today because of the action of the Premier of Queensland.
– No. You are wrong.
– If anything is to be said about character assassination, Senator Missen, by you or any other Liberal Party senators who follow me in this debate I urge you to offer some comments about character assassination as practised and perfected by the Premier of Queensland. The second point I wish to make is that Sir Henry Bland is merely incidental to this debate. The real villains are the people who appointed him to his present position to a particular job- as Senator Withers so lucidly and succinctly put it, to clean up the ABC.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– The Senate is debating a matter of urgency advanced by the Opposition, asserting that the Government in some way has failed the nation and failed the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The terms of this motion were, as is usual, fairly vague and we waited with interest to hear what Senator Button would say when he opened the debate for the Opposition.
It seems to me that the Government’s job is to provide funds for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to make sure that it is adequately protected under its Act and to allow its commissioners to do their jobs.
Senator Button did not set out to show that we had failed in any of these areas but rather set out, as other speakers on the Opposition side set out, to intimidate the commissioners in doing their job. They set out to put to them a view on what their proper role should be and they set out on a character assassination of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Senator Button’s arguments fell into 3 groups. He had some arguments about the budget of the Commission but he then went on to say that the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sir Henry Bland, had himself defended the Commission after cuts were made. He told us that the ABC in some way had been affected and harmed because there had been some cartoons and editorials in the newspapers. He went on to devote most of his time to an attack not on the Government but on Sir Henry Bland himself, a man who has been an eminent public servant and a man who only recently took over as Chairman of the ABC. He put the point of view that because Sir Henry Bland had spent much of his life in the Public Service he was disqualified in some way from serving as Chairman of the ABC. He told us that he had had no experience except in the Public Service. Of course, that is not true. Any honourable senator opposite who cared to consult the latest edition of Who’s Who and read the entry against the name of this very distinguished Australian would see that his career spans a wide range of activities and a wide range of public services over a considerable period of time.
This attack has been an attack for the jugular vein, not the jugular vein of this Government or of the Commission but that of the Chairman of the Commission. It has been nothing more nor less than an attack under the protection of parliamentary privilege upon a man outside the Parliament who cannot properly defend himself. It is something of which the Labor Party and Labor Party senators should be ashamed.
They have attempted to relate some of their arguments to one particular television program. I had the misfortune to waste some time viewing this program but I have no desire to express a view on how the Australian Broadcasting Commission should organise or reorganise its programs or on whether this program should continue or not continue. That is the Commission’s job; it is its decision. I do not intend to be a party to what some Labor senators have been doing in implying that the Chairman has been remiss in any way in setting out to do his job in association with the other commissioners.
– He is a Liberal stooge, a Liberal spiv.
– I hear the ex-President of the Senate, Senator O ‘Byrne, allege that he is a Liberal supporter.
– I said a spiv, not a supporter.
– He describes Sir Henry Bland as a spiv. I think that that attack from Senator O’Byrne is something of which he and his Party should be ashamed. It reflects upon them and not upon the eminent public servant who has no way of responding or replying to the attack. I am also aware that Senator Georges said, by way of an interjection- I use his wordsthat it was the incompetence of the appointee to which he objected.
– He is serving the most reactionary section of the community and he is the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
- Mr Deputy President, I am sickened by the kind of interjections I hear. They bring into the open the attitudes which the Labor Party has towards the Commission. The clear argument is that in some way they want the Government to intervene, to exert some kind of pressure, but we believe in the independence of the ABC and we do not see any reason why we should move in to insist that the commissioners do or do not take any course of action.
We are talking about the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and I am reminded that only on 23 March last, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam, criticised us and said that we had failed the ABC. I will read his words. He said: the Government has refused to appoint a new Chairman of the ABC . . .
He went on to say:
The absence of an independent Chairman . . . has left the ABC dangerously vulnerable.
We have appointed a-Chairman and we expect that Chairman to get on and do his job. He will do the job as he sees fit and in his own way. We do not think it proper for the Australian Labor Party and for senators like Senator Justin O’Byrne to speak in the Senate and to attempt to denigrate this man or to attempt to intimidate or to indicate to other commissioners how they should or should not act when in due course they hold their meeting and make their decisions on the affairs of the Commission.
I remember the first political letter that I ever wrote in anger. I wrote to a very distinguished Australian, a very fine parliamentarian, Mr Harry Turner, the former honourable member for Bradfield. That letter referred to the ABC and in it I expressed my concern that the ABC should be independent. Everyone on this side of Parliament holds the very strong opinion that the ABC should be and should remain independent. The response I got from Mr Harry Turner, who is known to many honourable senators here, indicated his belief that this was something that the Liberal Government would always protect and ensure. It remains my view. I am grateful that Senator Button reminded us of the provisions of section 59 of the Broadcasting and Television Act of 1942 which sets out exactly the functions of the ABC.
I am also reminded that the Labor Party attempts to create stereotypes. It attempts to suggest that in some way we on this side of the Parliament do not care for the ABC or its activities. That is totally erroneous. A few months ago I was invited to the University of Sydney to take part in one of the Union Night debates. The subject for debate on that night was ‘that station 2 JJ should disconnect’. It caused no small amount of consternation when I insisted that I be allowed to speak against that motion and in support of 2JJ. Although I do not approve of some of the things that it does, and I do not approve of some of the things that have been made clear in this debate, I believe in the independence of the ABC. I believe in the proper role of a station like 2JJ. I believe it is a matter for the commissioners of the ABC to set down and to implement the ways in which their programs and their stations will behave.
There is no truth in the rumour that we on this side of the Parliament wish to do anything to injure the ABC or to injure its independence or integrity. Today it was quite disappointing to listen to Senator Button who was leading for his side. He advanced no argument to show that this Government had done any of the things set out in the motion. In fact this Government has done the opposite. I believe there is no known instance of a Liberal Government having directed the ABC to alter or cancel a program and I believe it is our policy not so to do. That is not the case with the Australian Labor Party. I refer the Senate to a speech made by the Honourable Dr Moss Cass in the House of Representatives on 23 March. He had this to say:
Dr Cass made no secret of the fact that when he was Minister he took a view on the kind of programming and the kind of services which the
ABC should offer. That is not our way of doing things. That is a function for the commissioners. However, the ABC staff is not independent of its management. It is not independent of the Commission. The commissioners are properly appointed and are responsible for the running of their programs and for the conduct of the Commission.
If someone wishes to argue that the ABC is not perfect he may do so. The former Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, certainly produced some evidence in the House of Representatives earlier this year from some eminent Australians who sent out in a letter that it was their belief that the ABC was not perfect. That is not the argument today. The argument is what our Government is doing. Our policy is clearly stated. Our platform sets out clearly that freedom of expression for the Press, radio and television, and freedom from government or political interference, are fundamental. We believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission- we have said it in printshould be independent of political control. This is a view which we hold, which the Labor Party did not hold and did not practise when it was in government.
We have conditions of financial stringency in Australia at present. Is there any suggestion that the ABC should be different from any other statutory authority, that it should be treated differently from other departments of State, that we should establish staff ceilings for others but not for the ABC? Is it honestly suggested that while every other service department takes cuts in its budget the ABC should be excluded? That is not so. The ABC has no open cheque. The Government set the total budget for the ABC. We did not play any part in how the ABC managed that budget. That has been a matter for the commissioners. We issued no instruction. It is up to the ABC to use that money in accordance with its charter.
No one suggests that the ABC is perfect. No one suggests that it cannot be improved or changed. No one suggests that it should be given unlimited access to the public purse. Those last 3 statements are direct quotes from a speech made by Mr E. G. Whitlam just a few months ago. He meant them then. We know that they are still true today. Today there has been one of the most cowardly, inappropriate and unnecessary attacks on a public servant that there has been for many years. Sir Henry Bland is Chairman of the ABC. He will meet in due course with his other commissioners. They will carry out the business of the ABC as they see fit. They will do so free from instruction or control from our Government. I hope they will be able to do it without the hints of coercion or the standover tactics that we heard this afternoon when Labor speaker after Labor speaker set out what he believed to be the way the Commission should act. I believe that they have attempted to impose a point of view. They have attempted to suggest to the commissioners how they should resolve some of the present issues. They act as if they believe that in some way it is a role of government to intervene in the present troubles which the ABC has. Let us be quite clear. If they want us to intervene, it is they who are suggesting that the independence and the integrity of the ABC be breached. Let the commissioners make their own decisions, undeterred by the tawdry attempts in this place today to frighten the commissioners. I would not have the position any other way. Neither would the great mass of Australians. (Quorum formed.)
– I support the motion moved by my colleague Senator Button:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The failure of the Government to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute of Australia’s national broadcasting service.
The Government’s failure to ensure the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is more than just a matter of omission. The Government has committed a number of acts which have led to the situation which we have today. Senator Carrick, in his reply to Senator Button, in a series of verbal and rhetorical flourishes, claimed that there was nothing wrong. What is wrong, he asked, that we should want a debate on this subject. Senator Martin inflicted a moralistic homily on the Senate to the effect that there was no case and that we were wrong even to bring the matter before the attention of the Senate. I put to the Senate that there is a case for an urgency motion on this most serious topic. The case is this: The ABC, an institution which has served Australia well since 1932, is today in a state df confusion and low morale and apparently is subject to manipulation by an intolerant minority group and to general ridicule throughout the media and the community.
The first thing that the Government did in respect of the ABC was to reduce its budget by 15 per cent, from $137m in 1975 to $133m in 1976. The justification for this reduction is one with which we on this side of the chamber are very familiar, that all public sector spending had been increased in an extravagant way by the Labor Government and all public sector funding had to be reduced. I think Senator Baume said that we could not expect the ABC, being a public institution, to be excused from this general reduction. The initial position of the Government was that there was an inefficiency and a wastage of funds by the ABC; therefore its budget had to be reduced and it had to become more efficient. What did we find? We found very rapidly a move from this general and rather tedious argument about extravagance and inefficiency in public expenditure to a quite different and alarming position- a position in which the credibility of the Commission as a corporate decision making body is in tatters and in which one person is dictating matters of taste and morals to the entire viewing public.
Worst of all, it has moved to a position in which we have, I think for the first time, in the ABC acts of political censorship. News broadcasts have been censored. Planned programs on the alleged massacres in Vietnam have been censored. They have been censored, not by the Commission as a corporate body but by one person, the Chairman. I point out at this stage that the kind of censorship of which I am now complaining is not the kind of censorship about which Senator Carrick chose to talk. It is not the same kind of censorship that is carried out each day by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as he put it. The kind of control of standards carried out by the Broadcasting Control Board is certainly something that I would not oppose.
I make it quite clear to the Senate that I certainly do not adopt a general anu-censorship position. I am not a small ‘1’ liberal; I do not think that everything goes. I support censorship and control of things like violence in children’s programs, exploitation of women as sex objects in advertising and other programs, and the general exploitation of consumers and of children as consumers that we see through advertising and other commercial programs. I do not oppose that kind of censorship and I do not take issue with the fact that the Broadcasting Control Board attempts to adhere to standards pertaining to such matters. But I do take exception to political censorship and I think that it was a very slippery attempt by Senator Carrick to try to suggest that the two are the same when they are distinctly different.
The second act committed by the Government in respect of the ABC was the partisan appointment of Sir Henry Bland as Chairman. We have heard a lot of moralistic rhetoric tonight from most honourable senators on the Government side, including Senator Baume who has just resumed his seat, that we are indulging in a character assassination of Sir Henry Bland. That is quite irrelevant. What we are saying is that the appointment of Sir Henry Bland in the first place was a partisan appointment, an appointment which should never have been made, and- to use the word which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is so fond of using- an ‘inappropriate’ appointment. To demonstrate that Sir Henry Bland was indeed a partisan and inappropriate appointment one needs only to look at the sort of things he has done since he has been Chairman, at the sorts of powers he has improperly assumed to himself.
First of all he has assumed to himself the power of ministerial veto. Already in this debate tonight we have had quoted section 77 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1973 which gives to the Minister, and to the Minister alone, the power to veto, to withdraw a program. Yet we find that Sir Henry Bland has unilaterally done this. Secondly, he has undermined the Commission as a corporate decision-making body by expressing views publicly in conflict with the views which the Commission as a corporate decision-making body has expressed. I cite as an example the view put by Sir Henry Bland in his first Press conference when he said that he thought that advertising on the ABC might be acceptable. He said that after the ABC had made its submission to the Greene inquiry into the media, in which submission it had specifically rejected the idea of advertising for the ABC. That is just one example of the way in which Sir Henry Bland has publicly differed from the Commission as a corporate body.
