30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 23 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 objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, and the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the recent budgetary allocations endanger the quality of Australian education, especially for disadvantaged groups, and, in particular, for migrants, Aborigines and tertiary students from poor backgrounds.
Your petitioners believe that all persons admitted to institutions of tertiary education in Australia have a right to adequate living conditions and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Ryan (2 Petitions).
– Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware of an increasing backlog of cases before the Family Court in Tasmania and that cases now being registered at the Court cannot be listed for hearing before January or February next year? Has the Attorney-General considered the appointment of a second Family Court judge for Tasmania? Will he consider lifting the staff ceiling to allow to be appointed to the Court counsellors who are not already members of the Public Service?
- Senator Missen asked me a question yesterday about this problem generally and the Leader of the Opposition now asks me about the problem specifically in relation to Tasmania. I refer the honourable senator to the answer I gave Senator Missen yesterday in relation to the general question. I do not think there is any need for me to repeat it. I appreciate that there is only one Family Court judge in Tasmania and no doubt that would cause some special problems in that State. There may well be some special problems in relation to the size of the staff as well. However, I can assure the Senate that the Attorney-General is very well aware of the problems and is concerned about them. I shall certainly advise the Attorney-General of the Tasmanian problem raised by Senator Wriedt and of the concern felt about it. I hope I will be in a position to advise the Senate about the situation later.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, concerns federalism. Has the Minister been able to test the attitude of the new Labor Government in New South Wales to federalism as a concept? Is he able to tell the Senate whether Ministers of the New South Wales Labor Government have expressed their own views of a federalist nature, favouring, for example, the rights of States in a devolutionary model as against the centralist, socialist model beloved by Mr Whitlam and the Federal Australian Labor Party?
– There are 2 main aspects, I think, of Senator Baume ‘s question. The first is: Has there been any response by the new Labor Government in New South Wales to this Government’s concept of federalism? It is fair to say that, in terms of the proposals that have emanated from the Premiers Conference, basically the Labor Government in that State has not in any way expressed any opposition to the fundamentals of our policies. One of the difficulties that a Labor State government has is to reconcile itself to the policies of the Federal Labor Party which include the elimination of State Labor parties. Honourable senators will recall Mr Whitlam ‘s instructions to them to work for their own dissolution. So keeping that in mind and bearing in mind the tendency of the Labor Party to centralisation, one of the fascinating things of recent days has been the expression, for example, of one State Labor front bencher, Mr Mulock, who is on record as in fact condemning those very things that the Federal Labor Party advocates- centralism and domination from the centre- and condemning those who, like the Federal Labor Party, argue that we are wrong in our concept of federalism that there should be a proper sharing of the powers among Commonwealth, State and local governments. It is worth looking at what is now quite obviously an internal conflict and struggle within the Labor Party because these people are now challenging the very basis of the philosophy that their Federal Leader, Mr Whitlam, has emphasised. I direct the attention of all honourable senators to the recorded comments of Mr Mulock, which in fact commend strongly the basic principles and philosophy of federalism which this Government is now implementing.
– My question is also directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs and it follows the one he has just answered. Is he aware of the criticism directed at the Government’s federalism policy by the Liberal Premiers of Western Australia and Victoria and the National Country Party Premier of Queensland during the recent Premiers Conference? Is he also aware that all those Premiers have indicated in their State Budgets great concern for the future of their State finances as a result of the new federalism arrangements with the Commonwealth Government?
-I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for giving me an opportunity to clear up a misapprehension. There was no criticism of the federalism policies by any Premier at any of the 3 Premiers Conferences that have been held this year. The whole of the stage one principles of federalism that will be enshrined in 2 Bills before the Senate were commended and supported by the 6 Premiers. There were in fact discussions and controversies arising out of specific purpose grants, quite separately from the federalism policies, and indeed these controversies waxed furiously over the 3 years of Federal Labor Government when from time to time the Federal Labor Government turned on or turned off the tap quite vigorously in terms of specific purpose grants. So let us get it perfectly clear: There were no criticisms of federalism. As to the criticisms in the State Budgets, each of the 6 State Government Budgets speaks with eloquent support of the practical success of federalism because all of them -
– You had better read them again.
– Let the Leader of the Opposition laugh. All the States have ended up either with balanced Budgets or surpluses. All of them have enable tax reduction in a year of recession. Since the question came from Senator Wriedt perhaps we should examine Tasmania, as he has invited me to do. The Budget of Tasmania showed this: Tasmania ended up with a $4. 5 m surplus in revenue when unemployment in that State was the highest in Australia. It held on to the money and did not spend it. It ended with a surplus in capital works accrued funds of $ 17.3m at a time when Tasmania was on its knees. On top of this the federalism policies of this Government had given over $4m more to Tasmania than the Whitlam formula would have done. Additionally, the Tasmanian Government is going to make certain tax concessions, no doubt in an election year. If one wanted a test of federalism, this is it. In the first year of federalism all States are balancing their Budgets and are capable of making tax reductions. The State Budgets speak eloquently of the high success of federalism.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. In the light of his answer can the Minister explain why the New South Wales Government has been compelled to let contracts for construction works on a deferred payment basis until the next financial year?
