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 1 78 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled should:
Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of the Aboriginal claims have been postponed as a result of Government decisions, Aboriginals should be not penalised.
Amend the Bill to ensure:
a ) The removal of all powers to pass Land Rights Legislation from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, particularly its control over sacred sites, entry permits, control over the seas adjoining Aboriginal land, the fishing rights of non-Aborigines, the right of Aborigines to enter pastoral stations and control of wildlife on Aboriginal land.
The control by Aborigines of all roads passing through Aboriginal lands.
The restoration of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s powers to hear claims based on need as well as traditional claims lodged by Aborigines.
d ) The restoration of all powers vested in Land Councils and the Land Commissioner in the 1975 Land Rights Bill.
A provision that any Government decision to override Aboriginal objections to mining on the basis of national interest itself be reviewed by both Houses of Parliament.
A provision that land-owning groups of Aborigines may apply to form separate trusts if they wish.
The removal of artificial barriers to traditional owners imposed by the Territory borders on all tribes so affected.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present 2 petitions from 123 and 210 citizens of Australia respectively, as follows:
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.
Petitions received, and first petition read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown Lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of Aboriginal claims have been postponed as a result of Government decisions. Aborignals should not be penalised.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Hall.
– I ask the Minister for Science whether it is true that an undisclosed amount of plutonium was brought into Australia for research purposes. If the answer is in the affirmative, where is the research being carried out and what is the nature and purpose of the research? Will the Minister also advise who are the personnel involved, how much plutonium is in Australia and from which country the plutonium was obtained? Will he further advise the Senate whether the research is for scientific or military purposes and who authorised the purchase of this material?
– I know nothing of the allegation which Senator Keeffe makes. Certainly the Department of Science has no knowledge of plutonium being brought into the country. I should imagine that this would be a matter for my colleague the Minister for National Resources. If the honourable senator will place his question on the notice paper I will get an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I notice news references concerning the recent attempt by 3 Aborigines to annex England. I also notice that the attempt became somewhat submerged as England’s age old built-in defence mechanism rather engulfed them. Can the Minister advise whether such an attempt had Australian Government backing, whether the Australian Navy lost any stores or supplies or whether the attempt or the trip that culminated in the attempt was financed by any government department or by any organisation that is a recipient of government funds?
– I have no knowledge of the matter raised by the honourable senator. I shall refer it to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for his answer to the matters that have been raised. Also I have no knowledge that government funds were used by any of the people who were involved in this trip.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Did the Attorney-General receive from the President of the Senate under date of 6 February a letter which enclosed a letter from former Senator A. Field asking for the Government to pay Mr Field’s legal fees in the High Court case which challenged his right to sit as a Senator? Did the Attorney-General seek and obtain by letter dated 18 March an opinion from the Crown Solicitor? Was the advice that the payment should not be made? Did the Attorney-General receive a further letter under date of 17 May from another Minister requesting the AttorneyGeneral to review the opinion of the Crown Solicitor and stating that the actions against Mr Field were party politically inspired and brought by an individual closely associated with the then Labor Government? Did this letter enclose a minute from the Department of Administrative Services advising the Minister against any payment on the basis of poverty as the person seeking payment had been on a salary of $20,000 per annum plus $4,100 from 3 September to 12 December last year? Is any court action which is thought to be party politically inspired and brought by an individual closely associated with the Labor Party sufficient to establish special circumstances justifying the Government’s paying the legal costs of the person charged even when such payment is contrary to the opinion of the Crown Solicitor and departmental advisers? Did the legal account which the Government paid include a charge by Mr Field’s solicitor for discussing the matter with one Mr Wentworth, MHR?
– It would be absurd to expect me to be able to give all the details required to such a long and involved question. I suggest that Senator Cavanagh put the question on notice.
– Can the Minister for Social Security inform the Senate of what instructions are issued by the Department of Social Security in relation to the administration of special benefit? Can the instructions be made available by way of tabling in this place for the information of honourable senators and those concerned with advising potential recipients and the public at large?
-Considerable interest has been shown in the matter of payment of special benefit by the Department of Social Security. I am prepared to table a Press release which was made by the Director-General of the Department of Social Security in October of this year in which he outlined guidelines on the payment of special benefit. Mr President, as this document comprises only two or three pages I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard as part of the answer which I am now giving to Senator Baume.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The Director-General of the Department of Social Security, Mr L. J. Daniels, today issued guidelines on the payment of special benefit to people claiming hardship within seven days of becoming out of work or making a claim for unemployment benefit and also to those people who had left their employment voluntarily.
Mr Daniels said payment of special benefit would be used to meet cases of immediate and unforeseen hardship which sometimes occur and which are beyond the applicant’s own control.
In issuing the new guidelines, the Director-General has emphasised to State Directors and other officers of the Department of Social Security that claims for special benefit are to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
It will be necessary for officers of the Department to verify all the facts in applications for special benefit and satisfy themselves that the claim is in order before payment can be made, ‘ Mr Daniels said.
In some instances these inquiries may take a few days, but this will help to ensure that all cases received proper consideration.
Where practicable, a cheque will be issued on the date of application so that hardship is minimised. ‘
A copy of the new guidelines is attached. 15 October Canberra
Section 124 of the Social Services Act gives the DirectorGeneral a discretion to pay a special benefit to a person who is experiencing hardship through inability to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants and who is not eligible for an unemployment or a sickness benefit.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In a letter to me on 4 June 1976 the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, wrote:
As I indicated during the debate in the House of Representatives on the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1 976 -
That was in May-
I have issued instructions to my Department to prepare appropriate amendments to the Defence Force retirement benefits legislation so that in future members of the Services schemes are placed in comparable circumstances with members of the Commonwealth Public Service schemes where a recipient spouse remarries.
I ask: What progress has been made in respect of the preparation of these appropriate amendments to the DFRB legislation? Further, will the Minister treat this as a matter of urgency because of the extreme personal difficulties it is causing to many retired servicemen and their wives?
-I shall seek that information from my colleague in the other place.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. By way of preface I refer to the annual report of the Australian Postal Commission which was released this week. The report indicates that the Commission converted a $65m deficit to a $32m surplus which gives a $97m profit on the year’s operations. Not only did the Commission show this very satisfactory trading surplus but also $5 1.1m was used on capital expenditure, and the Commission funded 100 per cent of its capital expenditure. In view of this very satisfactory position, can the Minister say whether postal charges can be held at their present level for the current financial year and, if there is a suggestion that an increase may be necessary, will the Government investigate the possibility of the Commission’s raising capital funds on the outside money market to finance capital works, as has already been done in the case of the Australian Telecommunications Commission, so that postal charges, if not reduced, can at least be contained at their present level?
– The Government agrees that the trading results of the Australian Postal Commission have been very satisfactory. As to any decision regarding future postal rates, that is a matter of Government policy and I cannot comment on it. It may well be that the Minister concerned will be in a position to comment, and towards that end I shall draw his attention to the question asked by the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Is it a fact that the stevedoring company James Patrick and Company is the principal stevedoring company for the Australian National Line? Is it a fact also that Sir Reginald Reed, the chairman of Patrick Partners, who apparently receives a remuneration of some $600,000 a year, is also a vice-chairman of the Australian National Line and chairman of the Australian Shipbuilding Board? Does the Minister feel it is appropriate that a person should be in those 3 positions? Has the Government taken any action on this matter?
– My source of knowledge would, I think, be the same as that from which Senator Button draws his information, that is, an extensive newspaper report of the past week or two. To that extent and, in a completely unofficial way, I believe that Senator Button has stated the facts. If they are the facts, I should like to say that they have been so over a period of office of both Labor and Liberal governments. Clearly the previous Whitlam Government must have felt that there was no conflict of interest; otherwise no doubt it would have reacted. Quite clearly, on that basis, the Whitlam Government saw no conflict of interest. As I understand it, and subject to further review, there has been no change in the circumstances of either James Patrick and Company or Sir Reginald Reed. Since other information may be available, I shall refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Transport.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. My question was directed on the basis of facts which have emerged recently and Senator Carrick answered the question on the basis of facts which have emerged recently. I now ask him: In view of those facts having emerged recently, what is his view on them? I indicated that it is not sufficient to say that the previous Government, which was apparently unaware of those facts, did nothing about them.
-I cannot believe that the previous Government was unaware that James Patrick and Company held a particular position in stevedoring. It was a matter of profound knowledge to the community as a whole and therefore even to the Whitlam Government. I cannot believe that the Whitlam Government was not aware of the position of Sir Reginald Reed, who has made an outstanding contribution to the maritime industry of this country. I cannot believe that the government which maintained his appointment as vice-chairman of the Australian National Line and his position on the Australian Shipbuilding Board was unaware that it was doing so. It is possible, of course, because as late as November last year the previous Government pleaded unawareness of certain other even more profound commissions.
Having said that, the only matter that apparently emerges is the amount of remuneration paid to Sir Reginald Reed allegedly by his own company. That, in itself, does not seem to create any new conflict of interest. However I repeat that since further information may be available I shall refer the matter to my colleague, and invite him to comment.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. I refer him to my previous question in this place regarding the refusal of a student at the Australian National University to pay his student union fees. The student strongly protested at the financial support given to the Abortion Law Reform Society by the Student Union and so refused to pay his dues but offered to pay the equivalent to a charitable organisation of his choice. He has now received a letter from the Assistant Registrar threatening to cancel the student’s enrolment. I should like to read a portion of the letter. It reads: if payment is not received promptly, your 1976 examination results will be withheld and the University will not accept a re-enrolment application from you.
I ask the Minister whether there is something he can do to assist the student in his fight.
-I well recall the question asked by the honourable senator some months ago, I think it was. She will recall that I replied on the principle involved. Before coming to the specific case I shall repeat the principle. The principle involved is that universities and colleges are autonomous bodies within themselves. Incidentally, they are established basically under State law because the constitutional head of power in respect of universities and colleges is a State head of power. I do not say that in any defensive sense. Universities and colleges are autonomous bodies and within that autonomy they have the power to make their own by-laws. Within those by-laws these institutions may make arrangements for the payment of student dues for student representative councils and sporting and recreational activities. They have the power to determine whether those fees, in part or in whole, shall be compulsory or voluntary. Honourable senators will recall that I indicated that some universities had considered the payment of that part of the fees which might be taken to be for political purposes or for purposes other than normal sporting and recreational activities in a university, and had altered their by-laws to allow a student to opt out of such payments. This is a pretty well recognised principle. I pointed out that that was essentially a matter, firstly, for the universities and colleges and, secondly, for the States; but that, nevertheless, I would draw the attention of the institutions concerned to the important principle that had been raised. I did so and I shall do so again.
With regard to the specific case mentioned by the honourable senator, because I think the matter she raises is important, if she will give me the details of the student concerned I shall invite the institution concerned to study the case and to comment. It appears that, if a student is compelled to pay moneys- that is, personal moneysfor the pursuit of a political end which is severely objectionable to that student, this is a bad principle.
– It is contrary to the freedom of the individual.
– As Senator Wright says, it is indeed contrary to the freedom of the individual. There should be a searching of our souls, in terms of the institutions, to see whether there should be a right to opt out of payment of such moneys. Certainly it seems, on the face of it, to be wrong that a student who objects to making payments for something that is highly repulsive to him and who is willing to donate the money to charity should, nevertheless, have a sanction put upon him. I understand that the letter states that if payment is not received the results of the examination will be withheld. It seems to me that that may not be an equitable provision. I shall have the matter studied.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He would be aware that the Working Women’s Centre in Melbourne is essential to encouraging and assisting women in the work force, researching the needs of working women, running elementary training school and providing essential information as to rates for work and rights to decent working conditions. The Centre was opened with a Federal grant which ran out in June of this year. The Centre has applied for further funding but to date has not even received a reply. Because the Centre is in danger of closing altogether through lack of funds, will the Minister consider this question as a matter of urgency and advise the Parliament of action to be taken regarding it?
-I am grateful to have from Senator Melzer an account of the work of the Working Women’s Centre, which is of great interest to me. I shall certainly take up the matter with the Minister whom I represent and endeavour to obtain an urgent decision on it.
– Has the Minister for Industry and Commerce noted the vitriolic and seemingly orchestrated attacks by narrow vested interests on the Industries Assistance Commission and the use of the unemployment weapon as an instrument to undermine the independence of the Commission and even to attempt to prevent the Commission from providing the Government with independent advice? In the face of these attacks I seek from the Minister an assurance that the Government supports the Commission in its objective of providing impartial, independent advice to the Government in an endeavour to ensure a proper allocation of Australian resources and the use of those resources in advantageous areas so that Australian industry should not be isolated from change.
-Of course I have noticed those attacks. It will be noticed that I have not taken part in them. I should like to observe that the Industries Assistance Commission was set up in the days of the Whitlam Government in its entirety of approach. On that occasion, it will be recalled, I, as a member of the Opposition, spoke in favour of it and joined with some of my colleagues to pass the legislation. So I think it can be taken that I have a long and sustained view on the importance of the Industries Assistance Commission. It is an advisory body, not a policy making body. That ought to be made clear. Its job is to get advice, to reach detached and objective judgments and submit those to governments whose job it is to make the decisions. That is our approach to the IAC. I might say that the current Chairman is a person for whom I have the highest possible regard.
– Does the Minister for Science, the Leader of the National Country Party in the Senate, agree with the answer just given by Senator Cotton?
– I find nothing inconsistent in the comments Senator Cotton made.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It might also be directed to the Minister for Education. Perhaps both Ministers could give it their attention so as to see whether either or both can help me. I refer to advice being tendered by the Chairman of the Overseas Professional Qualifications Committee that education authorities throughout Australia will be asked to accept certain qualifications from a number of countries as grounds for recognition as a teacher. Is it a fact that in spite of this recognition the lack of fluent English of certain migrant teachers may be a hindrance to their entering the teaching profession? If so, can arrangements be made for such teachers from these countries to receive special assistance in this regard? Is it proposed to use such teachers for the special needs of migrant education?
– I have no special knowledge of the matter raised about overseas professional qualifications or the qualifications of teaching staff. I shall refer it to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to see whether there is any information which he can provide for us.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to the results of the Hookey-Hicks environmental inquiry into sand mining on Fraser Island which stated that the only area where sand mining should be allowed is a small area below the mean high water mark on the eastern beach. In view of the fact that the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, has said that his Government will not revoke mining leases and that it will presumably allow the mining of mineral sands to continue unabated, what action will the Minister take to revoke the export licences and to have the island included in the National Estate, as recommended by the commissioners?
– The policy of the Federal Government on the environmental impact study on Fraser Island will be announced very shortly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Construction. Yesterday I asked questions relating to across the board cuts in the Commonwealth Public Service. It was indicated that if departments were overloaded because of staff shortage, heads of departments could make an approach to the Public Service Board or the Prime Minister. In view of the considerable concern in some areas of the Northern Territory in regard to lack of Commonwealth Public Service staff through the imposition of staff ceilings and the nonreplacement of personnel who have left their positions for various reasons, will the Minister draw to the attention of the Minister for Construction that, as an example, in the Darwin Hospital maintenance has practically ceased because of lack of tradesmen? This has resulted in there being only one serviceable boiler to service the hospital. There are many other maintenance problems and complaints. As another example, in the Tennant Creek power house there is insufficient staff to maintain and overhaul engines properly. As output of power from the power house is at near capacity, sufficient power for this mining town is in jeopardy.
– I am interested in the comments which the honourable senator made. They refer directly to matters coming under the control of a Minister in another place. I am not aware of the situation as outlined by Senator Kilgariff in his comprehensive question. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Construction and seek a comprehensive answer.
– I again put a question to the Minister for Science. In light of the answer he just gave me concerning the Industries Assistance Commission, I ask: Does he recall that at the time the legislation was introduced it was officially supported by the Liberal Party and opposed by the National Country Party? Are we now to understand that the Country Party attitude to the IAC has changed and that it now supports the existence of the IAC?
-The answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second question is yes.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to a recent statement by eminent Adelaide quantity surveyors and building cost consultants, Messrs Rider Hunt and Partners, that building costs will rise by 2lA per cent in the present quarter and that they will rise more slowly next year. Is this less than half the cost rises experienced during the Labor Government’s period of office? Is this evidence of the success of Federal Government policies in reducing the rate of inflation with the objective that housing will be more readily obtainable for young people?
-I have not seen the actual statement of the quantity surveyors, but it is a fact that evidence before the Government indicates that building costs have slowed and have in fact declined from the unbelievable peak that they reached during the final period of the Whitlam Government. Of course everyone knows that the building industry is an industry which shows the main trends of the economic programs and that it reflects the boom and bust situation if governments allow that. The building industry was virtually destroyed, certainly in its public construction area, because of high inflation and people, particularly wage earners, were costed out of the ability to own homes. It is worth recalling that up to the time of the Whitlam Government it was possible for any person on an average weekly wage to purchase a home by the quartering principle of paving one-quarter of his wage, not the joint wage of himself and his spouse but his own wage. Under the Whitlam Government that was successfully destroyed. At the moment the Government is busy trying to restore a situation in which inflation is being successfully, steadily reduced, so that as a result the building industry can be restored and, as an offshoot of that, the ordinary wage earner can be able once again to purchase his own home.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I am certain that the question will be of interest also to the Minister for Education and to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is the Minister aware of the fact that it is estimated that in this financial year the apprenticeship intake will be 35 000, which is approximately 10 000 less than is required? In view of the massive unemployment rate amongst youth of 36 per cent of the total unemployed, can the Minister outline what steps will be taken to improve the apprenticeship intake situation? Will any measures include subsidies to employers for apprenticeships? What reforms and improvements to the National Apprenticeship Advisory Council are envisaged to overcome this chronic problem? Further, is the Government prepared to extend the period over which the subsidy is paid to three or four years instead of its being concentrated in the first year?
– The honourable senator’s question raises some very important matters in regard to the actions and policies of the Government concerning apprentices. I will pass them on to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whom I represent and obtain his reply to them.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is it a fact, as alleged by Major-General Stretton and as reported in today’s Press, that authorities in Darwin knew about the cyclone 1 1 hours before it struck, that no warning was sent to the Minister for the Northern Territory, that no one informed the National Disasters Organisation, and that no one informed the defence forces? Is the Minister aware whether these allegations are true and whether any investigations were made in that regard? Can the Minister inform this chamber what measures, if any, were taken to prevent a similar occurrence in the event of a similar disaster?
– I have noted the newspaper comments on the book apparently written by Major-General Stretton about the cyclone which struck Darwin. I have noted the news media headlines which apparently indicate considerable criticism by Major-General Stretton of the Labor Administration at that time.
– You cannot get away with that. Make it a subject of debate in this place if you are going to make a statement like that.
– What did he say about the Army?
– It is very difficult to get my views across the chamber over all the interjections. I was saying that the headlines of the news media which I have read today indicate that in his book Major-General Stretton criticised greatly the Labor Administration during the period of the Darwin cyclone.
– That is not the question asked.
– I hear an honourable senator who was a Minister at the time interrupting my answer. Undoubtedly that former Minister would know whether or not Major-General Stretton is correct in his comment that the Labor Administration knew of the cyclone 1 1 hours before it struck. I am unaware of the matters raised by the honourable senator in his question. I do not know whether it is a fact that the Labor Administration knew of the cyclone 1 1 hours before it struck. I do know that it is normal practice for those organisations which are part of the Department of Science, such as the Bureau of Meteorology which has a responsibility for giving notification in advance of this type of phenomenon, to issue warnings. I have not looked into the facts of the matter, nor am I aware of whether Major-General Stretton has stated the position correctly. I think it may be as well for the Leader of the Opposition in this place to make a statement on the matter at an appropriate time. As far as an investigation of Major-General Stretton ‘s reported allegations is concerned, I think it would be advisable that I take the honourable senator’s question on notice. I hope that he will place it on notice so that we may consider it. If there is any information available which can be brought to the Senate I shall certainly bring it here.
-Apparently I have been delegated by the Minister for Science to take up this matter on the spot, so I shall do so. I ask the Minister: Is he not aware that the report of his own Department of Science and Consumer Affairs for the year 1974-75 at page 23 says that warnings of cyclone Tracy were given on 21 December by the Darwin Tropical Cyclone Centre when it issued a tropical cyclone alert? The report states:
During the next few days, satellite photographs clearly showed the formation and maturing of the tropical cyclone which was then given the name Tracy.
Continued monitoring of Tracy’s progress by means of satellite and radar showed a slow south-west movement . . .
I ask the Minister: Is it not obvious that, according to the report of his own Department, the centre responsible for monitoring that cyclone obviously was alert and in fact had been tracing its movement for 4 days prior to the cyclone striking Darwin? Is it not also true that the time it struck Darwin was an exceptional circumstance which was, I believe, almost unique in the movement of cyclones and involves no reflection on those who were responsible for monitoring the movement of the cyclone? I also ask the Minister: Is it not fatuous and stupid for a Minister to assert that there was some political failure on the part of a Federal government because of the severity of a cyclone which had been monitored adequately by those responsible?
-In answer to the many questions which the Leader of the Opposition has posed, let me say that I certainly will take them on notice and perhaps will bring answers back to the Senate. The honourable senator asked a variety of questions; so I will take them one by one. I am aware of the comments made in the report of the Department on behalf of the Bureau of Meteorology relating to the Darwin cyclone. I have read them thoroughly. I find nothing inconsistent between the response I made and what is in the report of the Department of Science. Senator Wriedt said that the report states that notification of the cyclone was given to authorities by the Bureau of Meteorology well in advance of it striking Darwin. I would not suggest that there was any dereliction of duty on the part of the officers responsible for monitoring the movement of the cyclone. I understand that the cyclone moved in a curious way.
The core of the original question which Senator Wriedt has taken up is an allegation, said to have been made by Major-General Stretton, that the Labor Government was alerted to the impending ferocity of the cyclone 1 1 hours prior to it striking Darwin. I did not say that the Labor Government took no action; I said that I was ignorant of the facts. I suggest that Ministers within the Labor Government would know whether Major-General Stretton is telling the facts or not. Undoubtedly Senator Wriedt, in view of his position as Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time, would be well aware of the facts. I think that instead of asking me curious questions relating to the report of the Department of Science he might well come forward with a statement in this Senate as to whether Major-General Stretton ‘s statement is correct or not.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the recent large increases in airport rentals at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and the fact that 2 overseas airlines already have predicted that the rent rises, coupled with increased air navigation charges, will lead to a request for increased air fares. In view of the fact that the number of overseas visitors to Australia as indicated in the recent Australian Tourist Commission report fell last year for the first time, at least since the ATC was established in 1967, will not this rent increase and the consequent airline fare increase actually be detrimental to the country if even fewer visitors come to Australia? Will the Minister have the matter re-examined?
-I shall draw the attention of my colleague the Minister for Transport to the question raised by Senator Townley and invite him to examine it.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer him to my question on Tuesday about a proposed reduction of Australian beef exports to Japan and his reply that he knew of no foundation that existed for any such rumours. I now ask the Minister: Has he seen the statement by the President of the Graziers Association of Victoria, Mr J. A. Kelly, that Japan has deferred until December 9500 tonnes of Australian beef imports and that this has serious implications to producers? Further, is the Minister aware that the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, about 5 weeks ago publicly expressed apprehension about proposed reductions of beef exports to Japan? In view of these facts will the Minister now accept that the rumour has some substance and urge the Prime Minister to raise urgently with the Japanese Government the need for some stability in beef exports to Japan?
-I have not seen either of those things, which proves that I do not know everything. I am interested in the honourable senator’s observations because when I was in Japan talking to the ministries there these matters were not raised by the Australian officials as something of concern, and I had no information given to me prior to going there that they were matters of concern. I should like to check it all out. I have found in the past that some of the observations that come out in newspapers are not always necessarily fully accurate.
– My question is directed to Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. During the recent United States presidential election campaign Mr Carter seemed to indicate quite different priorities with regard to trade from those of the policy presently practised by that country. Is the Minister confident that Australia will be able to maintain at least our present trade with the United States?
-I really do not know. What happens in election campaigns is that people are prone to make statements about what they are going to do and perhaps life turns out slightly differently. I thought I might observe that, in passing, as a fair comment against all kinds of political parties, in the past and in the present, and maybe in the future. The critical factor here is what will be the emerging policy of a new administration. One does not know, but it is said to be going to be more outward looking. One certainly hopes so. If it is, maybe we will have greater access for our products into all these markets. That would be highly desirable. We have so many people preaching free trade to us and denying us opportunity.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science. Now that the cyclone season has arrived can the Minister inform the Parliament what are the functions of automatic weather stations on the Queensland coast such as the one located at Holmes Reef? How often is maintenance carried out at these stations? How many of these stations are situated between the Queensland and New South Wales border and the top end of Cape York? Have observation stations at Cardwell, Cooktown, Weipa and other locations been abolished as part of the Government’s cutback in spending? Is the Minister aware that this could create grave dangers, particularly for light aircraft in the cyclone season?
-There have been a number of complaints about questions in the Senate. I remember Senator Mulvihill complaining that he could not ask questions. I believe that it would not be proper for me to attempt to answer at least 6 questions that have been asked by Senator McAuliffe. But I can say that the general procedure that has been followed over a number of years is for a gradual increase of automatic weather stations, both on the Western Australian coast and into the Northern Territory area and certainly in Queensland, where there is a possibility of cyclone devastation occurring. Those who understand the science of meteorology have suggested that automatic weather stations are necessary. Their function is to record and to relay the meteorological features in a particular area and those that are foreseen, such as temperature, and to sense the atmosphere in regard to changes in high and low pressure patterns.
– You have closed them down.
-The honourable senator has asked a variety of questions and I will certainly see that a written reply is given to him. It is not the case that weather stations which are of use have been closed down. The repair of weather stations is another matter which requires quite a lengthy answer. The honourable senator asked me how many weather stations there are. He asked me about the Cardwell, Cooktown and Weipa stations and he asked me about grave dangers. I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to answer all those questions at this time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is the Minister aware of recent criticisms by environmental groups that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been stripped of most of its staff and ‘restricted to being purely an advisory body to State authorities’? Can the Minister comment on those criticisms and can he assure the Senate that this service will play an increasing and positive role in developing national parks and preserving the wildlife of this country?
-I can say emphatically that the Commonwealth Government’s policy with regard to the environment, with regard to the ecology and specifically with regard to the National Parks and Wildlife Service is that we should maintain an effective system. Of course, as the honourable senator will know, the Commonwealth has the main responsibility, directly and constitutionally, for the Northern Territory and its other territories, as well as having responsibility in other areas. The aim pursued by the Commonwealth is not to dictate to the various sovereign governments of Australia as to these matters but to achieve a co-operative effort between the Commonwealth and the States. The whole purpose of the Commonwealth’s cooperative approach is that the States, the Commonwealth and the various authorities such as the authorities in the Northern Territory can develop this service as effectively as possible.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to a Press statement issued by the Minister on 3 November relating to the future funding of pre-school services. The Press release was unclear on a number of vital matters and I seek clarification. Can the Minister explain how the Federal Government is to impose stringent conditions on block grants to the States for preschool assistance? Can the Minister explain how the Federal Government will ensure the diversification of the use made of existing pre-schools and what kinds of new activities the Government would accept as giving support to children in need? What funding procedures does the Federal Government intend to adopt in order to implement the claim that ‘special attention will be paid to Aboriginal and migrant children*?
– A Press statement was issued yesterday with regard to the future funding for pre-schools, and the questions which have arisen therefrom can be answered briefly in this way: The Federal Government is continuing the policy of the former Government with regard to conditions of grants which are being made for pre-school education in this country. That means that from 1 January 1975 grants for pre-school education had a condition attached to them that other services would be integrated wherever this was possible. That procedure will be continued. That was the basis of the condition that was expressed in the Press statement yesterday.
Where there are a pre-school building and facilities and where other services are able to be integrated with them this would be in accordance with Government policy. It is on that basis that the States understand that pre-school funds are given to them. As to how the Federal Government will ensure that there is diversification, this is the understanding in the funding to be given to the States. These matters will be pursued with the States as a condition of the funds that they receive.
As to what funding procedures the Federal Government will adopt in giving special attention to Aboriginal children and migrant children, we have funds available now for new projects. Wherever possible funds will be given for specific areas which would be of assistance to Aboriginal children and migrant children. I should say that all these matters are to be the subject of discussion with State governments. Early meetings have been arranged between the Federal Government and State governments to discuss the future funding for pre-school education after 30 June next year and to determine other ways in which the children’s services program of the Federal Government may be implemented at State government, local government and community levels.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the part played by the organisation known as For Those Who Have Less in obtaining cattle, usually good dairy cattle, to send to the Indian sub-continent where they are being introduced into the local scene to increase milk production with a view to fighting infant starvation in particular? Does the Minister acknowledge that Australia currently has a large surplus of suitable young dairy cattle that will never be required for the Australian industry? Will the Government, as part of its foreign aid program, be prepared to consider making an allocation under the next appropriation to assist in the purchase, marshalling and transport involved?
– Yes, I am aware of the organisation to which the honourable senator referred. As to the second question, I have no knowledge as to whether what the honourable senator asserts is true or false. As to his third question, I shall pass that on to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ask him to give consideration to it.
-I should like to ask of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question following on the one that has just been asked. Is the Minister aware of a submission that has been received by a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr Len Reid, who is the president of the organisation referred to in the earlier question? Is the Minister aware also that that organisation is seeking assistance on the part of the Commonwealth for the shipment of breeding cattle to India? In his approach to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ascertain further information, will the Minister also ascertain whether or not the request by the organisation for specific assistance will be acceded to by the Government?
-I shall also seek that information.
– Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate of the projected completion date for the construction of the Maritime College in Launceston, Tasmania? If he can, when are the first students likely to be enrolled at the College?
– As all honourable senators will know, the Interim Council of the Maritime College was announced some days ago by myself. It will hold its meeting within a few days’ time. That will be the first step towards the essential planning of the College itself. Before we can answer all the specific questions, the Tasmanian Government has some questions to be answered because it has not sorted out its problems arising out of the Karmel inquiry. The capacity of the Launceston College of Advanced Education to deliver certain technical education cannot be stated at this moment. There is in discussion at this moment the question not only of the precise site but of the acquisition of the site. The land which adjoins the Newnham campus, as the honourable senator will know, is held by the State Government. If the State Government desires, as the honourable senator no doubt does, to help in this construction, a simple gesture would be to make available to the Commonwealth Government part of that land which is held at the moment as State Crown land.