The third thing which he has done is to take unto himself the role and duty of the management of the ABC. The example here is the matter of the censorship of certain news items to which I have already referred. I consider, and I think that most people who are familiar with the workings of the ABC would consider, that the matter of editing news items is a matter for management, not a matter for one member of the Commission who happens to be the Chairman. Today I heard of yet another role which he is assuming unto himself. He is usurping the role of the professional staff in their judgments about programming. I heard today of a memo sent around to the staff at the ABC to the effect that federal council representatives of the staff may come to Thursday’s meeting of the Commission only if they accept the position that the Commission has the sole right of decision-making with regard to the content and showing of programs. Up until now it has been the professionals in the ABC who have taken decisions with regard to content and programming. Of course, these things are later approved by the Commission and, as I said, the ultimate power of veto is vested in the Minister. But now it appears that the professionals are to be ignored and that the Chairman is to decide on professional matters such as content and programming.
So from the Government’s original position of just cutting down on the ABC’s budget in order to save money, we have moved to a stage where we have one person assuming the role of Minister, of the corporate Commission, of management and of the professional staff. Why has the situation arisen? I suggest that it is a part of the attempt by the Government to control the media in this country. When viewed in the light of the way in which the Greene inquiry- the secret inquiry into the media- has been conducted the effect is very sinister indeed.
I would like to proceed to my main criticism, which is a criticism of the Government for making this partisan appointment. I think that the Government, in not finding itself able to make an apolitical appointment in the tradition of appointments of chairmen of the ABC, has demonstrated its paranoia about public institutions, and about the media in general. We have already had reference tonight to Senator Withers’ comments earlier in the chamber about having to clean up the ABC because it was full of left-wing propagandists and so on. I suggest to the Senate that the coalition which now forms the Government is so used to being able to control the media and most of the Press in this country that it has reached the stage where it cannot tolerate any criticism, where it is hypersensitive even to genuine questions by interviewers genuinely trying to find out information of interest to the public, and now it wants to control the one organ of the media which is still capable of providing something like objective political commentary.
A member of the Government, Mr Nixon, actually expressed the desire for censorship of the ABC during the 1975 campaign when he called for the appointment of a censor to monitor the public affairs broadcasts of the ABC. 1 suggest to the Senate that the Government now has such a censor in the person of the Chairman. The coalition has its censor but the public has an ABC Chairman who has eroded the independence, credibility and usefulness of the ABC. I do not have time to quote them but there are numerous editorials which support this point of view. I quote just one from the Australian because by no stretch of the imagination could anyone regard the Australian as anything other than a proGovernment newspaper. In its editorial of 7 September it said:
Whatever Sir Henry Bland has done to the future of the series Alvin Purple, he has fatally damaged most people’s assessment of his own sagacity. It would be difficult to imagine a much more foolish exhibition than that which Sir Henry has given, in his very first major decision as ABC chairman, over a late night serial which is as little offensive as it is amusing. The worst aspen of it all is that Sir Henry, whose personal involvement in the on-off farce is plain and whose overall responsibility is undeniable, should have made such a spectacle of himself over something so mediocre.
What people generally mean by the independence of the ABC is some sort of objectivity which is not dependent on having political neuters as journalists or makers of programs but which is dependent on having a broad spectrum of views presented. I suggest to the Senate that the ABC does just that. It has mainstream programs, it has right-wing programs, it has programs like Late Line which put the radical perspective, lt is in that broad spectrum that the objectivity of the ABC resides, and not in having every news item censored according to the predilections of the present Government.
In support of my claim that the ABC does do just that- does give fair and broad coverage- I quote a survey from the Sydney Morning Herald, which again is not noted for its pro-Labor views. I do not have time to quote the article in detail but it appeared on 24 April this year. The summary shows that 67 per cent of the community think that the political news and commentary on the ABC can be trusted; 66 per cent think that it is usually accurate. Honourable senators opposite might be interested to hear that Liberal voters were generally happier with the ABC’s television coverage than Labor voters. It is only the ABC in our community that can perform this role. The public does not demand it of commercial broadcasting; it does not expect it of commercial broadcasting. The ABC is performing, or has performed its role, until these very serious interferences by the Chairman and by the Government in the appointment of such a chairman.
In conclusion I would like to quote from a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in 1973 when the matter of public broadcasting was very thoroughly investigated. The report said:
To summarise: There is clearly a great amount of dissatisfaction with present broadcasting -
That was in 1973- and there are sectors of the community which are not well served by the present system. There is evidence that audiences are fragmenting rather than tending towards a uniform mass; there is, we suspect, a greater diversity of values in the community now than in past years. As education and exposure to other media foster diversity, the range is likely to become wider.
The report concludes:
We must avoid giving the public what someone, whether commercial mogul or government bureaucrat, thinks is good for it. Reflecting the range of interests in the community, at the highest quality level, is subtly different from telling people what they should look at or listen to.
I suggest to the Senate that that subtle difference has escaped the Government in its appointment of Sir Henry Bland. That subtle difference still escapes Sir Henry Bland as is shown by the way in which he manages his chairmanship responsibilities. I suggest finally to the Senate that the difference is really not so subtle.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-As the debate in the chamber tonight seems to have been used as a target against one man I remind the chamber that the urgency motion we are discussing is:
The failure of the Government to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute of Australia’s national broadcasting service.
Dear old Auntie, as she is affectionately known right around Australia, cops it from the Right, gets blasted from the Left, gets castigated by the radicals and gets maligned by the conservatives. She suffers general condemnation right through the parliamentary year, depending on whatever Party is in power. One might say that she comes in for a fair share of abuse all around. If she will pardon me the irreverence, I say that Auntie is a pretty independent old girl. That negates the first part of the argument contained in the urgency motion. This is the second time this year that we have seen a motion such as this put forward from Opposition benches condemning the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr E. G. Whitlam) on 23 March put forward a similar proposition and in his speech he stated:
A new chairman, acceptable to all sides in the present dispute, but above all, committed to the ideals and traditions of the ABC, must be appointed without delay.
I submit to the chamber that we have such a person appointed at this stage. He has proved that he is independent. He has proved that he has a mind of his own. He has proved that he wants the ABC to maintain the high standard which it has achieved over the years. Under the Broadcasting and Television Act the powers and functions of the Commission are laid down. Section 59 states: (I.) Subject to this Act, the Commission shall provide, and shall broadcast or televise from transmitting stations made available by the Postmaster-General, adequate and comprehensive programs and shall take in the interests of the community all such measures as, in the opinion of the Commission, are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcasting and television programs.
I suggest that the operative words in that section are:’ . . shall provide . . adequate and comprehensive programs . . . ‘. Unlike the commercial media in this country the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not come under the direct control or indeed any control of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. A commercial operator knows full well what he can do and what he cannot do. He can have his licence called up or he can be asked to show cause or explain why certain action should not be taken, and so forth. This means that there is far more responsibility on the Commissioners of the ABC, as they are appointed, to see that the Commission plays the part that it was set up to do for society. I reject the idea that the Commissioners should act as censors. They should be in charge of quality control. I think that that would be more aptly the operative phrase at this time. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) in the debate which was instituted by the Leader of Opposition laid down quite firmly what he thought was the role of the ABC in our society. On 23 March he stated:
I say in clear terms that the Government’s attitude on the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is quite clear. The ABC must be independent of political control or interference. We believe it is essential that the Commission maintain high technical standards, objectivity and integrity in the presentation of its services. We recognise the valuable work performed by the Commission, particularly in providing services to remote areas and to minority groups. In government we will continue to ensure that the ABC is equipped to service these needs. We will complement those needs with other essential local services such as public broadcasting, so that the ABC can continue as an independent authority serving the Australian nation.
I think it must be recognised that the ABC has a monopoly. As a result of this monopoly the Commissioners have a lot of responsibility. It has been said on both sides of the chamber tonight, and I have no quarrel with the proposition, that the ABC should be criticised by the Parliamentnot by the government of the day but by the Parliament- for the very reason that it has this monopoly and that it is using taxpayers’ money for its operations. So I have no quarrel with any criticism which might come providing it is constructive and that the government of the day does not try to interfere in the internal functioning of the commission. The ABC operates in many fields not covered by any other representative of the electronic media. As a matter of fact, Sir Henry Bland was conscious of this fact and he sent a memo around to the staff which stated:
I have never believed that the ABC’s independence of government in the conduct of its services has been in real doubt. And to me the charter the ABC has is amply dynamic. Its ambit enables us to seize imaginatively technology’s unfolding opportunities and meantime to innovate and experiment. . . . But none of this means that the ABC may conduct itself regardless of community response and therefore in a fashion that may excite the few, but offend the many.
The ABC has played a great part in the cultural life of our community. It fosters programs which possibly would not be viable for any commercial station to even contemplate. We pay a tribute to the work which is done in drama, in concerts, with dance and jazz bands and in public interest debates. It provides such programs as the Country Hour and educational programs. It has broadcast programs of very high quality of which it should be proud. It has produced programs which have been exported. I refer to such programs as Rush and Ben Hall and other programs such as Gala Performance. The ABC has regional services which play a vital part in disseminating news to the community. The staff living in a community have identified with the people and with the various activities which go on in the community. Such staff members have a great responsibility in disseminating knowledge through that community but, more so, in disseminating knowledge about that community to the rest of Australia. Because the ABC has a monopoly on all these facets of broadcasting I believe it is right that the Commissioners should keep a pretty tight rein on the quality of its programs.
The Opposition tonight has put forward no convincing case that the Government interferes in any of the discussions or decisions or programming of the ABC. We maintain that the independence and integrity of the ABC is sound. Mention has been made of the cuts in financing. The ABC is no sacred cow. We make no bones about the fact that the previous Government had overspent and that the belt had to be tightened. We allowed a little bit of leeway as far as education and social welfare were concerned but the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as with most other departments, was told that it had to pull its horns in. For the Government that was as far as it went. Any cuts that were made internally were made by the members of the Commission and not by the Government, and they were made without Government interference. As a matter of fact, I did not agree with some of the cuts that were made. I thought that they could have been made in other places and I dare say that a lot of honourable senators on both sides of the chamber expressed the same sentiments when they found out what programs or sections of programs had been cut out completely.
The Opposition has got away from the original motion and has degenerated the debate into a character attack on Sir Henry. However, Sir Henry has done something on his own initiative while keeping to the criteria laid down, and I refer once again to his memo in which he said:
In the case of the ABC, the goal of 100c worth for every $ 1 spent is not at odds with its excelling in the quality of its presentations and being renowned for creativity, innovation and experimentation. The better and more effectively we do things, the more scope there will be to display these qualities and to lessen the impact on our activities of current financial constraints.
So Sir Henry Bland seeks to encourage creativity and high quality and to make the ABC an innovative force in the community setting a high standard for the electronic media in Australia. If he can achieve that and at the same time set a high standard for Australian talent to attain, be proud of and be part of, then all power and no government interference to him. I reject the urgency motion.
– I rise to support this motion. It raises an issue that is far more important than the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In essence, we want to maintain the ABC as a viable body generally and not merely in the entertainment field. If ever there were the demise of shows like Four Corners and This Day Tonight there would be a big gap created in political forums in this country. That is not just idle rhetoric. Larry O’Brien, a leading Democrat campaign director not merely for the late President Kennedy but also in the unsuccessful Democrat campaigns, in the Nixon era pointed out how in the United States of America the National Broadcasting Corporation and the Colombia Network- in the United States of America there is no government agency to strike a balance- had prostituted that country’s political television shows in favour of the artful dodger, Richard Milhous Nixon. We have not reached that stage yet.
I have been on a Senate committee looking at the woodchip industry and have heard some of the insulting references to the ABC and that famous show which disclosed the Woodchip
Industry infamy at Eden. I know that big business would never want that sort of revelation again. I want to relate that incident to the present chairman of the ABC using a cricket analogy. I am using cricket and not football because I could not get my point across given our differences on football codes. We know of cases at State and national levels -
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy President. I call your attention to the state of the House. I do so in no disrespect to the honourable senator who is speaking but only because of the subject matter of this debate.
-During the calling of the quorum Senator Harradine said something about unemployment. I think that the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association and other unions are vitally interested in the vigilance of the Opposition to see that the ABC remains at total manning strength. But to return to more germane issues, I point out that while we have Richard Carleton, Bob Moore and people like them we will not have a need for any political pundit in Australia to write as Larry O’Brien did in Final Victories, and that is the fundamental issue here. We do, however, have people like the present Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, going around boasting that he is going to get even with ABC journalists.