– It is competent for any government to make its own internal arrangements. The simple fact is that the Wran Government has balanced its Budget- indeed, more than balanced its Budget- by the wise providence of the former State government which enabled a bridging -
– The simple fact is that it was formerly thought that there would be a need to use a bridging loan of $20m to arrive at a balance at the end of the last financial year. It was possible, due to the actions of the former Willis Government, to arrive at a line ball. That was pretty good housekeeping by a State Liberal government. Equally the Wran Government has been able to reduce taxes. If it is able to reduce taxation and has received a very substantial increase from this Commonwealth Government compared with what Mr Whitlam would have provided, what it does with its public works program is its own internal domestic policy.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister seen a report in the Australian Financial Review of yesterday’s date under the heading Why Ford Can’t Fill Jobs After 5 Weeks of Ads’? The report indicates that the Ford Motor Company has had considerable difficulty in obtaining labour notwithstanding an active recruiting campaign. Can the Minister say whether the Government is aware of this situation? Do similar problems exist with respect to other employers? Has any study been made of the extent to which employers cannot obtain labour? How does this situation tie in with the still worrying high level of unemployment in Australia?
– I can assure the Senate that the Government is aware of the situation as disclosed in the report in the Australian Financial Review of yesterday’s date. The jobs available at the Ford Motor Company involve working on an assembly line.
– That is right. The conditions are so bad no one will take the jobs.
-Would Senator Georges like to answer the question?
– Yes. I could.
– The honourable senator might be able to do it better than I. This kind of work is not popular and requires employees who are physically fit. Not all persons unemployed can meet the physical requirements. There is also a restriction as to age. I am advised that the Ford Motor Company will not employ on an assembly line any person who is under 18 years of age. Furthermore, such jobs are not available to females. In the past there has always been a sizable intake of semi-skilled migrants each year who have filled such jobs as are referred to in the Press article. I point out that the level of unemployment in Victoria has been steadily declining in recent months and is now lower than at the same time last year. It is now 3.7 per cent of the workforce as compared with 4.1 per cent last year. It is also to be noted that in a number of occupations, particularly in the metal trades and wood and furnishing trades, labour shortages have become more prevalent in recent months. I assure honourable senators that the Commonwealth Employment Service has been in constant touch with the Ford Motor Company and is making every endeavour to assist the company to obtain the labour it needs. However, the number of suitable people available for employment with the company in the positions advertised has not been sufficient to meet the company’s requirements. In reply to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question, I do believe that the information I have given to the Senate is a clear indication that economic recovery is taking place, certainly in the Melbourne area.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that there have been lengthy delays in bringing forward land rights legislation for the Northern Territory. In view of the great delay and the fact that the hearing of all claims has now ceased, will appropriate action be taken to freeze the release of Crown land, particularly in the town areas in the Northern Territory, at least for another year after 3 1 December 1976?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– Has the Minister for Industry and Commerce seen a report from the Department of Transport revealing the downturn in passenger traffic of the domestic airlines in recent months? As landing charges play an important part in the cost of air fares and in view of the economic difficulties faced by the tourist industry, will the Minister consult with his ministerial colleagues to see whether some temporary relief can be given in respect of landing charges in order to stimulate productivity in these 2 industries, bearing in mind that a reduction in the number of nights will mean a reduction in revenue?
-Traditionally, the growth rate in domestic air travel was well above the average Austraiian growth rate but it tended to fall away last year. In the first 6 months of this year, the indications were that it was still falling away but a later report that I saw showed that it was beginning to increase again. I do not know whether that is true. It is a fact that tourist activity in Australia would be greatly helped if more Australians travelled around their own country by air, train or car. That is certainly a fact. Therefore, anything which might induce an expansion of domestic travel in this country is worth looking at. Therefore, I will refer the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Minister for his serious consideration.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Since there is still increasing confusion about the Government’s policy on East Timor will he state whether the following statement is currently applicable to East Timor? On 4 March, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said:
Our policy has been clear. It has called for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops. It has called for a cessation of hostilities. It has called for the implementation of an act of selfdetermination and a resumption of humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Does that still apply? Can we get a clear answer? Has there been any change in that policy? If there has not been any change, why does not the Government take some initiative to break down the wall that Indonesia has erected around East Timor?
-I do not know why the honourable senator is confused. I am delighted that at last he has read Mr Peacock’s statement of 4 March, to which I have been drawing the attention of the Senate for some time. ‘
– Is that the policy?
-As I understand the policy, that was the policy and still is the policy.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Has his attention been drawn to the concern which has been expressed by some large scale manufacturers in Tasmania with regard to what is seen as a delay in the implementation of the second part of the Tasmanian-Victorian freight equalisation scheme? If his attention has been drawn to that, can the Minister explain the cause of what is seen as a delay in the implementation of that part of the scheme? How is the further part of the scheme progressing? When is it likely to be implemented?
– All who know about and sympathise with Tasmania’s problems will understand how important freight equalisation in general is to Tasmania, in both directions. I think all will know that the first leg of the Federal Government’s policy, that is equalisation on the northbound route, has attracted a very considerable degree of interest and support. I can fully understand Senator Rae’s interest in seeking information as to the implementation of policies on the southbound route. Yes, I have heard expressions of interest and concern that this should be pursued as soon as possible. Since I cannot give a precise answer as to the time-table I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to let the honourable senator have the information as soon as possible.
-My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs and follows his answers to other questions this morning. Has the Queensland National Party Premier given any indication of whether his Government intends to co-operate in the establishment of any advisory council for inter-government relations which, I understand, is an essential ingredient in the Federal Government’s policy of federalism? Further, in respect of the Minister’s previous answers on the subject this morning, did he hear Mr Bjelke - Petersen on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM the other morning say that the whole system of federalism as propounded by the Fraser Government has gone completely haywire, is a shambles and is becoming an utter farce? Finally, will the Minister agree that the Federal Government’s policy on federalism, as it affects the States, was very much an issue in the New South Wales election last May as a result of which the Liberal-Country Party Government of that State was defeated after it had been in office for 1 1 years?