As a first step I invite the Tasmanian Government to make available the land which it holds and which is free for it to make available, so that the $453,000 of capital money which is included in the Appropriation Bills now before the Senate can be applied not to the purchase of land but to the preliminary construction. If the honourable senator is seriously wanting to hurry up the construction of the Maritime College he could be very helpful in that regard. We can apply the capital money that is available to construction immediately when we know the capacity of the Launceston college in its technical situation and how our moneys can be expended. When the Interim Council has met and made its plans we can answer the question as to when the first students can be accepted. It may very well be that we can start the courses ahead of the completion of the buildings, bearing in mind that there may be excess capacity in neighbouring buildings. It will be the desire of the Commonwealth Government to start the actual training of students for the Maritime College as early as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to a research report concerning nursing services in the Australian Capital Territory, particularly the provision of such services outside hospitals. The report was mentioned in an article in the Canberra Times on 2 November which stated that the research report indicated that the organisation and administration of such nursing services in the Australian Capital Territory are unsatisfactory. Is the Minister aware of the research report mentioned in the article? Can the Minister indicate whether measures can be taken, or are proposed, to overcome any difficulties associated with these important nursing services?
– I am aware of the report in the Canberra Times. It does not give the full information with regard to the positive recommendations which were made and which are still being discussed and considered by the Capital Territory Health Commission. One problem to be solved is that the services of the Commission have been organised on a regional basis so that all staff employed in defined geographical areas are responsible, in administrative and professional terms, to a senior officer in that region. This plan has been put into effect for all nursing staff, except for some specialised nurses working in infant and school welfare. The report has made some recommendations on how this problem should be overcome. A second problem concerns the role of the community health nurse. This kind of nurse is an innovation and involves the provision by one nurse of all nursing services in the community to a defined population or area. Traditionally, nursing services in the community have been provided for the purpose of single services, such as infant welfare, for quite large population groupings. The report deals with these administrative and professional problems in a constructive way so that the Commission can take the necessary steps to ensure that changes in administrative and professional practice can be introduced efficiently. I am assured by the Minister for Health that the changes will be introduced only after full consultation with the staff involved.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Attorney-General a question. I refer to 2 meetings to be held in Adelaide next week- one at the Adelaide Town Hall and the other at the Norwood Town Hall- on the subject of last year’s constitutional crisis and democracy in Australia. Is the Minister aware that articles written by Adelaide journalists in relation to these matters will not be published by their newspapers? Is this not political censorship? Will the Government take the initiative to ensure that the Press Council can handle this type of censorship?
– If the journalists have any complaints, that is what the Press Council is there for. I do not see why they cannot make their complaints without the assistance of the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. It is related to a question that I first asked him on 4 June about a claim by Sir Charles Court, published in the Perth Daily News on 2 June, that Sir Charles had received an assurance from the Prime Minister that Western Australia would be free to determine the proportion of funds to be distributed on the population area basis. I refer to clause 6 (2) of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill which is now before the House of Representatives. It states:
A State shall-
allocate not less than 30 per centum of the amount to which it is entitled under section5 in respect of a year amongst local governing bodies in the State on a population basis . . .
Bearing in mind that that contradicts the Premier’s previous statement that the Western Australian Government would be free to determine the proportion for itself, will the Minister now tell the Senate whether the Prime Minister misled Sir Charles Court with a false assurance, whether Sir Charles attempted to mislead the people of Western Australia by falsely stating that he had received an assurance or whether the Government has now repudiated, in clause 6 (2), an assurance it had previously given to the State?
– The only person who is doing the misleading is Senator Walsh. I invite him to direct his attention to and to read the transcripts of the 3 Premiers Conferences, if he has such a capacity. If he reads them he will find that in full consultation and in full unanimity the decisions which are reflected in the Bill which is before another place at this moment were made. The whole of those decisions, including the ones he raised, were made unanimously, including total agreement and full understanding between the Premier of Western Australia and the Prime Minister. From the beginning there has never been any indication other than that the distribution of the untied funds should be in 2 parts. The first is element A, which would be per capita grants, unlike the distribution by the Labor Party, to every municipality and shire. The second is element B, which would be equalisation. The Commonwealth Government indicated that it would like discussions with the State Premiers to determine the minimum percentage that should go to direct per capita grants in element A. If the honourable senator read the transcripts he would find that the discussion took place and that as a result it was unanimously agreed that there should be a minimum prescription in the Act of 30 per cent for the States but that the States could increase that capacity to as high a percentage as they desired. In point of fact, the capacity for Western Australia to increase its direct per capita grant beyond the 30 per cent is a determination of the Premiers Conference. The honourable senator should know that the Premier of Western Australia has done that. He has increased the per capita grants.
-I have a supplementary question. Can we assume from Senator Carrick ‘s answer that the Premier of Western Australia received no assurance from the Prime Minister that Western Australia would be free to determine the proportion allocated under both categories?
-I have answered the question clearly and fully.
-I draw the attention of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Federal Affairs to a statement, reported in the West Australian yesterday, by the President of the State School Teachers Union, Mr Bennett, in which he said, among other things, that the setting up of a committee of inquiry into Australian education was merely a token gesture towards youth unemployment. It is reported that he also said that because of real cutbacks in finances provided to the States no State government had the necessary funds to tackle the problem effectivelythe problem being youth unemployment. Are those statements accurate? Can the Minister comment on them?
– The statements are simply not accurate. The evidence lies in 2 sets of documents. The first is the State Budgets brought down- the Appropriation Bills of each of the State governments- which show that in general terms the States ended up with surpluses in the various accounts, both revenue and loan. They also show that in general terms the States would receive some $89m more in tax distribution from the Commonwealth than they would have received under the Whitlam Government. Basically, most of the governments concerned < budgeted either for a surplus or for a line ball, so they have surplus capacity to take up the question of unemployment, including youth unemployment, if they so desire.
-Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I have had one question in 4 days.
– Again today I must inform the Senate that according to the list before me there were 3 members of the Opposition seeking to ask questions who did not have one yesterday. I have endeavoured to give questions to honourable senators this day who did not have a question yesterday. So far as I have been able to do that, that has been done today.
-On 13 October Senator Brown sought information on a reported offer of a piece of land near Man’s Beach between Woodside and Yarram. He asked whether such land had been offered to the Department of Transport at a figure of $5. 5m for an Omega transmitter site. I have inquired into this matter and have been unable to trace any offer in the area mentioned.
-I wish to provide the following additional information in connection with a question without notice addressed to me by Senator Tehan on 7 October regarding disadvantages to migrant and underprivileged children through the formulation of essay questions in the Higher School Certificate examination in English.
I understand that the question followed publication of an article in the Age of the same date which reported that criticism on this matter was expressed by a sub-committee of the Victorian Universities and Schools Examination Board.
Further information I have received indicates that the sequence of events leading to the report by that sub-committee is as follows:
After delivery of a paper by a practising teacher on conditions in the Higher School Certificate examination in July 1975, the VUSEB Committee on English as a Second Language established a special sub-committee on Migrant English which did complete a report for consideration by VUSEB in June 1 976.
VUSEB has not yet finalised its consideration of that report and for that reason I do not consider it appropriate at this stage to comment on the issue.
The matter is certainly of concern to me and I will ensure that further study will be made of it after VUSEB has finished its consideration of the sub-committee ‘s report.
-On 3 November Senator Grimes asked me a number of questions relating to repatriation hospitals and I promised to provide an answer to one question in respect of admissions to private hospitals of repatriation beneficiaries. The honourable senator referred to private hospitals, but I assume he meant also to include public hospitals, which are mainly used for repatriation patients who are not admitted to repatriation hospitals. It has always been the practice for my Department to place some patients in non-repatriation hospitals in order to minimise inconvenience to the patient or his relatives or because of special facilities available only in particular non-departmental hospitals. I instance particularly the situation in Queensland and New South Wales country areas, where this practice is most common. Last year, for instance, over 20 000 patients were admitted to nondepartmental hospitals for a combination of the reasons I have mentioned.
Senator Grimes indicated that the cost of treating the patients at these hospitals was twice the cost in repatriation hospitals. This is not correct, as the uniform costing figures produced by a committee of a Commonwealth-State body known as the Hospitals and Allied Services Advisory Council indicate that while the costs in repatriation general hospitals are somewhat lower than those in their counterparts costs are certainly not half of those in public hospitals.
I would like to turn again to the honourable senator’s question on the impact of staff ceilings on repatriation hospitals. This has varied from State to State and from time to time. For example, at the present moment the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg in Victoria is unable to replace staff losses because of the lack of staff offering for employment following industrial action last year. I understand that staff ceilings have had an effect on the availability of beds at the Repatriation General Hospital at Greenslopes in Queensland from time to time. On the other hand, in South Australia at this moment there are some vacant beds because of a temporary lack of demand by repatriation and other patients. So I think it is clear from that answer that it has been very difficult to come to any conclusions in relation to the specific question that Senator Grimes asked me.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a White Paper on Australian Defence. I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise a contribution by Australia of $A30.73m towards the first replenishment of the Asian Development Fund established within the Asian Development Bank. Honourable senators will know that the Asian Development Bank is a regional development finance institution established in 1966 with headquarters in Manila. Its task is to assist in the economic development of its developing member countries and to foster economic growth and co-operation in the Asian and Pacific regions. It does this by lending funds, promoting investment and providing technical assistance.
Since its establishment the Bank has lent about US$3 billion for projects covering all the major sectors of economic development with emphasis on the development of infrastructure facilities in the transport and communication, industry and electric power sectors as well as projects for agriculture, education, water supply and urban development. The Bank’s lending activities are divided into ordinary and special operations. Ordinary operations are financed on the basis of the Bank’s capital resources on commercial or nearcommercial terms. Special operations involve loans made on highly concessional terms to the Bank’s poorest and least developed member countries. Special operations were initially largely financed from voluntary contributions to the Bank’s Multi-Purpose Special Fund but are now financed from the Asian Development Fund which came into operation during 1974. Australia contributed the equivalent of US$27m, or about 5 per cent, towards the mobilisation of the initial resources of the Fund totalling some US$500m.
When the Fund was set up, it was intended that the funds required by the Bank in future for its concessional lending operations would be mobilised on an organised multi-lateral basis and should be regularly replenished with uniform terms and conditions for all contributors. Accordingly, when funds available to the Bank from the initial mobilisation were running out discussions commenced in 1975 with the Bank’s developed member countries on a first replenishment of the Fund’s resources to enable the Bank to carry on its concessional lending operations in 1976 and the years beyond. Agreement was reached earlier this year, subject to ratification by the Governments concerned, on a first replenishment totalling US$809m to finance the Bank’s concessional lending operations in the 3 years ending 31 December 1978. Specific amounts have been proposed for each developed member country; proposed contributions are set out in the attached table which I ask leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The amounts specified are payable in the national currency of each member country up to the equivalent of the amounts in United States dollars shown and fixed in terms of the exchange rate applying in September 1975. This was when broad agreement on the replenishment was first reached among donor countries. Australia’s share of US$4 1.6m is equivalent to $A30.73m and is in line with our percentage share in the initial mobilisation of resources for the Fund. Australia again has the option of paying its contribution either in cash or by lodging non-negotiable, noninterest bearing promissory notes encashable on demand as and when funds are actually required by the ADB for loan disbursements. In accordance with past practice with respect to similar contributions to both the ADB and the International Development Association we propose to lodge promissory notes. This will limit the impact on the Budget in the next couple of years as encashment of these notes is unlikely to begin before 1978-79.
Australia is the fourth largest shareholder of the ADB after Japan, India and the United States and has played a leading role in the Bank since its inception. It is government policy to give high priority to the Asian and Pacific region in its foreign policies and to co-operate fully with multilateral agencies in the region such as the ADB. We regard the Bank as an efficient organisation capable of effectively disbursing aid funds by undertaking a large variety of often complex development projects in a technically proficient way. The needs of countries in the region served by the Bank are great. It is vital, therefore, that the Bank should be able to continue and expand its soft loan activities in order to help countries in our region achieve economic and social development. I believe that it is clearly in Australia’s national interest that we should play our part by continuing our active support of the Bank by contributing $30. 73m to the Asian Development Fund. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
-I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave will be granted, but I think that perhaps the Minister is getting a little ahead of things. If the Minister would wait until copies of the second reading speech were distributed before he sought to incorporate it in Hansard, we would be happier about it.
– Leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise an agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to provide for the transfer to the Bank’s Asian Development Fund of moneys previously contributed by Australia to the Bank’s Multipurpose Special Fund. The Asian Development Bank (Special Funds Contributions) Act of 1 970, which this Bill is designed to amend, authorised, inter alia, a contribution of US$9.75m to the Multi-Purpose Special Fund (MPSF) of the ADB. This Fund at the time served as the principal vehicle for the Bank’s concessional lending operations; contributions were made on a voluntary ad hoc basis by individual contributors and were frequently tied. Our contribution was tied to procurement from Australia and was made in the form of promissory notes encashable on demand.
The Asian Development Fund (ADF) was established in 1973 following a comprehensive review of the Bank ‘s concessional lending operations. Funds for the ADF, which is now the principal vehicle for concessional lending operations, are mobilised on an organised basis with uniform terms and conditions for all contributors. One condition is that funds must not be tied to procurement from the donor country. Honourable senators will recall that Australia supported the establishment of the ADF and has contributed to it. One of the objectives in setting up the ADF was to simplify the Bank’s administrative procedures. This involves, inter alia, the closing down of the old Multi-Purpose Special Fund and the transfer of contributed resources in that Fund to the ADF. Where such contributions are tied or other special conditions not consistent with the ADF are attached to them, donors must agree to waive these conditions before such contributions may be transferred to the ADF. All other countries have transferred or agreed to transfer their MPSF contributions to the Asian Development Fund in this way.
Last August the Government decided to untie the outstanding balance of our MPSF contribution in order to facilitate its transfer to the ADF. However, following substantial encashments of notes over the last few months, all outstanding notes have now been fully encashed and the whole of our MPSF contribution will in fact be used to finance Australian procurement. Accordingly, the main purpose of the legislation is now to authorise a transfer to the Asian Development Fund, in order to simplify the administration of loans granted from Australia’s contribution to the MPSF. Co-operation with the Bank in the manner proposed would be consistent with the strong support Australia has always accorded to the Bank in the past. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I am presenting this Bill to the Senate on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I think that by now copies of the second reading speech have been distributed. I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
In his policy speech on 27 November the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave an undertaking to increase the exemption from estate duty where the whole or part of the estate of a deceased person passes to a surviving spouse. This Bill fulfils the Government’s election undertaking. It is part of the Government’s overall program to reduce the general burden of taxation. It is a much needed reform that will give a significant measure of relief in an area of the law that has been given insufficient attention in recent years.
The legislation is a further reflection of this Government’s determination to press on with reforms to the taxation system in spite of the very serious economic difficulties that were inherited from the previous Administration. The relief will exclude from liability for duty the value- up to a maximum of $50,000- of the spouse’s interest in the estate. It will be available whatever the total value of the estate or the nature of the assets included in it. At the same time it is proposed to discontinue the estate duty deduction which, since 30 April 1974, has been available, under certain conditions, where an interest in a matrimonial home passes to the surviving spouse of a deceased person. Both proposals are to have effect in the assessment of duty on estates of persons dying on or after 18 August 1976. Where an estate passes wholly to the surviving spouse of a deceased person the new concession will, in conjunction with the existing statutory exemptions, entirely exempt from duty estates of a gross value up to $90,000. Primary producer estates passing in this way will be exempt up to a value of$98,000.
The Government recognises that the support given to each other by a husband and wife contributes to the accumulations of property that may pass to one partner on the death of the other. Accordingly, it will go as far as it responsibly can to lighten the burden of estate duty where property passes to one marriage partner on the death of the other. The new concession will generally provide greater benefits than the matrimonial home deduction it is replacing. That deduction was too selective. It conferred no benefit at all when the assets passing to the spouse did not include a matrimonial home. Not only that, it was subject to a phasing out arrangement so that it became much less than $35,000 for many estates. The new deduction of $50,000 is not to be phased out in this way.
For easier administration by both the Taxation Office and administrators of estates, the Bill also proposes some changes in respect of estate duty returns. At present returns are required to be in a form prescribed by regulation and the administrator is obliged to verify a return by statutory declaration. The amendments proposed by the Bill will provide for the lodgment of returns in accordance with a form approved by the Commissioner of Taxation instead of one prescribed by regulation. This will eliminate frequent amendments to the regulations. The Bill provides also for returns to be verified, like income tax returns, by declaration as required by the return form rather than by statutory declaration. Furthermore, returns will not be required where the value of an estate does not exceed the relevant statutory exemptions or, in the case of an estate passing wholly to the surviving spouse of a deceased person, $90,000. Hitherto exemption from furnishing returns has been provided by regulation.
Finally, the Bill makes provision for a number of formal amendments in line with current drafting practices. These amendments will not affect the operation of the provisions to which they relate. The various provisions of the Bill are explained in detail in a memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I believe that copies of the second reading speech are now in the hands of all honourable senators. I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill is designed to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to establish a new basis for funding the export finance facility operated by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. The new arrangements, which the Government announced in July, transfer to the trading banks the responsibility of providing funds for the facility. They have the effect of reducing calls on the Budget whilst at the same time enhancing the opportunities for Australian exporters to win additional business. The Government believes that these new arrangements will provide a sound basis for co-operation between the banks and Government in supporting Australian capital goods exporters. They are consistent with our intention of ensuring that initiative and responsibility are, in appropriate cases, restored to the private sector.
Honourable senators will recall that the export finance facility was established in EFIC in February 1975 to facilitate the provision of export finance on internationally competitive terms in support of medium and long term credit sales of Australian machinery and capital equipment. The facility was designed to supplement the medium and long term credit facilities available to exporters through the Australian banking system and funds were provided from the Budget by way of long term loans to EFIC at the concessional interest rate of *IV** per cent. These funds were then blended with finance provided by the banks, usually on a 50/50 basis, to produce a finance package which was broadly comparable with those available from overseas competitor countries. This arrangement worked quite satisfactorily and enabled EFIC to provide finance in support of a number of important export tenders, amounting to some $30m over the last 12 months. But the need for the Government to restrain calls on the Budget limited the volume of funds that could be made available to EFIC. This in turn limited the extent of EFIC’s support for this category of business.
The Government’s overriding objective is to attack inflation by substantially reducing the rate of growth of Government spending. At the same time we seek to do what we can to assist Australian exporters to maintain and indeed expand their overseas trade. It was in this context that the Government took up with the banks the possibility of their broadening their involvement in the export finance facility. Our talks with the banks were both positive and constructive. They resulted in their agreement to provide up to $100m to support new export finance business undertaken by EFIC, in addition to financing some $50m of existing EFIC commitments. These arrangements will substantially increase the amount of funds available to EFIC for use in supporting capital goods export tenders. Indeed, since their implementation, EFIC has been able to offer financial support in respect of tender bids amounting to some $120m. Under the new arrangements, the banks will provide loan funds to EFIC at the commercial rates of interest applicable to this category of business. The Government, for its part, will provide an interest rate subsidy which will enable EFIC to on-lend these funds on internationally competitive terms. The savings in the 1976-77 Budget are estimated at some $20m.
This expansion of EFIC’s finance facility will be welcomed by exporters. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the success of our exporters in this field will depend very much on basic competitiveness as regards price, quality and delivery. The facility will certainly enable our exporters to match the credit terms being offered by their competitors. But at the end of the day, whether or not they win the business will depend on the basic competitive factors I have referred to. At the root of our relative competitive position is the question of costs. In this connection, Australia’s record of inflation in the last few years has meant that we have lost ground severely- hence the Government’s clearly expressed and overriding objective to contain inflation. There are signs that we are already meeting with success in this, but we have some way to go yet and a backlog of lost competitiveness which must be made up.
As a consequence of the change in the funding arrangements for EFIC, the Bill also proposes amendments to the national interest provisions of the EFIC Act. Previously, in high risk transactions referred by EFIC for consideration in the national interest, the Government made available from the Budget the funds required to finance the transactions. It is now intended that EFIC should provide the finance involved from loan moneys advanced by the banking system. The Government’s role will be limited to underwriting the contingent liabilities involved. This measure will provide the same benefits to exporters, but will have the effect of limiting the Government’s financial commitment to that of guarantor rather than primary lender. Opportunity has also been taken to make a number of housekeeping amendments to the Act, mainly in regard to superannuation and terms and conditions of employment of officers of the Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I believe that copies of the second reading speech are in the hands of honourable senators. I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purposes of this short Bill are to obtain parliamentary approval for the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States in an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Premiers during September 1976 to extend the fruit growing reconstruction scheme until 31 December 1976, and for the provision of up to a further $ lm to assist the removal of canning fruit trees in Victoria and South Australia. The scheme, which commenced on 14 July 1972, provides assistance supplementary to the main rural reconstruction scheme, to meet some of the special needs of the horticultural industry. It provides financial assistance, to orchardists who are in, or are theatened by financial difficulties, to remove surplus fruit trees and either leave the industry altogether or diversify into some other form of production. A subsidiary benefit of the scheme is that the removal of surplus trees has helped to bring the industry’s productive capacity into closer alignment with the market for its products.
The scheme offers two forms of assistanceclear fell, for the grower who is predominantly a horticulturist, who is in severe financial difficulties, and who wishes to remove all his fruit trees and leave the horticultural industry; and partial removal, for the grower whose property would become viable if some or all of the fruit trees were removed and the land put to an alternative use, but who lacks the financial resources to withstand the short term effects of the removal of the trees. Assistance under the scheme is provided by way of a loan which is converted to a grant after 5 years, conditional on the recipient not replanting specified fruit trees within that period. The scheme is restricted to fresh apple, fresh pear, canning peach, canning pear and canning apricot trees. The scheme was originally to have operated for one year, up to 30 June 1973, but has been extended on 2 occasions, to 30 June 1974 and then to 31 December 1975. The initial provision of $4.6m was sufficient to meet the demand for assistance through the two extension periods, so that no additional funds have been required.
Fruit growing reconstruction was referred to the Industries Assistance Commission in July 1974 and the future of special reconstruction measures for the fruit growing industries after 3 1 December 1975 was held in abeyance until the Commission had reported on this reference. The Commission issued an interim report on fruit growing on 30 October 1975, in which it recommended that the expiry date for applications to be lodged for assistance under the scheme be extended to 31 December 1976. The Commission confirmed this recommendation in its final report issued on 16 January 1976. The Government considered the Commission’s recommendation on the extension of the scheme and decided to adopt it. At the time, some $ 1 . lm of the original $4.6m provided by the Commonwealth for fruit growing reconstruction had not been committed. After examining the industry position, the Government decided that no further funds would be needed. Subsequent representations by the Victorian and South Australian Governments on the severe over-supply position of canning fruit varieties, especially canning pears, lead the Government to reconsider the financial needs of the scheme. A careful assessment of the likely needs of the 2 States indicated that an additional $lm would be needed if the maximum use was to be made of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme before it expired on 31 December 1976. Accordingly, the Bill authorises the provision of Sim to assist in the removal of canning fruit trees in those 2 States.
The terms of the scheme allow a 6 months period for the removal of trees after closing date for applications. The fruit growing reconstruction scheme will thus continue to provide assistance until 30 June 1977, but such assistance will be only in respect of applications lodged before 3 1 December 1976, the date of expiry of this scheme. This final phase of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme will, I believe, go a long way towards assisting those fruit growers, now in necessitous circumstances to adjust their undertakings to changed conditions and will make a very real contribution to aligning Australia ‘s production of apples, peaches, pears and apricots with the market available for those products. I commend the Bill.
Motion (by Senator Keeffe) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
- Mr President, may I be permitted to intervene to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that this morning a messenger of the Parliament was charged 20c for this apple which I am holding and this is at a time when this Bill seeks to finance the grubbing out of orchards. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order -
– Order! There is no debate.
– I was going to raise the point that Senator Wright was completely out of order. I do not deny him his gimmick. If he wanted to get a headline, he has succeeded. Nevertheless, he was out of order in speaking.
- Mr President, I want to raise a point of order on this matter. Senator Wright has now confused the chamber. I am not quite sure which Bill is before the Senate.
– I now put the question: That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The Bill that we have before us relates, I think, to appeals to the High Court from decisions of the Supreme Court of Nauru. I am not sure whether the Minister has introduced this Bill.
– He has not.
– May I speak?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Industry and Commerce)- There is a slight amount of public interest in the problems of the apple industry which I myself find very interesting. We will be making these apples available at different prices in King’s Hall for interested honourable senators. They seem to me to be of very good quality. In order to help honourable senators, I observe that we are still tidying up the resumption of the debate on the States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament to an Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Republic of Nauru that would allow appeals to be brought to the High Court from certain classes of decisions of the Supreme Court of Nauru. The text of the Agreement is set out in the Schedule to the Bill. I will return later to a discussion of that text.
Honourable senators will recall that Nauru, formerly a Trust Territory administered by Australia for many years, gained its independence in 1968. Under the legislation that was in force in the former Trust Territory of Nauru an appeal lay to the High Court, by leave of that Court, from the judgments, orders and decrees of the then Court of Appeal. This Parliament, in the enactment of the Nauru Independence Act 1967, made provision for the final moves of the Nauruan people to the adoption of their own constitution. In the course of negotiations that preceded the independence of Nauru, the
Nauruan leaders expressed a wish that provision be made for appeals to the High Court from certain judgments of the Supreme Court of Nauru that was to be established under that constitution.
The Government is happy to accede to the desire of the Nauruan leaders and so to enter into the arrangements necessary for a suitable scheme for appeals to the High Court. Accordingly, the terms of the necessary Agreement were discussed in detail between officers of the 2 governments and the Agreement was finally made at Nauru on 6 September 1976. I submit this Bill in order that the Parliament may approve the Agreement. Other provisions of the Bill enable the terms of the Agreement to be carried into effect.
The Bill represents a novel and significant step in that for the first time the High Court will function as a final court of appeal from the Supreme Court of another independent sovereign country. Generally newly emerging countries establish their own judicial institutions. In this case the Nauruan Government took, as I have explained, the initiative in seeking to have the High Court serve as the final appellate court of Nauru. We see that as an expression of confidence in the capacity and impartiality of the High Court.
We have had, of course, to consider the source of constitutional power to enable the Parliament to enact the legislation and to confer the jurisdiction on the High Court. The High Court has held that it may have conferred on it appellate jurisdiction other than from the State courts, so long as there is a proper source of power for the Parliament to enact the legislation conferring the jurisdiction. A line of decisions has established that the High Court may hear appeals from Territory courts. The source of power to provide for appeals from Territory courts is to be found in section 122 of the Constitution. These decisions were well summarised by Mr Justice Menzies, when, in the course of his judgment in Capital TV and Appliances Pty Ltd v. Falconer, 124 Commonwealth Law Reports 591, he said at page 604:
That is to say, the High Court- can be given judicial duties beyond the matters set out in ss. 75 and 76 of the Constitution by reason of the exercise of legislative power outside Ch. III. This is established by the line of decisions which recognises that, by laws made under s. 122, this Court may be given jurisdiction to hear appeals from courts not being federal courts for the purposes of ss. 71, 72 and 73 of the Constitution, and not being State courts.
In the present case, I believe that the external affairs power provides a sufficient constitutional basis for the Bill. Reference might also be made to the power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to the relations of the Commonwealth with the islands of the Pacific.
I turn now to the terms of the Bill. It is proposed that the Act would come into force on a date to be fixed by proclamation. That date must not be a date earlier than the date on which the Agreement comes into force, for which, as I will explain later, the Agreement itself provides. Clause 4 expresses the approval of this Parliament to the Agreement. Later clauses provide for appeals to lie and applications for leave to be made to the High Court under the Agreement. The necessary jurisdiction is to be vested in the High Court in respect of those matters. The High Court will be empowered to make Rules of Court for procedure in matters coming to it from Nauru. At least 2 Justices of the Court will be required to sit on those matters. Necessary provisions are made as to the nature of the judgment that may be made on appeal and as to the manner in which, in a divided court, a question is to be decided.
Clause 10 deals with the appearance of a party before the High Court, either personally or by a representative. That representative may be a legal practitioner of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State or Territory, or may be a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nauru. If an appeal is made in a criminal matter by a person who is required to serve a sentence of imprisonment imposed by a court of Nauru, that person cannot appear personally in the High Court. Honourable senators will appreciate that in such a case a prisoner must remain within the control of the court that has imposed the sentence.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to the Schedule to the Bill that sets out the text of the Agreement to which I have referred. The preamble notes the previous arrangements that formerly applied in regard to appeals to the High Court and the Nauruans’ desire to maintain those arrangements. Article 1 sets out the nature of matter in which appeals are to lie to the High Court and is careful to allow appeals as of right against the specified classes of decisions of the Supreme Court when acting in its original jurisdiction. Leave to appeal is required only from decisions that have already come before that Court on appeal from another court. Under Article 2 appeals would not come before the High Court in matters that are appropriate for final decisions in Nauru.
The Agreement recognises, in Article 5, that the signatories will need to pay regard to constitutional and other requirements, such as the enactment of enabling legislation, before the Agreement can come into force. Accordingly commencement is deferred until an exchange of notes signifying that all those requirements have been met. Finally, Article 6 enables either country, on 90 days notice to the other, to terminate the Agreement. This Government recognises that the Nauruans may not wish to continue these special arrangements indefinitely and a convenient means of termination would be of assistance if ever that were to be so.
I point out to honourable senators that the Government has responded to the wishes of the Government of a small country whose welfare was formerly a special responsibility of Australia. We are happy to make available appeal facilities that will enable decisions in matters covered by the Agreement to be determined at the highest judicial level by a Court of considerable standing and repute. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 3 November.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) The Committee is considering the vote for the Department of Administrative Services. It is dealing with the first line in the circulated document. The amount involved is $239,997,000.
– Last night I was referring to the importance of making provision for the preservation of important cultural and historical collections throughout Australia. I referred particularly to the $100m collection at the Australian War Memorial and to the fact that the Acting Director of the National Gallery had indicated that the collection which the Gallery holds on behalf of the Australian people is already valued at $30m to $40m. I said that there are in fact no training courses in Australia for conservators for these valuable collections and that there is a severe shortage of conservators even from overseas in Australia. Senator Douglas McClelland suggested that there is a need for action. I concurred with that suggestion. Last night I referred to the fact that on 19 May this year I raised this issue in the Senate by asking the Minister concerned about the report of the Committee of
Inquiry on Museums and National Collections which was tabled earlier this year and which recommended measures to preserve Australia’s cultural and historical materials both as a means of preserving our national heritage and as a means of protecting valuable collections. The Minister said in reply at that time that he felt that the idea was a very good one.
On 26 May I received a reply from the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). He indicated his interest in the subject and said that he had taken it up with the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). He said that the matter would be considered by an interdepartmental committee. My understanding is that the idea of establishing a course for conservators is now being considered by the Minister for Education in consultation with the Minister for Administrative Services and also by an interdepartmental committee. I urge that that consideration be pursued expeditiously because I believe this is a matter on which, as I said last night, governments have to take the initiative and I believe ought to take action as quickly as possible to preserve the many important collections in this country. The report of Estimates Committee A stated:
There is clearly a shortage of conservators throughout the world and little opportunity for specialist training. The Committee believes that there should be a degree of urgency in taking whatever action is possible to train people as conservators, who might then be employed, at appropriate levels of remuneration -
I stress that point, ‘at appropriate levels of remuneration’- in the task of preserving Australia’s multi-million dollar collections. The action might properly include the establishment of a formal course within Australia for the training of conservators.