When I was interrupted by the calling of the quorum I was giving a sporting analogy but did not finish it. If there is a State or national chairman of selectors in cricket who has been a medium or fast bowler we will find that his teams do not go in for leg spinners for a while. I am using that analogy in relation to Sir Henry Bland. I have nothing against the man personally but if he believes- and I think he does- that Mad Dog Morgan and Ben Hall are rubbish and he does not like them culturally, we will find the pruning axe being used on them. I do not want to say any more about the Chairman although I do want to take the loose head off Senator Baume on the question of expenditure. Dealing with priorities, the fact is that every $ lm we prune off the ABC budget can have tremendous effects on maintaining a political equilibrium or balanced political viewpoints. Never having believed in dealing in theoretical discussions of this nature and always preferring to deal in reality, I recall that I once appeared on a commercial television station with a political commentator who asked me about a matter. I named the people I was concerned about but the station bleeped that out. When I went on the ABC with Richard Carleton or Bob
Moore the answer appeared in full. This demonstrates a fringe form of censorship which can develop.
I retrace my steps to refer again to This Day Tonight and Four Corners and the program on woodchip excesses. Do honourable senators opposite mean to tell me that if this program had been shown on channels 9, 7 or 10 in Sydney or their equivalent in other States or if such a channel had taken a militant attitude on conservation sponsors would not have threatened to take their business away? We have achieved a reasonably balanced society through being ultra-vigilant. There is another point which is equally important. Somebody referred to the Australian Labor Party and interference and here one can draw a contrast. On one occasion we were regaled about the siege at Monash University and what happened to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in an incident involving a few students. Then I recall that some honourable senator opposite gloated when my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland at a Labor Party national conference had ABC staff put very strong views on policy detail. We did not get in the Commonwealth or State police to run them out. Senator Douglas McClelland rode out the storm and was respected for it. This shows the inability of some of the Government’s Ministers. They feel they have to oppress people.
When I mentioned the 2 commentators, Senator Missen by way of interjection took me up on one of them. If that commentator had remained on the ABC payroll and his probing questions of leading Ministers had continued, I wonder whether he would have survived. On the other side of the coin, I can remember Opposition senators questioning Senator Douglas McClelland when there was an ordinary case of discipline involving an ABC announcer. They asked whether he as the then Minister was going to intervene. Senator Douglas McClelland could have got a lot of applause from one of the unions connected with the ABC but he said: ‘No, I am not going to intervene’. So our attitude has been clear and spotless and this brings me back to the question of the Government’s responsibilities.
Towards the end of the Labor Government’s term we introduced a long overdue reform, ethnic radio. A national council and State committees were appointed to look at this subject and, showing the bi-partisanship of the then Government, a then Opposition senator, the illustrious Senator Gordon Davidson, was appointed to that national council. Appointed as chairman was Jim Bayutti, a very prominent man in Sydney. There was a good blending on the council. However, since then there has been a change of government and we have not yet received a letter from the Government to tell us whether we are fish or fowl. Many of us are still having matters referred to us and we are channelling them to the ABC and to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), but as yet we do not know our fate. There is nothing in it for anybody on those bodies, and in terms of ministerial courtesy the very least the Minister could have done was recognise what those bodies had achieved. Honourable senators can talk about participation by the people. However I wish to draw attention to a problem concerning the Polish community which should never have arisen. The problem arose from the belief that soccer scores from Poland had a Marxian context. I cannot see how a round ball or any other shape of ball can have any political impact. This was one of the matters that was raised in an unofficial capacity with members of the ethnic radio national council. This is the treatment that we have been accorded.
But I ask honourable senators to look at the other side of the argument. When the Labor Party came to office it inherited an immigration advisory council. We added 4 members to that council which already consisted of 15 members. That is the difference between us and the present Government- we added rather than subtracted or liquidated- you demolished the National Ethnic Radio Committee. I do not know what senators on the other side of the chamber thought about the council. I believe that it was a good council. I doubt whether there was any other member of the council, apart from myself, who carried an ALP membership ticket. Possibly there may have been 2 members of the council who belonged to the Liberal Party. But the rest of the members were free agents.
I repeat that none of us know our fate. I was talking to Mr Bayutti about a fortnight ago and he asked me to contact Senator Davidson who might have the ear of the Minister, which I do not have. I asked a question of Senator Guilfoyle the other night. She gave me a reasonably kind answer, but there was no meat in it. The point I make is that when honourable senators opposite talk about standards and ministerial courtesies at least they should treat with great respect members of the council who have worked very hard. The National Ethnic Radio council, despite its questionable status at the moment, is still acting as mediator although not recognised by the Government. It is not playing party politics.
As far as this debate is concerned I simply make the point that we want to see the ABC as a viable organisation. We have heard talk about how the Labor Government destroyed institutions. I suppose that if the program Blue Hills had been discontinued when we were in government it would have been argued that we would replace it with some saga about Lenin, Stalin or something like that because this is the attitude of some members of the National Country Party. When I was overseas at around Easter time I spoke to a number of ABC commentators. I can assure honourable senators that they live in dread of the Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, because he is a revengeful man and makes no bones about that fact. I think Senator Ryan pointed to his hang-ups on Vietnam. It is a poor commentary on the Australian people if it is thought that they cannot evaluate what is involved in a documentary. These are the things that we harp on again and again.
It was also noticeable during the election campaigns that took place in the days of Sir Frank Packer that the conservative parties always got the advance bookings for election advertising. It seemed to us that when we sought to obtain time we were always told that the time during the major movie on Sunday nights was taken up either by the Liberal Party or the National Country Party. I would not want to get a certain accountant involved in this matter and I suppose I should have some respect for the dead. However, I could speak of some of the machinations of the late gentleman who received a knighthood- I do not know why. But these are the sort of people who have taken control of our various television channels and have prostituted the media.
That has not happened with the ABC. The ABC has been the pinnacle of creation. Senator Collard and Senator Baume referred to the fact that there is to be pruning. I would say that the Treasury hit men went in to do their job- a job which they really enjoyed. I believe that Sir Henry Bland is a conservative man, and I do not mean this disparagingly. But I am pretty certain that he looked at some of the general productions and said: ‘Well, this is an area where we can cut back because otherwise we will have the radicalisation of Australia’. I simply say that the issue to everybody involves the viability of the ABC. Of course commercial stations have a role to play in respect of documentaries. I know that one or two commercial television stations have produced some reasonable conservation documentaries. But documentaries of this sort did not become a reality until they were introduced by the ABC. The oil companies in particular found that if you could not beat them you had to join them and they became conservationists as well.
I simply say to the Senate that we have a right to express our views because you and I know that if public opinion can get through to the Cabinet then this Government will have to bend to that public opinion. If we have done no more tonight than hold the ABC work staff and production at its present level this has been a valuable debate.
– It has been my fate recently in debates to follow Senator Mulvihill. (Quorum formed.) I am thankful to have such a huge audience to listen to my speech. As I said, it is my fate on occasions to follow Senator Mulvihill. Unfortunately tonight I can follow him in one sense but not in another because his speech had very little relevance to this debate and for that I am heartily thankful. I was very interested to hear from him that the shape of a soccer ball has no political context. I am also pleased to know that he has nothing against Sir Henry Bland. In that situation he puts himself in a category different from members on that side of the chamber and that puts him on a higher plane altogether.
In the course of this debate one has heard Opposition speakers generally commence their speeches by reading out the motion before the Chair. It is necessary that this should be done because the rest of their speeches have borne no resemblance to the motion. I will read the motion as well to remind those who have come into the chamber what we are talking about. The motion states:
The failure -
The alleged failure- of the Government to ensure the independence, integrity and high repute of Australia’s National Broadcasting Service.
During the night we have heard some denigrationOpposition senators were encouraged in this- of Sir Henry Bland who is one of the great public servants of this country. It may be unnecessary at this late stage of the debate to go completely through the arguments, such as they are, that have been advanced by the Opposition. To a great extent Senator Button’s arguments were knocked down by Senator Carrick. Perhaps if we throw away one or two of the Alvin Purple patches in Senator Button’s speech and look again, there are one or two things that ought to be said in reply to what I think was one of the very disgraceful statements that have been heard in this chamber this year.
We heard Senator Button say that you judge a Chairman of the ABC by the fact that there have been 25 cartoons about him recently. It has been pointed out that many illustrious leaders of the Labor Party have scored so much better in that way and that during the period that the ABC has been established it has been quite customary and quite healthy for newspapers and other people in the community to poke fun occasionally at the ABC and to criticise that body. It is believed that this is one of the healthy signs of democracy in this country. If Senator Button is trying to plant upon us some new gallup poll whereby we judge according to the number of cartoons of leading public figures in this country that we like or dislike, this new idea is interesting but not useful.
– Mickey Mouse would win hands down.
– I do not like you to refer to Senator Button in that way.
– No, I did not refer to him.
– I do agree with you that Mickey Mouse would win. In addition, Senator Button did not quite have the courage to go on, although he did tend to refer to Sir Henry Bland’s fine public record in this community over many, many years as perhaps a past which was a fable. But he did not proceed so far as did courageous senators like Senator Walsh and Senator Ryan who attacked and derogated from the actual public performance as a public servant of this man who has served his country for many years on a public platform where things were known, where activities were known by the people and where in fact those activities were judged to be suitable and desirable. The record is open to the public.
Senator Button in concluding his speech endeavoured to tell the Senate that the commissioners who are meeting tomorrow ought to consider the morale and the disputes in the ABC and endeavour to ascertain what are the matters in respect of which they have discretion and power to deal with under the Act. The whole of this debate today, of course, is predicated on the situation that the members of the Opposition hope to influence the Commissioners and hope to influence the Chairman by reason of the scurrilous attacks which they have made today. Nobody, for one moment, will ignore the timing of this debate and the fact that the ABC- undirected and unadvised by the Government- will proceed tomorrow to have a meeting to make what decisions it thinks fit.
The case put forward in the opening of this debate was disgraceful and one of which the Senate cannot be proud. In the reply which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) made to the opening case of the Opposition, a significant event took place- that is, some interjections made by Senator Georges disclosed what was in fact the reality of the Opposition’s argument. Senator Georges said that it was the appointment of Sir Henry Bland about which he was concerned. He said: ‘It is the incompetence of the appointee that we are complaining about. ‘
– No, of the appointment.
- Senator Georges said that it was the incompetence of the appointee. What I have just said was said by Senator Baume and it was not disputed when he said it. Senator Georges made it clear that that was what he was complaining about.
– No, I was referring to the incompetence of the appointment and that puts it right on the Government.
-I thought that Senator Georges said that it was the incompetence of the appointee but Senator Georges now says that it is not so, that it was in fact the incompetence of the appointment. Now, some months later, the Opposition has decided that this is what it particularly wants to attack. It has attacked someone who has great ability, who was appointed to this job and who follows a line of many other chairman of the ABC who have not been weak men, have not been insignificant men and have not been the sort of men on whom we would expect governments to put pressure. People who have been appointed to this position- 1 include Sir Henry Bland in this- are people who have been shown to have character, some ability and minds of their own and who will not be susceptible to pressures by governments or Oppositions in this way.
In the course of this debate we also heard from Senator Douglas McClelland, who gave, I suppose, what one might describe as an obituary for the ABC. It was a sad account but Senator Douglas McClelland managed to point out how much he had done for the ABC in his period of ministry.
– That was modesty.
– My friend says ‘modesty’. Perhaps it was not modesty but none the less, we heard from Senator Douglas McClelland an attack again on the basis that the Chairman of the ABC was engaged in polarisation and division in the Commission. The Chairman of the
ABC is one of many Commissioners. The Commissioners have been appointed by successive governments. Most of those Commissioners have been appointed by the Labor Government. They are the people who control and determine the standards and carry out the functions which they are given under the Act. To suggest that one person in the Commission is somehow predominant or a dictator, as one honourable senator said, is nonsense. The Commission meets tomorrow to make determinations as it normally does and it will, I trust, continue to guide well the fortunes of the ABC.
The next speaker from the Opposition was Senator Walsh. He came to us with his usual parade of abuse and his claims of behaviour- of which he has a great stock- which he constantly brings to our attention. Senator Walsh was concerned because we criticised his abuse of privilege in this House- the fact that he was as determined as his other colleagues to attack the Chairman of the ABC who, of course, could not at this time or in this place in any way answer those criticisms. Sir Henry Bland could not be expected to enter into a public debate in this issue. But this did not stop Senator Walsh. This did not stop him from calling the Chairman of the ABC an ipso facto dictator of the ABC who was put there to stifle criticism. It is this very idea that the Labor Party in this Senate must get over. It must get over the idea that everything is done for a sinister reason and that someone who is appointed to such a position as this- a man who has been an eminent public servant, who has served his country well and who has been on companies and on boards- is appointed only for a sinister purpose. His membership of companies and boards has been the subject of criticism, but I put it that it was because of his experience that he was appointed. Senator Walsh, of course, went through a catalogue of criticism and I think the most puerile of all was his attack on Sir Henry Bland’s Garran memorial lecture in 1975 when he said that in the ABC one must be sensitive of political thought and action. Senator Walsh thinks this is bad whereas I would suggest that any person who is chairman of the ABC must obviously be sensitive and understanding of political thought and action. He could not go into such a position unless he was familiar with the currents and the problems of the community. That is a qualification and not a disqualification.