– There are 3 elements to the question and all are based on whether the Premiers, jointly or severally, favour the federalism policy that has been introduced. First of all I direct Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s attention and light reading to the transcripts of the 3 relevant Premiers Conferences. I commend them to him because he will find, as those who attended the conferences found, that all Premiers supported all stages of the federalism policies now implemented. That ought to be a clear understanding. Since the honourable senator directed his question to link with others and since the basic question was whether the States were receiving more and more money, I shall provide the Senate with information that will answer Senator Wriedt ‘s question more clearly also. The States will receive in untied grants this year a sum of $89m in excess of what they would have received under the Whitlam Government. New South Wales will receive approximately $29.6m more, not a bad contribution towards forward works or recurrent costs; Victoria will receive $20,3m more; Queensland will receive $ 14.8m more, and that information will help the honourable senator in understanding the situation in Queensland; South Australia will receive $9. 8m more; Western Australia will receive $ 10.4m more; and Tasmania will receive $4.5m more.
If the question is whether the Premiers are in support of our federalism policies, the answer is yes. The transcripts speak eloquently and the money provided speaks eloquently to that effect. I have been asked a number of things, including whether the Queensland Government will join in the proposed advisory council for intergovernment relations. That is a matter for the Queensland Government and for any other government to decide. This Government will set up the advisory council. It will be interesting for the people of Australia and for history to record how the Labor senators, being the product of a federal system of 6 States, will react to the relevant legislation which is now before the Senate. I cannot comment on that legislation because it is before the Senate.
I take it from what Senator Douglas McClelland has said, because he seems with relish to be supporting a controversy on the proposed Advisory Council, that he is opposed to the establishment of an advisory council for inter-government relations. If that is wrong perhaps he will get on his feet and let me know. I take it that he is opposed to the idea of a body that will bring together around a table for the first time in Australia the Federal Government, State governments, local governments and the community. If so, I wish him joy because those who send him here do not share his views. I was asked whether federalism was raised as an issue in the New South Wales election. It was, and there was an attempt to raise the same issue in the Victorian election campaign. Mr Hamer won handsomely. In the New South Wales election the Wran Government won narrowly. If there were an election in New South Wales today, that Government would be defeated overwhelmingly.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It follows a question asked earlier by Senator Manusell I preface the question by pointing out that no doubt the Minister is aware that domestic airline passenger numbers fell considerably during the year ending 2 weeks ago and that the airlines feel that this period has been one of their worst on record. In fact, the number of passengers during the last 3 months for Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australian Airlines was down by over 100 000. Is the Minister able to give a reason for this drop in passengers? If, as I suspect, it is due to the high cost of air travel, will the Minister ask the Government to instigate an immediate inquiry into ways of checking the fall in passenger numbers which I am told if allowed to continue will lead to the airlines considering yet another fare increase with yet another consequent drop in passengers following that increase, and so on? In other words, will the Minister instigate action that will help stabilise this industry which is so important to Tasmania before flying becomes too expensive for the average traveller if, in fact, it is not already too expensive?
– The question which Senator Townley asks is important to all Australians and obviously it is especially important to Tasmania as an island State bedevilled as it is by shipping transport problems. I am aware of an article- in fact I have it in front of me- in the Australian this morning. It is headed:
Domestic airlines feel fares backlash.
I have perused this article. Since the components of the question posed by the honourable senator ask whether there will be an inquiry and what the Government is doing to stabilise the industry and requires an expert answer, I think that the Minister for Transport himself should answer it, not I as his representative. I will direct the question to the attention of the Minister.
-My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer follows a question asked yesterday by Senator McLaren. Is it a fact that a husband who is separated from his wife and has dependent children is liable to pay the Medibank levy up to a ceiling of $300 a year unless he has insurance with a private health fund? Is his wife exempt from the levy although her income is above the maximum allowed to low income earners? Will the Minister seek the information from the Treasurer and inform the Senate?
-This question is very much the same as the one Senator McLaren asked me yesterday. Immediately he asked me that question I rang the Treasurer and asked him to get the information from the Taxation Commissioner, who works under him, and let me have it so that I could write to Senator McLaren. When I receive that information I shall write to Senator McLaren and Senator Donald Cameron. I shall be delighted to do both those things.
-Can the Minister for Science confirm that a case of the horse disease, babesiosis, was identified recently in New South Wales. How serious is the disease? Are the appropriate authorities conducting research into its cause and its cure?
-Some publicity was given to the case of a rare disease being located in New South Wales. I am advised that equine babesiosis normally occurs only in Russia, Greece and Africa. It was first diagnosed in the United States of America in 1961. In July 1976, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation made the first diagnosis of this disease in a New South Wales horse which had recently returned from Queensland.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I understand the Labor Party’s interest in any disease that may spread from one State to another. The disease is caused by 2 red blood cell parasites transmitted by certain ticks. The disease caused by babesia caballi is not as severe as the one that has been diagnosed in the New South Wales horse. The symptoms are usually high fever, anaemia and colic. Pneumonia is a common initial diagnosis in this disease. The death rate for the caballi disease is roughly about 10 per cent, but the death rate is reported to be higher for untreated cases of babesia equi which has been mentioned by Senator Scott. Aureomycin is reported as being an effective curative. In Europe and Africa the disease is spread by 3 different tick families. Only one of these ticks, the red dog tick, is found in Australia. However this tick rarely attacks horses in this country. As the disease has been diagnosed only recently, no research has yet been initiated in this country. In fact, the extent of the disease here is as yet undetermined.