I hope that the Minister will comment on this question to indicate what progress has been made and what progress might be expected towards establishing a course in Australia for the training of conservators to preserve our major national collections and other collections in museums and libraries throughout Australia.
I move on to the question of overseas premises and rental payments as provided for in Division 148.3 under ‘Overseas Property Services’, item 01, ‘Rent’ which also falls under the appropriations for the Department of Administrative Services. I should simply like to draw the attention of the Committee of the Whole to the fact that Australia’s 90 overseas posts require rental payments of almost $12m a year at this stage. The post in Paris, for example, costs well over Sim in annual rental payments. Premises at Tokyo cost more than $800,000. Many other premises cost in the vicinity of $250,000 or $500,000. Of course the premises vary with the size of the overseas mission and with the relative costs in particular parts of the world. I raise this matter because I think that Estimates Committees and the Parliament and all who are involved- both the departmental officers and the Ministers- must maintain a careful scrutiny of this item because the costs involved are substantial. One of the questions which I think it raises and which I want to put to the Committee of the Whole is that in some cases there may be benefits in building premises where we are at present renting. While the short term costs might be more substantial, the long term savings to Australia might also be much greater. I know that in posts like Paris, for example, we have substantial building programs. I raise this matter only to suggest that this is a substantial item amongst the appropriations. Overseas missions cost a lot of money to run and rental payments are amongst the highest costs involved in that area. I think we ought to be looking on a continuing basis at where, through construction, we might overcome the longer term costs involved in these rental payments.
– I want to raise a matter under the heading of the Commonwealth Police, Division 137. 1 raised this matter during the Estimates Committee hearing. I want to refer to the answer that was given to me by Mr Harper, who was representing the Commonwealth Police. The answer caused me great concern. Because of the answer that was given to my question in the Estimates Committee there was quite a bit of publicity in the daily Press about the lack of personnel in the Commonwealth Police Force to do the job of crime detection. I want to refer to the matter I raised and the answer that Mr Harper gave me. He stated:
Where previously perhaps 2 men were required we took a calculated risk and had only one. In relation to crime investigation, this was reduced substantially but it did cause a rapid rise in the number of cases we had on hand. I recently made a survey of this situation and found that we now need another 80 men in order to catch up on this work which resulted from a lack of overtime and manpower last year. There were 2 areas involved, the physical security side and crime investigation side.
I asked further.
On the physical security side, how many Commonwealth Police are engaged on escort duties for the GovernorGeneral and what amount of overtime would be payable to them?
Senator Withers replied:
I do not think that these are matters which ought to be in the public area. These officers are there for the protection and safety of individuals and that information ought not to be given to people who are trying to interfere with the safety of individuals.
I agree with Senator Withers that these officers are there for the protection and safety of individuals, but not to be used in the main for the protection and safety of one individual. There are many people in the community who have to suffer because of crime, breaking and entering, physical assault and all of these sorts of things which are inflicted upon the general public. But it would appear that the present Government- I cannot find out whether this is being done according to an instruction from the Government or whether it has been a decision of the Commonwealth Police- has decided to deploy a lot of Commonwealth Police personnel in the protection of one individual in this country. In his reply Mr Harper stated that the Commonwealth Police are understaffed by 80 personnel. This is not good enough.
If we look at the appropriation we find that there is not enough increase in funds to be able to engage an extra 80 personnel to carry out the work for which Mr Harper said he needs the men. The appropriation for 1975-76 amounted to $25,261,000. Yet in 1976-77, in this appropriation, there is a decrease of nearly $3m. How can we engage an extra 80 personnel? It is granted that the expenditure for 1975-76 was only $18,870,000, but of course we know what happened. Although the Whitlam Government had appropriated $25m it was not in office long enough to be able to expend that money. The people who are now in government spent only $ 1 8m. We would have spent some of that but we did not spend the whole amount. What disturbs me is that there is a decrease in the appropriation for this year. Yet we find Mr Harper saying that he has not enough personnel to carry out the duties which the Commonwealth Police rightly have to carry out. I would have expected to get some answer as to whether this was to be remedied, but so far I have not had an answer. At the Estimates Committee hearing Senator Withers went on to say:
The police must always judge where they will use their resources and I do not think that there should be too much airing in public of where they intend to use those resources.
This is where I differ with Senator Withers. I think there should be some airing in public as to where the Commonwealth Police decide to use the personnel that they have at their disposal. Will they use them on escort duties for the Governor-General or will they use them for the safety of the general public of Australia, that is, the taxpayers who are funding the Commonwealth Police and who are greatly deserving of their protection? The answer that Senator Withers gave is certainly just evading the question that I posed. I am hoping that with the officers here the Minister may be able to give me some answer now as to whether he will assure Mr Harper that he will provide him with the funds so that he can employ an extra 80 personnel in the force so that it can carry out the work that it is charged with doing. We find in many areas of the community an anti-police attitude. Those people who criticise the police force are the first to run to the police for protection when their homes are broken into or when they are assaulted.
– Even Rent-a-Crowd?
- Senator Chaney is using the old hackneyed phrase coined by his leader: Rent-a-Crowd. I think that he is probably referring to the phrase which was coined in his own State, Rent-a-Farmer, years ago. When Mr Whitiam went there, when he was stoned, when full cans of fruit juice were thrown at him and when the farmers drove their tractors on to the bridge, who rented those people? Of course it was the Country Party. We well remember the infamous speech in this chamber by ex-Senator Reid when he fell foul of his own party in trying to put a case for the farmers.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator will come back to the subject matter of the debate.
– I apologise to you, Mr Chairman, but I was sidetracked by two of your colleagues from your own State. I will say no more about that matter because it has been fully explored, except that Rent-a-Crowd has nothing to do with the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party has nothing to do with the demonstrators. I want to know what the Minister is going to do about making money available to the Commonwealth Police Force so that it can obtain extra personnel to carry out its duties. This is necessary if the police are to persist in deploying personnel to look after one individual in the community when the whole community ought to be protected. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s answer on that particular matter.
– I wish to raise one or two matters. In the report of Senate Estimates Committee A the subject of computers is mentioned, and further reference is made to it in the report of Senate Estimates Committee E. An item there draws attention to the fact that the cost of computer services is estimated to increase from $475,000 to $653,000 in one yean The Committee considers that there is a need for a thorough inquiry into the costs and benefits of the use of computers by departments. That reinforces the view of Estimates Committee A, that if we cannot get proper understanding and efficient use of computers we should consider referring the whole question to one of the Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees. I draw attention to the fact that our Committee was informed at page 135 of the transcript -
– When you say our Committee’, which committee do you mean?
-Estimates Committee E. The witness said:
No department can move in the computer field without the approval of the Public Service Board, and at senior level, an interdepartmental committee advises the Government on computer installations. There was a very critical review undertaken early this year by the Public Service Board into current computer projects.
That was a responsible answer given to the Committee by a responsible officer. In view of that I ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to inform the Committee when we will have tabled in the Parliament, not only for the Government, a report by that critical review at the instance of the Public Service Board. I think that that would be the basic material by which a permanent committee of this Senate could begin a thorough examination of the extravagance that is going on with this new toy.
This is illustrated by an item in the AuditorGeneral’s report in relation to the equipment that was ordered by the Department of the Prime Minister. At page 213 of the AuditorGeneral’s report he says:
As early as September 1972 notice was given … to the then Department of the Interior that accommodation would be required in Canberra for a large computer installation.
He goes on to say that although that notice was given so long ago it was necessary to provide temporary accommodation on delivery in March 1976. Although the Department of Construction had spent approximately $50,000 in investigating the use of Anzac Park West as a possible site it is still necessary to find a site to house the computer, and interest and maintenance charges have been accruing at the rate of $38,000 a month. It is estimated that $30,000 will have to be spent to relocate the computer when a permanent site is established. I have purposely made only brief quotation from that report in the interest of dispatch of business, but it shows where mismanagement has occurred in failing to provide accommodation and so having a computer unavailable for use with interest and maintenance charges accruing at the rate of $38,000 a month. We are still faced with new expenditure. No government can survive if that degree of mismanagement is being costed into the taxes that we are appropriating. Therefore I ask that the Minister either give an explanation now or undertake to give it in writing so that we can be assured that the officers responsible for that mismanagement are bearing the responsibility.
I come to the next item that has been canvassed by the Committee and that is the Australian Electoral Office. I draw the attention of the Committee to an item in the estimates of the Department of Administrative Services which I consider to be extraordinary. I desire a specific undertaking or statement from the Minister as to what the Government proposes in relation to payments made under this heading. I refer to page 148 of the Auditor-General’s report where to my consternation it is disclosed that in July 1975 the former Department of Services and Property arranged for the payment of honoraria to Australian electoral officers who were appointed as Distribution Commissioners. I thought that Distribution Commissioners were people who had to be guaranteed the greatest independence. To me it is quite inconsistent with complete independence for officers who are rewarded by their official salaries and official expenses to receive honoraria. Then after checking to see whether there was any legal entitlement for the payment the Attorney-General’s Department advised that in the case of the Chief Electoral Officer there was no adequate authority to do so. Therefore the Department’s reaction was not to withhold the payment but to approach the Treasurer for approval to authorise the payment of $5,500 to the Chief Electoral Officer on an ex gratia basis under section 34 (4) of the Audit Act. I want to go on record as saying that the payment is quite improper; on the basis of this report it is illegal; and I will be greatly concerned if anybody finds the matter to be legalised.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is unoccupied premises. This was referred to last night by Senator McLaren. He need not have worked himself up to such a degree of frenzy because he could have relied upon me to bring attention to matters to which I referred briefly in the second reading stage by way of illustration. There are far graver matters in the Auditor-General’s report than those to which I referred in my speech. I refer briefly to page 147 of the AuditorGeneral’s report. Just to calm the mind of Senator McLaren I quote what he could have found there as the fact. The report states:
Delay by departments in occupying leased premises is the subject of references in several Reports since 1958-59 and has been examined by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on 2 occasions.
– You did not mention that when you spoke during the second reading debate when you were on the air.
-Senator McLaren obviously steels his mind against understanding the point of the references. The Auditor-General referred to his 1974-75 report which cites 3 cases of dead rent in relation to unoccupied premises from the commencement of leases to the date of full occupancy. This dead rent has been of the order of $630,000, $360,000 and $123,000 respectively- a total of near enough to $lm. I want to know who will be the albatross who will sink with that lead of dead rent. The AuditorGeneral goes on to say:
A subsequent audit review disclosed a number of additional instances. In one case several floors of a multi-storey building remained unoccupied involving ‘dead rent’ in excess of $379,000. In 3 other cases the amount ranged between $50,000 and $62,000.
He then refers to the item to which I referred in my speech on the second reading, that is to say, the Legal Aid Office- this impetuous department that Senator Murphy threw together and for which he obtained premises. The sum of $7 1,000 was involved in expenditure of rent before the Department advised that the premises were not required by the Legal Aid Office. The Minister must realise that this form of administration of business has to be corrected. We are not going to vote money to be wasted in this way. The parliamentary processes therefore have to be modified so that sufficient control is accorded to this chamber, quite consistent with the Westminster system of government, and contrary to some ignorant comments that still pervade the Press and which have been copied from one another. But we are not going to have dead rent charged to people to the degree that I have just mentioned. I should think it would be of the order of $1.5m. I, for one, wish the Parliament to take heed of the matter. I shall not make any further comments on this issue.
I turn now to the item which Senator Knight has just mentioned, that is, overseas property. I call attention to page 149 of the AuditorGeneral’s report in which the Auditor-General points out that an officer was posted to Dublin and there was a lengthy settling in process. He also said that an examination of the details had disclosed that $88,970 had been spent on extensive repairs and renovations. The repairs had added substantially to the cost of the residence and included treatment for extensive woodworm infestation and wet rot. Prior to the purchase, the Bureau had accepted a report from a local architect. That local architect has a responsibility. We have sued local architects in Tasmania recently for default in responsibility. This Government has an obligation to pursue its rights in this respect and also against the officers who allow undue settling in expenses to be paid.
The Auditor-General further states:
In another acquisition examined by my officers, the Bureau acquired at a cost of $A103,98O a property in Manchester which also has required extensive renovations. . . .
That was a case in which the Bureau had had the advice of consultants who have a responsibility in the matter. I have said sufficient in supplementing what I said last night to justify what I believe is the absolute duty of this chamber to see that if we appropriate money under this line item today it will not be wasted as has been illustrated by both those items to which I have referred.
– I should like to intervene before the debate gets too far along the way and I lose track of everything that has been said. Senator Knight again raised the question of conservators for the preservation of historical material and relics. I am still actively pursuing this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). There seems to be some sort of opinion abroad that all one needs to do is to wave a magic wand and these conservators appear on the scene. They happen to be very highly skilled, highly trained people. Even if we could get the College of Advanced Education in Canberra to commence a course in 1977, it is doubtful whether people taking that course would come into the work force as conservators for at least 3 years. That ought to be kept in mind. These people are very scarce all around the world. It would also appear that because of the levels that the Public Service Board in this country are prepared to pay, the people who are skilled in this sort of thing in Australia certainly have no desire to work for Commonwealth instrumentalities. One is far better off either to work for State instrumentalities, in the private field or to go overseas. So this is not just a simple question of saying that there ought to be more conservators than are on the scene at the moment.
I refer now to the other matter raised by Senator Knight- the rent of property overseas for persons posted overseas. I agree with the honourable senator when he says that there are some great problems in this area. But it is not quite as simple as saying that we are paying so much rent and therefore we ought to build instead, as in a great number of posts abroad where we are represented it is not possible for the Government to purchase land because of local laws which will not even permit foreign embassies or trade missions to own land or foreign governments to own buildings on land. In a number of places Australia is stuck with the position. It must either lease or leave. That is the judgment with which we are left. I think the honourable senator would also know that in a number of posts overseas there have been quite extensive building programs and at times maybe even extravagant building programs. Some are coming to completion at the moment. I have no doubt others will be commenced in the next year or so.
I turn now to the matters raised by Senator McLaren about the Commonwealth Police Force. I do not know where he gets the rather peculiar idea that the Commonwealth Police Force protects but one individual in this country. I shall not tell him who else has a police escort because I do not think that that information ought to be in the public area, but I can assure him that more than one person has a police escort. The honourable senator turned to the Estimates, cited some figures and quoted Commissioner Harper, or whatever his name was, about the lack of personnel in the Police Force. I am informed that the expenditure in 1975-76 was $ 1 8.87m, and the appropriation for this year is $22.75m. I am further informed that the average employment for 1975-76 was 1578, and the estimated average employment for 1976-77 is 1667. The Estimates allow for an average employment increase of 89 over last financial year. I repeat that the Commonwealth Police is concerned with many matters other than the protection of one individual against whom the honourable senator seems to be pursuing some sort of vendetta.
I turn now to the matters raised by Senator Wright. With regard to computers, I have a note from the Chairman of the Public Service Board. I will read it, although I do not know whether the honourable senator will then be wiser, better informed or neither. The note reads:
-Since 1961. That is what my note says. It continues:
As part of its normal role, the IDC on ADP requires that the cost/benefit aspects of every departmental computer proposal be carefully investigated before it considers the proposal. In this context the proposed usage of computers by the Department of the Capital Territory was examined and supported by the IDC.
Of significance also is the fact that, in 1974, the Public Service Board made available draft guidelines to departments on the approach to be taken on cost/benefit analyses of ADP systems. The guidelines are presently being reviewed and will be formally published as soon as possible.
Further, the Public Service Board, as pan of its role under section 17 of the Public Service Act relating to efficiency and economy, has also instituted a series of post implementation reviews of departmental computer installations and ADP systems. The first such review is currently under way in the Bureau of Meteorology and it is planned to carry out two such reviews each year. The reviews are directed towards establishing the efficiency and effectiveness of ADP operations in the terms of achievement of original objectives, the effectiveness of ADP systems and their integration into departmental operations, the efficiency of computing equipment utilisation, etc.
It might well be said that the wide-ranging review activities mentioned above in sum amount to an inquiry on the scale envisaged by Senate Estimates Committee E.
That is the information supplied to me by the Chairman of the Public Service Board.
Another matter raised by Senator Wright concerned the honoraria paid to Australian electoral officers for conducting the redistribution. This was done by my predecessor who, on 1 November 1974, approved payment of honoraria and travelling allowances to the Distribution Commissioners in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania and to the Chief Electoral Officer as coordinator of redistribution in all States. As the honourable senator noted, on 24 July 1975 the Auditor-General indicated that the legislative authority for such remuneration was not clear to him. He requested an advising from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. That Department advised that there was adequate authority for the payment of honoraria to the State electoral officers but not to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. On the advice I have received, if my memory serves me correctly, these honoraria have been paid to Redistribution Commissioners for 20, 30 or 40 years- a very long period. There was no problem over them in the past because until about 1973-1 think that was the yearofficers of the Electoral Office were normal Commonwealth public servants; but under the Australian Electoral Office Act they became statutory officers. Therefore, being statutory officersagain I am calling on my memory and I will see whether I can get the papers for the honourable senator- and because of the provisions of the Remuneration Tribunal Act, there is a conflict as to what they can be paid. It was for that reason that this payment was queried for the first time. The amount of $5,500 was actually paid in about November 1974.
– There is a clear case for recovery.
-That is a matter of judgment. Whilst the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has been requested to authorise an ex gratia payment, he has not yet agreed to that course of action. Senator Wright therefore will understand that, if the Treasurer does not agree to that course of action, recovery must take place.
I will move on to the next matter Senator Wright raised, that concerning dead rent. Since I assumed responsibility for the Administrative Services portfolio the whole question of the leasing program of the Commonwealth Government has been a source of worry to me and one at which I am looking constantly. The Commonwealth’s total rent bill in Australia is, I think, more than $50m a year. I suppose the Commonwealth is the biggest tenant in Australia. One thing ought to be understood, and I say this as a plea of mitigation for my departmental officers and not for the Government as such because a government stands as a total entity. My departmental officers seek premises only at the request of other departments. My Department is asked by a client department to find so many square metres of a certain type of premises. It goes ahead, negotiates a lease and enters into leasing arrangements and then sometimes the client department, for reasons best known to itself, does not occupy those premises. This is how the dead rent situation arises. I would not like it to be thought that the dead rent situation arises because of the inefficiency of my departmental officers. It comes about through departments saying that they have certain requirements as to space and then, when the space is provided, deciding that those requirements no longer apply or that they want something different. The Government certainly has this matter under review at the moment, and procedures are being instituted to make departments really come to heel in this respect.
– It ought to cut their budgets next year by that amount.
-There is something to be said for that argument also. I mention quite quickly the matter of the property purchased in Dublin. This was done before my administration also. Admittedly, an architect was employed to report upon the premises. When some trouble in the premises set in and the carpets were lifted, it was found that the floors were full of wormrot and dead wood. It was the intention of the Government to take legal proceedings against the architect who had given us the certificate as to the premises. When this matter went into the hands of the Attorney-General’s Department, the advice was that we would not succeed in an action. That, and that alone, is the reason why no proceedings were commenced against the person who provided the certificate. I cannot recall the exact details- I do not know whether I ever saw them-of why the Attorney-General’s Department came to that advising. I assure the honourable senator that it was for that reason, and that reason only, that action was not taken against the architect in Dublin.
– Firstly I reply to what Senator Wright said about me last night. He was not being really truthful because he came in here last night during the second reading debate and referred to the Auditor-General’s report.
– I take a point of order. I will not accept that imputation, even from Senator McLaren. I ask that it be withdrawn.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Senator McLaren, I think you should withdraw that.
-I will withdraw that. I will say that Senator Wright was not being scrupulously fair last night when he quoted from the Auditor-General’s report and made some statements that the Whitlam Government was not maintaining a careful watch on expenditure in certain departments, particularly over the leasing of premises. I want to quote some of Senator Wright’s words. He said that now that the Government has a majority in the Senate it will exercise more vigilance over expenditure which may be wasteful and extravagant. As I told him last night, the Government had the numbers in the Senate for many years. As I pointed out when I quoted from the Auditor-General’s reports of 1971-72 and 1972-73, there was then an overleasing of premises which were not occupied. Senator Wright did not raise the matter then or at any time during my period as a senator. Last night, while the proceedings were being broadcast, he chose to make a political speech as though this over-leasing of premises existed only during the 3 years of the Whitlam Government. That is why I say that he was not being scrupulously fair. He used the broadcast time to his own ends. I am saying now that I have woken up to what he was doing, as many people have. I refute his statement made on the air last night. He tried to come back to it today. I refer back to some of his other remarks last night. He made a filibustering speech. He said to me by way of interjection -
– I think we should get back to the votes before the Committee. Senator McLaren, you have made your explanation. I would be very pleased if you would discuss the votes.
– That is just what I am coming to. Senator Wright stated that the Bill should be returned to the House of Representatives for some amendment. I interjected:
Have you got the numbers?
Of course we have the numbers whenever we think it is proper to use them.
That was a lot of pie in the sky. He had no intention of using them. The people who read the newspapers today know he did not have the numbers. Pressure was put on him from people higher up not to use the numbers. He was not game to try. He still has the opportunity to use the numbers if he thinks that this Appropriation Bill should be returned to the other place. Before the final vote on this Bill is taken he still has the opportunity to move that it be returned to the House of Representatives. Let us see whether he does it or whether what he said last night was just a lot of nonsense.
I come back to Senator Withers’ answer to my question about the Commonwealth Police. He said that the Commonwealth Police were used for the protection of more than one person. I am well aware of that. I was trying to ascertain from him the number of Commonwealth Police who were being used to protect a particular person, to see whether that person was being overprotected. I say to Senator Withers that large numbers of Commonwealth Police were not required for the protection of past GovernorsGeneral. There should be a break-down of the number of personnel and the man hours worked by the Commonwealth Police to protect the Governor-General since 1 1 November. Then we might be able to find out whether he is being over-protected and whether there is an undue waste of taxpayers’ money. Of course Senator Withers is not prepared to give us those figures. So we must make up our own minds. 1 think the general public has made up its mind about that.
Senator Withers stated that there had been an increase in personnel of 89 for this financial year. I refer to my questions on the estimates for the Commonwealth Police on 16 September. I repeat what Mr Harper said. He said:
Where previously perhaps 2 men were required we took a calculated risk and had only one.
These are his pertinent words:
I recently made a survey of this situation and found that we now need another 80 men in order to catch up on this work which resulted from a lack of overtime and manpower last year.
– I told you that the Commonwealth Police were to get another 89 members.
-You told me that the Commonwealth Police were to get another 89, but Mr Harper did not know that on 16 September. Somewhere another 89 personnel have been found since 16 September as a result of my question, but there is a reduction in the appropriation. How will these members be paid? Senator Withers said that there was less expenditure last year than what has been appropriated for this year, but I point out to Senator Withers that we appropriated an amount of $25m.
– Was that for the Australia Police or for the Commonwealth Police?
– The way I read the appropriation, that was for the Commonwealth Police. For the Commonwealth Police, division 137, sub-division 1, appropriation this year is $22,756,000. Last year the Whitlam Government appropriated $25,261,100. There was a total expenditure of $18,870,216. The Whitlam Government was in office, to be able to expend that money, for only about 5 months.
We could not spend all the money in the first 5 months. Now, apparently as a result of my questioning, Senator Withers says that the Commonwealth Police will get an increase in personnel of 89. That has been since 16 September, because on 16 September Mr Harper was worried because he was 80 personnel short. I want to know how the Government will finance those people. If they could not be financed out of the previous appropriation of $25m, how will the Government fund them and pay them all the entitlements for which the are due, out of an appropriation of $22m? Senator Withers might be able to answer that.
I come now to division 142. 1 have had a question on notice to Senator Withers about a matter under that division. It was in relation to the expenditure allocated for ex-Prime Ministers and their staff. I put to Senator Withers at the meeting of Estimates Committee A on 16 September a question under division 140. I was told that I had to pursue it under division 142, which I did. Senator Withers told me that his answer to my question on notice was about ready to be put down. He told me this on 16 September. I put the question on the notice paper on 3 June of this year, so it has been there for quite a while. On 3 June I asked the Minister for Administrative Services:
On 16 September Senator Withers said that the answer was just about ready to put down. On 4 November the answer still has not been given. We are now debating in the Committee of the Whole the division in the Appropriation Bill which covers the money expended in relation to ex-Prime Ministers. How is a senator expected to explore an over-expenditure if he cannot get an answer to a question that he put on notice on 3 June? I again raised it with Senator Withers on 16 September and I raised it with him again on the Estimates Committees on 5 October under division 142 relating to the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. He again told me the answer was just about ready to put down. To use his own words, he said: ‘I think the answer is almost ready for tabling’. But in his previous answer he said he was not satisfied with the answer he had received and he had to make some adjustments. They must have been very massive adjustments because the question was asked on 16 September, but on 4 November we still do not have an answer. Perhaps Senator Withers could let me have the answer before we finish consideration of the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services so that I can explore the matter further and take the same line of attack as Senator Wright took in alleging that there has been over-expenditure in some areas by the Government. I will not go so far as to do what Senator Wright threatened to do last night and vote to send the Bills back to the House of Representatives. I want to know how much former Prime Ministers are getting and I want answers to all my questions. Perhaps Senator Withers has with him now information which he can give me so that it will be in Hansard.
- Senator Wright has drawn attention to a number of areas of inappropriate expenditure that are of concern. I compliment him on the assistance he has been to those of us who have been concerned about parliamentary scrutiny of expenditure. But I just draw to his attention and the attention of the Committee that the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Public Accounts also has a responsibility in this area. It may be of some interest to honourable senators to know of some of the activities that are taking place in relation to certain matters to which Senator Wright referred. He mentioned computers. I cannot predict what the Public Accounts Committee will do in the future- it is not my place- but it is entirely possible that that could be one of the kinds of inquiries which it will want to undertake. I point out to Senator Wright that the matters to which he referred in the AuditorGeneral’s report are matters which are required to be examined by the Committee of Public Accounts during the next year and the Committee will certainly carry out its duty of examining those matters. It will examine some of them by calling for submissions from departments and some of them by public inquiry.
Specifically Senator Wright drew attention to the Overseas Property Bureau. I remind honourable senators that in the past the Public Accounts Committee has undertaken inquiries in depth into questions of dead rent, to which Senator Wright referred, and has published its findings. It has published reports on the question of delayed payment of debts by departments. Many of the inquiries by the Committee of Public Accounts have led to new Treasury regulations and new procedures. It is a Committee which has an impact upon the procedures of the Government. It may be of interest to honourable senators and of interest to Senator Wright in particular to know that the concern that he feels for the activities of the Overseas Property Bureau is shared by the Committee of Public Accounts to the extent that the Committee is at the moment in the middle of a public inquiry into the entire affairs of the Overseas Property Bureau. This is a public inquiry, open to the Press and open to all members of Parliament. It has already extended over 2 public hearings and it is going very extensively into the very matters that Senator Wright so correctly identified as being of concern to the Parliament and to all members of the Senate.
I merely emphasise the fact that we have operating twin lines of inquiry. We have Senator Wright emphasising the proper role of the Senate Estimates Committees and the proper role of the Parliament. I simply want to set down the fact that there are statutory committees charged specifically with certain tasks which I suppose are moving in parallel. I would say through you, Mr Chairman, to Senator Wright that his concern in relation to some of the matters is not expressed by him alone. There are committees of the Parliament which are very concerned, for example, about the Overseas Property Bureau and which at present are trying to examine in depth by public inquiry what the Bureau is doing and why certain events have taken place. Senator Wright drew attention to some of the more infamous or notorious events which attracted attention to the activities of the Bureau. Like Senator Wright, the Public Accounts Committee is concerned to do its duty to work from the Auditor-General’s report and to examine some of these matters. I emphasise that not only is there a common concern or commonality of interest but also there is in progress at the moment in a number of areas inquiries of the kind for which Senator Wright has called.
– I do not think Senator McLaren was scrupulously fair. I wish to comment on some of his statements last night when speaking on this vote about the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway. He suggested that there was a curtailment of the line in time, standard and finance. I have been very concerned with the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway over very many years as have very many members of the Northern Territory community, with the result that after much persuasion the Liberal and Country Parties, when they were previously in power, initiated the design and planning for a new standard guage railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. It was that Government that did all the initial planning, the designing and the initial funding for this line. If I remember rightly, the initial funding was some $2. 3m. But of course the Australian Labor Party then came into power and there seemed to me and to the people of the Northern Territory to be almost a strange reluctance on the part of Labor to get on with the job. There was lethargy and procrastination which lasted for well over a year. We in the Territory wondered whether Labor was going to pick up the job and continue. There was a strange reluctance. Legislation had to be passed by the Federal Government and the South Australian Government. We wondered why it took the Dunstan Government in South Australia a year to produce legislation to allow for the construction of this line. Because of this procrastination and lethargy we wondered what Dunstan was up to. We thought there must have been some catch to it and that behind the scenes something was going on between him and the Federal Labor Government that was not made public. However, eventually legislation was passed and construction commenced.
asked whether the line was to be curtailed or whether it was to go ahead according to program, and so on. He said that he had had great difficulty in finding out what was going on. I suggest to him that if he wants to find out that there is one way he can do it, as he knows much better than I do, and that is to ask questions. The other day I received an answer from Senator Carrick as Minister representing the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on this matter. I asked various questions. I asked:
The answer was:
The answer was:
(a) A contract has been let for earthworks, including bridges and culverts, for the section from Robin Rise to Marla Bore. Estimated date for completion of these works is November 1977. If the present rate of track laying is maintained trackwork should be approximately 30 km north of Robin Rise by June 1 979.
So there is a clear indication that it is the intention of the Government to ensure that the standard gauge line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs is constructed and financed within that timetable. In the Budget this year is a large amount which is being spent on this Une.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Before I call on Senator Kilgariff to continue his remarks, I would like to point out, having listened to the debate both last night and this morning, that many honourable senators are not dealing in their remarks with the items that are under consideration at the present time. The Chair does not want to inhibit any honourable senator from making a contribution, but in future I shall try to ensure that honourable senators keep their remarks relevant to the line of the estimates under consideration. Senator Kilgariff has been dealing with a subject which is not really concerned with the vote under consideration. Upon an examination of the Appropriation Bill I find that an item concerning surveys is the only matter on the subject raised by Senator Kilgariff that comes under the estimates for which Senator Withers is responsible. So I ask Senator Kilgariff to wind up his remarks and to try to confine them to the vote under consideration. Senator Kilgariff can raise these matters under the Estimates for the Department of Transport or the Department of Construction.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. What I was doing was continuing the debate which occurred last night, the report of which is to be found at page 1580 of Hansard where Senator McLaren went on at length about this matter. Although he had been asked to confine his remarks to the vote under consideration, he was then allowed to continue to talk on this subject. However, I note your advice, Mr Chairman. I shall wind up as quickly as possible. I have often wondered why there was so much time lost by the 2 Labor governments- that is, the Federal Government and the South Australian Labor Government- in going ahead with the construction of that railway line. I can only assume that the reason that a year or more was lost was that something must have been going on behind the scenes between these 2 governments; in other words, that the construction of the railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs was part of a package deal involving the South Australian Government selling its railway system to the Federal Government.