I say to Senator Ryan, who was so concerned with the Chairman’s possible political activities, that I do not know of Sir Henry Bland’s political activities. In fact, he has not had any active political life. Professor Downing, Sir Henry Bland ‘s predecessor who is now deceased, was a man who, in fact, signed the advice for a change of government in 1 972.I do not criticise him. I think that that was his public right to do so. Professor Downing had political ideas and at that stage had a political view. He obviously voted in a certain political way and made it known publicly. The Opposition did not criticise Professor Downing. He was of course, also sensitive of political thought and action. Sir Henry Bland did not make that sort of public statement at any time in his long public career.
In this debate we ought to remember certain salient factors. We ought to remember that we have an independent ABC. Parties on this side of the Chamber in their platforms about which Senator Baume has spoken, in their statements in this House, in a statement made yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have indicated that they stand for the independence and integrity of the ABC and that they will not try to interfere with its running. The Government is aware of the obligations which are imposed upon the ABC Commissioners under the Act and it will not try to interfere. We realise that other statutory corporations like this are set up in the community. They are set up for various important purposes. I should like to refer to something that was said by the Rt Hon. Herbert Morrison, M.P. I would think that his remarks would be acceptable to the Opposition. In speaking about the reasons for establishing statutory corporations he said:
We seek to combine the principle of public ownership, of a broad but not too detailed public accountability, of a consciousness on the part of the undertaking that it is working for the nation and not for sectional interests, with the liveliness, initiative and considerable degree of freedom of a quick-moving and progressive business enterprise.
I believe that the ABC is capable of doing that. It has been doing that and it will continue to do that. I believe, therefore, that in this rather long and somewhat deplorable debate today we have heard enough criticism, we have heard enough of attempts to stand over a leading public figure, we have heard enough of the Oppositions ‘ miserable case against the ABC, and, apparently of the Government in this instance. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Button’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) I lay on the table the following paper:
The Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) I lay on the table the following paper:
Report of the Auditor-General upon the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure and upon other accounts for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present details of special Royal Australian Air Force nights for the period 1 June 1976 to 14 July 1976. I also present supplementary details of special Royal Australian Air Force nights for the period 26 July 1975 to 17 August 1975 for inclusion with information previously tabled on 18 May 1976. Senator McLaren asked for this information some days ago. I regret that I was unable to table it before tonight. I have made arrangements with the secretary of Estimates Committee A that all members of that Committee will receive a copy of this information- I hope, this night.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following agreements: International Cocoa Agreement 1975, International Coffee Agreement 1976, the Fifth International Tin Agreement and an Agreement to Establish the Intergovernmental Council of Copper Exporting Countries, together with a statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade relating to those Agreements.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1 965 1 present the report on the operations of that Act for the year ended 30 June 1976.
-Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to move a motion in respect of that report.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Where are the other reports?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The other papers are not available.
By arrangement, this is done to enable the Estimates Committees to meet tomorrow, Thursday.
– I oppose the motion. I have not been consulted in respect of this matter. Since Tuesday of last week I have been listed to speak on the Budget. I have matters which affect the employment situation in the State which I have the honour to represent to bring to the attention of the Senate. I believe that the collusion between the Government and the Opposition to prevent a debate on the Budget to continue tomorrow is a matter of concern and should be a matter of concern to the electors of my State. I consider that it would be only fair for the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) or the Government Whip and the Opposition Whip to consult me on these matters. I have not been consulted. There are matters of very grave concern which require urgent solution. I suggest to the Leader of the Government that he allow at least some time tomorrow for a debate on the Budget.
– As Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, I assure Senator Harradine that there has been no collusion between the Government and the Opposition to stop debate on the Budget.
– Well, someone is obviously trying to gag him.
– If someone is trying to gag him, as Senator Cavanagh suggests, it is not the Opposition. I remind Senator Harradine that an urgency debate on the subject of unemployment was initiated by the Opposition about 10 days ago. A number of members on the Government side spoke and a number of members of the Opposition spoke.
– There was no place for me in that debate.
– Well, we of the Opposition do not regard the honourable senator as one of our numbers.
– Well, please yourself. I am either one of the Opposition or one of the Government. What am I?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order!
– What am I- one of the Government or one of the Opposition?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order ! The Senate will come to order. Senator Douglas McClelland has the floor.
– It is not for me or for the Opposition Whip to make arrangements for Senator Harradine to speak on any urgency motion which might be moved by the Opposition.
– Do you agree that I should be consulted?
– If the honourable senator were a member of our Party he would automatically be consulted. As you would know, Mr Deputy President, the business of this chamber is controlled by Government members. If they see fit to include Senator Harradine on their speaking list to enable him to speak in any debate that is their business. As far as I know, when our lists were prepared no request came to me from Senator Harradine- I do not think any request from him went to Senator Georges- to speak in the urgency debate on the matter of unemployment. The Budget debate is to continue. I certainly wish to speak. I have not yet contributed to the Budget debate as a number of my colleagues have. But the business of the Senate is in the hands of the Government and, I assure Senator Harradine, not in the hands of the Opposition. On this aspect there has been no collusion between the Government and the Opposition.
– I regret that Senator Harradine is under the impression that there has been some collusion to prevent him from speaking. I wish to assure him, in line with the assurance given by the Manager of Opposition Business, Senator Douglas McClelland, that that is not the case. Because the allegation is serious, I wish to make the situation clear to honourable senators. Senator Harradine was to have spoken today in the Budget debate and would, in the normal course of events, have done so were it not for the discussion of the matter of public importance on which the urgency motion was put down today and which, under Standing Orders took precedence. That meant that Senator Harradine and other senators who would otherwise have spoken today on the Budget are left in the position where they will have to wait until debate on the Budget is resumed at a later date. Any talk of collusion is absolutely wrong. I hope that the honourable senator will realise that nothing in this motion affects in any way what is happening in the Senate today or the possibility of his speaking in the Senate this evening. He is quite mistaken. I regret that he has gained that impression. I hope it is now clear to him that any suggestion of collusion is simply a figment of his imagination.
– My contribution to this debate will be almost in the form of a personal explanation. I remind Senator Harradine that he approached me to seek a place in the Budget debate. In fact, arrangements were made and instructions left that a slot would be made available to him, not today but last Wednesday. Unfortunately, as honourable senators will recall, on Tuesday last so great a length of time was taken by each speaker that several senators, including Senator Harradine, were pushed off the debating list on Wednesday last. Arrangements were made for Senator Harradine to be on the list today. Unfortunately, a decision was made to hold an urgency debate and again Senator Harradine and several other senators will be pushed off the debating list.
– Will we have an opportunity though?
-We will make every opportunity available for those people who wish to speak on the Budget to do so. It is unfortunate that, although we on the Opposition side provided an opportunity to Senator Harradine to be on the list last Wednesday, events took another turn. Again, events have taken another turn today. But I assure the Senate that on Senator Harradine ‘s application to me for a space on the speaking list I made a space available on the Opposition side, not on the Government side.
– I acknowledge it.
– I am pleased that the honourable senator acknowledges it. This situation often occurs in this place. Those of us who have been here for some time have on occasions waited for weeks to enter into a debate and have altered figures in written speeches on at least 3 occasions.
– The best speeches are the ones not delivered.
– The best speeches are the ones not delivered as Senator Harradine will find out in time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14 September, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1976, which is now before the Senate, is to amend the Telecommunications Act to facilitate the approach by the Telecommunications Commission to the capital markets with the view of borrowing $200m, partly financing its capital expenditure for the current year. I point out initially that this is the largest public issue by either a semi-government authority or a State instrumentality in this country’s history. The Opposition will not be opposing the Bill; nor does it, in fact, oppose the concept of a statutory authority borrowing on the domestic capital market. However, I propose to move an amendment on behalf of the Opposition because there are other aspects of the legislation which we believe should be dealt with. I move:
The Opposition believes that there has been a campaign by the Government to mislead the public as to the nature of consequences of deficit financing and the detrimental effects on the management of the economy. This attitude has led the Government and the Commission into making some serious errors.
Last year members of the present Government embarked upon a campaign- we all remember this happening during the course of the debates not only in this place but in the House of Representatives- relating to the nature and size of the deficit for last year. An example of this is a statement made by the then Leader of the Opposition last September. The press report reads:
The Federal Government deficit for the first 2 months of the present financial year is $ 1 ,07 1 m, the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr Fraser, claimed yesterday. He warned the House of Representatives that the deficit would jump to more than $6,000m by the end of the year if it kept to the July and August rates.
The comparable figure for July and August this year is $ 1,456m. It would be an act of irresponsibility on the part of this Opposition if we were to claim on that basis that the deficit for this year will be no less than $8,000m. Yet that was the sort of argument used last year in order to give the impression that the deficit last year would be around $6,000m. The Treasurer at that time indicated, I believe, that the figure would be about $5,000m. That did not eventuate.
That is an example of the manner in which figures were selectively used then to mislead the Australian public. It was part of a campaign to give the impression that the Government of the day was allowing the deficit to run to abnormal proportions. Because the then Opposition went to such lengths to mislead the public it is now faced with the difficulty of having to explain to the Australian people the present position in which it finds itself. To extricate itself from this difficulty it has sought to arrange the Budget figures in such a way as to demonstrate that it is reducing the deficit. We saw only recently that a payment of $200m was made to the States for hospital running expenses. That payment was made before 30 June for the sole purpose of artificially boosting last year’s deficit and artificially reducing this year’s deficit. That was a deliberate act on the part of this Government and it was done to give the impression that a reduction was being made in the deficit for this year.
We find a similar act being undertaken in this legislation. It represents a further attempt to artificially reduce this year’s deficit. I think that we are on common ground in saying that the size of the deficit is not really the issue as far as we of the Opposition are concerned. We accept the size of the true deficit last year and we accept the size of the true deficit this year. The important thing is the manner in which that deficit is financed. This Government has claimed repeatedly that borrowings are to be avoided- in fact in a moment I will quote some remarks of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- because of the pressure they put on interest rates and the manner in which they tend to crowd out, that is the term used, or make it more difficult for the private sector to borrow on the money market. Notwithstanding its view it has continued with this loan even though its economic advisers recommended against it. Its economic advisers did recommend against it. The Treasury advised the Government against a substantial borrowing program by the Commonwealth because ‘the practical effect of such greatly increased borrowings by Commonwealth authorities in the domestic market will be to increase competition for funds in this area of the capital market.’ That was the advice given to the Government. Later the Treasurer was recorded as saying that ‘significant increased interest rates on semi-government loans may be necessary.
Every effort must be made to restrict the level of the program. ‘ The second part of that quotation, that ‘every effort must be made to restrict the level of the program ‘, is not being observed by the Government.
I have said that we do not oppose the concept of what is being done but we find the Government saying one thing and doing another. We find the Treasurer saying that we should not be expanding this capital borrowing program because of the effect it has for the private sector and we find the Treasury advising the Government not to do this, yet for the sake of misleading the public in respect to the deficit the Government goes ahead and does it. There is an inconsistency here and the purpose of my remarks to date is to expose the attitude being taken by the Government in respect of this legislation.
I have indicated that this is the largest ever public underwritten loan in this country’s history. Not only is the loan of enormous magnitude; it is the first time that the Australian Telecommunications Commission has gone into the public market. It has had no previous experience in this field. The ground work for such a loan should have been carefully laid, yet the Government, in its haste to push the Telecommunications Commission into this loan, has forced the Commission to make a number of errors. The traditional process for obtaining an underwriter for such a loan is to call public tenders. Initially the Commission did not follow this course and it made a number of major errors. Firstly, it appointed Hill Samuel Australia Limited as its financial advisers, yet the Chairman of the Commission was a director of that firm. Secondly, it permitted Bain and Co. to test the market for funds before any proposal had been finalised. Yet the Chairman of the Commission is a member of the legal firm which acts for Bain and Co. Thirdly, it may or may not have been a coincidence that Hill Samuel, of which the Chairman was a director, recommended the engagement of Bain and Co. for whom the Chairman’s legal firm acts. Its financial advisers recommended a course which was contrary to the procedures laid down by the Loan Council. The Commission approached the Loan Council without the approval of the Minister. After the Loan Council had rejected the proposal the Commission was forced to call public tenders. Ultimately the Commission agreed to let Bain and Co. and Citinational Securities Corporation Ltd to underwrite the loan jointly. The actions taken by the Commission prejudiced the chances of other unsuccessful tenderers.