-I ask a question of the Minister for Education, in the light of the answer which he gave to Senator Douglas McClelland in which he said that the transcripts of the Premiers Conference speak eloquently of the support of the Premiers for the new federalism policies. Is the Minister aware that those transcripts show that Mr Neilson of Tasmania said:
It is totally unacceptable to my State and it will be unacceptable to the Australian people. It will run you into a recession the like of which we have not seen certainly since the end of World War II.
Has the Minister seen this statement in the transcript by the Premier of Queensland:
We will have to put off large numbers of skilled men on various projects. I am thinking of the demand that they have on goods and services. I wonder how their dismissal will control inflation. That escapes me.
Has the Minister seen this statement in the transcript by Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia:
Now we find ourselves with a package which is given to us today which frankly appears to me to be a definite attempt to put the economy flat on its back.
Will the Minister concede that there are Premiers, both Labor and Liberal, who are prepared to state their opposition to the package deal given by the Commonwealth to the States?
– I take a point of order.
– You can’t take it.
– It is not a question of my not being able to take it. I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has stated from time to time that question time is a blood sport but this is going beyond a blood sport. The question is in total breach of the Standing Orders in that it gives information and is not seeking information. I suggest that the Standing Orders be upheld.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I have some sympathy with the point of order raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack because I have said in the past that question time should not be the subject of abuse. The reason I asked the question in the form that I used was that Senator Carrick invited Senator Douglas McClelland to study the transcript. I do not know whether Senator Douglas McClelland has studied the transcript. I have. Therefore I believe I am entitled to ask a subsequent question inviting
Senator Carrick to answer the result of the invitation that he gave to Senator Douglas McClelland.
– I call Senator Carrick.
– The only error by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, or perhaps it was Senator Wriedt, was to suggest that Senator Wriedt was seeking information, because what Senator Wriedt did was to give gross misinformation. We must be perfectly clear. He read out comments which were made at the Loan Council meeting associated with the June Premiers Conference when specific purpose grants and loan funds were being dealt with. If Senator Wriedt and Senator Douglas McClelland read the whole of the transcripts as they relate to the federalism proposals of revenue sharing by way of income tax and of local government funding they will find that everything we are bringing in in the Bills that will come before the Senate was agreed upon by the 6 Premiers.
– They had no option.
– In case the comment of Senator Wriedt is lost to posterity, let me repeat it. He said: ‘They had no option’. He should have heard what the Premiers said about federalism when they spoke to representatives of the Press in Kings Hall after the Premiers Conference. They spoke in strong commendation. The Labor Premiers said that they could see a new. era for Australia. Since Senator Wriedt is a tiger for punishment, I remind the Senate that Labor Premiers are signatories to a request for a revenue sharing arrangement exactly as we have provided. Let South Australians stand and deny that in the immediate past Labor leaders in South Australia have sought a revenue sharing arrangement exactly as has been adopted now. I reject what Senator Wriedt has said as gross misinformation and misrepresentation. The transcripts of all the Premiers Conferences under the Whitlam Government show that it was a wrangle over money from start to finish. There will never be a Premiers Conference at which there is no disputation about loan funds or specific purpose grants. Since it has been suggested that not enough funds were given, may I remind the Senate without reading out the details that under the present Government $89m has been given above what the Whitlam Government would have given; that all States have balanced their Budgets; that they have reduced taxation, and that they have more money this year than they had before.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Education. I refer to a report in the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation bulletin on 8 October. Is the Minister aware that the Teachers Federation has claimed that technical and further education institutions in the Australian Capital Territory will not have sufficient ancillary staff to maintain current standards and services? The report refers to ‘likely reductions and curtailments’, including abandonment of many subjects, no evening library services, the abandonment of reports on students, including apprenticeship reports, and an inability to conduct annual examinations for some subjects. Can the Minister say whether these claims are correct? If they are inaccurate, will the Minister ensure that the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation is informed in detail of the actual situation?
– I have seen such claims. As the honourable senator may know, I have issued a Press statement on this subject in which I have said that it is our understanding that the increases that will be available in both professional and ancillary . staff for the new year ought to enable the delivery of technical and further education without cutback. Let me make it perfectly clear that of course staff ceilings have been imposed. Let me talk about the general concept. One thing that should be understood is that my Department voluntarily reduced its ceilings within its own administrative area to provide more non-professional, ancillary positions for the Commonwealth Teaching Service in Canberra. I am advised that in technical and further education next year we should be able to deliver the services we hope to deliver and that the staff, both professional and ancillary, will be adequate. If specific problems emerge, I would be grateful if the honourable senator or anybody else would let me have the information on them.
– I direct a question on .a Customs matter to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware of the concern of families in Australia, who have relatives in the United Kingdom and other countries and who are from time to time the recipients of small gift parcels from relatives and friends, about what appears to be a hardening attitude and an insistence upon the collection of duty on these gifts? May I say that this appears to be a departure from the previous position where a sympathetic and realistic approach was taken in respect of the exchange of small personal gifts between families. Has there been a recent directive to Customs officers requiring them to observe strictly the regulations for the levying and collection of Customs duty on these gifts? In view of the desirability of preserving and fostering contacts between families overseas and their relatives here, some of whom they have never seen, such as young people born in this country, could there not be a relaxation of this requirement, which adds considerably to the costs of these presents and is damaging to the preservation of family contacts which are so important to these people? I can supply details of a particular instance to the Minister if he wishes.