I conclude by referring briefly to the lowering of the standard of construction to be applied to that line. Mr Keith Smith, who is Commissioner for Railways, recently said at a public meeting that the standard of construction of that line would be comparable with any line in Australia. Commissioner Smith was attending a public meeting when he was questioned.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Chairman. When you entered the chamber this afternoon I understood you to say to Senator Kilgariff that the construction of the Tarcoola railway line was a matter that should be dealt with under the estimates for the Department of Transport and that it was not a matter that came under the responsibility of Senator Withers; that the only matter he may refer to under these estimates is surveys. I was referring only to surveys during my remarks yesterday. Senator Kilgariff has again gone against your ruling and is dealing with a matter that comes under the estimates for the Department of Construction, even though you have advised him that he can pursue the matter under those estimates or under the estimates for the Department of Transport.
– I disagree. The honourable senator wants the best of both worlds. Last night he was given the go-ahead to speak on a particular line. When one looks at the Hansard record of his remarks one sees that he went on at considerable length. The only points I have raised this morning are those which refer to the matters raised by Senator McLaren.
– Order! I suggest that Senator Kilgariff take the opportunity at a later hour of the day to refute Senator McLaren’s arguments. I ask the honourable senator to try to conclude his remarks on this point.
– I accept your advice, Mr Chairman. I want to raise certain other matters which are concerned with the subject in relation to which I think Senator McLaren has misled the Senate. I shall do that at a more opportune time.
– I take a point of order, Mr Chairman. I did not mislead the Senate, and I ask that those remarks be withdrawn.
– What words are you asking to be withdrawn?
- Senator Kilgariff has just said that I misled the Senate. He did not say how I had misled it. In my view, I have not misled the Senate at any time and I ask him to withdraw those remarks.
– Speaking on the point of order, I recall that during the debate which took place last night I interjected and said to Senator McLaren:
You are spreading malicious rumours.
Senator McLaren replied:
They may be malicious, but they can be answered.
I suggest that there is plenty of cause for Senator Kilgariff to be concerned about that.
– I do not want to take up the time of the Committee; I think we can be too pedantic about these things. Senator Kilgariff’s statement was that Senator McLaren had misled the Senate. I think that that statement is offensive and should be withdrawn. The position is that Senator McLaren was speaking at all times last night with the approval of the Chair. Then the following day it is claimed that he misled the Senate without any substantiation as to how he misled the Senate. Senator Jessop did not help the matter by using the word ‘malicious’. Rather than create a donnybrook over this question, I suggest that Senator Kilgariff should withdraw the remark because a suggestion that an honourable senator had misled the Senate would be offensive to anyone, especially when I think the consensus is that in fact he did not mislead the Senate.
– Order! There is no point or order involved because no personal reflection has been made. I suggest that Senator McLaren take the opportunity at a later hour of the day to refute the argument.
– I wish to refer to 2 matters briefly. I referred to one of them last night, but it is of such importance that I want to refer to it in the course of the consideration of the vote before the Committee. I refer to the Doomsday Book that the Labor Administration prepared for itself. I recall that $93,000 was expended on that abortive effort. I am anxious to view the Minister’s file so that I can have put on the table of the Senate some assessment of just what has gone on in this regard. I was greatly indebted to Senator Baume this morning for reminding me that the Auditor-General’s report is the subject of continuing scrutiny by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. But it only adds strength to the proposition that all of these efforts of supervision have got to be brought into some channel of effective action because we are getting not only new instances of unexampled waste but also continuous repetition year by year of such instances.
You will remember, Mr Chairman, that a commission was given to an author to complete to the satisfaction of the Australian Information Service a book to publicise Australia. The commission called for the work to be ready by November 1973. The printing contract required delivery by April 1974. The Auditor-General’s report then gives a long, involved explanation by using a mass of words to cover up what should be regarded specifically as an irresponsible decision. The report goes on to explain that all of the delays referred to resulted in the book not being published at the date on which the report was issued, namely, 30 June 1976. It can be seen that there are many aspects of the matter upon which departmental instructions were contravened. Then we have a letter from the Department which seems, almost, to smoothly condone the whole thing. It advises that all work on the book ceased in December 1975 and that formal approval has been given to abandon the project. In effect, that means that formal approval was given to its going into the wastepaper basket. I feel that it is not good enough for us to be asked to vote money for a department that can so calmly and negligently be party to an expenditure of $93,000 to be consigned to the wastepaper basket. I ask you, Mr Minister, to tell the Committee whether you will be prepared to put all the papers relating to the matter on the table of the chamber so that we can form our own judgment, in the light of the fresh air of publicity, on what has been going on.
I wish to make one other reference. On pages 150 to 152 of the Auditor-General’s report there is criticism of the method of accounting of the printing and publishing service. The report states that the position still remains unsatisfactory and that there have been significant delays in the payment of creditors. Further, there have been serious defects in accounting records and control procedures. In reply to those criticisms, the Department acknowledges a serious breakdown in accounting and recording procedures. If the Government is to enter upon business activities of this kind or even if the activities are confined to strictly governmental purposes, I think it is quite unpardonable that somebody should not be dismissed or should not be required to bear an element of responsibility with regard to an unjustifiable situation that can be so generally condemned.
I refer to the Minister’s reply in regard to computer services. He was good enough to read into the record a memorandum from the Chairman of the Public Service Board which ended with a statement claiming that what was disclosed in the memorandum satisfied the requirement of Senate Estimates Committee E of a full and purposeful inquiry into the matter. I made it clear that my request is for that inquiry to come forward with a report of a practical nature not consisting of mere verbiage alone. The Minister said that he doubted whether the reply would add to my information or to my wisdom. Certainly, it will not add to my wisdom, which is my defect. Nor does it add to my information, which is the Minister’s responsibility. That report is just a typical Public Service cover-up. I do not mean that in any sense offensively. It is not designed for that, perhaps. But a businesslike accounting of what the Committee has done would list date, purchase, department, price, use, how it has been written off and whether there is a reasonable judgment that it is required. We would not receive this long string of useless words that mean nothing to us and certainly add nothing to my wisdom, and certainly do not give any information of any value to an intelligent person. So it is not the sort of inquiry, if that is all it is, that our Committee had in mind. I say: Let the inquiry go on for a month. Then let it table a practical report such as I have mentioned showing profit and loss and the total cost that has been incurred by these departments. In the final column it could show whether the Public Service Board considers the expenditure has been justified. Then, we will pass judgment upon the Public Service Board inquiry, however wise or however ill-informed.
– I wish to deal with the computer services of the Department of Administrative Services which is covered by Division 130 subdivision 2.08 in Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ). I was seeking to raise this matter last evening but thought I would wait until Senator Wright again brought up the question. I think that Senator Wright was encouraged in his remarks by the fact that the Auditor-General’s report covered a period when the Labor Government was in power and showed a misuse of public money. Of course, that happens in every Auditor-General’s report regardless of the government in power. If there are mistakes in a department, the report shows them up. Nevertheless, I think Senator Wright was justified in doing what he did. He made a great contribution to the whole question. Where there is waste of money, the Parliament should be concerned. He made reference to the AuditorGeneral’s report today which states that $93,000 was spent on a publication for the purpose of placing it in the wastepaper basket. There is justification for such condemnation regardless of whichever government is in power. Senator Wright asks: Surely we as a Parliament are not asked to pass this vote when there has been such a waste of money. It is our responsibility to examine the matter. I think that we should dwell upon those words. We should not be asked to pass the vote. It was for that purpose that the Estimates Committees were formed. They were formed not only to find out where there is misuse of public money but also to recommend what the Parliament should do. This is the point about which I am concerned: How seriously are we taking the Estimates Committees? Are they just another form of committee of inquiry upon whose recommendations nothing is done? They report to the Parliament and despite the fact that we find there is a misuse of public money, we still pass the appropriations.
Estimates Committee A suggests in its report upon computer services, after it has shown the possibility of wasted expenditure, that the Senate should consider referring the subject of Public Service computer use to one of its legislative and general purpose standing committees for inquiry and report. I do not know the procedure required to refer the matter to such a committee, but I think that when a committee of the Senate has reported accordingly there is a responsibility on government to see that the Estimates Committee’s decision is carried out. It should be carried out. While it can be said that this should be the case on this occasion, it should be the case more so on other occasions where a committee has shown that there is a grave misuse of money or an appropriation of certain money should not have been made or made at a particular period. Senator Wright last evening seemed to justify his assertion that no action should be taken on the Committee’s report insofar as the Australian Labor Party says that we should not interfere with appropriations. Labor has never said that. In 1973 Labor said that it acknowledged the right of the Senate to make requests. It is stated in section S3 of the Constitution. Labor has some doubts, supported by legal opinion, whether the Senate has the right to reject. But it is beyond doubt that Labor accepts that the Senate has no right to take action to dismiss the people’s elected government. Therefore, all the talk that something should be done, then caving in at the last minute and doing nothing about it only illustrates my point that we are treating the Estimates Committees as a joke in not considering their recommendations. When one of these committees makes a recommendation that something be done or reports that there is justification for refusing an appropriation which has been sought and then the members of the committee which brought down a unanimous decision talk but do nothing about it, they cannot expect to have the respect of the people’s representatives in this Parliament.
Although there is speculation that Senator Wright will do nothing about the recommendations in the report of Estimates Committee E, I have sufficient confidence in him to believe that, as the chairman of a responsible committee and because of his loyalty to the Committee, some action will be taken. The point I make is that if we senators have any respect for the committees we establish we should do something about the findings of the committees. Are we going to talk about them and just let them go? If we do not do anything, a government can do whatever it likes.
– Are you suggesting that Senator Wright will not press for the Committee ‘s recommendations?
-No, I am suggesting that he will. It is Senator Douglas McClelland who lacks confidence in Senator Wright. I know that Senator Wright will do so, and I will support him in his agitation that we request the Government of the day to reconsider appropriations which a committee we have established says, following a thorough inquiry with the assistance of departmental heads, the Parliament would not be justified in approving. If it is clear to us that the Parliament is not justified in approving a certain appropriation, are we not hypocrites if we approve the appropriation? Senator Wright is not a hypocrite. He comes out boldly in his statements from time to time, and he will move according to the advice of the Estimates Committee which he chaired on this occasion.
– I would like to reply to a couple of matters before we get away from what we are really talking about. Before lunch Senator McLaren asked a question about the appropriation for the Commonwealth Police Force. .He was having trouble with the figures. My advice is that the amount of $25.26 lm shown in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) as the appropriation for Commonwealth Police salaries and overtime for 1975-76 is misleading. Included in that amount of $25.26 lm are amounts totalling about $6.5m originally provided for expenditure by the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory police forces. Honourable senators will recall that the Labor Government had proposed the establishment of an Australian police force, and that figure was an in globo sum.
As to the breakdown of costs in respect of exPrime Ministers, I am informed that all the figures were done on a calendar year basis and they are being recast on a financial year basis. We expect to table those in the Parliament within 3 weeks. One of the problems was that one exPrime Minister is still a member of the Parliament, and included in his figures was the cost of the staff to which he is entitled as a member of the Parliament. I picked that up as I was looking through the costs. So, the figures have to be recast because it would be most unfair if they showed expenditure as costs involving an exPrime Minister when in fact most of the costs of that ex-Prime Minister are incurred as a private member of the Parliament. I am grateful that
Senator Baume intruded into the debate, because of the information he gave to the Parliament on the work that the Public Accounts Committee is doing.
Senator Wright mentioned the book that never was. I think it was a decision of mine which ceased further expenditure on that book. We hope to salvage out of the wreck some $25,000 of our expenditure on the paper. I was faced with a decision to spend almost as much money again and still having nothing or to cut our losses and get out. The honourable senator asked for the file. I will get it and I will have it tabled.
– Who commenced the book?
-I did not commence the book. It was commenced by my predecessors. I think that will all show up in -
– It is all shown by the dates.
-It is all shown by the dates set out in the report of the AuditorGeneral. As to the comments concerning the accountancy and deficiencies in the Australian Government Publishing Service, I am advised that the procedures have been improved, that training has been given to the staff involved and that action is currently being taken to recruit additional staff for the internal audit section of the Department. So this whole sorry business ought to be straightened out. As to the honourable senator’s remarks on computers, I certainly will draw those remarks to the attention of the Chairman of the Public Service Board and I will ask him to give me a further and better explanation of what the Department is doing.
Senator Cavanagh intruded some remarks into the debate. I am grateful that he did. In attempting to address himself to the subject of computers, he raised a rather interesting problem over the power of the Senate to make requests in respect of money Bills involving the ordinary annual services. I am delighted, as Senator Cavanagh says, that his side of politics believes that that power is there and ought to be used. As I understand the precedents, whenever the Senate has insisted on a request the other place has always given way.
– When were the precedents?
-I think they are all set out in Mr Odgers’ book. I think there are a number of them. If the honourable senator applies to the Clerk he most likely will turn up the precedents for him. Any time that the Senate has put down a request and insisted on it the Government in the other place has given way. I have yet to draw the distinction between the power of the Senate to make a request, which in any other real language is an amendment and the power to put down -
-You can call it a request.
– Section 53 uses both words. It says that the Senate cannot amend but it can request.
-Of course it cannot amend a money Bill, but it is a parliamentary euphemism. It can make a request and if it insists on the request, what in fact happens -
– No, there is a difference.
-If the Senate insists on the request and the request is acceded to, what has the Senate done? Has it requested an amendment to the original Bill or has it amended it? I ask honourable senators to use English in its proper and ordinary sense. The honourable senator now admits that the upper chamber of this Parliament has the right to make a request. If he looks at the precedents he will see that this place has the right to insist upon its requests. I am grateful that the honourable senator has come that far in his reading of the Constitution. If he keeps reading it a little further -
– The Constitution says that the Senate cannot amend a money Bill.
-That is right. It uses the word ‘request’. The Senate can make a request and it can insist upon a request.
– No, it cannot; that is the point.
-That is the interesting dispute, but as I understand the position the Senate can insist upon a request. I know of no constitutional authority, either in the Constitution or in the decisions handed down by the High Court, which says that the Senate can only make a request and that if it is ignored that is the end of the matter. As I recall the precedures between the 2 Houses, if a request comes back to this House the Leader of the Government generally tends to move that the request be not insisted upon. The Clerk is nodding his head. I am grateful that he agrees with my recollection. In my time in this place the Senate has voted ‘no’ when that motion has been put, and the matter has gone back to the House of Representatives.
– It has voted the other way, too.
– Yes, I know. It can go back and forth, and that can go on forever. If the honourable senator is saying that the Senate cannot refuse to pass a Bill which appropriates funds for the ordinary annual services, the Senate can, by the request procedure of sending the Bill back and forth between the Houses, delay its passage for 6 months. I am delighted to see that Senator Cavanagh at last has picked up some part of the Constitution and now recognises that the Senate has the same power as the-House of Representatives over money Bills, except in a couple of little areas.
Mr Chairman, I think I have trespassed on your good nature for too long. I think Senator Cavanagh did so too, and that is no reflection either on you, Mr Chairman, or the honourable senator. I think that if we are to debate this Subject it ought to be debated according to the forms of the Senate and not -
– On 11 November, next week.
-Oh, you wish to remember that day, do you?
-I am delighted, because it was a day for great rejoicing throughout Australia. A sigh of relief went up all round, that at last Australia was back on the right road. But Mr Chairman, I think -
– It is Rent-a-boo now.
-It is Rent-a-boo now, is it? We have had Rent-a-crowd. Mr Chairman, I apologise to you for trespassing by moving off what was before you because, after all, we are supposed in the Committee stages to be discussing the Estimates and not having a wide-ranging debate over the powers of the Senate vis-a-vis the Constitution.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! I ask honourable senators to assist me by pointing out the particular item to which they are referring or the division to which they are speaking when they rise.
-I resist the temptation to take up the remarks of Senator Withers. I trust that he will give us an opportunity to debate his stance. I refer to Division 143 which appears on page 22. 1 refer to the expenditure for leaders of the Opposition and parliamentary parties, deputy leaders of the Opposition and Whips. I direct the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to the fact that Whips are mentioned in the heading. I ask him to consider a change in what is becoming a practice- 2 governments have done so- of allocating a pool of staff to the Opposition without indicating exactly where that staff is to be placed. This practice led to grave anomalies during the period that the present Government members were in opposition and has led to a similar anomaly and injustice now that we are in Opposition. I suggest that the Minister should look carefully at denning establishment staff rather than allowing the leader of an Opposition Party the right to allocate such staff. I do not want to go any more deeply into the matter except to bring it to the Minister’s attention. Within the Opposition Party we are taking steps to correct the anomalies. However, a precedent has been created which has led to members of staff doing the same amount of work, the same type of work and accepting the same type of responsibilities being paid at different rates. I do not think anyone intended that that should occur.
– I want to reply to the answer that Senator Withers gave me in relation to my question on Division 142 in relation to the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. I am disappointed that I will have to wait at least another 3 weeks to get figures as to the costs to the taxpayers in providing travel and other facilities for ex-members of Parliament. I am reinforced in my pursuit of these figures by what Senator Wright had to say, that now that the Government has a majority in the Senate it will exercise more vigilance over expenditure which may be wasteful and extravagant. If we had those figures Senator Wright might be saying a lot more about extravagance and wasteful expenditure if he saw what it was costing to convey ex-Prime Ministers around this country and to keep establishments for them to work in. That is why I am disappointed that I have to wait at least another 3 weeks. The opportunity to pursue the matter under the Appropriation Bills will then be gone and the only opportunity probably that will come up to highlight the costs of the ex-Prime Ministers will be on the first reading of a money Bill or in the adjournment debate late at night. Of course if I have to use that method, I intend to do so.
-In direct reply to that, Senator McLaren might care to look at page 23 of the Estimates that we are considering where it shows that the Prime Minister of 1975 took $226,601 to get himself abroad and the Prime Minister of 1976 was content with $30,189.
-Mr Chairman, I thought I had shown a bit of patience in this debate in that I spoke for only a quarter of an hour last night.
– I take it you are referring -
– I am speaking to the item to which Senator Wright has just alluded, Division 144, the visits abroad of Ministers and Prime Ministers. He referred to some figure of $226,000 spent by the former Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) compared with $30,000. I suggest that Senator Wright has displayed through his ignorance that he obviously has not read the Hansard report of the Senate Estimates Committee hearing. If Senator Wright had read that he would know why there is such a disparity in the figures. The simple reason is that if a Prime Minister goes abroad and charters an aeroplane, those travelling on that charter flight have the cost of their travel charged to the cost of that charter, whereas if a Prime Minister chooses to go abroad by commercial aircraft and takes a number of people with him the cost of travel of those people does not become a charge against the Prime Minister’s Department but a charge against the departments of those officers who are travelling with him. Therefore, in simple language there can be no comparison at all between the costs of the visits overseas. If Senator Wright would read the Senate Estimates Committee proceedings he would see that that is the reason for what appears to be a vast difference in costs- something that our political opponents have been plaguing the electorate with for some 2’/i years. This is something they got away with for a long long time, but it is something they will get away with no longer.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) ‘ (2.52)- I rise to speak still in relation to item 130 dealing with computers and the recognition of the Committee. I feel that I must reply to Senator Withers because rather than give information on the Estimates he saw fit to try to explain what he thought we would do and how we had changed attitudes. I am reminded of someone asking for a withdrawal of a statement about an honourable senator misleading the Senate so I had better not use a similar statement, but it was more than coincidental that comrade- Senator- Withers, with his knowledge -
-‘ Comrade’ is a term of endearment that I generally use to my friends. Despite Senator Wither ‘s knowledge and his training in law he has tried to say that making a request is the same as making an amendment. If the provision can be interpreted giving words their ordinary use, obviously the draftsmen of the Constitution had a meaning for ‘amendment’ different from their meaning for ‘request’, because section 53 of the Constitution states:
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys-
Therefore it can never be suggested that Labor claimed that the Senate could amend such a law. Section 53 also states:
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend-
It may not amend - requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions-
Therefore as much as the Senate can do is request. I do not know about the power of insisting. The draftsmen used the words ‘request’ and amend’ in the one sentence and obviously they were distinguishing the meaning of the words. I said that Labor does not accept that the true legal interpretation of section 53 gives the Senate also the power to reject a Bill for the ordinary annual appropriation of money. But whether that is so or not, Labor fought the last election on the issue that the Senate, a State House, has no right to take action to dismiss a people ‘s elected government. Last November it was not a case of amendment, rejection or referral; it was simply a question of delay until the Senate got someone else to act to dismiss the Government. I enter into this debate not so much to enter into a political argument but to support Senator Wright’s statement that something should be done. We acknowledge the importance of Senate Estimates Committees but we have reached the stage today where Estimates Committees are appointed, public servants attend to give advice, and no matter what they say, the Government goes on in its own wilful way. At last Senator Wright and his committee have come out with a report and I am confident that something will be done about the situation.
– Listening to this debate-
– To which line are you referring?
– I am referring to the matter on which Senator Cavanagh was speaking. Because he has a clear, analytical mind I was surprised to hear him say that the Senate had no power to reject a Supply Bill. It is rather amazing that he should say that, because his own leader,
Mr Whitlam, when Leader of the Opposition, clearly stated -
– I rise on a point of order. I must assist you, Mr Chairman, in this difficult situation by raising this point of order. We are now going well into a debate on the rights and wrongs of what occurred last year. I am certain that your earlier ruling was made to prevent what is happening at the moment.
– There has been no contravention of Standing Orders. It has been an old practice to use the provision for the administration of a department in order to make second reading speeches. I have been trying to avoid that happening this afternoon and I have asked honourable senators to pinpoint the particular lines of expenditure to which they are referring. The Chair is in the hands of the Committee. If the Committee wants to have second reading speeches made for the rest of the afternoon honourable senators may continue making such speeches on the Administration provision.
– I am talking about the Department of Administrative Services. In reply to what Senator Cavanagh said, I recall to his mind that the leader of his own party, Mr Whitlam, stated as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives that the Opposition would vote against the Government on a Supply Bill, that if it did not win there it would vote against it in the Senate and that if it were defeated in the Senate- he thought that Labor would have the support of the Democratic Labor Party on that occasion because of criticism that it had offeredthe Government would be forced to resign. Not one member of the Labor Party objected to that statement at the time. In this chamber Senator Murphy, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, also supported that -
– I rise to order, Mr Chairman. Is this matter related to division 130 to which I was referring?
- Senator Cavanagh used division 130 to raise the matter, and that has been the practice over the years. Senator Wood is speaking on the same division.
– No point of order was taken on Senator Cavanagh or on Senator Withers. I took a point of order on Senator Wood. At that stage I hoped that you would have brought them back to the subject matter under discussion. If this is going to be the procedure for the rest of the day I agree with you; we could go for three or four days on this matter.
– I think that I ought to give the Senate a couple of pieces of information. Senator Georges raised a matter concerning staff. I only pay the staff; the establishments and numbers are set by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). However, I will draw the honourable senator’s remarks and suggestions to the attention of the Prime Minister. I think that Senator McLaren made a valid point but I overlooked the fact that there are 2 ex-Prime Ministers in the other place. I do not know how one would sort out how much Mr Whitlam receives as ex-Prime Minister and how much as Leader of the Opposition. I think that, in fairness, that ought to be properly calculated and put down. I am trying to be fair. I am not trying to hide the figures. I have a series of figures which, if they had been put down, would have meant that some people would have been treated unjustly. I would not want that to happen.
Senator Douglas McClelland raised a matter concerning costs of Prime Ministers and staff. This is a very interesting question. I will have a look to see whether some dissection can be made so that we can compare the costs of staff travelling commercially with the costs of staff travelling with Prime Ministers in chartered aircraft. If that information is obtainable a more equal comparison may be able to be made than just on the raw figures. I will seek to obtain that information.
– In view of the undertaking given by Senator Withers to obtain a comparison of the costs of Prime Ministers I ask him whether he would also obtain a comparison of the costs of all Ministers and their families who travel with them. A very startling revelation was made in the Sydney Morning Herald of 22 October. It claimed that the costs of the present Prime Minister and Ministers on overseas trips amount to $430,000. It lists all the trips. I think it would be very helpful if we could obtain an official record.
– I will try to obtain all of them for Senator McLaren.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditures- Rent (Defence), $29,300,000; Acquisition of Sites and Buildings (Defence), $4,966,000-passed
Proposed expenditure, $13,229,000.
– I refer to division 101- Senate, item 1- Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary. I would like to expand on what I was saying last night with respect to the role of the Senate Estimates Committees. A lot of evidence was given during the hearings of the Estimates Committees of unwarranted expenditure. I think that Senator Wright has brought out this situation quite clearly. The particular matter to which I was referring last night was support for the idea of expanding the Senate Estimates Committees to enable them to exert a continuing oversight on such departmental expenditures. Earlier Senator Baume quite properly remarked on the role of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts which is a committee set up to deal with the AuditorGeneral’s report. Of course, that is dealing with history. I agree with Senator Wright who pointed out that irregularities have persisted over many years without any attempt to correct them.
My view is that the Senate Estimates Committees should be staffed properly in order to expand their activities. I do not think that it would be a very expensive operation. I suggest that perhaps a class 10 officer could be placed in charge of each of the Estimates Committees. Perhaps there could be a pool of two or three class 7 research officers and a stenography pool to service them. In my view, this would enable the Estimates Committees to be alerted on a continuing basis to expenditure that seemed to be out of order. At the request of the Committee concerned, then departments could be called when necessary to explain the nature of their expenditures on a continuing basis. I think it is worth noting that, when the Estimates Committees were first established in 1970, despite the recommendation from the Senate Standing Orders Committee at that time that these committees should not be set up, they were set up. The Senate then rejected the idea that the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees should examine annual Estimates. I think it was quite clear at that time and it ought to be quite clear now that the basic function of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees is to look at existing and proposed policies and policy matters.
I noted last night that Senator Sim, the Chairman of Estimates Committee A, supported the views expressed by Estimates Committee F when it made this recommendation. But he suggested that perhaps as an interim proposition the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees should be required to look at Estimates or particular details of Estimates from time to time. Knowing the workload of the Committee of which I have the honour of being Chairmanthe Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment- I feel that those Committees would not have any time in which to deal with these important matters. I am just reinforcing what I said last night and I ask the Minister for Administrative Services to give my remarks serious consideration. I think it could be carried out with relatively few additional staff and little more expense. It could save the Government millions of dollars annually.
– I have no ministerial responsibility for committees. They are committees of the Parliament and not of the Executive. As Leader of the Government in this place, I have read with interest what was said last night and have listened with interest to what has been said today. I know there are a number of honourable senators who have ideas as to how to strengthen and widen the work of Estimates Committees. Should they have propositions to put forward, I am always receptive to the idea of strengthening the committee system within the Parliament.
-Taking up what has been said in this chamber to quite some extent about the Estimates Committees and what Senator Withers has just said, I should like to join with those who have indicated that there is a great deal of room for further development in relation to the Estimates Committees and their procedures. It is something which needs to be done but done properly. It needs to be considered fully. I think it would be helpful if we could have some specific propositions. As the Chairman of Estimates Committee F, when I brought in the Committee’s report a few days ago, I made some reference to the recommendations of that Committee. To spell them out in a little more detail, I should like to read to the Senate this afternoon the terms of a motion which could be considered by the Senate as being a way in which we could take the matter a stage further in adopting some of the recommendations made by Estimates Committee F. The motion which could be considered reads:
That after considering the Report of Estimates Committee F, the Committee of the Senate is of the opinion-
1 ) That the effectiveness and scrutiny function of Estimates Committees could be enhanced by:
providing Estimates Committees with both a full time function and some full time staff;
empowering Estimates Committees, in addition to their examination of the annual Appropriation
Bills, to engage in a total and continuing examination of Special Appropriations referred to them by the Senate.
empowering Estimates Committees to maintain a total and continuing examination of Government funded authorities which are not Departments of State.
That the Resolution of the Senate of 28 April 1976 appointing the Estimates Committees should be so varied.
That is one way in which the Senate could take this issue a stage further. The major points which Estimates Committee F was making in adopting the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System were that there is a need for some continuous role for Estimates Committees and that they have to be supported by some staff, and that the Committees’ role has to be expanded so that the area of special appropriations which constitutes about 60 per cent of the total Commonwealth expenditure comes within the purview of the Estimates Committees. At the moment that does not happen. So we have a situation at the moment whereby of the total Budget far less than SO per cent is scrutinised in any way by the Senate Estimates Committees.
Members of this chamber have expressed their concern many times about the extent to which statutory corporations are virtually not answerable to the Parliament. Some of them are, but many of them are not. Many of them are not examined by anybody except for audit purposes. Whilst audit examination is important it is not the only type of examination which ought to be fulfilled on behalf of the public. I think the type of examination which goes into some sort of questioning of cost benefit and some son of questioning of the application and implementation of policy is desirable. This is one of the things which certainly the expanded role of the Estimates Committees would make possible. So I should just like to adopt the remarks which have been made by those who have been supporting some changed role for the Estimates Committees and suggest that they give consideration to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System and the recommendations of Estimates Committee F in its recent report. They may also like to give some further thought to the type of motion I have outlined here this afternoon.
– I am very interested in the suggestions that Senator Rae has put forward. I am certainly not averse to the ideas that he has. It may be a bit early to move a motion at this stage, because all honourable senators would want a deal of notice to think about it. Senator Rae raised some very interesting propositions, especially those concerning statutory corporations. As we know, they can be divided into different classes. First, there are those that generate their own funds; secondly, there are those that operate partly with their own funds and partly out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund; and thirdly, there are those that totally depend upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Because there are 3 categories, I think there may need to be different approaches in different areas. The honourable senator has opened up a very broad question. On behalf of the Government or myself anyhow, I indicate that I shall certainly give great consideration to the matters raised by Senator Rae and Senator Jessop this afternoon. In the broad the matter has my general support.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $83,429,000.