In view of these circumstances it is clear that the initial handling of the loan by the Commission was less than adequate. The blame for these errors should not be laid at the feet of the Commission but at the feet of the Government because of the undue haste with which the Commission was obliged to proceed with this borrowing program. I do not intend to pursue this matter any further. I have indicated that we accept the principle behind it and therefore we will not oppose the Bill. However it is quite obvious that there have been other reasons, other motivations on the part of the Government, for bringing forward this legislation. The manner in which it has been handled indicates that the Government’s attempt to mislead the public is having a detrimental effect on the administration and economic management of this country. If we continue on this course and if the Government continues to act in this manner we can only presume that as the months go by this country will be led into a situation of deeper and deeper recession and by the middle of next year we will see the fruits, if we can call them fruits, of the actions of this Government and its economic strategies. We will not oppose the Bill.
– I would like to commend the Government for introducing this measure which I believe will give the Australian Telecommunications Commission flexibility to arrange part of its financial program. The Government, or the Commission, has approved the expenditure of $9 10m in this year. This Bill authorises proposed borrowings from the domestic loan market of approximately $200m. The Commission will provide approximately 54 per cent of its proposed capital investment this year from its internal sources, including provision for depreciation of assets, a budgeted trading surplus and funds retained to meet its future liabilities for furlough payments to staff. The Bill authorises the raising of approximately $200m from the loan market.
I wish to introduce into the debate an aspect that concerns me. It relates to Telecom’s program of connecting telephone services in country areas to automatic exchanges. I have already had some talks with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) on this matter. I have made representations with respect to people whom I know and who live on the Eyre Peninsula. These people live approximately 26.2 kilometres from Lock. The original cost of upgrading their telephone service to connect it to an automatic exchange was about $5,800. This problems has been recognised by the Government. Not long ago the Minister introduced a change of policy with respect to what I term the free line proposal of the Government. Previously we provided 8 kilometres free line to such people. Now it has been raised by 4 kilometres to 12 kilometres. This still results in a net cost to the family of about $3,800.
I remind the Senate that this area of South Australia is suffering its worst drought since 1914. There will be no wheat this year. Wool and beef prices are very low. This family cannot afford the cost of converting from manual to automatic. I made representations as long ago as April to the former Minister. He gave the matter some consideration. I am of the opinion that in the present economic circumstances Telecom should be in a position to allow the repayments to it to be spread over a longer period. I have made some suggestions to the Minister. I will refer to them a little later in my speech.
I revert to the question of the extension of the free line to 12 kilometres. It occurs to me that it would be helpful in similar circumstances if the Government measured the 12 kilometres from the property concerned rather than from the automatic exchange. In that way several former party line subscribers would be able to take advantage of Telecom’s concession, could bulldoze that part of their properties where the line would go and perhaps partly offset the cost to themselves. The family to which I referred, Mr and Mrs Green of Lock, is in a fairly awkward position because Mr Green does not enjoy good health. He cannot take advantage of the offer made to him by Telecom in South Australia that he do some of the work. If he has to undertake the clearing of the path of the new line by subcontract, the cost would be dearer than or as expensive as the cost if Telecom did the complete operation. So I suggest that the Minister look at this proposal which would further reduce the costs to such people. I suggest that the Government consider taking the free line part of the project from the property rather than from the automatic exchange.
The second thought which I have put forward is that the Government ought to consider the introduction of a system which would enable property owners to spread their commitments over a longer period. Senator Bishop may be aware of the system used in South Australia by the Electricity Trust of South Australia- the SWER line, the single wire earth return line, system of electrification of rural communities- by which the local government authority was able to raise a loan sufficient to establish such a system in these areas at a cost of about $500,000. The local government authority was able to raise the money so it could offer the people who wished to be connected to this system the capacity to pay at the time when the rates were due to the council a small levy, over a 10-year period, to offset these costs. It occurs to me that the cost of installing an automatic exchange would not be very much more than $500,000 and that a system of repayment of this type ought to be considered by Telecom so it could provide people on rural properties with the opportunity of spreading their commitments over a longer period. Therefore the extraction of this money would be made less painful to these people.
I pay a tribute to Telecom in South Australia, particularly because Mr Coleman, the manager there, is a compassionate person. He has made suggestions to overcome the problems of this family. If the Green family were able to do some of the work- I have already said that due to sickness this is not possible- their commitment could have been reduced to about $1,000 over 3 years, which is an expenditure of approximately $300 a year. That is as I understand the position. I draw the attention of the Senate to my 2 suggestions. Firstly, the Government should look at the possibility of reversing the 12-kilometre free line from the automatic exchange end to the property end because this would give to subscribers en route further economic benefit. Secondly, I think most importantly, I ask that the Minister give urgent consideration to the proposal which relates to the method used in South Australia by the Electricity Trust in the provision of the single wire earth return line system.
The criticisms by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) concerning the raising of this loan, I think, are quite strange. I think it is strange that we should hear him criticise this measure, in a mild way, in view of the fact that his Government tried to raise quite massive amounts through most unorthodox channels. The debates during the last period of the previous Government seemed to indicate that this was the intention. The previous Government left the country in a state of economic chaos. This Government is attempting to bring back into the realm of government some businesslike procedures. With respect to Telecom, I think that the capacity that it is given through this Bill to raise loans to the extent of $200m on the open market is a step in the right direction. I support the Bill.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the debate. The Government will not support the amendment moved by the Opposition. As to the points raised by Senator Jessop, I will ensure that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) in another place has his attention drawn to them. An attempt has been made by the Opposition to see some sinister motive behind this proposal, yet it is a very simple budgetary procedure. The facts are, and they should be stated, that the Australian Telecommunications Commission requires $9 10m by way of capital expenditure this year. It should be noted that the demands of Telecom grow and the capacity to finance out of government finances must ultimately be called in question as the quantum of demand of Telecom grows yearly.
Honourable senators will recall that the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry suggested the formula which has been adopted. It is proposed, that 54 per cent of this amount should be found from internal sources and that of the remainder 24 per cent should be funded by Commonwealth advances and the remaining 22 per cent, or some $200m, should be raised on the domestic markets. The Bill, in essence, makes the appropriate steps available legislatively for that. It provides an exemption from stamp duty to enable the loan to be competitive with other semigovernmental loans and it does one or two other technical things. No other motives are involved. The legislation is entirely straightforward. It is clear that as the years roll on and as the demands for capital funds become greater, the amounts that recurrent funds can bear and that the loan market can bear will have to be looked at again. I understand that already there is the clearest indication that the public is eager to embrace this loan and that it will be quickly fully subscribed. I commend the Bill and the loan to the Senate.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 September, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1 977
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1977
Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1977
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1976
National Accounting Estimates of Receipts and outlays of Commonwealth Government Authorities
Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1976-77
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’ insert ‘the Senate condemns the Budget because:
1 ) it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries;
it abdicates Federal Government responsibilties and forces the State governments and local governments either to reduce their services or to institute additional charges, or both;
it introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending;
it reduces the availability of services to the whole community but particularly to those most vulnerable to hardship notably Aborigines, the unemployed and migrants; and
it fails to institute a selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer confidence’.
– In resuming my remarks in the Budget debate I would first of all like to correct a misstatement of mine which appears on page 647 of Hansard of 14 September. It reads:
This Government proposes to appropriate $33m for Aboriginal affairs.
That line should read:
This Government proposes to reduce the appropriation for Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent.
– That is wrong.
– That is my view and it is the view of the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I stand by it. During the course of my remarks last night I was referring to the Government’s broken promises. At page 646 of Hansard I referred to Medibank and I want to refer to it again because today I received a letter from the Minister for Health, dated 15 September. It reads:
You will have received several Press statements concerning the new health insurance arrangements which take effect from 1 October, together with a supply of the booklet ‘How to choose the Health Insurance that ‘s right for you ‘.
I have received them. Of course, I have not handed them out to anybody because it has been proved by questions and answers in the Senate that the booklet contains some misleading information. Mr Hunt goes on to say:
I have now forwarded to you separately further material which will assist in dealing with public inquiries about the new health insurance arrangements. This- includes the
Medibank pamphlet and rates calculator if applicable to your State and notes from the Taxation Office on tax aspects of health insurance. I would be grateful for your continuing co-operation in providing information about the new health insurance arrangements in your electorate.
RALPH J. HUNT
Of course, I will be quite happy to co-operate with the Minister when he puts out a pamphlet which is not misleading to the electors and residents of Australia. It is very enlightening to read an article in today’s Australian. I will quote it because it is in conflict with the letter which I received from Mr Hunt today. It is headed ‘Split second decisions’. It says:
With only 16 days to go before we must all toss a coin and decide which health scheme to join, it is not very reassuring to know that Health Minister Ralph Hunt still has his problems.
He has his department not only dating its inter-office correspondence on Medibank- but also noting the exact time of writing. It seems no one can be sure that what they are writing won’t be superseded five minutes later.
Apparently there are also hitches with a second pamphlet on the subject and rather than admit it’s wrong and Sim of taxpayers’ money has been wasted the official comment is the new pamphlet does not contain mistakes- just a few ambiguities’.
As an elected member of this Parliament I find great difficulty in explaining to electors when they come to my office the way in which the Medibank scheme, which was introduced by my Government, has been mutilated by the present Government. What I say to them- I believe that what I am saying to them is quite correct- is that the present Government has set out to destroy Medibank, despite the assurances given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the election campaign, that he would not interfere with Medibank. That is what this Government is doing.
– He did not say that.
– I read it last night from his policy speech. The Government is endeavouring to frighten so many people out of Medibank and to join private funds that within 12 months the Minister will come into the Parliament and say that there are so few people in Medibank that it is not worth while the Government continuing with the scheme and that it will have to be scrapped. Mr Hunt sent out this letter today asking members of Parliament to hand out pamphlets which, as I said, have been proved to be misleading. This will be the third pamphlet that he has sent out. In all sincerity how can we as elected members of Parliament answer the people’s questions when great confusion has been created by this Government? Last night, before being interrupted by the adjournment motion, I was talking about the long list of promises broken by this Government. I was talking about the effect that the Budget would have. I say that the Budget has no positive effect on consumer confidence. This is borne out by an article in the Australian Financial Review of 9 September. It is headed:
It’s still a climate of . . . Save don’t spend
There is a graph in the article. I shall quickly read that part of the article which appears in that issue of the Australian Financial Review. It states:
The rate of growth in deposits provides little evidence that consumers are beginning to unlock their savings- at least from savings bank forms- as the Government hoped. The recently released figures for retail sales for July showed an increase of only 0.6 per cent seasonally adjusted.
We know that ‘seasonally adjusted’ is now a dirty phrase for the Government and the Government has completely discontinued issuing seasonally adjusted unemployment figures because they are so large that they are an embarrassment to the Government. The article continues:
The Treasurer, Mr Lynch, claimed in his 17 August Budget Speech that consumers would only begin spending more if they believed inflation was coming down. In his view, inflation has been the prime cause of the increase in the savings ratio in Australia over the past 2 years.
There is another view which gives a key role to the fear of unemployment leading to ‘ precautionary savings ‘.
We know that people have had a great fear of unemployment. That is why every spare shilling that they can get together they put into savings banks. They put it aside for a rainy day. The article states:
The Government argues that substantial reductions in unemployment can be achieved only by significant reductions in inflation.
I spoke about that last night. The article continues:
Under the Budget strategy, this requires the screws to be kept on the economy by way of both fiscal and monetary policy. Consumer behaviour, of course, may turn out to be based on all sorts of unpredictable reasons. But on the Government’s premise it would seem that they will need to have a much stronger belief in the chances of success on the inflation front than fear for their employment prospects if the savings ratio is to return to long term levels.
I think the author of that article is right on the ball. He is only bearing out the comments which have been made by me and my colleagues on this side of the House. Let us look at a further list of promises broken by this Government. The Government promised adequate transport facilities and communications but it has since told State governments that urban transport is their responsibility. Again, this Government has passed the buck. It has also changed the emphasis of roads funding from urban and national roads to rural roads. It promised Statehood to the Northern Territory during the election campaign but it has been exceedingly quiet about that matter since. I ask: Why has it been so quiet? It is because the Government knows that the finances of the Northern Territory cannot stand Statehood. Under the Constitution, if this Government were to give Statehood to the Northern Territory it would be entitled to send 10 Senators to this place.