– As the recipient of such parcels from the United Kingdom over very many years of my married life, I am particularly sympathetic to the question that Senator Devitt has raised. It is a matter of considerable interest to very large numbers of people, particularly in view of the very high and continuing level of migration from the United Kingdom. The specific question raised by Senator Devitt was the subject of some questions, answers and discussion by Senate Estimates Committee F on Tuesday, which Committee is chaired by Senator Rae. I cannot recall for the moment who asked the question- maybe it was Senator Rae himselfbut there was some discussion about it, and the officers of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs went into some detail in answering the very question that Senator Devitt has raised.
I think it would be preferable to refer the Senate to those answers because they are in some detail and I may not paraphrase them perfectly correctly in answering the question myself. However, the very clear impression that I had from the answers given was that, overwhelmingly, small gift parcels are not opened by Customs officers, that they are dealt with at the local post office and that the statement of the value of the gift is accepted in almost all cases. Of course, spot checks are made. I am certainly not aware of, nor was anything said about, any recent directive that they were to be tougher in these matters, but in view of the question Senator Devitt asks I will certainly make further inquiries of the Minister as to whether there has been any directive or any hardening of attitudes.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for Education arises from the Minister’s remarks this morning during his broadcast. As I recall it, as part of his general philosophy on total education he referred to an inquiry relating to the development of technical and vocational training with emphasis on craft and craftsmanship. I ask: Does the Minister recall that in 1971 and 1972 the then Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, of which he was a distinguished member, conducted an inquiry into the Commonwealth’s role in teacher education, drew attention to the importance of this very area of education and warned against separation between labour and industry on the one hand and education on the other? Is the Minister aware that the Senate Committee’s recommendation on that occasion was for action relating to the development of programs for vocational education? Finally, can the Minister give the Senate further information on the present program which reflects the Senate Committee’s recommendation made nearly 5 years ago which spoke then of what it called the present technological age?
– I am grateful to Senator Davidson for drawing attention to a report of the Committee of which he was the chairman. It was . a bipartisan report of a committee representing the whole of the Senate. It so happens that only a few days ago I got hold of the report again and reread it. It is well to remind the Senate in a bipartisan fashion that a substantial number of the recommendations made in that report have been adopted and have shaped the nature of post secondary education today. They were in fact adopted at a time when the present Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, was the Minister for Education. The profoundly important recommendation was, in relation to teacher training colleges, that they be upgraded in quality and status and that they become colleges of advanced education and, if possible, multi-purpose. Indeed, that has been done. One of the very great journeys in postsecondary education has occurred because of it.
I am aware of the recommendations regarding technical and further training and technical craftsmanship. I am, in fact, refreshing my mind on this. We, as a government, are doing a number of things. First of all, we are increasing the amount of money that will go to the Technical and Further Education Commission. We are looking at new arrangements that might be brought about between the Commonwealth and the States to enhance our proposals, but the overall inquiry of the committee into education and training will make a nice balance between education in terms of human fulfilment and education in terms of vocational training oriented to commerce and industry and the outside world. It will be a nice balance. It will be found that the membership of the committee, when announced, is a balanced one and we should look forward with great interest to its report.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that under the Tertiary Education Assistance scheme arrangements a student will be eligible for a full independent allowance only if he or she has been in the work force or unemployed for a period of 2 years? If that is so, what is the purpose of that stipulation?
-I draw the attention of the honourable senator, in order that he can get the answer to his question, to the report of the Williams Committee commissioned by the Government of his philosophical kidney. That Committee in fact recommended precisely what he puts in his question. Therefore I suggest to him that if he reads that report and understands it he will get the answer.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will recall that last night I asked a question in relation to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service. It has been claimed that Aborigines will now be subjected to a means test to determine their eligibility for legal aid. Can the Minister throw any further light on this problem?
– I recall the question asked by the honourable senator and I did seek some information from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs this morning. I am advised by the Minister’s office that no instruction concerning a means test was given by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service. I am advised also that at the moment a conference of all Aboriginal legal services is meeting in Canberra to discuss, amongst other things, guidelines for the operation of legal services for Aborigines. The Minister, Mr Viner, will attend the conference tomorrow. By way of background I can add to those remarks that I understand that a paper was circulated at that meeting by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as a discussion paper only, which may have canvassed the question of means- testing in relaton to Aboriginal legal services. The paper circulated was a background paper for discussion; it was not prepared as a result of an instruction from the Minister or from the Department.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It concerns ethnic radio, an innovation which the Minister would know was initially launched by Senator Douglas McClelland. In view of the reams of reports on this matter, including those containing the views of Senator Davidson and me, does the Minister not think that it is a little hard on those unsung heroes, the corps of ethnic radio announcers and their assistants, that they still have to wait until December before this project is completely consolidated? Will the Minister see that members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, including Sir Henry Bland, are given a medical examination to see whether they are fit enough to work hard? If they were, they would be able to make a decision on this matter before December. Perhaps the Minister could put them all into tracksuits and get them into condition.