– I wish to refer to Division 5 10- Australia Council, and Division 515- Auditor-General’s Office. I shall deal with Division 5 10 first. Let me say just briefly by way of introduction that I agree with what Senator Rae has said and also with what the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) added concerning the need to supervise statutory corporations. Here is a line of expenditure of $22,900,000. It is a sum made up entirely of public moneys. This statutory corporation comes within the third category mentioned by the Minister for Administrative Services. It depends entirely on the Government or the taxpayers for support. One would expect that such a corporation would take extreme care to ensure that there was no extravagance or misuse of public moneys, bearing in mind that such a misuse could lead to a reduction by government in the amounts made available for the purposes for which the corporation was set up. In this case, the corporation is the Australia Council. All the investigations, the Auditor-General’s reports and the qualifications that have been expressed in various reports tend to bring not only the corporation but also its program into disrepute. The comments that I make are not destructive. I am not about to propose that because of continuing errors on the part of the Australia Council it ought to be disbanded. But nothing would lead more rapidly to a disbandment than the Australia Council continuing its present practices.
The Australia Council has been under investigation by several bodies. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts is one, the Industries Assistance Commission is another and the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts has before it a reference concerning the Australia Council. During the period that I was Chairman of that Committee, information started to flow to the Committee which caused it to question the methods of the Australia Council. I wish to raise now specific matters which I was not able to raise at the time the Senate was debating the Australia Council Amendment Bill. The Minister will recall that that Bill was brought into this chamber on the Thursday of the last week of sitting. The Government required that Bill to be passed because certain moneys had to be made available to various organisations. No one on this side of the chamber wanted to prevent the flow of money to programs which were being held up. Even Senator Davidson objected strongly to the fact that insufficient time was given to debate the Bill. I also made a rather hurried contribution at that time. Some comments that I made may have indicated that I was being malicious. I have given some thought to that possibility. I think it is in the interest of the public and the Senate that I deal in more detail with the matters I raised at that time.
I agree with Senator Wright that, if there is an area of concern within the Estimates or if there is some question concerning the amount of money allocated, the Senate has a right to refer the Bill back to the House of Representatives with a request that it look again at the particular allocation. I do not go further along the Une and agree with Senator Withers ‘ suggestion that once the request has been considered by the House of Representatives and sent back to the Senate we should persist with the request. The Opposition will take up that matter at another stage. The first question I ask is whether the amount of $22,900,000 was arrived at as a budgetary allocation without consideration being given to the surpluses which had accrued and which had not been expended by the Australia Council. Is it a fact that before this allocation was made and before the Estimates were considered a single cheque for $1,500,000 was signed by the officers of the Australia Council and deposited with the Bank of New South Wales? I think it was the North Sydney branch. I would like to know who authorised the transfer, why it was authorised and whether some members of staff objected to the signing of that cheque and the transfer of that money. Was that accrued surplus, if it did exist, taken into consideration when the amount of $22,900,000 was arrived at?
This is an area in which I agree very strongly with Senator Wright. I was not at the hearings of Estimates Committee A. Perhaps I should have been. But the new responsibilities I have as Opposition Whip- some people say they have gone to my head- have given me a considerable amount of extra work and it is not possible for me to participate on committees or even to remain on the committee in which I was interested, the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. A question which needs to be answered is: Has this statutory corporation accumulated reserves and has it deposited those reserves in such a way that it earns itself an income? To my mind, that would mean that the program of the Australia Council had not been carried out properly during the year of the previous allocation. In any case, as certain restraints were required by the Government it was absolutely necessary for the Government, when it was making the allocation for the coming year, to know exactly why the money was transferred. If there is any question as to the legality of the transfer, the matter ought to be properly investigated by the Minister, who is responsible in an indirect way for the Australia Council.
The next point that needs to be raised- I raised it previously- is why there should be such a high level of administrative costs in the distribution of $22m. I think the amount for administration costs in 1975-76 was about $3.43m, or 15 per cent of the total allocation. I ask the Minister whether these figures are correct. We are told that there is a staff level of 140 to 146 people and that that staff needs administrative support of between $3m and $4m. Is it correct that the head of the statutory organisation receives a salary of $33,000, and is that figure justified? Below the chief administrator there are 2 deputy executive officers. One is concerned with finance and the level of his salary is $25,481. The other deputy executive officer is concerned with policy. I believe that the position is at present suitably vacant. The salary is $25,48 1. There is a director of research at a salary of $23,246. There is a director of arts information with a salary range of $19,000 to $20,000. Is there a director of community arts? Is his salary $25,098? Is there a principal project officer at a salary rate of $ 1 9,946? Is there a senior council consultant at a rate of $19,146? This is the administrative set-up to distribute $20m. Is there a director of administration at $19,1 46? Apparently the senior council consultant runs the Melbourne office. There is also a director of administration, I believe- I hope it will be verified- a class 2 officer at $19,146. Is there a chief finance officer at $16,580? Are there 6 class 8 officers who are closely associated with the administrative head, at a rate of $15,297? Are there 6 directors of the Board, with a two to 3-year contract, at a level of $25,098? I ask the Minister to verify these positions and levels of remuneration established for a statutory corporation. It has not been revealed anywhere that these are the levels of remuneration.
I think it is necessary for us to express some concern that this organisation should have been set up in such a way as to take up substantially the moneys that should be made available for the development of the arts throughout Australia. These are matters which need consideration. Of the 140 officers I think there are some 40 officers who are at a high level of remuneration- 40 administrative officers out of 140 officers. With these high level appointments there is a high level of associated expenditure. This is where the Senate ought to be carrying out further investigations. Again I agree with Senator Rae that the Estimates committees should continue beyond the short period for which we have given them responsibility and should be able to take up matters such as the one which I am raising now. Let me ask the Committee whether there is justification for these senior executive officers engaging in extravagant exercises at the expense of the public purse. Is it acceptable that these administrative officers should have access to funds in support of their operation, to an almost unlimited extent, without proper supervision? I see that my time has nearly expired. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to continue my remarks if no other honourable senator wishes to speak.
-I rise simply to give Senator Georges the opportunity to continue.
-I thank Senator Wright. His concern is the same as mine. I say to the Committee that there is no malice intended against any person. There may be some heavy criticism of the administrative behaviour. I hesitate to indicate that in one way there has been an extravagance that is not supportable. Over a period the Australia Council has carried out a very substantial lobby of important people in the community and a substantial lobby of important members of this Parliament, of all parties and of both governments. It is not acceptable to me. While I was Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, and we had before us the Australia Council reference, messages were coming in an indirect way to me that we should not carry on with the investigation, that the Australia Council had been subjected to too much investigation and that it had so many inquiries to answer that its normal work was being interfered with. I resented strongly that this sort of indirect pressure should be applied. I objected strongly to the administrator of the Council telephoning the Secretary of the Committee and suggesting that our investigations should be delayed. There was never any direct contact with me because, at the various Estimates committee meetings over the years, I locked horns with the Australia Council on matters of administration, disputes and personality clashes among members of the Council. I suppose I would be the last one to be approached directly about this reference. I, and many other senators, would strongly object to being so pressured. I imagine that the present Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts would also strongly object to being misused.
The administrators of the Australia Council have been guilty of patronage of an exceptionally high level. They have patronised important people. We, as a parliament, must accept the responsibility for setting up the Australia Council. Perhaps we were not aware of the type of organisation that was being set up and the misuse that there would be of such an organisation. Could I illustrate how I believe one member of this Senate was misused by the administrator of the Australia Council? Let me give an example of the type of patronage of which the Australia Council has been guilty. Recently there was an opera series starring Joan Sutherland. There were 10 performances at the Sydney Opera House. The Australia Council purchased 8 tickets for each of the 10 performances. The cost of the tickets ranged from $25 to $45. The cost to the Council was $2,986 for the tickets alone. This is for only one series of performances.
– Who used the tickets?
-This is the interesting part. I will name the people who used the tickets. I have only one list. There may be other lists for other performances. There may be other people on those lists. There may be members of my Party on those lists. On the list which I have there are no members of my Party. It is incidental that I have only one list for the one series of performances. The tickets cost $2,986. After the performance the people who used the tickets were entertained at the Australia Club. The Australia Club is a very select club in Sydney.
– I would not say that. Do not praise it too much.
– In Sydney it is a select club. The Australia Club No. 1 is especially select. One would question the standards of the Australia Club No. 2. Let me not be diverted. When I give these names, realise that they are merely incidental. Other lists may include other names. It is important for the sake of this exercise to realise that not only were tickets bought and people entertained at an opera but they were subsequently entertained at the Australia Club. The cost of that entertainment was a charge against the Australia Council, against the taxpayer. On 26 July the Bill for entertainment at the Australia Club was $101.05. The people who were entertained were Dr and Mr Battersby, Mr Mrs Michael Baume, Mr and Mrs Brooks Wilson and Mr and Mrs Pysden. Before I go any further let me make it clear that I do not think the people who were invited realised just how the entertainment was being paid for. On 3 1 July the Bill was for $78.26. Again the Battersbys were present together with Mr and Mrs John Howard, Mr and Mrs John Hunter and Dr and Mrs H. Bower. On 6 August the amount was $83.76. In attendance were the Battersbys again, Mrs Elizabeth Jeffrey, Mrs John Antwill Dr F. Hoess Mr Tom Hughes, Miss Dita Colvin Senator Gordon Davidson and Miss Patsy Zeppell. Again I say I do not think Senator Davidson was aware of what was going on. I want to make this point clear at this stage: Senator Davidson was misused in this way. If I wanted to be scurrilous about it I would remind Senator Davidson that he was entertained in this way on 6 August 1976. On 25 August in this chamber- I made some comments at the timeannounced that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, of which he is Chairman, was not proceeding with its Australia Council reference. I apologise to Senator Davidson if he thinks there is some reflection upon his behaviour. All I am saying is that the administrator of the Australia Council is the most expert lobbyist in the business.
-Who is that?
-Senator Wood knows as well as I do who the administrator of the Australia Council happens to be. Let me proceed. On 13 August the amount of entertainment was $95.91. The Battersbys were present again, together with Professor Don Gibson, Mrs Roseta Young, Mr and Mrs Dircks-Dilly and Sir William and Lady Pettingell. On 13 August the amount for supper was $75.25. Again the Battersbys were there along with Dr Kevin Starr, Mr and Mrs Harry Seidler, Mrs Bronwyn Thomas, Mrs Karin Lemercier and Mr and Mrs Craig Boaden. On 28 August the amount was $62.10. In attendance were the Battersbys, Dr and Mrs Tom Farrel Dr and Mrs Max Lake, Mr and Mrs Michael Griggs. The total claim on the Australia Council for food and wine was $495.73. Gratuity and surcharge- I take it that was for tips- came to $49.63. Parking was 60c. The total claim was $545.96. Senator Withers may laugh at it, but he knows what is happening. We set up a statutory corporation to fulfil what we considered a need in the Australian community, and nothing is more directed to this need than the Australia Council and the $22m which the Government had made available. What drives my adrenalin is that people misuse the moneys which are made available and bring the whole program into disrepute.
– These people are the cultural leaders of Sydney.
-They may be the cultural leaders of Sydney. It seems to me that we have set up a patronage equal to that established by the early Italian princes. This is the scene in New South Wales. I very much doubt that the people who were invited by the Australia Council to entertainment of this sort at this level of expense were aware that the taxpayers were paying for it. This is part of the subtle lobby that I have been speaking of to get the Parliament to continue to support the Australia Council at the level at which it is operating and in the manner in which it is operating. The lobby is directed to both sides of the Parliament. The need for the Government to look carefully at what has been going on and what continues to go on within the Australia Council is urgent. I believe that Professor Karmel, who is the Chairman of the Australia Council, should be made clearly aware of the concern of the Senate. When Senator Davidson announced that the Australia Council reference to his Committee would not be proceeded with I made some comments. It is to my regret that the reference is still not before that Committee because there are other areas of error.
Perhaps I can ask the Minister to look at the travel vote within the Australia Council, because my information is that in 1975-76 the Council met with severe difficulties regarding travel expenses. Apparently it had spent more than the vote. Meetings in other States, appointments and visits to country areas were cancelled. Severe restrictions were imposed on staff, board and all members. This bears out what I was saying. The extravagances of the administrators led to curtailment of the program. These restrictions greatly hampered the practical aspects of the Council’s support for the arts in the distant
States, in country areas and small towns and organisations. The trouble could not have been caused by the middle or lower grade staff personnel, most of whom cannot afford to travel or to be away from home. The same cannot be said of some senior officers, whose travel expenses for 1975-76 would be well worth examining. Perhaps an examination of the total spent on travel fares, travel allowances, and taxis and cars- I am talking about inside Australia; I have not gone outside Australia, and I do not intend to because I think I have given the lead- of all officers and consultants above the rank of Division 3, Class 8, would be interesting, particularly the amounts spent by the Chief Executive Officer, the consultant R. Bower and the consultant C. Buttrose. Both of them are now class 2 officers. Officially I am asking for a breakdown of their costs for travel fares, travel allowances, and taxis and cars inside Australia and not particularly overseas, although those figures would be interesting. I do not wish to go further, except to say that there is still deep unrest within the Australia Council, and deep concern by the staff in the Australia Council and by the organisation, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, which covers them.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– After the speech by Senator Georges I think I should give what information I have. With regard to the last question asked, we do not have the information but we will obtain it. I shall get that information for the honourable senator at the earliest possible date. As a result of what Senator Georges said approximately a week ago I have here a very long telex which takes up the various points he raised. I shall deal, firstly, with the investment of surplus funds. The investment of $ 1.5 m by the Australia Council could not be regarded as a relevant factor in the preparation of the 1976-77 estimates.
– Who sent that?
-That is from Dr Jean Battersby. During the 1975-76 financial year and after legal advice from the Council’s lawyers, surplus funds were deposited on call at the Commonwealth Trading Bank, North Sydney. The details are as follows: On 5 March 1976 Sim was deposited for 2 months at the rate of 7.3 per cent, and it earned $12,166. On 5 March 1976 $500,000 was deposited for 3 months at 7.6 per cent interest, and that earned $9,500. On 2 April 1976 another $500,000 was deposited for 31 days- Senator Georges did not know about that one- at an interest rate of 7.55 per cent, and that earned $3,206. In all, the investments earned $24,872. The interest earned was included in the Council’s balance sheet at 30 June 1976. Cash at bank and on hand at the Commonwealth Trading Bank at 30 June 1976 amounted to $296,224. That amount covered creditors, accrued expenditure and grants approved but not paid at 30 June 1976 from the 1975-76 appropriation. I think that is reasonably sensible. In the 1976-77 Budget administrative expenditures of $3.3m represent 14.4 per cent of the total Budget of $22.9m.
– That is close enough to 15 per cent, I suppose.
-We have got to be accurate. I come now to staffing. I think we are all in the wrong place. The approved ceiling at 30 June 1976 was 150 staff and the new ceiling of 130 is to be achieved by 30 June 1977. 1 turn now to the staff analysis, which is the information that Senator Georges would like. The position of general manager has been advertised but not yet filled. That position is at level 5 of the Second Division for which I understand the salary is $32, 1 80 per annum. There is one level 1 officer on $23,246; one level 2 officer on $25,481; and one level 3 officer on $27,716. There are 8 people on the Board of Directors receiving between $22,898 and $25,098. That makes a total of 1 1 second division officers. I do not quite relate those positions to the various people; I am just giving the staff analysis. So there are 12 people on the Australia Council who are receiving a salary greater than any honourable senator, if that is of any interest.
– It must be a hard job.
-That is right. I come now to deal with Third Division officers who are clerical and administrative officers. There are four class 11 officers earning between $19,146 and $19,787; one class 9 officer earning between $16,580 and $17,217; fifteen class 8 officers earning between $ 15,297 and $ 15,939; four class 7 officers earning between $13,791 and $14,653; thirty-four class 6 officers earning between $12,505 and $13,365; two class 5 officers earning between $11,220 and $12,181; twelve class 4 officers earning between $9,936 and $10,898; and four class 2/3 officers earning between $8,501 and $9,615. In addition there is a senior research officer grade 2 whose salary range is between $12,505 and $13,365; one library officer grade 1 earning between $8,070 and $8,935; and 3 project officers whose salary range is from $15,254 and $15,776. That makes a total of 81 officers in the Third Division. The poor old Fourth Division has just 45 officers without rank or grades or salary ranges provided. There are 9 part-time staff. The total staff is 146 officers. I have a further note here which says that the annual rental estimate for the Australia Council for 1976-77 is $332,000, and that is comprised of $303,000 in Sydney, $3,800 in Canberra and $25,200 in Melbourne.
I am further advised as to some of the other matters which have been raised. Since the reception of the McKinsey report and the new Act which has come into force, certain Treasury procedures have been instituted which it is anticipated will not give rise to as much criticism as has arisen in the past.
– I want to refer in some respects to one or two of the matters raised by Senator Georges and I want to make a point similar to that just made by Senator Withers. I am speaking to subdivision 1 of division 510, Australia Council. Also I would like to draw the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to the fact that there were some shortcomings in the explanatory notes provided by the Australia Council to Estimates Committee A. I hope and I am confident that that problem will be overcome in the future, because it is essential that the Australia Council presents those notes effectively and thereby can be represented effectively before the Estimates Committees. The Australia Council is an essential element, and one of the most vital elements in the promotion and development of Australian art and culture. It deserves strong support, but to evoke that support it is essential that its explanatory notes and the material presented to the Estimates committees are substantial and adequate. There were some problems which I will not go into concerned with the explanatory notes presented this year. I am sure that those people concerned are aware of the difficulty and that action will be taken to overcome it.
In that regard I wish to refer to subdivision 1 which deals with travelling and subsistence and to which I think Senator Georges referred. There was a problem in relation to the explanation given on that expenditure. I sought further information in an attempt to get a more detailed explanation. That information has now been provided. I must say that after reading it I still found it difficult to pin down the answer to the question I had asked. My question concerned the fact that there had been a reduction of about 80 per cent in committees involved in that appropriation but a reduction in expenditure of only about 17 per cent. Having looked over the notes carefully, I think it is reasonably clear that these comprise only a relatively small part of the expenditure under that item. I raise that point simply to emphasise that it is important that when Estimates Committees are dealing with these subjects the explanatory notes and the material presented are sufficiently comprehensive so that honourable senators examining these matters can do so effectively, and that subsequent material, if it is requested, also is presented in a form which anwers adequately the questions raised.
I go on from there to take up the point I mentioned earlier, and that is the importance of the Australian Council and therefore the importance of effective presentation to the Senate and to the Parliament of its work. I refer in particular to the Aboriginal Arts Board. During the hearing of Estimates Committee A I asked about the general approach of the Australia Council, and that Board in particular, to the promotion and development of Aboriginal arts. The result was that a note, longer than the earlier one, was provided. I think it is a very important note. I hope that it will be widely read amongst Australians, because I think it gives a clear picture of the significance of Aboriginal art and the promotion of it in this country. I note that the Australia Council or the Aboriginal Arts Board, whichever was responsible for preparing this note, suggests that the Board had brought about a renaissance in Aboriginal arts. I know that the Board has done a great deal of valuable work; work which I think needs to be continued and supported. The note makes this point:
The continued exposure, both in Australia and overseas, of Aboriginal art in all its manifestations is dependent upon the continued support and development of traditional cultural activities in North and Central Australia.
It also points out that the next five to ten years are critical for the survival of Aboriginal art in Australia. That point in particular again emphasises the importance of the activities of this Board and of the Council as a whole. It also makes the important point- again emphasising the role of the Council and of its boards, and of this Board in particular- that the budget of the Aboriginal Arts Board represents almost the entire patronage of Aboriginal arts by the Australian community. I am not sure what percentage of support to Aboriginal art comes from the Australia Council and through this Board, but obviously it is very substantial. Obviously it is a very high proportion of the total. That again emphasises the importance of the work of the Board and of the Council.
I make that point because I think it is important to bring that work to the notice of the Committee of the Whole, the Parliament and the community. But I make it for another reason, and that is that when Senate Estimates Committees are examining the work of the Australia Council and the work of its boards, particularly very important boards such as the Aboriginal Arts Board, it is essential that the material be presented in a comprehensive form and that the explanatory notes be sufficient to give those examining them a full picture of what is happening and the reasons for it, and thereby enable the Estimates Committee to deal promptly with them.
– I had asked the Minister the question: Is he satisfied with the explanation given by Dr Battersby?
– I did not ask for one; you did.
– I am not satisfied. I think there was an endeavour to correct the figures I had. I was giving round figures; the percentages were slightly out. But in principle what I was saying is correct. We are faced with the rather awkward problem of how we can justify the Australia Council if it is to be administered and structured so expensively.
– Used to be.
– It still is. I am not pushing responsibility entirely on to the Minister, although one could be tempted to do so; but there are no politics in this matter, if I may say so. I think the Minister will have to do some heavy thinking. In any case, the Council is created now and it will be very difficult to alter the structure which has been set up, I take it with the consent of the Public Service Board. If I were the head of a department with 1500 employees I would be looking at the Australia Council and saying to the Public Service Board: ‘If that is the level of salary for administering 146 employees and distributing $22m, you should have another look at if.
– Thanks for that argument; I will need it.
– If this is going to happen, the Public Service Board should be asked to introduce relativity and so improve conditions for and returns to public servants who have responsibilities far in excess of those who administer the Australia Council. It seems to be to be quite extraordinary that we have other specialist committees which recommend research funds for scientists and scientific groups and which distribute much more money but in a far less expensive way. We have established a vehicle for patronage of the arts which, I believe, will perpetuate what has been established already- an elitism in the arts field.
– Egalitarianism! Your Government started this.
– It certainly has not worked out the right way. Let us look at what this Government is doing. One would have thought that the Australia Council’s program for community arts would have been the most important of all. That was so under our Government and it really should be so under the present Government, so that the general cultural level in the community would be raised and so we would not have to suffer the rubbish on television, because people would be in a better position to judge what is and what is not rubbish. In any case, there would be a swell of talent which would be to our benefit in the long run. Subdivision 1 of division 510 provided for an estimated expenditure for 1975-76 amounting to $1,426,680 for the Council’s program for community arts. The estimate for this year is half that amount. I believe that this area is as important as any other. I would say that it is more important, but that is only my judgment. The allocation has been cut in half. The footnote in the explanatory notes says:
Community arts funds assist festivals, youth, ethnic and many other groups with special artistic needs. Such work is done with local government, and special attention and funds are directed to regions lacking arts services.
The reason for the cut reads:
The Community Arts estimates for 1976-77 are based on the assumption that Boards will take over Community Arts responsibilities in their specific an form, with proportionate funds to discharge such responsibilities.
It is as glib as any statement that has come out of the Australia Council. One would have thought that the Board set up for this purpose would be better able to concentrate on community arts programs. Mark my words, little will be done. I think this expenditure cut is further evidence of the personality approach of the Administrator of the Council. If honourable senators search back through the records, that is what they will find. This is what is happening within the Council. Decisions are being made on the basis of personalities. There have been 40 resignations of members or chairmen of various boards- very important people- since the Council was established.
– Were not they invited to dinner at the Australia Club?
-Some of them are people of integrity- and there are many of them around, fortunately. Briefly, let me put these questions to the Minister: Who are the legal advisers to the Ausralia Council? Are they the leading corporation lawyers in Sydney? Why is it necessary to engage such high-powered counsel? Who are the accountants for the Australia Council? I come back to the complaint of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. Its complaint was made by way of a letter to the Auditor-General’s Office. I ask the Minister, since it comes under division SIO, what action has the Auditor-General taken to examine the complaints made in a letter, which I spoke about in the Senate about 3 months ago, which makes grave charges against the administators of the Australia Council? Is he carrying out an investigation on the basis of that letter or is the Auditor-General in any way inhibited by the writ which has been issued against the ACOA.
I want an answer to that question because if the Auditor-General thinks he is under some restraint because a writ has been issued against the ACOA the Senate ought to know. The next thing I want to know is: Who is meeting the cost of the legal expenses for the issue of the writ? Is it the Australia Council and what justification is there for the Australia Council to engage such highly qualified legal counsel? My information is that it has engaged Tom Hughes. Why is it necessary for the Australia Council to engage such qualified counsel?
– He acts for Mr Whitlam too.
– And the Australia Council. What is going on? I am not questioning the qualifications of Tom Hughes. I think he is the best. My question is: Why is it necessary, if the Australia Council is paying the legal costs, for the Australia Council to be involved? Who issued the writ? Was it issued by Dr Battersby in her own right because she feels herself in some way abused or was the writ taken out by the Council and, if so, why? The important question is: Is the Auditor-General doing something about the letter that comes from a highly respectable organisation which represents the staff? The question raised in the letter was that the staff was asked to do things which they considered to be illegal. That is the brunt of the letter. What is the Auditor-General doing about it?
The Minister may answer that the AuditorGeneral is investigating it and it is part of this year’s investigation and not last year’s investigation and that is why it does not appear in this year’s report. That would be a reasonable explanation. On the other hand, the Auditor-General may be inhibited by the writ that has been issued. If that is the case another element enters that ought be be carefully examined; whether that writ has been taken out to prejudice the work of the Auditor-General’s Department. If that is the case we ought to clarify the powers that the Auditor-General has to proceed to investigate a matter which is brought before him and which affects the expenditures of public money.
I could go on but I will not. There is sufficient upon which the Minister can build. I am saying that we now have a grave responsibility to see that the excesses of the Australia Council are kerbed, especially the patronage which is inherent in the list of functions and the list of names, without any prejudice to the people who appear on that list. I am maybe saying that the only person who is questionable upon that list, is Mr Battersby. After all, why should we be paying? Even if it is in order to pay for Dr Battersby how does it come that it is in order to pay for Mr Battersby ‘s entertainment both at the Opera House and at a private function? I do not think the Minister can discard or put aside what I am saying. I trust that he will take the matter up and suitably investigate it. When the matter was discussed previously and Senator Davidson said that the Standing Committee was not to proceed with the reference I made a speech which expressed the same concern as I am expressing now, and I will continue to express it.
Senator WITHERS (Western Australia)Minister for Administrative Services) (4.9)- I am not closing the debate but I should like to answer some of the questions as close as I can to the action. Senator Georges asked a question earlier as to how much of the expenditure is for representation’, which I think is the expression used. Last year the Australia Council spent $20,091 on representation, which I understand is a word used for food and liquor. This year the Council will spend $8,000, so the figure has come down considerably.
– But fewer are spending it. It is at the same rate and with the same extravagance.
-I do not know that senator. Senator Georges asked some questions about a writ that has been issued about which I know nothing. He asked who are the solicitors for the Australia Council. It is the firm of Messrs Allen, Allen and Hemsley. He asked 2 further questions concerning the firm. I do not think it is for me to put a judgment on the matter. I think that is a matter for the firm’s clients and their professional colleagues to make a judgment on as to whether the solicitors are the greatest or the smartest corporation lawyers in Sydney. It is not for me to make a judgment. I am informed that the Australia Council has no outside accountants. It does its own internal accounting. It does not have its own consultant accountants in the same way as it has a firm of solicitors. I am advised that it was on the advice of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor that the Australia Council engaged Messrs Allen, Allen and Hemsley.
– The Australia Council engaged them?
-Yes, it engaged Allen, Allen and Hemsley on the advice of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor.
– So we now have a statutory corporation which is taking action against a-
-No. You asked me earlier who are the solicitors for the Australia Council and I say they are the firm of Allen, Allen and Hemsley. Before engaging solicitors for its normal work the Australia Council sought the advice of the Crown Solicitor, and he recommended that firm. As to what the AuditorGeneral is doing, I have no knowledge of that but I shall seek the information for the honourable senator. As to the issue of the writ, I am informed that that is a personal, action which has been issued by the litigant in person and has nothing whatever to do with the Australia Council. I think that basically covers the last series of questions.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, could I ask just a quick question to clarify a figure?
– Yes. I was going to give Senator Wood the call but if you want to clear up a matter I think that is appropriate.
-The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) indicated that the figure for entertainment has been reduced to $8,000, that is, for official hospitality, including liquor. Would that be correct?
– I am advised that is correct.
-What is the figure for theatre expenses for special visitors and international VIPs. Is that figure $12,000 and should not that figure be included also?
– I am informed the amount is $6,000.
-The expenditure for special visitors is $6,000?
-I am informed $6,000.
-Let me drag out another figure. What is the figure for international VIPs?
– It is included in the figures I have given, I am informed.
– I wonder whether somebody would go back and check the decision of the Council on 18 June 1976 and clarify the figures. They are set out as: Entertainment $8,000, that is including liquor; theatre expenses, $6,000 for special visitors; then international VIPs etc., a further $6,000, making $12,000. The $ 12,000 and $8,000 make a figure of $20,000.
– I am informed that Council members received that further $6,000.
-Let us get the figures out. Do not let us have half figures each time we ask a question, otherwise we will need to have an investigation. That is all I have to ask.
-On the same line as Senator Georges was speaking, all I want to say is that I think the points he brought forward deserve serious consideration. There is no doubt that there have been statements from time to time indicating a looseness in the administration of the Australia Council and also some extravagance. I think that most of us are keen to see the standard of arts maintained and improved in Australia. The best way that this can be done is to have an efficient organisation so that as much money as possible might be directed specifically to that purpose. I think the points brought forward by Senator Georges deserve the earnest consideration of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to eliminate any extravagance in the Estimates.
– I refer to division 504 in the estimates of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet which relates to the conveyance of the GovernorGeneral, Ministers of State and others. During the last 10 months I have tried to ascertain the cost of conveying the Governor-General, and the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has been good enough to provide me with the flight schedules and with quite a few of the costs. I just make the comment, in line with what Senator Wright and Senator Georges have just said, that there is over-expenditure and extravagance in many departments. When I total the figures for the conveyance of the GovernorGeneral I find that there too there is great extravagance. I have made the point here before.
– That is a matter of opinion, not of fact.
-The figures are there to prove it. Of course, the figures do not lie, as the Minister has told me on some occasions. It is costing an enormous amount of money to fly the Governor-General around this country. As I have pointed out before, sometimes there are 2 trips out of Canberra in one day. So this adds up to quite an expense for the taxpayers of this country. I turn to division 505- Official Establishments. In this estimate there is an amount of $1,345,700 for this year compared with an expenditure of $1,163,212 for last year. Under this division in Senate Estimates Committee A I posed the following question:
Does the cost for hotel accommodation when the Governor-General visits places outside Canberra come under a special appropriation or does it come out of the overall appropriation?
Mr Hinton, the officer in attendance, answered:
The hotel accounts of the Governor-General in another capital city would come out of this appropriation.
Can we have a breakdown of the costs in the various capital cities?
Senator Withers said:
We do not really break them up.
I cannot understand why we cannot have a breakdown of what it is costing. Later on Senator Withers went on to say that he would be no more prepared to approach the Governor-General and ask him than he would be prepared to approach the Prime Minister, Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition to ask what they paid for their hotels. But, as I pointed out, that comes into a different category. I want to make the point again that all members of Parliament are given a set figure, determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, for their overnight costs when they are away from their home base on official business. If they want to spend more than that it has to come out of their own pockets. But according to the answer given by Mr Hinton, no matter what cost the Governor-General incurs, it comes out of this appropriation. So there is no limit on his costs.