What a stupid promise to give to the people of the Northern Territory. To give them Statehood would give them another 8 honourable senators over the number the Territory has now. Yet we remember the debate in the Parliament when the Labor Government brought in legislation to give the Territories 2 senators in this place. The then Opposition opposed that legislation most vigorously. Senator Jessop, who is sitting opposite, was one who mentioned that if we gave the Territories Senate representation we would soon have the penguins from Heard Island and Flinders Island claiming that they wanted representation. Yet the honourable senator’s leader goes to Darwin and makes the promise that he will give the Northern Territory Statehood which involves giving it 10 honourable senators. That was a promise made by the Prime Minister which he knew full well he could not carry out.
Let us get back to transport facilities. The Government stated that it would provide adequate transport facilities. But one of the first actions of the Government was to close down the railway line from Larrimah to Darwin- just the reverse of the promise it made. Look at the promise made about national resources, particularly uranium. The Government spoke about the level of Australian equity in uranium. The level of Australian equity in Australian uranium development required by the Government has changed 3 times, from 80 per cent to 70 per cent to 75 per cent. This was further watered down when Mr Anthony stated:
The level of Australian equity in mineral development has been watered down from the original 50 per cent plus. In addition foreign companies are allowed to own up to 10 per cent in Australian companies. Mr McEwen, a former leader of the Country Party, was famous for saying: ‘Sell off a bit of the farm when you are in financial trouble in Australia’. Mr Anthony is taking up that slogan. The Government promised to limit the export of liquified natural gas. It has since removed the restriction on the sale of natural gas overseas, thus selling out our national resources, or, as the saying goes, giving them away. The Liberal-National Country Party Government promised, as a first priority, renewed large scale exploration for oil. To date this has not happened. It also promised to retain the organisation and skill of the Snowy Mountain Authority and to use it for increased research into forms of water energy such as tidal, wave, hydro-electric, etc. Yet it has drastically reduced expenditure for the Authority.
I have been trying for months in the Parliament to get a copy of the report of the River Murray working party which is involved with the quality of water for South Australia. As yet, I cannot get it. It is not available. As I pointed out during the adjournment debate the other night, copies were made available through the Australian Government Publishing Service book shops and then suddenly withdrawn from sale. But that report has never been tabled in the Parliament.
In relation to Aboriginal affairs, the Government promised Aborigines and Aboriginal organisations that there would be no cut backs in expenditure and that they would be better off, not worse off, under a Liberal-National Country Party Government. I spoke about that matter last night. I advise any person who is listening tonight to get hold of a copy of the House of Representatives Hansard of yesterday and read the full text of the telegram which was sent by the now Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) who was then the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He sent out that telegram to Aborigines at an approximate cost of $40,000. He gave an undertaking that he would not cut expenditure, but, as I said in my opening remarks, the Government has done the very reverse. It has reduced expenditure by 30 per cent. We have heard a lot of words from the Government side of the Senate, from Senator Tehan and I think, from a good friend of mine, Senator Thomas. I have become a good friend of his because I serve on a committee with him. They have spoken about what this Government has done for the farming industry. But let us have a look at some of the headlines in the daily Press criticising the Government over its assistance to the farmers. A headline in the Age of 1 1 June states:
Dairy aid plan ‘a disaster’.
The article by John Holland states:
A Federal Government offer to help the dairy industry for the next 6 months was labelled yesterday as a disaster. Industry leaders said the proposals would mean thousands of farmers having their incomes cut to chaotic levels. They would be almost 20 per cent below the survival line.
If we look at the Age of 19 June- a week later- we find it states:
Farmers Go To Town With Their Message. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Victorian Premier (Mr Hamer) were booed and jeered by dairy farmers after a protest march through Melbourne yesterday.
The Age of Friday, June 25, states:
Farmers and rural organisations have called for the dismissal of the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party Mr Sinclair, as Minister for Primary Industry.
They say they want him replaced by someone ‘more aware of rural affairs and problems’. Letters have been sent to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, asking that Mr Sinclair be replaced as soon as possible. Many other farmers- while not going to the extent of asking for Mr Sinclair’s removal- have called for an assistant Minister to be appointed to help, advise and ‘educate’ him.
The moves follow increased dissatisfaction among farmers and NCP supporters over Mr Sinclair’s performance since the coalition parties won Government last December. They see his term as Minister as being marked by lack of action, fence-sitting on major issues, and apparent contempt for some agricultural industries.
The present Government set up a small committee of its own to investigate the problem of farmers. The Adelaide News of Friday, 13 August, states:
Report tells Fraser some seats at stake.
Farmers in desperate situation.
Canberra: A confidential report to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, has warned that entire regional economics in rural areas are at grave risk because of the economic crisis.
The report says that some staunch Liberal-National Country Party seats will fall to Labor unless urgent action is taken. Some Federal Ministers are being openly abused for apparent inaction. Bluntly, it says of rural attitudes, ‘Our concept of freedom from Government interference won’t work -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- There is no point of order. Senator McLaren is not reading a speech but is quoting from documents in his possession to back up his speech.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am well aware of the attitude and tactics adopted by Senator Jessop. What I am saying completely refutes the argument that has been put by honourable senators opposite during the debate to the effect that the Government has been the fairy godfather to primary industry. I have been referring to extracts from statements which have been made and the statement I wish to refer to now was made by no one less than an honourable member from South Australia, Mr O ‘Halloran Giles, a colleague of Senator Jessop. It hurts when these statements get into the Press. I will continue with what I was saying. The statement, in dealing with rural attitudes -
– I rise to order. I suggest that as the honourable senator is quoting from documents he should be requested to table them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- That can be done at the conclusion of his speech, as is the normal practice.
– It is quite obvious from the tactics adopted by Senator Jessop that he is deliberately trying to keep out of the record and from the public at large statements which were made by his colleague from South Australia who headed this committee.
– Who was that?
- Mr Giles, the honourable member for Angas. He is well known in South Australia for his political gymnastics. The article goes on to say:
Our concept of freedom from government interference won’t work when they’re broke. Bankruptcy is a more serious proposition than worrying about future inflation.
Mr G. O ‘Halloran Giles, the Liberal Member for Angas in South Australia, and chairman of the joint government parties’ rural committee, wrote the report after an 8-day tour of hard-hit communities in Victoria and Tasmania.
I am quite happy to table the documents. If Senator Jessop would like me to do so I would be happy to have the full text of them incorporated in Hansard. I am quoting only part of them. The Adelaide Sunday Mail of 15 August states under the headline ‘Growers Angry at Government’:
You have to have rocks in your head to grow fruit at the moment,’ the Canned Fruit Growers’ Association secretary, Mr John Deakin, said.
South Australian growers were ‘wild and upset’ at the Federal Government’s attitude and were talking about militant action, he said.
That was because of the present Government’s policy towards fruit growers. On Thursday, 9 September, there was the headline ‘Graziers Rap the Drought Plan’. There we find that some of the leaders of the industry again are attacking this Government because of the methods it has adopted to help farmers in the drought. The headline in the Age on Friday, 10 September, is Drought Aid Row Plan’. So I could go on through this whole saga. It shows that people in the primary producing industry are upset and disgusted that this Government has failed to honour the many promises it made during the election campaign. They are not my words but the words of primary producers and their spokesmen in the industry.
I turn now to some of the remarks made by honourable senators opposite in this debate. First of all I refer to the remarks made by Senator Webster when he criticised this Government. They are reported at page 294 of Hansard of 25 August 1976. Speaking of Senator Wriedt, he said:
His Government and he had no faith in any one of their number they put forward as Treasurer and progressively sacked Mr Crean and Dr Cairns. Heavens knows who else would have been sacked as Treasurer if the Labor Government had lasted.
I remind Senator Webster of a speech made by Mr Fred Daly in the House of Representatives during the debate on the Appropriation Bill on 1 6 September 1 97 1 . He had this to say:
Let us have a look at the ministerial circus that has brought the Budget before us. In less than 4 years Australia has had 3 Prime Ministers, 4 Ministers for Defence, S Ministers for Foreign Affairs and 3 Treasurers. Even since March- 6 months ago- we have had 2 Prime Ministers and another one is coming up.
Since March we have had 3 Ministers for Foreign Affairs, 3 Ministers for Defence, 3 Ministers for Health,’ 3 Ministers for Education and Science, 3 Attorneys-General, 2 Treasurers, 2 Ministers for Labour and National Service, 2 Ministers for Immigration, 2 Ministers for the Navy, 2 Ministers for Housing, 2 Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and 2 Ministers for Supply. This makes 3 1 changes at more than one a week. If that is not a razzle-dazzle and a musical chairs proposition then I am a Dutchman. This has all happened without an election.
This is what happened in the previous Liberal Government under Mr McMahon. Day after day there were changes, yet we find Senator Webster now trying to criticise the Labor Government for the one or 2 changes it made. He criticised the Opposition over demonstrations and had this to say:
In the past few days we have seen demonstrations against the Prime Minister in Melbourne . . .
I never use titles so I will talk about the GovernorGeneral. Titles are not in my vocabulary. He continued: as a community, we are outraged.
Of course, Senator Webster was not outraged in 1974, and neither was Senator Walters who practically built her whole speech around the demonstration at Monash University. Neither of them, as far as I can ascertain, is on record as being outraged at the terrible demonstration in Perth in March 1 974 against Mr Whitlam when he was Prime Minister.
I want to read some of the blazing headlines that appeared in the Press of that day. It was quite all right with honourable senators opposite when demonstrators were attacking a Labor Prime Minister but it is not all right when somebody is attacking their own Prime Minister. These demonstrators did not attack the present Prime Minister with the same degree of violence as the demonstrators attacked Mr Whitlam in Perth. Honourable senators opposite have tried to sheet home to the Labor Party the blame for the demonstration against their Prime Minister. They suggest that we organised it. In the West Australian of 26 March 1974 under the headline Mob pelts Whitlam at rowdy meeting’ the following appears:
The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, was hit by a full can of soft drink, 2 tomatoes and several other objects in Forrest Place yesterday during the worst political demonstration he has ever faced.
He was crushed against the side of a truck and attempts were made to punch and kick him as policemen and security officers tried to force a way through near-hysterical demonstrators.
This is what happened when we were in government. The Canberra Times of the same date carries the headline ‘PM attacked at violent rally’. I can go on ad infinitum referring to the daily press. The Age of 26 March has the headline Punches thrown at Whitlam’. The Australian has the headline ‘Drink can hits PM in violent election rally’. Those of us who were here in 1974 will recall that infamous speech made by the Western Australian Country Party senator, Senator Reid, when in this place he made a real fool of himself by trying to extricate members of the farming community in Western Australia who had been blamed as being the organisers. The Daily Telegraph has the headline ‘Election mob punches and pelts PM ‘.
One of the nice things that appeared at that time was in the National Times on 1 April. The ex-Liberal Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, is mentioned by Professor Don Aitkin, Professor of Politics at Macquarie University, in an article referring to 3 modes of politics. I will quote the one I am interested in. The article states:
In the one issue of a daily paper last week: 3 modes of politics.
The first, relaxed, elitist. Mr McMahon, a most experienced observer of Australian politics, told students at the University of New South Wales that since the Labor Party took office ‘there have been a number of desirable changes which have benefited the country’. Some of these, it was no surprise to discover, were changes which he would have liked to introduce himself, but could not, for one reason or another. He graciously conceded that this was an admission of failure.
That comes from Mr McMahon. At least on that occasion he was prepared to give credit to the Labor Government for what it had done. But Senator Lajovic, Senator Webster, Senator
Walters and a few other honourable senators opposite never give us credit for anything. They will give their side of the story about demonstrations but make no mention of what happened to our Prime Minister.
I turn now to some of the statements that have been made in this debate. Senator Lajovic had this to say:
The criticism of the Budget has been on ideological grounds and, more than that, constantly on emotional grounds rather than on logical economic criteria. This Opposition, unlike the previous Opposition, has not introduced any alternative strategy.
Did we get any alternative strategy in this place last year when then Opposition senators went on strike and would not vote on the Budget? Of course we did not. All they were intent upon was getting the Government out of office by any means possible. But the most important thing that comes out of Senator Lajovic’s speech was when he said:
The majority of the Opposition’s time has been spent in discussing issues of fairly peripheral significance within the overall program- issues which are not final, anyway.
So there is a Government supporter’s admission that the Budget is not final. What does that mean? It means what much of the Press is saying- that another mini-Budget will be brought into this place before Christmas. Senator Lajovic admits this.
I would now like to quote what Senator Young had to say during his Budget speech. He said:
While the Labor Party was in its glory for some 3 years we saw inflation escalate to the highest level ever in Australia.