-If Senator Mulvihill would like to join me one morning wearing a tracksuit he is very welcome. I am aware of the interest on both sides of this chamber in ethnic radio, its establishment and continuation on a reasonable basis. We would all share that objective. I am advised that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has indicated that it is not yet ready to take over ethnic radio stations 2EA and 3EA as requested by the Government. Consistent with the atmospherics of the honourable senator’s question, I assure him that for the moment the stations will continue to be administered by the Post and Telecommunications Department in conjunction with the ethnic groups, as they have been for the past 12 months. In the spirit of his question, yes, I will invite the Minister to make sure that there is no need for apprehension in the ethnic community. Our aim is to establish the ethnic radio system in an objective way and on a sound basis. I think it will be agreed that the ABC has in what, I think, is called a separate and discreet section of it, a good unit to carry this out.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Foreign Minister. Has the Minister seen a report in this morning’s Age of a claim by Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, that Australia is a breeding ground for Singaporean and Malysian communists due to the activities of Australian Trotskyite groups? Has he also seen reported statements by the Chairman of the Adelaide University Students Representative Council and the Chairman of the Adelaide University Labor
Club that the Workers Student Alliance has successfully taken over the Australian Union of Students and is effectively controlling student politics throughout Australia? Since the activities of such radical groups are significantly affecting our relationships with important overseas neighbours, can the Minister indicate whether he will undertake an investigation of the activities of the WSA in recruiting foreign students in Australia to its cause?
-I have not seen the reports referred to by the honourable senator and therefore I am in no position to comment on them. As to whether there ought to be an investigation, I will refer that aspect to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I thought the most interesting thing was not so much the question but the reaction of honourable senators opposite who somehow seem to derive great enjoyment -
– Are the Trotskyites training the communists?
– Do they have red bottoms?
-Maybe red tops too. Honourable senators opposite seem to show great enjoyment, in fact, almost enthusiasm, when it comes to defending anything concerning the socialist left. When an honourable senator asks a question they laugh about it. I recall yesterday when Senator Harradine was asking a serious question on this, he got the same reaction. By the way, I am still waiting to get an undertaking from Senator Cavanagh that he is not going to ‘Nareen ‘ on Government money.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the Minister’s repeated references to Senator Cavanagh, I ask the Leader of the Government whether when he officiated as the celebrant at Senator Martin’s wedding in Brisbane he travelled at his own expense or charged it to a department?
-I do not think that falls within my departmental responsibility.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister been made aware that the latest export marketing proposals put forward by the Australian Meat Board are so unpopular that it has been suggested that some members of the Board will boycott today’s
Board meeting? Is he aware of the great concern of the whole of the meat industry at the failure to produce a simple and workable scheme for the new season, and the uncertainty being created at a critical time with adverse effect on livestock prices and industry employment? How seriously does the Government see the position?
-The Minister is concerned about this particular matter and is having it looked at very seriously. I might just observe in passing that I have been involved in my Party’s rural affairs for a long time. For as long as I can remember- my memory extends over some time and probably Sir Magnus Cormack will agree with me- the Meat Board has always been the target for the concentrated fury of the producers. Whether such fury is correctly concentrated on the Meat Board I cannot say, but apparently the Minister is concerned about the whole matter.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Prime Minister in this chamber. I refer to an answer he gave on 3 June 1 976 to a question about East Timor. He said:
There is one government that makes Australia’s policy. Our attitude to Timor has been enunciated clearly and with force on many occasions by the Foreign Minister. No other government has a role in formulating Australian foreign policy.
Is the Minister aware that the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, has publicly called upon the Australian Government to recognise East Timor officially as a part of Indonesia? Is it not time that the Minister, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, publicly reprimanded Mr Bjelke-Petersen for once more making mischievous public statements outside his legitimate jurisdiction?
-I have not seen the statement alleged to have been made by the Premier of Queensland but if the Government is to reprimand publicly people outside the Government who keep advising the Government on what it ought to do, it would be a full time occupation.
– But he is Premier of a State.
-It is not only the Premier of Queensland who offers useless and irrelevant advice. The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Opposition senators and the Leader of the Opposition in the other place do so. The names are legion of people who continually give the Government advice on what it ought or ought not to do. I suppose it is difficult to determine when Mr Bjelke-Petersen is speaking as Premier and when he is speaking as an Australian citizen. As an Australian citizen he must have an interest in this matter. If he chooses to make a statement like the one suggested, he should be allowed to do so. It is a matter of judgment whether the Government takes any notice of it. It is a matter of judgment whether I take any notice of the views of honourable senators on matters. Sometimes they are of great weight; sometimes they are not. For goodness sake, is it suggested that we should adopt the attitude that only the Government is to have a certain view on matters? I ask honourable senators to think of all those members of the media who continually offer advice who would be out of work. Why should a State Premier be cast in a role different from other citizens or groups within Australia? Whether we agree with his views is a matter of judgment.
– My question to the Minister for Social Security is asked in the context of what I believe to be a Cabinet submission about a choice for public servants to retire at the age of 55 years. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that the classification which suffers most from unemployment comprises unskilled workers and that a number of unskilled workers are seeking to retire at the age of 60 years. What action has the Government taken to assess the effect and cost of reducing the pensionable age for males to 60 years thus providing an opportunity for those who desire to retire to do so at that age? Would not a reduction in the pensionable age for males to 60 years eliminate the current sex discrimination upon which the age for retirement is based? Would the Minister not agree that a reduction in the pensionable age to 60 years for men who desire to retire would have the dual beneficial effect to the community of allowing those members of the work force to retire as they desire and to make employment opportunities available to unemployed people in the same classifications thus reducing the overall unemployment benefit payable?