This matter is causing great concern not only to me but also to the average taxpayers of the community. It was reported in the Age on 24 August that at ‘ a function organised by the Governor-General and his staff at the Hotel Hilton in Melbourne champagne was flowing which cost $35 a bottle. That is very close to the amount that a member of Parliament receives to cover his daily costs when he comes to Canberra on official business on behalf of the taxpayers. That is the reason why I wanted to ascertain the breakdown of the costs for the GovernorGeneral’s overnight stays in the various capital cities and the costs for liquor and accommodation. There is no reason why we should not have that breakdown. The taxpayers are entitled to know.
The other matter I want to pursue is why the answer Senator Withers gave was entirely different from the answer that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave in the other place. In the Estimates Committee I asked Senator Withers for a breakdown of the cost of the official establishments. Senator Sibraa also asked for a breakdown of the separate costs of the individual establishments. In reply Senator Withers said:
Let me refer the honourable senator to an answer which the previous Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, gave on 4 November 197S. On page 2776 of House of Representatives Hansard he said that he intended to continue the previous practice of all governments of not breaking up the costs between the 4 official establishments. It was a policy which he said he would follow, as did his predecessors. His successors intend to follow the same policy. I might add that all Prime Ministers had good reason for doing so.
I accepted Senator Withers’ answer. I thought that if there had never been a breakdown of the costs of these 4 official establishments that was fair enough. But a cheap political trick was performed in the other place. The Prime Minister did not go along with Senator Withers’ statement that the Prime Minister of the day would continue the practice that had operated under previous Prime Ministers. I refer honourable senators to page 234 of Hansard of 5 October for Estimates Committee A. In a letter to the Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee A dated 15 October Senator Withers had this to say, amongst other things:
Senator McLaren also sought information on the cost of liquor purchased for the Prime Minister’s Lodge and Kirribilli House. I am informed that these costs are not separately maintained by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and, in any event, the Committee will be aware of the practice, followed by the previous Government and this Government, of not disclosing operating costs of the individual Official Establishments.
The letter is signed ‘R. G. Withers’. I now turn to the House of Representatives Hansard of 24 March 1976. At page 936 we find a question put by Mr Porter, a South Australian member. Of course the question was a Dorothy Dixer designed to embarrass Mr Whitlam. It was headed Official Residences of the Prime Minister’ and read as follows:
Mr PORTER My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he inform the House of the cost last year of running the Lodge and Kirribilli House?
Mr MALCOLM FRASER I do not have the figures for the whole of last year but I have them for the last part of the year for both places. In the last 6 months of last year the Lodge cost the Australian taxpayer $64,941, running at an annual rate of $129,882. Kirribilli House, where perhaps the then incumbent spent a somewhat greater part of his time, cost $75,379 for that same 6 months, running at an annual rate of significantly over $150,000. The total annual rate paid by the taxpayer for both the honourable gentleman’s nouses was $280,000 or a little more. The fact that both residences were being paid for by the taxpayer for the benefit of one particular person -
Then there was an interjection. I will not refer to it because I think that it is the subject of a question on notice. It has been on notice for a long time but the Prime Minister has not seen fit to answer it. However, that is not relevant to what I am talking about. After the interjection Mr Fraser went on to say:
Honourable gentlemen opposite do not like the facts of life about their Leader. That is why they keep on trying to hide them. But I think that a few people have a right to know and a few people have a right to be able to understand. Both places were costing the Australian taxpayer $280,000 and, since I thought that this was much too great a subvention by the Australian taxpayer to house the Prime Minister of this country -
He went on to say that that was one of the reasons why Kirribilli was returned to some other purpose. In view of the answer given by Senator Withers that his Prime Minister intended to continue the practice of previous Prime Ministers and not give a breakdown of the costs of the official residences, why did his own Leader on that date decide to give a breakdown of the figures in order to embarrass Mr Whitlam? When I asked for further figures here of what it was costing for those houses so that I could make a comparison between what Mr Fraser is costing the taxpayer and what Mr Whitlam was costing, I was politely told that I could not have them. I want to refresh Senator Withers’ memory and refer again to the statement made by Mr Fraser. He said:
But I think that a few people have a right to know and a few people have a right to be able to understand.
He was referring to the costs of the official residences of the Prime Minister. I would like Senator Withers to give me a breakdown of those figures because this matter is most important. If it is all right for his Leader to have someone go through the costs and then for him to use them in answer to a Dorothy Dix question in the House of Representatives it is all right for us to examine them in the Estimates Committee. I go along with what Senator Wright has said, that we have every right to pursue extravagance. Why can we not be given the answer? That answer has been withheld deliberately. I give notice that if I do not get it today I will keep pursuing the matter at every opportunity, just as I pursued the tabling of the River Murray Commission report and as I have pursued other things. I will continue to pursue it because in this instance I agree with Mr Fraser- it is probably the only instance in which I will ever agree with him- that people have a right to know. If he were able to divulge to the community at large what it cost the previous Prime Minister to live in those residences, surely the people have a right to know what it is costing for Mr Fraser to live in those residences. We know- Senator Withers gave me an answer on this-that it cost $6,000 for a new dinner set for the Lodge.
-$8, 1 00.
– No, that figure was reported in the newspapers. I cited the figure of $8,100 when I explored this matter in the Senate Estimates Committee. Senator Withers- I believe him; he had some officers with him- told me that the cost was $6,000.
– They got it cheap.
– Yes, it was cheap! There are probably a lot of workers and a lot of ensioners who could live very handsomely on 6,000 for a long time let alone pay that amount for one dinner set. No doubt Senator Wright will not agree to the expenditure of $6,000 for one dinner set.
– A storm in a tea cup.
– I take the pun made by Senator Missen. It is not a storm in a tea cup. I have another matter which I wish to explore under this line item, but I shall leave it for a few moments because it comes within the purview of another department. I do not wish to boggle Senator Withers’ mind with too many things because I want him to give me an answer. I shall pursue the other matter in a few moments.
– The honourable senator raised 2 questions. One was in respect of the GovernorGeneral’s allowance for accommodation overnight when not at an official establishment. I think I can put it in those words. I am informed that the amount was agreed upon between the Governor-General and the previous Prime Minister.
– That is not an answer.
-I am just saying the matter was agreed upon and has never been disclosed. The amount has been escalated only in accordance with rises in the consumer price index. That is all I intend to say about that issue. As to the second matter raised by the honourable senator, I draw his attention to a question on notice which was answered by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 8 April 1976, as reported at page 1563 of the House of Representatives Hansard. In answer to a question asked by Mr James in the other place, the Prime Minister said:
I refer the honourable member to the answer given by the former Prime Minister last year (Hansard, 4 November 197S page 2772) in which he referred to the principle of many years standing that the costs of operating the four official establishments- Government House, Admiralty House, Kirribilli House and the Prime Minister’s Lodge- be regarded as a total charge against the annual Budget appropriation. I do not propose to depart from that principle.
In answer to a question without notice on 24 March 1976 1 have already given some information about the costs of running the Lodge and Kirribilli House. I did so in support of my belief that a Prime Minister should have only one official residence. Because of the expense involved, I had Kirribilli House revert to its original purpose of providing accommodation for important visitors.
Therein lies the answer.
– The Minister for Administrative Services says: ‘Therein lies the answer’. It might be the answer for the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), but it is not the answer for me. It was good enough for the Prime Minister to take out of the total appropriation of last year the cost of running the residences. We will forget about Kirribilli House; let us deal only with the Lodge. The Prime Minister was able to draw out of those documents the cost of running the Lodge. After giving on 24 March those figures which I have cited he said, in an answer to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) in the next month, that he did not intend to give any further information. Why can we not get that information? What is good for the goose ought also to be good for the gander in this particular case. I think it proves again that we now have a government in this country that has one standard for itself and adopts a different standard altogether for a government of Labor persuasion. I think it is a very poor show that we cannot extract that information.
I shall pursue it a little further to see whether we cannot do something on the lines mentioned by Senator Wright, and by Senator Rae in his committee report, that is, that the Senate has a right to explore the expenditure of all government departments, no matter whether it be the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or the smallest department that comes under the jurisdiction of this Parliament. There is every reason for our being told. We will just have to find some method of doing it. I intend to find that method.
- Mr Chairman, I should like to mention that I gave Senator Georges some misinformation when we were talking about the Australia Council. I informed Senator Georges and the Senate that the Australia Council selected Messrs Allan Allan and Helmsley as its solicitors on the advice of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. I am now informed that the advice I was given is incorrect. The Australia Council itself selected Messrs Allan Allan and Helmsley and informed the Crown Solicitor of its choice. He raised no objection. There is quite a difference between this answer and the answer I gave Senator Georges earlier.
– I now wish to explore expenditure under Division 520- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. During the hearing by the Estimates Committee I endeavoured to find out some information as to the running of this establishment. I asked why ASIO could seek an appropriation each year and expend exactly that amount- not a cent more and not a cent less. Looking back through the appropriations, it is found that every year ASIO has been able to expend exactly the same amount as has been appropriated to it. But on this particular occasion we find that there has been an escalation. Administrative expenses for ASIO last year were $6,390,000. There has been no cutback in expenditure; the amount has escalated to $7,800,000.
I posed to Senator Withers a question as to what ASIO was going to do with this extra money. Then I posed further questions as recorded at page 3 15 of the Hansard record of 7 October for Estimates Committee A. I asked:
Are there any trust accounts on which ASIO draws? Does the Auditor-General investigate the way ASIO spends its allocation? If so, what action is taken if the procedures for spending the allocation are not adhered to? Who is disciplined and how is the discipline carried out if necessary?
I was not able to get answers to those questions. I have been unable to find out whether the Audito-General has any way of bringing about remedial action if money is misspent. I have not been told whether ASIO draws any of its finance from a special trust account. I have not been told what actions are to be taken if the procedures for spending the allocation are not in accordance with the rules laid down.
I wish to refer now to a recommendation which is pertinent to this question. It was made by Estimates Committee F of which Senator Rae is the Chairman. I have made an inquiry and have found that ASIO is a statutory body. As I understand it, the question as to whether the Parliament has the power to investigate expenditure of a statutory body has been resolved on 2 occasions in this Senate. Senator Rae refers to this at page 4 of the document Estimates Committee F: Report to the Senate which has been tabled in this Parliament, and it is referred to at page 846 in the journals of the Senate of 9 December 1 97 1 . The relevant resolution reads: . . unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise, there is no area of expenditure of public funds by Statutory Authorities which cannot be examined by Parliament or its Committees, and in this regard confirms the opinion expressed in the Report to the Senate by Estimates Committee B, viz.- ‘The Committee is of the opinion that whilst it may be argued that these bodies are not accountable through the responsible Minister of State to Parliament for day to day operations, Statutory Corporations may be called to account by Parliament itself at any time and that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds where these corporations have a discretion to withhold details or explations from Parliament or its Committees unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise ‘.
The report then adds:
This resolution was re-affirmed in a unanimous resolution of the Senate on 23 October 1974.
In the first instance the proposal was agreed to on 9 December 1971 under a Liberal government. In the second instance it was agreed to on 23 October 1974 under a Labor government. Yet, when we pose a question, as I did, seeking some information as to whether this statutory body has trust accounts on which it draws, we cannot get an answer. I asked whether the Auditor-General investigates the way in which ASIO spends its allocation. I may have received an answer that he does, but I cannot get an answer to the question of what action he takes if he finds that there are some discrepancies in the way the money is spent and handed out. I think the Senate should take note of the 2 resolutions which have been passed and which state that the Senate and its Estimates Committees have the right to ask for an explanation of expenditure of that amount. I hope that Senator Withers can give some explanation, now that I have asked for it, of why his Government has decided that we will not get a breakup of the figures or an answer to the question whether there are any trust accounts, which is a pertinent point. If ASIO is drawing money from trust accounts we could very well find that its expenditure is far greater than the $7,800,000 shown in the Appropriation Bill.
– I think the fact that Senator Withers is wearing a red rose in his lapel, which makes him look like a socialist, causes me to intervene to help him.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Senator Devitt)- Would the honourable senator help the Committee by identifying the item to which he is referring?
– I am referring to the same item as Senator McLaren. I rise for the simple reason that I think what I am about to say will help Senator Withers. He will recall that some time ago he told me, following my testimony before Mr Justice Hope who was looking at the restructuring of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, that he thought that reports were coming through to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), that they could be released, and that probably they would indicate that we should have what they have in the United States. I think Senator Cotton nodded his head when I asked this question. In the United States there are at least 4 leading senators who are on talking terms with members of certain security agencies. While mistakes have been made by the United States security agencies, those senators know more about their security agencies than we know about ours. I simply put it to Senator Withers that when he replies to Senator McLaren he might hint whether any of the reports of Mr Justice Hope are likely to be made public. I am egotistical enough to think that my suggestions to the judge might bear fruit.
– In answer to Senator McLaren, let me say that it has not been the practice since Mr Chifley established the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for questions concerning the Organisation to be answered in the Parliament. I intend to continue that practice. I well remember the question asked by Senator Mulvihill. It concerned a royal commission report. That is confined to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I will have to seek his advice as to what he intends to do about it. I will seek that advice for the honourable senator.
– I did not intend to speak on division 520 which refers to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation; but, now that the matter has been raised by Senator Mulvihill, I will do so. I accept what the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said, namely, that the figures concerning this matter have never been given in the past; but I am worried by some of the points raised by Senator McLaren during the hearings of the Estimates Committee about trust accounts and how the budget for Australian Security Intelligence Organisation balances every year. I do not think we have received a satisfactory answer. If one looks at what has happened recently in the United States I think one will see that, had there been a proper surveillance or an earlier surveillance of the Central Intelligence Agency, the congressional inquiries into that organisation that have been going on for the past 12 months or 2 years would not have occurred. In the parliamentary recess, when I was in the United States, I had the opportunity to talk to Representative Otis Pike who was one of the leading members of the congressional inquiry into the CIA. One of the strong points he made was that, in his opinion, had there been proper surveillance of the funds being spent by intelligence agencies in America at an earlier date perhaps the present situation in the United States would not have arisen. I raise that point only to say that, although I realise what has been the practice in the past, perhaps in the future there could be some way by which we could have a closer look at what is happening with respect to intelligence agencies.
– Although the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) is not prepared to answer questions about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, perhaps he will assure us that there is some surveillance of the expenditure by the Organisation by the Auditor-General or someone in his Office. Is there a select audit of the expenditure of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in the same way as there is a select supervision of it? That assurance may give us some sort of confidence and allay the worries that Senator Sibraa and Senator McLaren have expressed.
– I have been attempting to find out whether the Auditor-General audits the accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I have not been able to do so. I suppose that if I obtained a copy of the Act relating to this Organisation I would see whether the AuditorGeneral has certain powers. In most of the Acts setting up independent authorities the AuditorGeneral is given specific powers. Perhaps I can intervene and give that information at a later stage.
– Following the statement of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) that he did not intend to answer my question, I wish to clear up one point. Senator Withers seemed to infer that I was trying to find out about the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I was not trying to find out about the activities of ASIO or the work it carries out. I am trying to find out how the money allocated to that Organisation is spent. I also want to find out- perhaps Senator Withers could answer this question-whether the amount of $7,800,000 in this year’s Appropriation Bill is the total amount which ASIO will use to conduct its affairs; or is there a further amount which comes from some trust account of which we are not aware? Senator Withers will recall that in the debate on the Appropriation Bills in the autumn session, when I queried the cost of taxis in the Australian Capital Territory, it came to light that money from a trust account was being expended in that instance, and it was very conflicting. I now want to know whether other amounts of money are added to the sum of $7,800,000. Can we be assured that this is the total amount expended? I suppose we will find in the Appropriation Bills for next year that ASIO will have spent the exact amount of $7,800,000 appropriated this year, as it has spent the exact amounts appropriated in many years gone by. I would like Senator Withers to answer this question.
– The simple answer is that I do not know. As far as I am aware, this is the only appropriation for the Organisation.
With respect to the question asked by Senator Georges, I have had a very quick look at the Act. It consists of only 4½ pages and 15 sections. I do not see the Auditor-General mentioned anywhere in the Act. I therefore assume that he does not have the power to audit the funds of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisationunless he has powers under some other Act.
– You would not have any objection to our following that line?
-No, I think it is reasonable that I should make inquiries as to whether the Auditor-General audits the funds that go to that Organisation.
– Is there an officer here who knows that? Does somebody from the Treasury know that?
-No, I cannot get this information from the officers present. I will seek the information.
– I would like to ask a question concerning division 509- the Australian National Galleryfor which the appropriation is substantially in excess of the expenditure last year. From the explanatory notes it appears that one of the major reasons for this is the intention to add considerably to the art collection which is acquired in the name of the National Gallery. As is revealed by answers to questions on notice in the House of Representatives, a substantial number of these acquisitions by the National Gallery have been lent to Government House in the last 12 or 18 months.
In answer to a question on notice on 23 March by Mr Morris, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) released a list of the paintings, sculptures, tapestries and ceramics that had been lent by the National Gallery to Government House since 29 April 1975. The period was less than 1 1 months. Six ceramics, 2 sculptures, 2 tapestries and 2 1 paintings had been lent by the National Gallery to Government House. In answer to a further question on notice, which appeared in Hansard on 27 April of this year, the dates on which these works were acquired were given by the Prime Minister. An examination of the 2 answers reveals that of the 2 1 paintings lent to Government House between 29 April 1 975 and 23 March 1976 no fewer than eight were acquired by the National Gallery after 29 April 1975, and fourteen were purchased after January 1975. So it is apparent that a very considerable number of the purchases by the National Gallery are going to Government House either directly after they are purchased or after a very short time. The question which I would like to explore is this: How many of the purchases envisaged for this year, is it expected by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), will be transported to Government House either immediately or after a very short space of time? *
– I have no information on that subject. As the honourable senator displays such an interest in it, I will seek information for him. I now have some information on the auditing of the accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The Clerk Assistant, Mr Alan Cumming Thom, who has a memory like an elephant, if that is not unflattering to him, recalled that a similar question was asked during the meetings of the Estimates committees of 1971-72. If honourable senators will bear with me, I will read from page 7 of the Reports to the Senate of Estimates Committees A, B, C, D, and E on Departmental Estimates 1971-72, which were brought up and ordered to be printed on 23 and 30 November and 1 December 1971. 1 think it is a remarkable feat to remember something which happened 5 years ago, and I congratulate the Clerk Assistant. The funny thing is that the letter which I wish to quote is addressed to me. It states:
Dear Senator Withers,
During the Estimates Committee A sittings on Tuesday, 26 October . . .
It must have been my birthday - dealing with the Division 459, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Senator D. McClelland asked, Are these funds subject to audit by the Auditor-General?’ A comment was made by Senator Georges which was not relevant to the point . . .
Is not that gorgeous? That is there. That is not a throw-away- to what I desired to refer to and then the Chairman said, ‘I understand that the gentleman at the table is a Treasury official who may be able to help Senator Marriott’.
Senator Marriott then said, ‘My advice is that the AuditorGeneral’s Department does not audit the ASIO accounts. My advice, which I repeat, is that it is accountable to Treasury.’
I have now been informed by the Department of the Treasury that the answer given by Senator Marriott on the advice of the Treasury official present at that time was not completely accurate and I therefore desire to give the corrected information to your Committee as supplied to me by the First Assistant Secretary of Treasury, Mr D. I. Hill.
The corrected answer as supplied to me is as follows:
The accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are audited by the Auditor-General under arrangements agreed in 1949 between the then Prime Minister and Treasurer -
I take it that was Mr Chifley who held the combined portfolio- and the then Auditor-General. These arrangements provide for a normal audit of transactions and include as part of that audit the provision of a certificate by the Director-General of Security in respect of a minor portion of the expenditure and by the responsible Minister certifying that that portion of the expenditure was properly made in the interests of the Public Service. The Auditor-General accepts these certificates in completion of his audits. This arrangement is patterned on the British practice, dating back to the late 1 9th Century. ‘
Some other matters were raised. The letter was signed by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, the then Leader of the Government in this place. The letter was dated 4 November 1971. 1 again congratulate Mr Alan Cumming Thom on his memory.
– I was most interested to hear Senator Withers say that a minor portion of the expenditure of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was audited by the AuditorGeneral. Who takes care of the major proportion of the expenditure?
– The Auditor-General.
– He does not. He takes care of the minor portion only.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of National Resources
Proposed expenditure, $47,647,000.
-I have a series of questions which relate to division 436- Australian Atomic Energy Commission. I do not expect an answer at present. The question concerns the Lucas Heights reactor. How many staff are engaged on preliminary studies into a replacement for the Hifar reactor? What is the total salary paid to the staff members studying a replacement reactor? What is the progress of these preliminary studies? What alternative reactors have been considered, and what are the projected costs of such reactors? What terms of reference and output specifications are being exercised in considering a possible replacement? Who authorised such preliminary studies? The purpose of my question is to assure myself that we are not undertaking any studies which may facilitate a decision for the establishment of some uranium project which may be contrary even to the present Government’s policy. There is always a danger, as the Committee would appreciate, that when we make funds available for some studies the scientists may take it upon themselves that the studies lead in a particular direction which may facilitate or may add to pressure for a further decision which, in the minds of some of us, may be a disadvantage to the country.
– I thank the honourable senator. I will get the information for him as early as possible.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $432, 1 27,000.
-I have one matter to raise. It relates to sub-division 1 -Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary, item 01- Salaries and allowances, under division 305. 1 refer to page 198 of the Auditor-General’s Report. The question relates to the residence purchased in Dublin. While the officer was having sought for him this worm-infested residence he was allowed settling in allowances from 1 September 1974 to 25 September 1975 of approximately $26,000. That is $500 a week. The Public Service Board declined to approve the extensions of settling in allowances after March because it was not satisfied with the Department’s search for alternative accommodation or with the reasons given for rejecting available temporary accommodation. As a consequence, the settling in costs totalling $13,687 were incurred without authority between March and September. The Auditor-General’s Office requested comments from the Department. The AuditorGeneral’s comments that the case has been poorly handled. In explanation it advises that there has been a lack of positive direction in the overseas post, particularly in the matter of alternative accommodation. The Department has introduced closer supervision of settling in periods for staff and better communications with posts.
– Which year was that?
– Who was the ambassador?
– That is what I am hoping the Minister will reveal.
– Of course you are. That is why you are asking. You are only stirring the pot.
-No, not at all. It is extraordinary that the Minister comes before us for an appropriation of this amount for salaries and allowances- $ 13m- that has been the subject of the comment we listened to from Senator Knight, of which we should take notice, because the degree of growth in these matters is alarming. I like to take small items that I can understand, just as I like to begin drilling a hole with a sharp point. Therefore I call specific attention to the fact that following audit inquiries the Department is considering how the amount represented by the unauthorised payment should be treated. That is to say, we have got this brumby before it is completely out of the stable. Payment has not been validated. It is unauthorised. It is completely inexcusable. In 12 months $26,000 was expended, half of which was unauthorised, even by the most generous allowances. I ask that the Minister not permit this item to be authorised out of any appropriation that we are making today without a specific report being put upon the table of the Senate so that the Senate’s judgment can be passed upon it. That is the least measure of responsibility that I think we could ask for.
I deal with the matter briefly in the interests of efficient dispatch of the Estimates, but I wish not to sit down without taking cognisance of something of general import that was said previously in the debate with regard to the degree to which Australian appropriations are subject to scrutiny by Estimates Committees and therefore scrutiny really by the Parliament. I have had taken out by the staff of the Senate, to whom I am much obliged for their promptness and efficiency today, the percentage of the Australian Budget that is represented by special appropriations, that is, permanently continuing appropriations without the appropriations that come before Parliament. In Australia those special appropriations not subject to our jurisdiction are 60.36 per cent of the Budget. That means to say that the amount included in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) is 39.64 per cent only of the Budget, as compared with the United Kingdom, where the special appropriations are 7.5 per cent and the annual appropriations that go before the House of Commons, which does not have the advantage of a Senate, are 92.5 per cent. I ask that the short statement I have be incorporated in Hansard for the information of honourable senators.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– There should be added to that the simple reflection of comfort that I get from Senator Cavanagh and Senator Georges to the effect that they stand squarely behind the undoubted right of the Senate under section 53 of the Constitution to put requests to the House of Representatives. I was dismayed to hear in respect of previous requests, the few that there have been comparatively, that the author of the Australian Senate Practice somewhat vaunts the fact that the Senate has always succeeded in having its requests accepted. Of course, whether a request should be accepted or not depends upon the judgment of the Parliament. If we start to consider that we are intermediate between Washington and London and find the degree to which conferences there reconcile differences between the Senate and the House of Representatives on requests to amend the Budget, we will see that one side one day and the other side another day brings together a reasonable judgment, and in the light of efficient dispatch of business they come to a decision. When we adopt the practice of putting items back to the House of Representatives for reconsideration, the ultimate decision will depend, I hope, not upon the wry smile of Senator Wriedt, who looks to be engaged in a vain endeavour to reconcile the attitude of honourable senators opposite of last November with the proposals that I now make. I hope that we will resolve any of those differences by reason and certainly not by rigidly sticking to the idea that the Senate has to prevail in every request or else it loses prestige or authority. I think that would be an unreasonable attitude.
– I direct my remarks to the United Nations Environment Fund under division 305. The Minister might give us an idea on just how the money appropriated under that item is expended. I have seen papers overseas on some conferences that we do not get here that have dealt with such subjects as the destruction of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere by the Concorde aircraft. The Minister may be able to give some information also about item 12 of subdivision 4, which relates to the cost of our United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus. Can the Minister, with the assistance of his advisers, hazard a guess as to whether impending United Nations discussions will result in a further reduction in the strength of that peacekeeping force?
– I am very concerned about the size of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I refer to divisions 305, 306 and 308 under which we propose to spend $432,127,000. This is a department which has become of immense proportions. I think it is one that should be looked at very closely. We should look not only at administrative costs and the costs of the Overseas Service but also at the costs of the Australian Development Assistance Agency. There should be some clarification and clearer thought should be given to whom we assist. I know money has been thrown around. We have given money to communist countries such as Mozambique. We throw our money around and try to give the impression that we are big shots in world affairs. Actually the activities involved with the Department of Foreign Affairs rather dazzle our Prime Ministers and our Ministers for Foreign Affairs. They get the impression that they are so important that they must make statements on the international scene. They get the impression that because of their great importance the whole world shivers and shakes when they make these statements. We should get a proper perspective of ourselves in the foreign affairs field, because we are only peanuts in world affairs.
– That is what Carter grew from.
– Yes. We are only peanuts on the international scene. Therefore it is time that we took a true rating of ourselves and gained a better perspective of how we rate overseas. Not only Mr Whitlam but also our own present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) are guilty of these things. When Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister he galloped around the world creating, as he thought, a tremendous impression. So much did he become imbued by this galloping around in connection with the international affairs aspect of government that he decided to make a special study of ruins in different countries. What was the result? He eventually ruined his own Government and almost ruined the Labor Party. Now our present Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) are beginning to ‘do a Whitlam’ and gallop around the world also. What have they done? Have they achieved one success as a result of the various gallops they have done around the world? Of course they have not. They are held up to ridicule in some cases. What happened in China? They went to China and slobbered over the Chinese. Because of some silly statement that was made their visit finished up in an atmosphere of controversy. Was there any gain to the Government, to the Liberal Party or to the country? Of course there was not. Then there was that silly intrusion into Timor. The statement was made that the Indonesians should not be in Timor. Do we want the Fretilin commos there? Of course we do not.
– No, we do not want them there. The point is that Timor is one of our closest neighbours. What we want is stability and safety for this country. Our Foreign Ministers and our Prime Ministers get the idea that they must butt into every aspect of foreign affairs. What did they do? They butted into the situation in South Africa and Rhodesia. Of course those countries should have certain governments. What has that to do with us? We reached the ridiculous stage the other day of the Government refusing to allow 2 people to take part in a yachting contest because they belonged to South Africa. How childish and silly can we get? It is the dazzle of the Department of Foreign Affairs that makes them think that they must intrude, that they must say things in order to show their importance on the world scene. I say to Fraser and to Peacock, just as I said to Whitlam, that this country would be better off if they shut their mouths and stayed at home and looked after this country.
The high expenditure on matters concerned with foreign affairs has become very great over the years. It is something that this country cannot really afford. Australia might profess to be a developed country but, in my opinion, it is still developing. We would do much better if we used some of that money in developing this country and providing better conditions for some of our people, particularly those in the outer regions of this large area of land which is Australia, so that they might have a better standard of living, instead of our worrying about some other people who probably do not need our concern so much. I am greatly concerned at the volume of expenditure that this Department has built up over the years. In my opinion, it is, to a very great extent, a waste of money.
– I take up the line following on what was said, firstly by Senator Wright and now by Senator Wood.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) What line is that?
– They both made mention again of the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs is spending far too much money on its activities. No doubt Senator Wood is supporting Senator Wright in what he has repeatedly put forward since the Appropriation Bills came before the Committee of the Whole last night. Senator Wright has been talking continually about the need to refer these Appropriation Bills back to where they came from for further consideration. He has* just stated that he is pleased to have the support of Senator Cavanagh and Senator Georges in that proposal which he first floated last night. I interjected last night when Senator Wright floated that proposal. On page 1558 of the Senate Hansard of 3 November Senator Wright said:
The power to request amendments enables us in respect of any particular item about which there may be criticism or concern to require reconsideration by the House of Representatives before giving the Bill passage.
Many criticisms have been made by Senator Wright and now by Senator Wood of many of the items contained in these Appropriation Bills. When Senator Wright made that remark I interjected and said:
Have you got the numbers?
In reply Senator Wright said:
Of course we have got the numbers whenever we think it is proper to use them.
If we take as gospel the remarks made by Senator Wright and Senator Wood, we come to the conclusion that they must truly think there is a need now to refer these Bills back to the House of Representatives. So the matter is back in Senator Wright’s court. It is up to Senator Wright to endeavour to send them back to the House of Representatives when we vote on them. He should not keep making hot air statements. He should put his vote where his mouth has been in this debate.
– I must intrude -
– On what item are you speaking?
– I am dealing with foreign affairs.
– Which item?
– I am dealing with division 306, Overseas Service, which is on page 75 of the Bill. In some way I could relate my remarks to Timor under that division because Timor is north of Australia. I cannot allow Senator Wood to make unchallenged and derogatory remarks that he did concerning the Timorese people.
– I do not want to stop you, Senator Georges, but there are other forms of the Senate which you can use to counter his argument.