That is a complete untruth.
– Who said that?
– That is what Senator Young said. He went on to say:
We saw unemployment reach the highest level ever in Australia, and tragically it is higher now than it was then.
So there we have Senator Young admitting in the record of this journal that the rate of unemployment now is higher than when we were in government. That is borne out by the figures.
Senator Webster is another Government senator that time will not permit me to refer to. But he said that inflation was higher under this Government than it has ever been. I want to quote from a chart which I have obtained from the Research Service of the Parliamentary Library dated 9 September. If we look at the chart we find that in 1 95 1 when a Tory government led by Menzies was in office the inflation rate was 25.5 per cent. Yet honourable senators opposite continually parrot the phrase that inflation was higher under Labor. It was no such thing. I would advise honourable senators opposite to look at the document prepared by the Research Section of the Library.
The graph which accompanies this document shows that after the middle of 1968 inflation was starting to rise under the previous Liberal Government. We find that the rate of inflation went up regularly. When we were in office the inflation rate in 1974 was 14.6 per cent and in 1975, our last year in office, it was 17.8 per cent. What is it now in 1976? It is 15.4 per cent. The present Government has hardly got the rate down. But it has increased the rate of unemployment. If we look at the figures contained in a Press release dated 3 September issued by Mr Street we find that for August 267 886 people were unemployed in this country. If we look at the graph taken out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for January-April 1976, reference number 64, we find that 256 993 people were unemployed under the Labor Government in August of last year. So when we compare August figures there has been an increase of 10 000 unemployed. This increase has occurred under a Liberal Government which promised that it would bring down inflation and unemployment. It has done neither.
If we look at an answer given by Mr Hunt to a question asked by Mr Hayden yesterday and recorded on page 1028 of Hansard we find that in June of last year 169 631 people were receiving unemployment benefits. We find that in June of this year under this Government 197 159 people are receiving unemployment benefits. That is an increase of 27 528 people.
I have only a minute of my speech remaining so I will have to be pretty quick in making my final remarks. In his Budget speech Senator Young talked about Mr Dunstan ‘s budget. He said:
We know that there has been a redistribution in South Australia. We know that challenges have been issued. I think we also know that Mr Dunstan is warming up for a State election. This is one of the little goodies- lollies or icing on the cake. I hope that South Australians have memories like an elephant. I hope they will not forget.
Well, I hope they will not forget. I intend to seek leave to incorporate in Hansard figures prepared by the statistical section of the Library. The document is dated 9 September 1976 and it shows the proportion of votes that the Labor Party had to get to win government in South Australia as against the proportion of votes received by the Liberal Country League over the years. We find that only on one occasion since about 29 April 1944 did the LCL poll more than Labor. I seek leave to have incorporated in
Hansard the document I have received from the Library.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– I thank the Senate. In the few seconds left to me I would like to point out that when the Labor Party won government in South Australia in 1965 it required 55.04 per cent of the vote. Yet it has been claimed over the years that under the new redistribution in South Australia the Liberals will have to get that percentage of the vote to gain office. Such a claim is complete nonsense.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am still reeling from the staccato machine gun clatter of the last speaker. I rise to speak in support of the Budget and against the amendment. I think the Budget is a courageous, resourceful and responsible budget. I think the amendment is irresponsible. As a matter of fact, when I look at the amendment and the Opposition’s claim that we are throwing the States to the winds and failing to use selective stimulatory government expenditure, that we are Using unemployment as a weapon, that we are going to introduce double taxation, I think they are grossly irresponsible.
Looking at the amendment and the way in which the Opposition has presented it I am reminded of the story of the mice that fell into the sewer. They could not swim but they certainly went through the motions. The Budget is really an extension of the economic package that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Government introduced some months ago. I like the rhetoric of the Budget. It is designed to stop the expanding government spending. It is designed to take spending away from public enterprise and to stimulate private enterprise. These are all principles with which I am in favour.
No one would deny at any stage of the debate that the economy is not in a fragile state. It is. But when we think of the economy this Government had to pick up it is surprising that the economy has recovered as far as it has done so far. Certainly our inflation rate is still far too high. But it has come down. I believe that it is still coming down according to the figures. Our interest rates are too high. Our costs, particularly costs of construction with the huge wages content that has been generated, are far too high. One could not expect any consumer to have confidence in spending now. One could not expect any investor to have confidence to invest now. One could not expect anyone from overseas to have any confidence in investing in Australia now, particularly with the attacks that the Opposition is making on the value of our currency. This cannot possibly be doing the country any good. I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has come out and stated categorically that we are going to fight our way out of this problem without devaluing our dollar.
The Opposition has made great play in the debate on unemployment. I would like to commence my contribution to the debate by discussing unemployment. I take as an example the plight of the shipbuilding industry in Australia today because that subject cuts across several of the points made in the Opposition’s amendment -for example, the reference to selective stimulatory expenditure in various industries, high costs, unemployment and the threat of it, and trade union activity. The shipbuilding industry has got itself into quite a mess, but this is a very good example of government interference in the economy, which is my way of referring to selective stimulatory government expenditure. The history of the shipbuilding bounty goes back to 1 939 just as we went into war. The Government then introduced a shipbuilding bounty. It gave this bounty to about five or six shipbuilding companies in Australia. Its idea was to support the shipbuilding industry so that we did not have to buy our ships from overseas- particularly, at that stage, from Japan. The bounty worked very well during the war and the shipbuilding firms grew bigger and stronger. But the bounty continued after the war and I think that it has been responsible for most of the troubles within the shipbuilding industry. Gradually, the bounty increased until it reached about $500,000 for a decent sized ship. The idea was that the shipbuilding companies in Australia quoted to build a ship against a notional price of building the same ship in England. England was suffering from sufficiently inflated costs because of similar government interference in its shipbuilding industry. I happened to be in England when the Upper Clyde ship works- which was once the pride of the world’s shipbuilding industry- came to the end of its tether. Despite a £Stg28m subsidy that whole industry collapsed. Now it is no more. This created a tremendous amount of heartbreak and unemployment in England. This was the price that our shipbuilding bounty club in Australia was quoting against. Prices already were inflated by the time the quotes were made here in Australia.
The bounty had several effects. The trade unions were quick to exploit this bounty because if a shipbuilding firm could quote $500,000 light or $500,000 heavy- dependent on the way one looks at it- then a profit is to be made somewhere. The unions were quick to exploit the situation and they creamed off the bounty very quickly by the use of incessant strikes and demarcation disputes. The shipbuilding bounty club, of course, was not too upset about this because the Government was picking up the tab. It meant that the Government was financing the private enterprise shipbuilders out of the business because after the war, with rapid development in Australia and the exploration for oil, the need arose for many smaller ships to be built plus bigger ships for our bulk materials and oil, oil rig vessels, lighthouse service vessels, patrol boats, tugs and barges. All these vessels started to be built in the smaller shipyards. When orders for shipbuilding were light the biggest shipyards could quote to build smaller ships. Of course, they always won the quote because they had the bounty with which to play. Building small ships in big yards is totally uneconomic. So at this stage, the bounty was causing not only maladministration in the shipyards but also a maladministration of the work in the shipyards. Also, it was financing the smaller private shipyards out of business. In other words, the bounty was having the opposite effect to that for which it was introduced. It is a sorry tale.
I should like to refer to all of the shipyards in Australia today. I need not discuss the Cockatoo Island dockyard because it attracts a lot of naval work and so one must assume it is removed from economic reality. The recent trouble in the shipbuilding industry blew up when the Australian National Line wanted to order an additional 4 bulk ore carriers- the idea being that we would have Australian built ships manned by Australian crews carrying Australian bulk ore. As the situation stands now the cost of building a ship in Australia today is 50 per cent or 60 per cent higher than anywhere else in the world. This is uneconomic. This is why the Australian National Line has decided to place its orders elsewhere. This has created consternation amongst our bigger dockyards. For example, the New South Wales State Dockyard is currently building a ship but, following the completion of that ship, it has no further orders. The New South Wales State Dockyard, which is a State government instrumentality, is a smallish yard. It has a restriction on its size. It has a very bad production record and a very bad industrial record. The recently deposed Lady Mayoress of Newcastle and the New South Wales State Premier have been acting like commercial travellers for this shipyard. They have approached the Commonwealth Government and have asked that these ships be built in Australia.
– Do you concede that the equipment is obsolete, senator?
– The reason the equipment is obsolete is that there has been no profit to put back into the shipbuilding industry. The unions have creamed off the profits which is a fact honourable senators opposite do not realise. I will go on with my story. The New South Wales State Dockyard does not have a very good case to put for building these 4 bulk ore carriers. But one can applaud the efforts of the Premier and the deposed Lady Mayoress of Newcastle in their attempts to try to get those contracts. Of course, other people are interested in this issue. The large shipyard at Whyalla in South Australia has an impressive record, despite the trying conditions with which the shipbuilding industry has been faced over the years. The shipyard at Whyalla would be interested in building these ships. The Commonwealth Government offered a deal to the New South Wales State dockyards. The proposition the Government put was that the employees agree to a wage freeze, that a definite finishing date for the building of the ships be given, that there be a stay on strikes and, I think, one other condition applied. This offer was refused by the unions. This means that the workers were not prepared to put in anything to save their industry. Despite the high wages and benefits they have had for years, they were quite prepared to let anyone- the Commonwealth Government, the State Government or the shipbuilders themselves- pay so long as they did not have to pay. They were not going to fight to have their industry survive.
The big shipyard at Whyalla is owned by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. It has been doing well for some years despite these trying conditions. It had a captive market for its own ships- bulk ore carriers, bulk oil carriers and other vessels. It also had some on-shore engineering facility to which it could divert work in times when shipbuilding orders were short. The shipyards at Whyalla estimated that the cost of building the bulk ore carriers in Australia would be 60 per cent higher than the cost of having them built overseas. The Whyalla shipyard was a member of the Commonwealth bounty club as was the State dockyard in Newcastle.
At Kangaroo Point in Brisbane the huge private shipyard of Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd, which had paid for its own capital work unlike the New South Wales dockyard, again because of its restricted size and inability to handle big ships had asked for the construction of a new floating dock to handle ships up to 144 000 tons. Being a State instrumentality one would expect it would handle its own capital improvements. But no, it went screaming to the Commonwealth Government again asking for about $16m or $ 18m to finance a new floating dockyard so that it could expand its works. Yet, it had no prospects of any extra shipbuilding work or ship repair work and it also appeared to have a sulky work force. The Evans Deakin shipyard is capable of building big ships such as the R. W. Miller. The notable feature of the construction of that bulk carrier was that 1000 strikes took place during its construction. It also had a graving dock and the Cairncross repair dock as well as a shipyard for smaller repair work and on-shore engineering work. So it provided comprehensive facilities for shipbuilding and ship repair and flexibility in times of lack of orders. It was another shipyard that attracted the Commonwealth bounty. It had incessant, even daily, strikes. It tended to make smaller ships in its big yards. This was a fault of management but, when you are attracting the bounty, why not? Evans Deakin are going to close their shipbuilding works. They are currently making the Southern Cross oil rig to the tune of $2 5 m or more. When they have completed that they are going to close their shipbuilding operation and concentrate on their engineering works which are far more profitable. That really covers our major shipbuilding works in Australia.
I think that quite a lot is to be learned from the operations of the small shipbuilders in Australiathe ones who grew up during the expansionary period of Australia s development and who, apart from the bounty, I think would be doing quite well. We only have to look at Carrington ‘s private shipyard at Newcastle, owned by the Lavarack family, which builds small ships, does not attract the bounty and does not even have on-shore engineering works. Yet it is running at a profit. I think that this is a triumph for management and labour in that this shipyard can get on and do this without on-shore flexibility. In Cairns, the North Queensland Engineering and Agency Co., another private show, run by the Fry family, has a shipyard about half a kilometre from a Chinese, Mr Hing who builds one ship a year about 100 feet long. The North Queensland Engineering and Agency Co. has some on-shore side engineering works to give it flexibility in times when shipbuilding orders are short. It is making a profit and doing well. It does not receive the bounty. This also represents a triumph of management and labour getting on together.
As opposed to that company, the Adelaide Steamship Co. had quite a sizable works at Birkenhead. It was a member of the bounty club and built ships to about 1500 tons deadweight and about 200 feet long. I think it also built a lot of Smit-Lloyd type oil tender vessels. But eventually it had to close its works to the accompaniment of an attractive sit-in by the work force and a rather alarming slamming of the gates and lock-out by the management. Back in Queensland, Walkers Ltd, on the Mary River at Maryborough, built a lot of smallish ships and dredges because of the shallow draught of the Mary River. It built patrol vessels which were too small for the size of the yards and were uneconomic. But this company was a member of the shipbuilding bounty club so it carried out uneconomic small shipbuilding in a yard that was too big for it. It has suffered incessant strikes almost daily- usually short strikes, mainly on demarcation points. It has decided now to close its shipbuilding works altogether and to concentrate on its shore engineering works. It has heavy engineering works in Maryborough. Since doing that the company is showing resounding profits.