– With regard to the earlier part of the question, it would be understood by all honourable senators that I do not have the luxury of speculating about Cabinet submissions. With regard to the latter part of the question relating to the cost of introducing either a means tested or a means test free pension at the age of 60 for Australian males, I do not have any figures that I can relate to the Senate that would show the costs involved. I do have figures that would show the cost of eliminating the means test for people between 65 and 69 years of age. It is a matter that could be the subject of some work with regard to estimating the costs of the introduction of an earlier retirement benefit for aged persons. In view of some of the comments made by Senator Cotton this year with regard to the need in the longer term to look at the restructuring of the Australian work force, I am sure that the matter that has been raised by the honourable senator could be subjected to some work to arrive at an estimation of the cost and the desirability of those things that were implied in his question. I will see whether any figures are available which relate to the age pension at 60 years and give that information to the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is an endeavour to get some clarity on our position with East Timor. A communique issued at the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia is the document of which we should take note, according to the Prime Minister. In paragraph 13 of that communique, to which Senator Georges referred earlier, it is indicated that the Minister for Foreign Affairs had clearly set out Australia ‘s policy on East Timor. Paragraph 14 of the communique states:
The Prime Minister considered that the important thing now was to look to the future, and to alleviate, so far as possible the human suffering which had come with the fighting and associated disruption in the territory.
In view of that statement, and in view of the fact that the Prime Minister considers that the important thing is to look to the future, is the Australian Government’s policy on East Timor the same as announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in March? The statement contained in the communique denies the commendable statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in reply to Senator Missen when he said: . . I am quite certain that Mr Peacock will continue in the future to use his best endeavours to see that some selfdetermination is brought about in East Timor.
Is the Australian Government’s attitude an endeavour to bring about some self-determination in East Timor or is it considering the future of East Timor and acknowledging that it is occupied by Indonesia?
-The honourable senator is confusing 2 issues. One is the policy statement put down by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 4 March and the other is what steps Australia ought to take to alleviate the human misery and suffering of the people at present in East Timor.
We could do one of two things. Firstly, I suppose we could take the attitude that Senator Cavanagh would like us to take and keep reiterating that statement and allow people to die of starvation and need and, secondly, whilst not resiling from that policy we could take positive steps to alleviate human suffering. If honourable senators opposite think that Australia ought not to be taking positive steps in the light of the factual situation which exists at the moment, let them say so. There is a large difference between what one wants and what one can accomplish. Whilst we would want certain things to happen, the most we can do is to accomplish others. I hope that we will get total support in the Parliament for the Australian Government’s endeavours to get humanitarian aid into East Timor as early as possible. Merely because of our desire to supply humanitarian aid we may have to work through the Indonesian Red Cross or some such organisation. That is no reason for anybody to suspect that the statement laid down by Mr Peacock was not and still is not our policy.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a very short statement in relation to a matter Senator Melzer raised during the adjournment debate last night.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Senator Melzer raised last night during the adjournment debate the difficulty, not to say the impossibility, of her obtaining a copy of the draft report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the performing arts. First of all, I stress that it is a draft report and it is a document for discussion and for further consideration at a public hearing by the IAC. It is not a report that at this stage is submitted to the Government. A report will be submitted to the Government only after the conclusion of the public hearing and that final report has been drawn up. I am advised that the method of distribution by the IAC of its draft reports is as follows: It is. given to all witnesses and to interested departments; copies are placed in the Press boxes; copies are made available to the Parliamentary Library; and copies are also made available to anyone on request, depending upon the availability of the document. Contact can be made with the office of the Secretary to the Commission and a copy will be delivered to Parliament House on request. Priority is given to requests made by senators and members of Parliament for copies to be delivered to them.
I had inquiries made directly of the IAC and have been informed that the Commission is not aware of any request made by a parliamentarian having been refused. However, I do not know whether Senator Melzer made the inquiry directly. If she did, of course that information would not be entirely correct. I think the problem is that there is a considerable demand for this particular report and that probably sufficient copies were not printed to satisfy that demand. The Commission has noted that fact and, as Senator Melzer indicated last night, copies will be available, I think, on Friday.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Minister for the information he provided. When the system was changed and draft reports were brought in I wrote to the Industries Assistance Commission and asked to be put on the mailing list for such draft reports. I have never received any. As we have no real knowledge of when these reports will be released, it is very difficult to request that a copy be delivered on a particular date. Could the Minister have all parliamentarians placed on the mailing list so that when the reports are ready we shall receive copies?
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaMinister for Veterans’ Affairs)- I shall endeavour to carry out the honourable senator’s request.
-On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee I present the 161st report of the Committee. I seek leave to have a statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The 161st report of the public accounts committee comprises two Treasury minutes relating to previous reports of the Committee. These reports were the 1 52nd report which dealt with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for 1973-74 and the 154th report which related to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund under the Appropriation Acts 1973-74. In the 1 52nd report the Committee made reference to the fact that it had found evidence of clerical errors, inefficient estimating procedures and delays which caused expenditure to be charged to the Advance to the Treasurer when provision should properly have been made in the Additional Estimates. In the 154th report the Committee found it necessary to refer to cases of unsatisfactory estimating or administrative performances that resulted in shortfalls in expenditure. The Committee is pleased to note from the Treasury minutes that action has been taken by departments to overcome these inadequacies and that the conclusions of the Committee have been brought to the notice of the appropriate officers.