– Yes, but perhaps he should not have made those remarks in the first place. I just want to say that his judgment, description and terminology in relation to the Fretilin people are quite wrong, as many honourable senators on both sides of the chamber would know.
– Senator Wright raised a number of matters. He raised in particular the payment of amounts for temporary accommodation while the premises in Dublin were being repaired. As I recall his words’, he asked for assurances that out of this appropriation payments would not be made which the Auditor-General has said ought not to be made when there is no legal authority for them. I cannot give the honourable senator an absolute assurance on behalf of the Minister whom I represent in this place, but I shall certainly pass on to the Minister the honourable senator’s remarks.
Perhaps one should not make assumptions here, but if the Auditor-General said that that amount was not properly payable out of last year’s appropriation, I do not know how it would be properly payable out of this year’s appropriation if the proper procedures for the expenditure of public moneys have not been complied with. I would have to seek better advice than I have available at the moment to be able to give the honourable “senator a full and detailed answer on that matter. However, I shall take it up with my colleague, the Minister in the other place, as a matter of urgency and get the honourable senator an answer on it.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditure- Department of Defence, $1,838,405,000-passed
Proposed expenditures- Department of Industry and Commerce, $164,833,000; Department of Overseas Trade, $65,299,000; Department of the Treasury, $251,644,000; Advance to the Treasurer, $110,000,000; Department of Primary Industry, $52,827,000-passed
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $380,005,000
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $254,72 1,000
Postal and Telecommunications Department
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 5 1 ,2 94,000
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development
Proposed expenditure, $6 1,769,000
Housing for Servicemen- Advances to the States (Defence)
Proposed expenditure, $36,200,000
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is it the wish of the Committee to take Group C as a whole? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– I wish to refer to an item concerning the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development which relates to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. This is an odd situation and I desire to raise it as a definite matter for the consideration of the Government. I question the legality and the whole procedure whereby within a department companies are incorporated taking advantage of the joint stock companies legislation to carry on a certain part of the business of the Government without specific parliamentary authorisation to that effect. In the dme before the Labor Government, Commonwealth Hostels Ltd was incorporated as a public company and took over assets for hostel accommodation and Public Service accommodation. It has operated on that basis since. There are 2 aspects that concern me with regard to Commonwealth Hostels. I have sought, and through the courtesy of an officer, have obtained from the Parliamentary Library the annual report for the year ended 28 June 1975 of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd in which it is stated that the trading loss for the year was $902,941. An examination of the actual profit and loss account shows that that amount is arrived at after taking into account as income a contribution from the Australian Government for the operation of migrant hostels of $5.9m, for Northern Territory establishment of $7 1 ,000, for Hotel Kurrajong, Brassey House and Ainslie Guest House of $2,000 and for Darwin emergency food centres a contribution of $ 1.1m. It can be seen that a total amount of about $7m straight out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund was credited as receipts. This is an entirely misleading form of accountancy when one is expected to find the truth in the annual report which states that the trading loss is some $903,000.
That shows the degree of gradual corrosion of the money that our taxpayers provide. This commercial company idea is just an outlet pipe through which secret money is avalanched I wish the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to take on board this definite question raising the legality of the Government’s or any department’s right to appropriate onepenn’orth of government property or money to a commercial company that they have incorporated with articles and a memorandum that they have devised and with shareholders they have nominated. That is just a commercial shroud or a commercial umbrella into which to syphon off some public money in the administration of public assets and not subject them to the ordinary parliamentary processes of scrutiny. I suggest that this cannot be justified by any authority whatsoever. It is probably contrary to the Audit Act and the Acts controlling the Treasury.
Of course, my concern arises from the continuing deterioration of the Commonwealth Hostels management of these properties. I think it is appalling. Senator McAuliffe should guffaw with me in support at this stage. He has been for and against me often for the want of something to say during the Committee debate. But it will be remembered that when I was Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities back in 1970 or 1971, Senator McAuliffe urged me to consider making the Hotel Kurrajong a tourist resort. He said that it was a valuable piece of realty and that it should be turned into a profitable enterprise. We have seen a Labor Government come and go since then and we are seeing now the sterilisation of these assets. The late Senator Greenwood informed us of the closing of two of these hostels. We heard a day or two ago of a public tender for one of the hostels in Canberra that was well below the very depreciated reserve price at which it was held. The management of these hostels by this company has been singularly unsuccessful. But I question the legality of the position. I want to draw attention to a fact of some delicacy. I shall approach it, I hope, with the same tentative and unassuming approach as Senator Georges adopted with regard to certain entertainment by the Australia Council.
It will be remembered that for some reason or other, no doubt to improve the business sagacity of the directorate of Commonwealth Hostels, the wife of the former Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, was appointed to the board of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. I would have thought that would have been regarded as sinecure accompanying the office of her husband as a matter of political patronage, and an appointment on no basis whereby it would be thought that it would add to the management of the company. Notwithstanding the change of government last December, I find to my dismay that Mrs Margaret Whitlam is still a member of the board of this company drawing an annual salary of $3,450. 1 think that is quite improper. I think that a political appointment of this sort should resign automatically upon a change of government when the appointment was so obviously political. I rise on this matter because of my great concern at what can be done if the Minister advises after consideration that this device to take over public assets by a commercial company has the authority of law. I remind the Minister handling this matter- it is now Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education- that when the Labor Government was being challenged by the High Court’s decision as to the validity of certain arrangements for another statutory authority- in that case, the Pipeline Authority which the High Court invalidated under the Constitution- the Minister of the day boastfully bragged publicly that in anticipation of an adverse decision a company had been incorporated in Canberra to carry on the Government’s proposals. Certain funds had been transferred to that company. It will be found in the records that, of the total amount- $50m, I think- that was transferred, all but $6. 7m has been recovered. That $6.7m has been invested in other assets, the value of which is doubtful. I bring this to the attention of the Minister to show what was thought to be possible as manoeuvring on the part of a commercial company at the instigation of departmental officers and the Minister to sidetrack the Constitution. Need I say any more. I think that this is a most important matter and that we should consider whether commercial companies of this sort have the authority of law as a means of administering the business of a government department without specific statutory authority.
– I wish to raise with the responsible Minister the question of airport concessions and the conduct of one particular gentleman in Sydney. I will link this up with the subject of the occupancy of lighthouses, particularly the lighthouse on Chappell Island in Bass Strait. Before I deal with those 2 matters I refer to the matter raised by Senator Wright. Commonwealth Hostels Ltd has a variety of operations. Senator Wright picked out the Kurrajong Private Hotel, quite apart from the legal aspects. Speaking for myself and, I think, for Senator Thomas, I suggest that it may be better to stay at Brassey House. This is not a free commercial. I find it quite satisfactory. It takes 25 minutes to walk to Parliament House and the only hazard is an occasional dive bombing by magpies.
As far as the other activities of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd such as those involving migrant hostels are concerned, there was a time when Senator Poyser and I, as fledgling senators, were very critical of this organisation but a reconstruction plan changed that. Whatever the faults of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd may be, I know the difficulties it faced in dealing with a large influx of migrants. Nobody knows what is around the corner in respect of that area of policy. I would prefer to deal with Commonwealth Hostels Ltd than with some of the lurk operators of private residentials and even some motels. Whatever criticism Senator Wright might make about the Kurrajong and the share structure, Senator Carrick, a fellow New South Wales senator, would be well aware of the capabilities of board members such as the Honourable Fred Bowen and would know another very highly dedicated public servant who has returned, Bruce Brown. I simply say this to Senator
Wright: As a person with a long experience in politics I do not think any government should be vindictive. The honourable senator would know that when the Curtin Government came into office during the period of World War II a former Premier, who was not that highly regarded, B. S. B. Stevens, held a diplomatic post in India. That Labor Government could have made him back his bags, but it did not. I give that lesson to Senator Wright.
I turn now to the 2 matters which I think are germane to this discussion. The first is related to airport concessions and comes under airways facilities and maintenance. I point out to Senator Carrick that I have in my hand an answer provided during another Estimates Committee hearing in which the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate reported:
The New South Wales inspectorate is currently investigating a concessionaire at Kingsford-Smith Airport where underpayments to employees are estimated to be in the vicinity of $25,000.
There are 15 to 20 employees. I am referring to the duty free gift store at Kingsford-Smith Airport. I simply ask honourable senators- I think Senator Carrick would appreciate this- to cast their minds back to the time when Senator Cotton was the Minister for Civil Aviation. At my suggestion he nudged the people who were involved to put their house in order. I would like to know the Government’s attitude on whether a wrongdoer of this magnitude will be successful in tendering for renewal of the lease. What is much worse- I think the Department has a responsibility in this area- is that it has been brought to my notice that, leaving aside the juggling of time sheets, it is considered that by modern day standards, given that the work force largely comprises females, the toilet facilities are well below par.
The other matter I wish to raise concerns lighthouses. I simply want to know whether the lighthouse on Chappell Island, which is adjacent to Flinders Island, is in active service. Mr Chairman, you will appreciate that I am relating this to environmental matters because this is an island which I visited some 8 years ago with my nautical friend, Senator Devitt. I give credit to the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Ian Sinclair, because sheep on the island were removed, vegetation returned and the Cape Barren geese were saved. I ask whether we still have a hold on the island as Commonwealth Territory, due to the operation of that lighthouse. It is a fauna reserve for the geese. If this lighthouse is to be phased out, will the Government return the island to the Tasmanian Government?
In view of the Minister’s earlier answer today to Senator Missen on the Commonwealth’s responsibilities in respect of the environment and conservation, is the Commonwealth going to look after this island?
– I have 2 matters I want to raise. Firstly, I express my disgust at Senator Wright standing up in this chamber and accusing the previous Government of indulging in political patronage over the appointment of Mrs Whitlam to the board of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. Her reappointment proves beyond doubt that she is doing a worthwhile job and that she is capable of doing the job that is expected of any person on the board of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. I think Senator Wright is getting pretty far down when he brings up things like this. He ought to do some more investigation and look at the amount of work Mrs Whitlam does for charities in this country.
The other matter I raise relates to division 662, concerning the Australian National Railways. I referred to this in the debate on the appropriation for the Department of Administrative Services. I endeavoured to confine my remarks on that occasion to the amount of expenditure on surveys, but Senator Kilgariff came into the chamber and accused the South Australian Government of using back door methods which held up the commencement of the construction of the Tarcoola- Alice Springs railway line by 12 months. From memory- I will have to verify this from Hansard tomorrow- he said that one of the reasons why these back door methods were employed was that the State Government of South Australia was trying to twist the arm of the Federal Government to hurry up the takeover of the South Australian railways. That is a completely untruthful statement. The reason for the hold-up in negotiations and the agreement on the structure of the line coming to fruition was that there is another line in South Australia, owned by the Australian National Railways, which runs from Port Augusta through Leigh Creek to Marree and to Oodnadatta. South Australians depend solely on Leigh Creek for their coal supply to generate electricity as the main source of energy in the State.
What Mr Virgo, the South Australian Minister for Transport, did was to ensure that he got an agreement with the government of the day that with the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway line there would not be a closure of the Port Augusta-Leigh Creek link which would have meant that South Australians would not have been able to transport coal from Leigh
Creek to the powerhouse at Port Augusta. This was a very worthwhile action on the pan of Mr Virgo, in view of what has happened. He got an undertaking from the government of the daythe Whitlam Government- through Mr Jones, the Minister for Transport, that that line will not be closed until Leigh Creek is of no further use to South Australia as a main source of energy supply. As I said, it has been proven that this safeguard was necessary, because in the short time that this Government has been in office it has closed a main railway link; that is, the LarrimahDarwin link.
There were no fears that under a Whitlam Government we would have closed that line from Port Augusta to Leigh Creek. We were looking to the future. We knew that we would not be in office for ever, although we did not think we would go out as quickly as we did. In the past a lot of operations under Liberal Governments had been run on a profit making basis. We know that railway lines are not established with a view to profit making, whether they be State run or Commonwealth run, because they are put there to be of service to the people and they should not be put there to make profits. It is the service to the people that counts. We in South Australia had to get that assurance and it took some little while to get it. But immediately it was achieved we set about constructing the line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs.
It has been said, and it is truthful- I agree with Senator Kilgariff here- that the previous coalition Government did make some appropriation for this work. But it was not repudiated by our Government when it came to office. After we got the necessary safeguards we set about as quickly as we could to commence the construction of that line. In Senate Estimates Committee A, I asked what surveys were being carried out under the Department of Administrative Serviceswhich is responsible for payment of the surveyors- on the Taroola-Alice Springs link and whether the work was to go ahead or be delayed. I have not got an answer to that. All I have is an answer from Senator Kilgariff who quoted an answer that Senator Carrick gave him. I cannot take that as being official. I want the answer from a Government Minister, not from a back bencher. It is the Minister from whom I want the answer and I do not have it yet. In the Estimates Committee I raised the matter of what had been done in the way of surveys on this line and I am still waiting for the answer. I am not taking as gospel what Senator Kilgariff said in the Senate earlier today. I hope I will be able to get this answer before we pass this line of appropriation.
– I want to follow the comments of Senator McLaren in relation to division 662 concerning the Australian National Railways. I was at a committee function when Senator Kilgariff spoke about the actions of the South Australian Government regarding railway works in South Australia and the Northern Territory obligations. My colleague Senator McLaren has informed me of what Senator Kilgariff said. I am surprised at Senator Kilgariff because I would have thought that he would be the strongest arguer here against what the Commonwealth Government has done.
- Senator Bishop, I do not want to stop you from dealing with this matter but I do not want the Committee to get into a debate in dealing with these estimates.
-No, Mr Chairman. I am talking about the question of money which has been expended and committees which have been set up to inquire into actions by the Government. We have to vote on the estimates for the Australian National Railways and that estimate of course includes provision for the projects about which I am going to talk. Obviously it is a matter for the Committee because already, as honourable senators and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) will know, on many occasions this year I have asked questions as to what has happened since the Government made the announcement in May of this year that it was going to set up inquiries to look into those 2 projects. Of course these are 2 projects that most concern me. No doubt they are of concern to Senator Kilgariff. The first one is the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line. As a result of the May announcement which slowed up the progress of that work because it was uncertain of what would take place with the project, a committee of inquiry was set up to go into the matter. At the same time the Government made another pronouncement in respect of the previously accepted standardisation link between Adelaide and Crystal Brook, which had been approved by 2 State governmentsby the Steele Hall Government and also, following consultants’ report and consideration by the Federal Liberal Government, the following Labor Government- that the scheme would be put under scrutiny by a committee.
It is 6 months since that announcement was made but it is only recently that the second committee was set up. So a shadow has been cast over those projects. These are not the actions of a Labor government; they are the actions of a government of which Senator Kilgariff is a supporter. I would have expected him and all senators here to be concerned about those 2 important projects. Fortunately the committees are now working. I mention that not only is the South Australian Government concerned about the progress of these committees of inquiry but in addition South Australian senators have received representations from a number of municipal authorities asking what has happened to the standardisation case and what will happen to the Tarcoola line. There is no doubt that the work on the standardisation line has been checked because there is a possibility that a scheme other than the one approved by the Maunsell consultants and the previous governments might yet be adopted to save money. This would be unfortunate. It could put the project back perhaps one or two years. Works on the Tarcoola line have been progressing, but because of the committee of inquiry there is a certain concern that the work will not proceed at the pace which previously had been approved.
Funds have been allocated. I understand from recent letters the Minister has sent to me arising from my inquiries that the Minister has said that there have been discussions between the State Minister for Transport, Mr Virgo, and Mr Nixon and that various things have been cleared up. I hope, despite the comments that have been made, that there will not be unnecessary delay in those works. I am very concerned that Senator Kilgariff, who after all represents the Northern Territory, is not concerned with the rail connection to Darwin and also with the Tarcoola line. For that reason I rose briefly. I hope the Minister can shed further light on the point I made. I have received answers from him arising from his inquiries of Mr Nixon. I know that there is certain streamlining of processes but we in South Australia particularly hope that there will not be any interruption to a scheme which is long overdue. Finally, in respect of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs connection I have no doubt that apart from the Territory people and the South Australian people and the Department of Transport, our defence people are very mindful of the necessity of making sure that the connection is established.
– Firstly, I apologise that I was not here for the first few minutes of Senator Wright commencing the debate. I realise and accept that the points that Senator Wright has made regarding Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, essentially upon the question of the legality of the incorporation of companies and those aspects, are important matters. I shall certainly look to the Hansard records, study them and ensure that at the earliest possible moment my colleague the Minister in another place has his attention drawn to Senator Wright’s remarks, and I shall seek his response to them.
Senator Mulvihill raised a matter regarding airport concessions. He was also good enough to draw my attention to certain information that had been supplied to him. As he said, we were advised that the New South Wales inspectorate is currently investigating a concessionaire at Kingsford-Smith airport concerning alleged underpayments to employees, estimated to be in the vicinity of $25,000. It is true that Commonwealth inspectors inspect that the provisions of the relevant awards are complied with and we have identified the awards under which the alleged breaches have occurred. Senator Mulvihill asked whether in fact the Government’s attitude will be affected in terms of a renewal of tenders. That, of course, will depend entirely on how the investigations proceed and what details emerge. One needs to know the whole of the course of the journey and the arrival before one can foreshadow what will happen in that regard. Nevertheless, I shall draw the attention of my colleague to that point. I have not immediately before me the information on the lighthouse at Chappell Island in Bass Strait. I am seeking it and, as soon as I can, I will intrude the information for the honourable senator.
The particular points that were raised by Senator McLaren and Senator Bishop primarily concerned the Alice Springs-Tarcoola railway. I have some information which is in general terms. If some further specific information is needed the honourable senators may remind me of it and I can then elicit it. My advice is that the Government intends quite clearly that the new standard gauge railway currently under construction between Tarcoola and Alice Springs will be completed to Alice Springs. I say that without qualification. The latest estimate for completion of the project is mid- 1 98 1 . So there should be no ambiguity about that. There will be no reduction in services to Alice Springs and the Northern Territory barring unforeseen circumstances. That is the second commitment.
The Australian National Railways has looked at the possibility of establishing a road-rail transfer facility at places where the new line will cross the Stuart Highway. This is part of the railways contingency planning in the event that severe flooding causes services on the narrow gauge Central Australian Railway to be stopped for a lengthy or indefinite period. This planning by
ANR seems to be a reasonable action of management in that regard. As a follow-on to the contingency plan ANR has indicated that it will examine whether services on the new line can be commenced prior to the line’s completion by operating a temporary road-rail transfer facility with a view to reducing the heavy financial losses being incurred on current operations. Again such considerations seem to indicate a responsible attitude by ANR, and it is unfortunate that a number of people appear to have misunderstood what is happening.
In an earlier statement the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) gave an assurance that the people of the Northern Territory will continue to be provided with the best transport facilities possible to cater for their needs and that no changes will be made to existing arrangements without his authorisation. If it appears possible from preliminary examination that better services can be provided and financial savings made by commencing operations on the new line using a transfer facility at a temporary location pending completion of the line to Alice Springs a thorough study will be undertaken that will examine in detail the social as well as economic issues, and the views of the Northern Territory people will be sought. I am advised that a transfer facility at Manguri would be uneconomic and would be a consideration only in the event of severe disruption of the old CAR. I deliberately intruded the general picture because I thought that it would be specifically of interest to honourable senators, but if there are any specific questions they may be indicated to me and I will take them up.
– I thank the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for that information. I have one question which I have asked before, as he will recall. Has a target date been set for the completion of those 2 inquiries I mentioned? The last time I asked the question the date had not been determined. Can the Minister say whether the date has now been set?
– I wish to make a couple of remarks in relation to matters raised by Senator Bishop. I have indicated earlier today my concern that the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line should be constructed as quickly as possible. I indicated before that the people of the Northern Territory were very disappointed to see that a year had been lost before South Australia introduced the necessary legislation. It is of no use honourable senators on the other side saying that the Larrimah-Darwin line was closed by this Government without due consideration. I have indicated in the Senate before that this line was closed because of the actions of the previous Australian Labor Party Government which brought in a cost-recovery policy. That policy increased the freight rates to the Frances Creek mines. Those mines with their iron ore deposits were one of the few industries we had in Northern Australia. The freight rates were increased to such an extent that the Frances Creek mines were put out of action. This reflected immediately on the revenue of the railway line between Larrimah and Darwin. Last year the Labor Government initiated an inquiry into its feasibility. It was shown that the line was so uneconomic that it was then closed.
I do not want to prolong this debate but, as I have said before, I am concerned that this line should be constructed as quickly as possible. I have here an extract from the Centralian Advocate of 28 October headed: ‘Minister Won’t Let Railway Close ‘. It says:
The Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, said yesterday he had received no proposal to close the Central Australian Railway.
The people of the Northern Territory can be assured that the Government will continue to provide the best transport facilities possible to cater for their needs.
No changes will be made to existing arrangements without my authority, ‘ the Minister said.
The Minister made that statement because it was revealed a few weeks ago that Mr Keith Smith, the chairman of the Australian National Railways Commission, in discussions with a union representative in Port Augusta indicated that there was a likelihood- the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has just referred to this-that the railways were looking at the feasibility of putting a rail head at Manguri Bore while the line was constructed from Manguri Bore to Alice Springs. This immediately brought about tremendous concern amongst the people of the Northern Territory because that would have meant that the rail head would have been only 200 kilometres north of Tarcoola. It would not have been economic. It would have had troubles because the road was not bituminised and freight rates would have increased. So I and many other people made representations to the Minister. It has been indicated by Senator Carrick that making Manguri a rail head is not feasible.
That is an indication that the things that have been said- for instance, that the line is not going ahead, that there was to be a rail head at Manguri and that was the end of the matter- are quite false. The Minister for Transport has indicated that he will not close the line, that the Manguri rail head will not be established, and so we will see the construction of this line continuing into the Northern Territory. It may well be feasible in some two or three years time, when the railway line reaches as far as Kulgera which is some 180 miles south of Alice Springs, to have a temporary rail head there while the line is constructed to Alice Springs. But that is a decision for the future. I have little more to say about the matter. As I have said before, I think that some people have a false impression of the situation. The problems and the fears of people in the Northern Territory have been allayed by the Minister.
– I thank the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for the answers which he has given. I was particularly pleased to hear him say that the completion date for the Alice SpringsTarcoola line is 1 98 1 . 1 hope that there will be no cuts in future Budgets which will extend that completion date. It will be a happy day for the people of South Australia and the Northern Territory if that line is completed by 1981. There is one further answer I would like the Minister to provide if he can, and that is to give an assurance that the quality of the line will not be downgraded below that which was first projected and that which has already been constructed. I want an assurance that the track will not be made to a lesser grade so that it will not be possible to carry the freights which it was designed to carry.
Senator Kilgariff spoke about a feasibility study which recommended the closure of the Larrimah-Darwin link. To the best of my knowledge, that feasibility study is not a public document, and I would be very interested to know how Senator Kilgariff was able to obtain his information, particularly in view of the fact that, as far as I am aware, the document has not been tabled in this Parliament to enable any senator who is interested in the Larrimah-Darwin link to have a look and see just what the feasibility study recommended, if in fact it exists. I should like the Minister, if possible, to provide us with a copy of that study, seeing that Senator Kilgariff has had some access to it. Senator Kilgariff also said that Labor’s cost recovery program forced the closure of the Frances Creek to Darwin line, that is, the link from the iron ore mine.
– It sent them broke.
– It might have sent them broke, but this Government also projects a policy that the user pays. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said, there are no free dinners. If what Senator Kilgariff said was a fact when my Government was in office it would have been a fact under his Government, because this Government has really closed the LarrimahDarwin link which was providing a service to every person who lived in the Territory. The other line was closed because the only party making a profit out of it was the mining company.
I should like the Minister to provide the Senate at a later date- I know he cannot provide it now -with a comparison of the cost of present freight rates for road transport from Alice Springs to Larrimah and from Larrimah to Darwin, and the earlier costs for road transport from Alice Springs to Larrimah and rail freight from Larrimah to Darwin. When we examine that information we will be able to see whether the people of the Northern Territory are now paying higher freight rates because that railway line has been closed. That will be a very interesting exercise; it will be interesting to look at those costs.
I think the Minister gave me an answer some months ago on behalf of the Minister for Transport as to the fate of the rolling stock of the North Australian Railway. It was said that that rolling stock could be used on other existing narrow gauge lines which the Commonwealth controlled in, I think, South Australia. From memory, I then posed questions as to how that rolling stock was going to be transported, whether it was going to be road freighted to South Australia, whether it was going to be taken off the tracks at the Darwin wharf and put on a ship and then freighted around to South Australia, and on what particular lines they were to be used in South Australia. We now have an inquiry going on to see whether further narrow gauge lines in South Australia which are now the property of the Commonwealth Government are to be closed. This raises the point in my mind as to what use will be made of the rolling stock and the locomotives of that North Australian Railway if the Commonwealth is considering closing further narrow gauge lines in South Australia, because there will be only a very small area in which they can be used. If the lines the Government now proposes to close in the mid-north are in fact closed, about the only line that will be left will be the line from Port Lincoln up the west coast. I do not think that line would need all the rolling stock that will become obsolete because of the closure of the Larrimah line. I would be very grateful if the Minister could give us some information on the fate of that rolling stock.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– by leave- Earlier in this session I tabled in the Senate the 1977-79 reports of the Universities Commission, the Commission on Advanced Education, the Technical and Further Education Commission and the Schools Commission. The reports were prepared by the commissions in response to the Government’s guidelines which I announced in the Senate on 20 May. The guidelines provided by the Government enabled the commissions to recommend programs for 1977 totalling $ 1,537m, at December 1975 prices- an increase of $47m in real terms over 1976. For the second and third years of the triennium, the commissions were asked to proceed with plans based on minimum growth rates of 2 per cent per annum in real terms for universities, colleges of advanced education and schools, and a higher rate of 5 per cent per annum for technical and further education. I wish to commend the commissions for presenting their reports within a relatively brief time schedule and to record the Government’s appreciation of their helpful response to the guidelines. For the most part, the Government has found itself in agreement with the general lines of development put forward and, with some modifications, accepts the financial recommendations for 1977 which is the first year to be specifically determined under the rolling triennium ‘ approach.
Before going on to deal with each sector, I wish to emphasise that the Government has no intention of retreating from its undertaking to support real growth in the education programs on which the commissions make recommendations. Consistent with that resolve, the Government will continue to supplement programs to meet unavoidable cost increases on the basis of appropriate indexes already approved for that purpose. The changes in procedures for 1977 will not detract from the present capacity of authorities and institutions to get full value from the Commonwealth’s financial support. It is, nevertheless, the responsibility and aim of the Government to reduce inflation and restore confidence in the economy. For this reason, we will be urging the States, relevant education authorities and institutions to use every endeavour to identify savings and to practise good housekeeping without detriment to the effective implementation of the programs. In this way the Government considers that it should be possible to ensure that cost increases are contained and reduced by offsetting savings.
I will-be asking the commissions to convey to authorities and institutions further details of the procedures agreed to by the Government. Briefly, these are that adjustments for agreed cost increases will be made each quarter following certification from each commission of the supplementation required to maintain real levels of the expenditure approved for the 1977 program. Account will be taken of ofT-setting savings, including any from favourable building tenders. The movements in costs will be measured against indexes for wages and salaries determinations and other recurrent costs and for building costs. Through this process, ministerial approval will be given to supplementary grants to meet unavoidable cost increases. I turn now to the programs in each sector.
The Government has accepted the financial recommendations of the Universities Commission for 1977. The program amounts to $56 1.6m of which the provision of operating expenditure will be $53 1.6m, at December quarter 1975 cost levels, including $0.4m which by agreement between the appropriate authorities has been transferred from the advanced education program for the Gordon Institute of Technology which is to be absorbed into Deakin University at Geelong. The provision for building expenditure is $30m, at December 1975 cost levels. The Government’s program provides for on-going support for the establishment of Deakin University, and for Griffith University and Murdoch University which will be enrolling third year students for the first time in 1977. The program also includes special earmarked support for the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales, the School of Medicine at the University of Newcastle, the School of Medicine at Flinders University in South Australia, and the School of Veterinary Studies at Murdoch University. In accordance with the guidelines, growth in the level of teacher education enrolments will be discouraged and there will be no provision for the establishment of new institutions in 1 977.
Universities will be able to maintain their intake of students in 1977 at a level comparable to that in 1976. and this will produce an increase in total university enrolments of 2 per cent because earlier increases in intakes have still to work their way through the system. Of the $30m allocated for building expenditure an amount of $5.9m will be provided to universities in 1977 for minor building works, site works and site services, and an amount of $23.6m will be provided to meet the costs of building projects already commenced. The remaining $0.5m is for planning for the year 1978. Acting under section 16 of the Universities Commission Act, I intend to request the Universities Commission to prepare a report on study leave in universities, including any desirable modifications to the present study leave arrangements. I shall be asking the Commission to consult with the States and the universities on the review and with the Commission on Advanced Education on the implications for the college sector.
Colleges of Advanced Education
The Government’s 1977 expenditure program for colleges of advanced education, as recommended by the Commission on Advanced Education, covers the allocation of $404m, at December 1975 cost levels. The Commission on Advanced Education has proposed that $6.2m be transferred to the university sector for the colleges which will be absorbed into Deakin University, and that $3m for advanced education courses in technical and further education institutions be transferred for allocation by the Technical and Further Education Commission. As I have already indicated, it has been agreed between the appropriate authorities that a further amount of $0.4m be transferred in 1977 from the allocations shown in the Commission’s report for the Victoria Institute of Colleges to Deakin University for use by the Gordon Institute of Technology, one of the colleges to be absorbed. There has also been a rearrangement of the recommended programs for the Victoria Institute of Colleges and the State College of Victoria since the Commission’s report was completed because of an examination now being conducted by the Commission into the effect of changed superannuation arrangements in Victoria. The revised allocations are set out in schedules to the States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Bill.
The Government supports these transfers and accepts the Commission’s allocations of the remaining $325. lm for recurrent expenditure and $69.3m for capital expenditure as detailed in its report. The capital program for 1 977 includes funds for approved projects at 42 colleges. The program provides for the continuation and, in some cases, completion of a number of projects as well as the commencement of a number of new initiatives. Funds are also included for equipment and minor works and services. There is provision for an increase of approximately 10 per cent in student intake into colleges of advanced education in 1977 compared with 1976 and for an increase of total enrolments in 1977 of about 5 per cent. Enrolments in teacher education courses in 1977 will be contained.
The Government supports the proposal of the Commission on Advanced Education for a review of assistance to non-government teachers colleges and I intend to issue a request in specific terms to the Commission to conduct such ‘a review and to recommend on the assistance which might be provided from 1978, on a basis consistent with the Government’s policies. The Government has also decided that there would be merit in asking the Commission on Advanced Education to conduct a review of study leave arrangements in the colleges, as is intended in the universities sector. Because of the particular responsibilities of State Ministers for colleges of advanced education, I am writing to the State Education Ministers to seek their co-operation in carrying out such a review. Both these requests will be made under the provisions of section 16 of the Commission on Advanced Education Act.