On the next river up the coast, the Burnett River, the Bundaberg Foundary had a shipbuilding section at Bundaberg that built small ships, oil tender vessels, tugs and things like that. It was not a member of the bounty club. Its shipbuilding facility was wrecked by daily strikes, particularly demarcation strikes, which led to its work force containing too many labourers and not enough tradesmen. So it had to close the shipbuilding part of its operations and concentrate on ship repair which is what it is doing now. It has traded itself out of receivership which was caused by the strikes in its shipbuilding works and has made sound profits. It can put these profits back into its shore engineering facility which now services the sugar industry. I point out that the shipbuilding industry in Australia, particularly in Queensland, was well decentralised but because of strikes and demarcation disputes it has turned out to be a massive failure. I think the bounty has been the cause of this.
– Give it all over to the Japanese?
-We could build them here perfectly well. There is not much hope for the future but I think that when we look at companies like Carringtons in Newcastle and the North Queensland Engineering and Agency Co. we see a glimmer of light that indicates that shipbuilding companies do need on-shore facilities to give them flexibility. The same could apply to the big tonnages. There is no difference in the building of them both.
– Has not an amalgamation of unions overcome the very problem that you have claimed exists?
– The unions have wrecked their own industry. An investment in shipbuilding nowadays is almost akin to the risk investment that is required for the mining industry. It should never have been like that. I think that the Minister’s decision not to send good money after bad has been a good one. The shipbuilding industry now has to get to work and save itself. The sooner we stop all the bounties the better.
I should like now to pass on to a few observations on trade unions because they are another legacy that we have inherited from the once great Britain. With the industrial revolution over there the advent of unions was inevitable. One can imagine the horrors of the Midlands and the hell of the black pits of Wales. It is natural that employees should have come together to better their lot and to improve their pay and working conditions. Why not? But the unions have grown. Initially they did a lot of good but I think that now they are actually doing their members harm and doing the rest of us harm, too. On top of all this the unions have gone political. They are behaving like another tier of government. They have senseless and irrational demands, work to rules, go slows, strikes and demarcation disputes, all of which put up our costs.
I say that the unions are senseless. Let us consider the strike against the Post Office- against the greedy employer. Their employer is the Government which is the people which is themselves. They are really attacking themselves. That is why those sorts of strikes are senseless. They are now up to determining foreign policy, encompassing visiting sporting teams, our exports of animals and minerals and visiting ships. Surely foreign policy should be a function of government. I think that we should be aiming for better working relations between management and labour. Relations now, particularly in the shipbuilding industry, could not be worse. But I have seen an industry in a town where there were good working relations. My dad ran the Mount Morgan mine for a whole generation and there was never any question of a slow down, work to rules, demarcation dispute or strike in all that time.
– He was an outstanding manager and that is recognised in Mount Morgan.
-I thank the honourable senator. Every Monday morning he met the union representatives and they got to work on each other’s problems. Prosperity abounded as production soared. Any injustices or inequities were rectified on the instant. I remember one incident in particular. The truck drivers who carried ore were paid at a different rate from that paid to the drivers who carried overburden. When this anomaly was removed there was an added bonus because the break-down rate of the trucks decreased markedly.
On top of that they introduced a type of contract work so that anyone who wanted to work harder was paid more than a person who did not. They introduced a Christmas bonus scheme that depended on the productivity of the mine. As things got better they introduced a welfare scheme of their own. I remember that they needed an ambulance for the mine. The union representatives and the mine management agreed that, if each man put sixpence from his pay packet into a fund, the mine would match this amount of money. They did so and, in no time at all, not only did they have an ambulance for the mine but also another one for the town, and they were still swimming in money. They then started to build welfare tennis courts, a swimming pool, a golf course, a football field and many other facilities.
Even before that, they approached the local shire council and requested that it connect a water supply to the town. Anyone who has ever carried a yoke and 2 kerosene tins of water a few miles will never waste water again. It was marvellous just to have a water supply in the town. They set to work, again with the shire council, and sealed all the streets with bitumen. This beat the dust hazard in the place. It was wonderful to see people take a pride in themselves, their jobs and their town. With the welfare fund continuing they were still swimming in money. I remember that each man used to get half the cost of painting his house every 5 years. They received all sorts of benefits of that type.
The lesson to learn from this example is that the locus for union activity is at management level, not at board level. At management level both sides can bring together their own expertise to make an industry sing. But the unions are attacking the boards. They want worker participation on boards. But board functions are entirely different from union functions. I think it is a silly move for unions to attack boards and not to work at management level. I have seen this approach work at management level and I know it can work. I hope it does work and that we do not develop a new age of tyranny by trade unions.
In Great Britain a law has been passed to make trade unions the sole negotiators in all contracts between labour and management. I think this will prove to be a grave error for that country. It will put the English working people into a social straitjacket of inflexibility. It will rob the working man of his right to tender his skills and labour to any employer. That sort of rule will make a lot of people unemployable. For instance, people who are not in a union and even people who are in the wrong union. There is a feeling of fear in England right now and people are racing to join trade unions. A trade union card will become more important than even a birth certificate or a passport. Anyone in England who is not a member of a trade union will be a type of second class citizen. For a person to be acceptable, he will have to be a card- carrying unionist.
Mr Deputy President, I see that my time is just about up. I wanted to take a romp through the Medibank maze, but I have no time to do that, so I will draw my remarks to a close.
– It would have been rather a unique and novel event if Senator Sheil had spoken this evening on matters other than trade unions. I cannot recall him ever speaking about any subject, irrespective of the subject matter of the Bill he was discussing, without his finding a way to launching an attack on the trade union movement. He is concerned about unions having the audacity and temerity to interest themselves in political matters. As Senator Sheil sees it, this is outrageous. What he seems to forget in the first place is that the people whom he is continually attacking are the people who produce all the real wealth of this nation. Make no error about that fact. Let us understand this point, and let us understand it clearly: If those persons who are the manipulators of the money market were not able to employ the labour necessary to change the raw materials into finished products, those people would starve to death. Let me say loudly and clearly that the working men and working women of this country are those who produce the real wealth of Australia. Yet you continually attack them. You complain that they have the temerity to take political action. Do you think that they are people separate and distinct from the rest of the community? Do you not think that they are entitled to take political action?
-I defend their right to do that. I appreciate your saying ‘no’ and I respect your honesty. But, quite seriously, if you think in terms of your position, you will acknowledge that you are a member of” an association. I presume that you are a member of your profession ‘s organisation, Dr Sheil? You are either a member of the Australian Medical Association or a member, as I think you might be, of the other organisation- the General Practitioners Society. Irrespective of which organisation it is, you are a member of such an organisation. I have observed the AMA and the General Practitioners Society at close quarters in public debates and I have seen the political action that they have taken on behalf of their members. I cannot ever recall your standing up in this Senate and condemning the AMA or the General Practitioners Society -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! Senator Brown, please address the Chair.
– I was addressing my remarks through you, Mr Deputy President, to Senator Sheil. I was not prepared to go around the Cape; I wanted to speak directly to the honourable senator. I am sure that most persons who have heard Senator Sheil speak before will realise the obvious hate that he has for trade unions.
– Of course you have. It shows out every time you stand on your feet in this place. I would expect people who have heard your contribution to accept you for what you are and to treat you accordingly.
Not much time remains to me this evening. I wish to direct my remarks to the Budget as that is what this debate is supposed to be all about, although one would not have thought so from listening to the contribution from Senator Sheil. For 3 years the Labor Government was in office, but never in power because it faced a hostile Senate. A continuous and sustained campaign was maintained against that Government which was twice democratically elected by the Australian people in 18 months. The whole thrust behind the attitude of the Opposition was its desire to remove the then Government from office. It asserted that when it held the reigns of government again it would cure the twin ills of inflation and unemployment. That was the main thrust of the then Opposition’s total argument for those 3 years.
This Government has now been in office for approximately 10 months. What is the result? No good purpose is to be served by Ministers continually rising to answer questions in this place and prefacing their replies in a continuous parrot-like fashion by saying, in effect, that the previous 3 years Labor was in power and certain things happened. The Government must know that the honeymoon is over. It has been in office for 10 months. As I indicated, the main thrust of the argument by the Parties opposite for 3 years was that because of their know-how and ability to manage the financial affairs of this nation they would cure inflation and unemployment. Those were 2 of the major promises among many other promises that were made. In that respect, it is interesting to recall an article from which I will quote briefly that appeared in the Melbourne Age of 12 June 1972. It is by Peter Cole-Adams. Interestingly, it is headed: ‘The Fraser Doctrine of the Disposable Promise’. How true that description appears today. Among other things, the article states:
In other words, while a politician might find it appropriate -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circul
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The tertiary education Commissions are interested in collecting and analysing information relating to the rejection of applications for entry to tertiary institutions. However, as stated in my earlier answer there are significant methodological problems involved in collecting this information on a comprehensive basis, largely because of the different admission processing arrangements adopted by universities and colleges of advanced education in each State. The Commissions will be continuing their work in this area.
Submarine: Presence off Townsville (Question No. 935)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Was a submarine standing off Townsville during the recent visit of the Governor-General to that city? If so, (a) what are the details of the submarine concerned, (b) at whose instigation was the submarine dispatched to Townsville; and (c) for what reason was the submarine required in the area concerned.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr Grassby ‘s remuneration is laid down in the Remuneration Tribunal’s 1976 Review.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The provision for civilian staff includes salaries and wages in respect of 4542 civilians under the direct control of the Chief of Air Staff.
No provisions are included for wage and salary increases that will occur during 1976-77. Such increases are usually sought in the overall appropriations at the Additional Estimates. The Defence Budget Estimates for 1976-77 cannot be compared with actual expenditure 1975-76 to obtain an indication of projected wage and salary increases during 1976-77.
The variation in the Table between estimated expenditure 1976-77 and actual expenditure 1975-76 for civilian and Air Force personnel manpower costs shows only the differences as a result of:
The increase due to the first two factors is similar for the civilian and Air Force personnel manpower costs shown in the Table on page 29. However, the net increase of $ 12.3m for Air Force personnel results from the increases for the first two factors being partially offset by a decreased requirement of $7.1m for one time administrative adjustments in 1976-77. Such decreased requirements for civilian personnel in 1976-77 are negligible.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer put forward the evidence on which the conclusion is apparently reached that consumption will only increase if inflation is considered to be falling.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Discussion of this subject, including evidence relating to consumer spending, can be found in the Commonwealth’s submissions to the national wage and wage indexation hearings in April and August 1976 and in the Budget Speech 1976-77 and Statement No. 2 attached thereto.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Has the Australian Government recently acquired a loan of $300m from the International Monetary Fund. If so, does such loan carry with it any conditions disallowing expanded social welfare programs and benefits to the Australian community, such as have been laid down in the past to dictatorships such as Chile which received funds from the Fund after the coup which overthrew the elected Allende Government on 11 September 1973.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia recently made a purchase from the IMF, under the Fund’s Compensatory Financing Facility, equivalent to about $A309m. No conditions of the kind referred to were involved.
Natural Disasters Organisation: Bureau of Mineral Resources
– On 24 August Senator Bishop asked a question without notice concerning the Natural Disasters Organisation and the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Part of the information he sought concerned weather information which is made available to the NDO and I said in reply that I had earlier obtained an answer for the honourable senator which indicated that the Organisation was entirely satisfied with the information that it received.
I am now advised that the Bureau has a close working relationship with the NDO in providing warnings on an operational basis and in supplying information to be used in public education programs. Warnings of possible major natural disasters caused by meteorological conditions are provided to the NDO. These include tropical cyclone warnings from the tropical cyclone warning centres at Perth, Darwin and Brisbane and flood warnings relating to New South Wales and Queensland (the most flood-prone States).
There is a close liaison with the NDO and State emergency services in time of emergency due to hazardous weather. The Bureau has provided information for NDO public education programs on tropical cyclones and floods. Bureau officers have been involved in conferences with NDO and State emergency organisations and relations are most cordial.
With regard to Senator Bishop’s query on channels of communication between Darwin and the BMR, I should point out that the BMR is part of the Department of National Resources. That part of the question should be directed to the Minister responsible.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760915_senate_30_s69/>.