The Committee also found it necessary in the 154th report to comment adversely on the quality of written submissions and the inadequate briefing of some witnesses. The Committee was also critical of departments in regard to the late submission and the content of supplementary submissions. The Treasury minute states that a Treasury circular has been issued directing the attention of departments to the necessity for evidence tendered to the Committee to be of the highest quality and to the Committee’s requirements regarding supplementary submissions. The practice of presenting Treasury minutes is the result of an arrangement made between the Committee and the Treasurer before the presentation of the Committee’s first report on 10 March 1953. The arrangement is that the Committee forwards a copy of each report to the Treasurer for consideration immediately that report is tabled. His reply, in the form of a Treasury minute is then examined by the Committee and included in a later report to the Parliament. The 161st report is one of these later reports. Before preparing its minute, the Treasury consults the departments concerned and obtains their views on the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee. Essentially the Treasury minute system ensures that committee recommendations are acted upon and informs members of the steps taken to meet their proposals. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I present a report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence following its inquiry into dual nationality.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The matter of dual citizenship has concerned this Senate from time to time. The result of that concern was to refer to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence for its examination the problem of dual citizenship. I wish to make 2 brief observations on the report. Speaking for myself and, I believe, for many members of the Committee, I must say that the results of this inquiry have been regrettably unsatisfactory. That is no reflection on the work of the Committee under the chairmanship of Dr Klugman of the House of Representatives; rather is it the unfortunate fact that the subject of dual nationality with the attendant disadvantages and inconvenience it causes to many people is almost impossible of resolution. As the report points out, there appear to be almost equal numbers of those who gain advantage by virtue of dual nationality and those who suffer disadvantage and sometimes hardship from dual nationality. It is with those who suffer the hardship that the Committee’s sympathies lie. While the report points out the near impossibility of gaining a resolution of the problems arising from the conflicting domestic nationality laws of nations, it has suggested some courses of action which it hopes the Government will seriously consider and which, if adopted, may at least alleviate some of the difficult situations which exist.
Debate resumed from 13 October, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add ‘but the Senate is of the opinion that-
it reduces in real terms the funds available to the States;
it forces the States to reduce the services they provide and /or to impose additional taxes;
it results in an increase in the number of people out of work;
it fails to stimulate the non-residential sector of the building and construction industry; and
it fails to provide sufficient funds for selective stimulatory expenditure to revive the Australian economy’.
– When the Senate adjourned last night, I was making some remarks about this Bill. I shall conclude those remarks now; it will not take very long to do that. I had pointed out the purpose of the Bill. I had covered the fact that the Bill sought to authorise some capital grants for the first 6 months of the year 1977-78, and to appropriate funds from Consolidated Revenue for that purpose and to obtain the borrowing authority for that purpose through the Loan Council.
The grants represent the continuation of arrangements initiated by the Liberal-Country Party Government in June 1970 and are provided in lieu of what would otherwise be borrowings by the States. The grants were initiated to help State financed capital works such as schools, police buildings and the like on which debt charges are not normally recovered. They are untied grants. The States are entirely free, therefore, to apply them as they see fit because there are no terms and conditions applied to those grants. The effect of the grants is to relieve the States of debt charges which they would otherwise have to pay. The provision of $452m as grants in 1976-77 provides an estimated saving of just over $47m to State Budgets in interest and sinking fund commitments which the States would otherwise have to meet.
In some quarters- we had comments on this last night and at question time not only today but on previous occasions- mention has been made of the 5 per cent increase in the Loan Council program of the State goverments this year over the allocation in 1975-76. I think that figure should be considered against the total background of rapid increase of funds in this area in recent years. There was a 20 per cent increase in 1975-76. When the State Loan Council programs are combined with the sum approved for their authorities, the increase in 1976-77 over the allocation for 1 975-76, which of itself was a year when a large increase occurred, is substantial $2 15m or an increase of over 10 per cent. All of the funds are untied. No terms and conditions are applied to them. So there is a wide latitude of choice in the hands of various State governments. I think we all recognise the fact that inflation needs to be attacked vigorously. To do so, there would have to be a lessening of demand by governments upon total resources which had, I think, been excessive. The Commonwealth itself moved to restrain its demand and, equally, the States themselves have responsibilities which lie in the same area.
In the total Budget context the States will receive in 1976-77, including for local government and Loan Council programs, an estimated $9,077m. If one allows adjustments for hospitals made in June 1976-77, the amount represents an increase of 12.6 per cent. If one allows also for the non-recurring expenditure in 1975-76, the increase in total Commonwealth payments this year, when compared with the previous year, is 14.6 per cent- a very substantial increase. I think in closing I ought to observe that the Bill is to give effect to Loan Council decisions made in June this year and that it could not be altered without the approval of the Loan Council, which is the Commonwealth and the States joined together. Therefore the Government could not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– The question is, that the words proposed to be added by Senator Wriedt ‘s amendment be added.
Question resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I have so moved to enable Estimates committees to meet. Estimates Committee D will meet in the Senate chamber; Estimates Committee E will meet in Senate committee room No. 1; and Estimates Committee F will meet in the Senate committee room No. 5.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 2.30 p.m. The bells will be rung for 2 minutes prior to the sitting of the Estimates Committees.
The following answer to a question was circulated:
Statutory Authorities under Control of the Minister for Health (Question No. 953) Senator Wriedt asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
1 ) Which statutory authorities come under the control of the Minister.
What is the name, occupation, date and term of appointment, and remuneration of each holder of public office of each authority.
1 ) Statutory authorities responsible to the Minister for Health are:
The Capital Territory Health Commission
The Health Insurance Commission
The Hospitals and Health Services Commission
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission
Senate adjourned at 11.48 a.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761014_senate_30_s69/>.