Technical and Further Education
The Government’s 1977 expenditure program on technical and further education, as recommended by the Commission, amounts to $73m- at December 1975 cost levels- comprising $38. 4m for recurrent expenditure and $34.6m for capital expenditure. These funds include an amount of $3m to be transferred from the Commission on Advanced Education to cover advanced education courses in technical and further education institutions. The capital funds will permit a start to be made on the construction of 4 new major colleges, at Mount Druitt in New South Wales, Dandenong and Newport in Victoria, and Mount Gravatt in Queensland. Continuation of the construction of other colleges in all States and the planning for further new colleges will also proceed.
A significant portion of the recurrent funds for 1 977 will go towards the continuation of specific projects commenced in earlier periods with Commonwealth assistance and to the establishment of new programs designed to improve the quality of teaching and other resources in this sector. These special purpose programs include staff development schemes- including nonteaching staff- improvement of information systems, and a group of other programs from which
States are able to choose according to their priorities. This latter group includes curriculum development, new learning techniques, provision of counselling, improvement of learning resources, subsidies for running costs of student residentials, student services and other programs to develop the efficiency of technical and further education. In addition, $200,000 is being made available for programs to be carried out by nongovernment agencies, such as programs designed to improve literacy and numeracy among adults. The allocation of these funds is to be made by a body nominated by each State and in accord with guidelines mutually acceptable to State and Commonwealth governments.
It should be emphasised that the Government continues to give technical and further education a high priority and it is of central importance that the States continue to support technical and further education from their own funds, so that the Commonwealth Government grants will be a real addition to resources. It is especially important for the States to maintain their efforts on capital programs if rapidly increasing enrolments are to be accommodated in coming years.
The Government’s 1977 expenditure program for schools amounts to $508m- in December 1975 price “levels. Of this amount $310.3m is for government schools, $ 173.4m for nongovernment schools and $24.2m is to be shared jointly between the government and nongovernment sectors. Details of proposed expenditure on individual programs in each State are shown in the table that follows. The Government has considered recommendations of the Schools Commission against the background of its own education policies for schools. These include widening educational opportunity and promoting equality in the provision of education; parental choice in schooling; encouragement of community participation in education policy development and execution; and special assistance to the educationally disadvantaged. We endorse in particular the emphasis the Schools Commission wishes to see given to moves to create 2-way communication between schools, parents, employers and the community at large; and encouragement of co-operative planning between government and non-government school authorities.
The Government welcomes moves by school communites and State governments to encourage a more active role for parents, teachers and local communities in school management and decision-making. Within the compass of general recurrent grants to the States and the nongovernment schools Commonwealth funds may be used for such purposes. The Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendation that the 6 existing programs be maintained in 1977. These are: General Resources Programsgeneral recurrent grants, including funds for child migrant and multi-cultural education; capital grants; Specific Purpose Programs- disadvantaged schools; special education for handicapped children; services and development, including education centres; special projects, including funds for school-based innovations. In addition the Government has agreed to a number of new initiatives. These are: Children living in institutions- $lm is to be jointly shared by the government and non-government sectors to provide additional assistance for education of children living in various institutions- for example, correctional and remand institutions; residential care institutions; disadvantaged country areas program- a $3.5m joint program that extends the existing disadvantaged schools program to provide more assistance to pupils in country areas; emergency aid for nongovernment schools- $750,000 has been allocated to assist schools in temporary financial difficulties due to an unexpected decline in enrolments, particularly in country areas; capital assistance for non-government boarding schoolsfunds will be available for the first time in 1977 for boarding facilities; a loans guarantee scheme for non-government school building projects. The Government has also decided to implement a scheme of advance offers of building grants to non-government schools to enable projects to be commenced sooner than would otherwise be the case.
General Resources Programs
I deal firstly with government schools. The Government has accepted the Commission’s financial recommendations for government schools in broad terms but has modified the recommended distribution between States of capital grants. This modification was made after considering the basis of the recommended distribution and relating this to the existing pattern of grants in 1976. The Government considered that, in the light of 1976 allocations, the recommended total of general recurrent and capital grants for Queensland would make it too difficult for that State to implement its planned programs for 1977. The modified distribution of grants decided on by the Government results in a $1.4m addition to Queensland ‘s allocation for general capital grants offset against slight reductions in the allocations for 4 other States. As is the case in relation to grants for 1976, the Commonwealth is prepared to consult with the States on the question of transfers between the allocations for general recurrent and capital grants within each tate. This move is aimed at providing each State with a degree of flexibility in planning the use of grants under these 2 programs.
The Commission’s report highlights the marked improvement in the operating resources available to government schools since 1972. It estimates that taking the 6 States together recurrent resources per pupil have increased up to 1975 by some 28 per cent at the primary level and 23 per cent at the secondary level. These increases in overall resources have been manifested in more favourable student-staff ratios- particularly through increases in the level of professional support and ancillary support staff available- and in the availability of materials and equipment. A substantial part of these improvements has occurred because of increased contributions from the States between 1972 and 1975. It is pleasing to see that there has been a noticeable trend towards directing additional resources to primary schools.
I turn now to non-government schools. In the case of non-government schools there has also been some overall improvement but the Commission has reported that a marked and increasing gap remains between the resources available to government schools and to most nongovernment schools. The Government reaffirms its policy of providing basic per capita grants for all pupils in non-government schools while at the same time maintaining higher grants for schools in greater need. It is concerned to encourage parental choice The Government has accepted the Schools Commission recommendation that the level of grants for non-government schools be linked automatically in future years to per pupil expenditure levels in government schools. “The Government has generally accepted the Commission’s recommended levels of funding for non-government schools in 1977 but has decided to increase the size of recommended general recurrent grant for the most needy primary schools from $223 to $229 per pupil- in average 1976 price levels.
These schools cater for approximately 90 per cent of enrolments in non-government primary schools. The Government has decided not to proceed with the introduction of a supported schools scheme for non-government schools. The per pupil amounts for 1977 are set out below and are compared with those for 1976 (dollar amounts are in average 1976 price levels):
Non-government general recurrent grants for 1 977 will continue to be distributed in the same manner as in 1976. Block grants will be paid to central authorities for systemic schools, while individual non-systemic schools will receive direct payments. The Government is conscious of the advantages flowing from the operation of groups of non-government schools as systems and supports this approach subject to appropriate measures to ensure local participation in decision making. The Government has decided to introduce a scheme to enable non-government schools to plan and commence capital projects which have been approved for assistance under the Capital Grants Program for 1978 and 1979. This move will contribute significantly to the economic and orderly forward planning of building projects. An associated recommendation of the Schools Commission which the Government is adopting is that related to guarantees of loans raised by non-government schools to finance construction of approved building projects. It is expected that the Government will introduce legislation into the Parliament in the autumn session of 1977 to give effect to that decision. Details of these schemes will be announced shortly.
I turn to specific purpose programs. The Government will be continuing the special purpose programs in 1977 for migrant and multicultural education, for disadvantaged schools, for handicapped children, for educational services and development, and for special projects. In particular we have accepted the Commission’s recommendation that activity on child migrant and multi-cultural education be continued in 1977 at about the same level as in 1976. Expenditure in real terms will rise slightly to $2 1.65m. The program of positive discrimination in favour of the education of children from disadvantaged areas will be substantially enlarged in 1 977. We have accepted the Commission’s recommendation that a pilot scheme of special support for educational services in disadvantaged country areas be undertaken in addition to the existing program which largely concentrates on urban areas. Expenditure in 1977 on the program as a whole will rise to $20. 1 m compared with $ 1 6. 1 m in 1976, in constant prices. A new element has been introduced into the Special Education Program. In 1977, there will be grants available for projects undertaken by individual residential institutions in order to enrich and support the educational experience of children who do not have the benefits of a home environment. The Services and Development and Special Projects (Innovations) Programs will continue in 1977 at about the same levels as in 1 976.
The Schools Commission has recommended that schools in the Territories have access to programs similar to those it has recommended for the States. The Government has accepted this recommendation. Whilst the Government has accepted most of the Commission’s financial recommendations it is giving further consideration to the way in which the programs are to be managed. Detailed administrative arrangements will be announced shortly in guidelines being developed in collaboration with the States, nongovernment schools and parent and teacher organisations.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this statement, each of the commissions was given minimum growth figures in real terms for 1 978 and 1979 on which to base their recommendations and planning at the national level. Further guidelines will be issued to the commissions in about April 1977 and these will cover firm parameters for 1978 together with revised planning guidelines for 1979 and fresh planning guidelines for 1980. In 1977 by the decisions of this Government, growth will be resumed in the programs of the Education Commissions, and the foundations restored for ongoing triennial development. Whilst the growth is small it is real growth and demonstrates our acceptance of education as a vital factor in all forms of progress. Legislation is in the process of being introduced to implement the initiatives I have outlined. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard tables summarising the financial details of the programs.
-Is leSve granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
All members of the Parliament are, I am sure, committed to democratic control of trade unions and employer organisations. The cornerstone of democratic control is membership participation. The essential question is how to provide for the fullest participation of membership in a manner which recognises the structural diversity of organisations. In 1973, the then Minister for Labor, the Honourable Clyde Cameron, introduced amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which had the effect of requiring the election of the holder of each office in an organisation by direct vote of the appropriate section of the membership. An exception from this requirement was permitted in relation to those offices of a part-time nature on an organisation’s federal committee of management where the rules of the organisation provided, before the commencement of the amendment, a form of election other than by direct vote. Organisations were allowed a period of 3 years to bring their rules into conformity with the Act. That period expires on 13 November this year.
The fact is, however, that direct election is not, in all situations, a guarantee of proper democratic control. For example, direct voting may result, in an organisation which has a substantial proportion of its total membership in one branch, in the smaller branches having no representation on the management committee. Since the amendment of the Act in 1973, there has been widespread public discussion and the development of active lobbies for and against direct elections. The Government has received numerous representation as had, I believe, the previous Government. It is clear that there are deep divisions on the issue of how membership control is best asserted. The Government has taken account of a wide spectrum of opinion in deciding upon the course of action it now proposes. The solution which has been decided upon represents, in the Government’s view, the most appropriate and most workable solution overall. In a matter as contentious as this, no approach will meet with universal acclaim. But I am confident that the merits of this Bill are evident and will meet with wide support. The amendments proposed will now give organisations a choice in the manner by which they elect their officers, whether full time or part time.
Offices, the duties of which are full time in nature, may be elected by direct vote of the appropriate section of the rank and file. Alternatively, the organisation may choose a one-tier collegiate system, that is, a system whereby a conference or council is elected by direct vote of the appropriate section of the rank and file membership and that conference or council elects from its members the full-time officers.
In relation to offices, the duties of which are not full time in nature, the position whereby organisations may adopt a direct election, onetier or a multiple-tier system of collegiate election, for example, a system whereby the conference or council which is elected by direct vote may elect from its members another body which then elects from its members the part time officers, will be restored. This type of situation operated prior to 1973.
The Bill recognises, however, that an unqualified requirement that persons elected by a college must also be elected from the members of that college, can be disadvantageous to the organisation because of the possible loss of continuity of experienced management. At the same time, the Government’s policy is to ensure that management reflects rank and file views. What the Government proposes, therefore, is that current office holders from time to time can be members of the college which elects persons to those offices for the following term, provided that those office bearers do not constitute more than 15 per cent of the members of the college. Those office bearers must have been elected originally to the college and by the college to those positions or, alternatively, to those positions by a direct voting system and must have held office continuously, though not necessarily the same office, since being first elected to office. Where the rules of organisations are not already in conformity with the new requirements, organisations will be permitted a period of 2 years from the date of operation of the amendments to bring their rules into conformity. If, at the end of that period an organisation has not made the necessary alterations to its rules, the Industrial Registrar, after inviting the organisations to consult with him on the matter, will be able to make the alterations.
As I have indicated, the Bill distinguishes between full-time and part-time offices. Holders of full-time offices generally play a key role in the formulation of policy as well as being responsible for the implementation of policy decisions and for the management of the day-to-day affairs of the organisation. There will be agreement that persons exercising such functions should not be permitted to become organisationally remote from the membership. The Government believes that either direct election or a one-tier collegiate electoral system proposed for full-time offices will reduce the chances of this occurring and is, at the same time, consistent with the principle of fullest participation by members. In both cases, there is a directness, or nexus, between the exercise of the individual member’s vote and the election of full-time officers, to make effective participation by individual members a reality. Of course it is essential that the nature or composition of the college be truly representative of the membership. The provisions of the Act in section 140 (1) (c)- that the rules of an organisation may not impose conditions which are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust- and the associated regulation 1 1 5 will continue to provide the basis for members to enforce the representative nature of any such electoral college as may exist or become established. The conditions referred to in relation to full-time offices do not apply with the same force in the case of pan-time offices. At the same time the arrangements which organisations choose for the election of part-time officers will still be subject to review by the Industrial Court upon application by an aggrieved member.
It is also proposed to amend section 17 ID to ensure that any scheme for the reconstitution of an invalidly constituted organisation will provide for a collegiate electoral system where the organisation’s rules so provide and a direct voting system where the rules provide for that. Nor is the scheme to depart from the provisions of the organisation’s rules to a greater extent than the Court is satisfied is necessary having regard to the requirements of the Act. The Government is of the view that any fundamental change in the rules of an organisation should be primarily a matter for determination by the members or their authorised represenatives in accordance with the rules of the organisation.
Finally, the Bill proposes that the Act be amended to delete from the definition of ‘Office’ in section 4 those positions the duties of which are substantially similar to positions for which elections are required to be conducted, and positions which have duties substantially similar to offices for which elections are required to be conducted under rules in force prior to the 1973 amendments to the Act. The effect of the amendments will be to restore the situation prior to the 1973 amendments of the Act; that is, organisations will be able to appoint persons to them without the necessity of providing for their election.
The proposals I have detailed are acceptable to the employers. The peak union councils have also been informed of the Government’s proposals. When I previously discussed the question of collegiate voting with the unions last May, Mr Hawke pointed out that there is a division of opinion within the trade union movement on this issue and that he could not put a monolithic trade union view on the matter. The Bill gives effect to the commitment I made on the Government’s behalf at the end of the last session- that it intended to have enacted before 1 3 November, the date by which the 1973 amendments were to be effective, legislation which reflects its acceptance in principle of a form of collegiate voting provided the system adopted is consistent with its policy of fullest participation by members. With the passage of this legislation, organisations, whether of employers or unions, will of course no longer have to comply with the current requirement of amending their rules to provide for direct elections for officers. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
-For the information of honourable senators I present an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland concerning variations to the Sugar Agreement 1975 effecting a 12 per cent increase in the domestic price of sugar.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 In Committee
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) We are considering Group C as a whole.
– I address myself, under the estimates for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, to division 297, item 01, Contribution to operational expenses- Hotel Kurrajong, Brassey House and Ainslie Guest House. I did not take part in the hearings of the Estimates Committee because I had been overseas for 2 months as a member of a delegation from this Parliament to a world conference in Spain dealing with reducing world tension in international affairs and a new economic order. For that reason I was not here when the Estimates were examined by the Estimates Committees, and I did not take part in the Budget debate. I heard the contribution made by Senator Wright this evening and the veiled challenge that he threw down to the effect that I should have been in the chamber to support him in his remarks regarding the Kurrajong Hotel. That prompts me this evening to rise in my place and make some contribution towards the consideration of the estimates concerned with that area.
I do not need to remind the Senate of the performance that took place in this chamber 12 months ago when the Estimates were being examined by the Senate and of the hysterical manner in which the Public Service was put under inquisition. Questions were asked and all sorts of hysterical claims were made that the Government was misappropriating funds. I think that honourable senators will recall that I rose in my place as the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts in an endeavour to bring some sanity back into the consideration of the Estimates by reminding honourable senators opposite, who were then in Opposition, that appropriations and estimates are framed in accordance with Treasury regulations and Treasury procedures. I pointed out that it did not matter what was the political persuasion of the party in government because it was firmly laid down by the regulations that estimates had to be prepared in a certain manner and that expenses only up to a certain point were taken into account. I think it will be recalled that I had to rebuke certain honourable senators opposite, some of whom are now Ministers, for their total ignorance of Treasury regulations. I was heartened this evening to hear Senator Baume, who in the last 12 months has become a member of the Public Accounts Committee, give very good advice to his colleague, Senator Wright, and try to put him on to the track and to reinforce completely the views that I expressed in this chamber 12 months ago. However, so much for that.
Senator Wright made the claim that he thought I should have been in the chamber this evening to support him in his remarks regarding the Kurrajong Hotel. I want to be as kind as I can to the honourable senator. It is true that when he was the Minister responsible for these matters I did approach him to try to do something to restore the prestige of the Kurrajong Hotel. It is one of the most valuable landmarks in the city of Canberra. It and its precincts are well known landmarks in Canberra and probably the best real estate in this town. If we are genuine when we talk about national heritage, it should be preserved. I approached Senator Wright when he was Minister and he gave me a good hearing. But nothing happened.
Let me put the record straight. The Labor Government came to power and I carried on my crusade with the Honourable Les Johnson who succeeded Senator Wright in being responsible for that portfolio. I am happy to be able to report to the Senate this evening that, contrary to what Senator Wright said this afternoon when he misled the Senate, much was done. Management consultants were engaged to look at the accommodation side of things. John F. Lynch and Associates, who are construction engineers from Brisbane and who are well established engineers in the hotel field, were consulted. As a result of the imagination and the enterprise of the directors of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, a practical proposition was drawn up under which the Kurrajong Hotel was to be restructured as a licensed hotel to bring it into the concept of what a modern international tourist hotel should be today. A study was done to ascertain whether it would be a feasible proposition. The cost of restructuring the hotel to make it into something of which the capital city would be proud was estimated at $ 1.25m. The feasibility study that was carried out by experts showed that it was a commercial proposition.
Now that the party of Senator Wright’s political persuasion is in government, I suggest that it seek out those plans and those feasibility studies and that it not succumb to taking the easy way out, as is recommended in the Estimates, by selling the Kurrajong Hotel and its adjoining property for the sake of convenience. The Labor Party did a great deal to obtain the plans that Senator Wright said I cavorted before him as Minister. Senator Wright gave me plenty. He left me with the impression that he was a millionaire in words but a bankrupt in ideas. The Honourable Les Johnson was the only man who came forward with a constructive idea. I repeat that 2 firms of management consultants were called in, a feasibility study was carried out, the plans were drawn up and an estimate of costs was received. The plans should still be available. I suggest that if Senator Wright is still keen to preserve part of our national heritage-the Kurrajong Hotel- he should look for those plans.
I have the highest respect and admiration for the directors of Commonwealth Hostels. I do not share Senator Wright’s views on or his criticism of their efficiency. I find them to be most receptive to progressive ideas, to initiative and to imagination. If they were not we would not have been able to formulate the plans that are somewhere in the department. I did not like Senator Wright’s veiled criticism of Mrs Margaret Whitlam, because I feel that her elevation to the position of a director of Commonwealth Hostels enhanced considerably the prestige of that organisation.
– I rise for a few moments to refer to division 662, Australian National Railways, and to assure Senator Bishop that I am just as interested as he is in the progress of the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway and the Crystal Brook-Adelaide railway. I am sure that he would concede that point. I too was concerned about the reports to the effect that the standard of construction could possibly suffer as a result of economies that may be effected. I took up that matter immediately with the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and sought his assurance that we would not make the mistake that was made years ago in relation to the existing railway line which was of sub-standard construction. We have seen the folly of that, because it has been washed away on numerous occasions and has caused tremendous inconvenience and disruption to traffic to the Northern Territory. I assure the Senate that I want to see those projects completed as quickly as possible. I was reassured by the Minister recently that the Tarcoola-Alice Springs project is expected to be completed by 1981.
I was also interested in the remarks of my colleague, Senator Kilgariff, who has also been a great advocate for transport systems between the Northern Territory and South Australia, when he referred to the matters mentioned in the statements made, I think by the Chairman of the Australian National Railways Commission at Port Augusta. I propose to read for the benefit of honourable senators a Press statement dated 27 October which I think will clarify the position. It reads:
Mr Peter Nixon, Minister for Transport, said today that he had not received a proposal to close the Central Australian Railway.
The people of the Northern Territory can be assured that the Government will continue to provide the best transport facilities possible to cater for their needs ‘, Mr Nixon said.
No changes will be made to existing arrangements without my authorisation ‘, Mr Nixon said.
Mr Nixon was commenting upon recent reports that the Chairman of the Australian National Railways Commission had told a representative of the Australian Workers Union that the line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs would be terminated at Manguri next year.
I repeat my previous statement on this matter- I have not received any proposal to close the line ‘, Mr Nixon said.
Mr Nixon said that ANRC, as part of its normal business arrangements, were examining the cost of the line to Alice Springs and considering ways and means of producing savings.
Mr Nixon said that the Central Australian Railway is a severe drain on Australian National Railway resources. For example, in 1974-75 the operating loss on the line was almost $5 million. The main difficulty associated with this line is the narrow gauge section from Marree to Alice Springs due to its light construction, severe speed limitations and high maintenance costs.
Before any decision is made on any proposal for the establishment of a transfer point or on other changes to the existing arrangements, a thorough study will be undertaken that will examine in detail the economic and social issues involved ‘, Mr Nixon said.
I think that clears up the confusion that was created perhaps by a misreport, I suggest, of what Mr Smith intended. As far as the AdelaideCrystal Brook line in South Australia is concerned, I also was worried that the establishment of another committee to have a look at this project might interfere with it. Of course, it is necessary to investigate everything thoroughly. I have received representations from Crystal Brook, Port Pirie and other parts of South Australia in the area which will be affected, with requests to consider the economics of converting the existing line to standard gauge by, for example, moving a rail. These proposals were put forward by competent people. One was a retired ANR engineer who sent me a very substantial submission which I referred to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who undertook to examine the proposal by referring it to the committee for consideration because of the economies that it could effect. He assured me in a letter of 30 September that the terms of reference for that committee would be decided soon. He said that when the composition of the committee was finalised he would make some announcement and he hoped that would be in the very near future. I urge the Government to make a decision on that matter.
I think it was Senator Bishop who referred to delays which appeared to have been occurring in May this year. I remind the Committee that the Government put out a multi-million dollar tender for civil construction works on the TarcoolaAlice Springs railway line. I also was worried when I read that the South Australian Minister for the Environment, Mr Simmons, had requested that a further environmental study be made before work proceeded. There are aspects of this matter which have to be considered. I assure Senator Bishop and his colleagues from South Australia who sit on the Opposition side that I share their concern about these projects and I certainly will join them in continuing to keep the Government on its toes to ensure that the program is completed as early as possible.
– I have some information regarding the contributions made by a number of honourable senators. I thank Senator Mulvihill for improving my knowledge of geography. I am now able to inform myself that there are 3 islands in the Chappell group- Goose Island, Badger Island and Mount Chappell Island. There is an unmanned lighthouse at the southern end of Goose Island. I am ignoring all these wonderful asides from Opposition senators. I hope they will tell me about them later. The unmanned lighthouse is inspected about every 3 months. From a conservation and wildlife protection viewpoint the Department’s relationship with State authorities is very good. Provided it is not asked to relinquish the land, the Department is always anxious to co-operate with State authorities to ensure that protective measures are implemented and observed.
I think it was Senator Bishop who asked me a question about railway inquiries. I am now happy to respond. I think this evens up the score. I acknowledge the interest of all honourable senators from South Australia in these matters. The target dates are mid-November for the Tasmanian inquiry and mid-December for the Adelaide-Crystal Brook inquiry. I think it was Senator McLaren who asked me about narrow gauge rolling stock and its transferability. My advice is that rolling stock will be used as required on the existing narrow gauge systems, for example, the Tasmanian, Eyre Peninsula and Central Australian Railways systems. In fact, some stock has been transferred already. Should excessive stock still be available, it is thought that the ANR would give some consideration to changing the bogies to standard gauge, which is one way of dealing with excess stock.
I was asked whether I would get some assurance that the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line will be of a quality to handle freight, etc. The policy is to provide an efficient, reliable rail from South Australia to the Northern Territory and the construction standards are in accordance with that requirement. As to the remaining 2 matters, Senator McLaren asked me a very complex question regarding a comparison of costs between rail and road. This, of course, cannot be answered now. It will be answered later. I think it was also Senator McLaren who talked about a feasibility study on the Larrimah-Darwin line. I have some difficulty in locating a report, but I imagine that he was referring to the interdepartmental report of a committee set up under the Whitlam Government in about 1974-75. If that is so, my understanding- it is purely an informal one- is that the then Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, made some announcements in that regard. Should there be any further need to follow that up, I shall be happy to respond.
– I wish to make some comments in regard to the estimates for the Department of Education set out in division 270.4.0 1 in relation to post-graduate awards. The appropriation this year has been decreased compared with last year. The decrease is due to the fact that fewer awards will be made this year than were made last year. I would like to make a few comments about this, not in the hope of changing the Government’s viewpoint but perhaps in the hope of influencing what the
Government might decide to be policy in the years ahead.
From 1959 onwards there have been dramatic increases in the number of post-graduate awards. In 1959, 100 new awards were presented and in 1960 there were also 100 awards. In 1961 there was one fewer, for some reason, when 99 awards were presented. I presume that 100 new awards were available, but for some reason one was not taken up. In 1962 the number increased to 125 and the following year to 169. The rate of increase over those years was fairly constant. In 1964 there were 225 and in 1965 there were 299 new awards. In 1966 there were 400. For the next 2 years there were 500 awards. For the next 2 years, 1969 and 1970, there were 650 awards. For the 3 years from 1 97 1 to 1 973 there were 800 awards. In 1974 there were 892 awards. I should imagine that 900 new awards were available, but for some reason 8 awards were not taken up. For the last 2 years, 1975 and 1976, there were 900 new awards. The Government has decided to reduce the number of post-graduate awards from 900 to 800.
I can vividly recall when I was looking forward to taking up one of these post graduate awards myself In 1966 I was completing an honours year and towards the end of the year when I was thinking that I might like to take one of these post graduate awards there was a notification that the number of awards would be increased from 400 to 500. 1 was particularly gratified by this announcement because I thought it might have enhanced my possibilities of taking one of these awards. I can imagine what has happened this year. I can remember my gratification in 1 966; but this year there would be a number of students I am sure who would be particularly upset because they could see that their possibility of obtaining a post graduate award next year would be reduced because there will be 100 less.
My comment to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is that I am hopeful that there will not be any further decrease in the number of awards in future years. I am sure the Minister will be aware of the long term benefits that can flow from these awards, not only to the students but to the nation as well. I hope that in future times when the Government can see fit it will return the number of awards to the level in 1975-76 of 900 and then perhaps as the years go by we might find that we can provide more of these post graduate awards. In other words, what I am saying this evening is that I am hopeful that the number of awards will increase in future and certainly will not decrease again.
In addition, I wish to make some brief comment on the estimates for the Postal and Telecommunications Department. Mr Chairman, I shall have to seek your guidance here. I cannot identify the division to which I refer but the item appears on page 61. The item to which I wish to refer concerns the main elements of earnings for Telecom. It is in relation to this item that I make some comments about subscriber trunk dialling. One of the most forward movements in telecommunications in recent years has been the introduction of STD. It has been welcomed by many people who know the way in which costs can be saved by using STD.
I can recall that it was not so many years agoI suppose about 1971- that an officer of the Postmaster General’s Department, as it was at the time, said to me that if people did not use STD the PMG would have to require them to incur a charge for making a manually connected call. This seemed to be a huie novel and perhaps something that might not have been accepted by people, but it has now been accepted fairly well. I think it has been accepted because those who regularly make STD calls find them ever so much easier than having to book the calls. But one of the untoward happenings with the introduction of STD has been that many people’s telephone accounts have been higher than anticipated.
I recall reading about 2 weeks ago that an officer of Telecom, in relation to a complaint which received some publicity in the Brisbane newspapers, said that of 100 cases that were investigated by Telecom there were about 98 per cent in which the people should have received the account that they did. It seems to be an unhappy situation where one can have 2 per cent of cases where there could be something wrong with people’s accounts, but I should like to deal with the other 98 per cent. Many people now are finding that their telephone accounts for metered calls are much higher than anticipated and many people complain about this. Some of them complain to members of Parliament about that. I presume that in most of the cases where people are genuine in their complaint they have made STD calls and not realised that they have made them.
In this I think there is a real defect, the defect being that STD calls are not metered separately. I asked a question on this and only 2 days ago received an answer which suggested that there would be no real move within Australia to have STD calls metered separately, although it seems that in New Zealand where STD type calls are being introduced at the moment, the metering will be separate. But what interested me was that apparently over the next 5 years or so there will be separate metering for international subscriber dialling calls. It somewhat surprises me that the priority should be on ISD calls rather than STD calls if one is to have separate metering. My argument is that ISD calls are available on telephones only where people have specifically asked for ISD to be connected, whereas for STD the connection is there unless people specifically ask that it be taken away or removed by barring.
For the person who asks for ISD to be connected it would seem to me that that person, having asked, would be able readily to accept that metered call charges would be high to cover the ISD calls that are made whereas with STD people might be unwittingly making long distance calls and not able to tell because the charges are bulked with local metered calls. I realise, as we all do, that if we make an STD call when we are connected a warning is given that it is an STD call. But I am sure that some people are unaware that they are making them and when they receive their telephone accounts see nothing to indicate that there have been STD calls.
The case that I should like to present to the Government, and therefore to Telecom, is to keep looking at the possibility of metering STD calls separately. It seems from the answer that I received recently that Telecom will introduce this but it will be a long term project. I hope that Telecom will keep this in mind because I am sure that many people are finding that their telephone accounts are high through no real fault of their own, just through misunderstanding of the system.
– I just wish to comment on 2 contributions by honourable senators. I think Senator McAuliffe referred to the question of the feasibility of modernising the Hotel Kurrajong. I think he argued that the study done on it established the financial viability of a modernised hotel. My own advice is that the hotel would not have been financially viable on the estimated patronage unless a notional rate of interest well below the commercial rates were to be applied to the capital cost of renovation.
Senator Colston referred to post graduate scholarships. It is true that in the May 1976 decisions one of the measures of economy, and one of very few suffered by education, was a reduction of 100 such scholarships. I acknowledge the real significance of post graduate research and post graduate development in the universities. I acknowledge that it is one of the main factors which give universities their distinctive characteristics of scholarship both in pure and in applied research. I acknowledge that as soon as the economy of Australia is in sufficiently good shape we should look towards the field of university research and see what can be done.
I remind the honourable senator that the whole of the Budget that confronts us this year is a question of priorities of judgment. One of the priorities has been essentially the aim to ensure that all matriculants leaving schools or colleges should be able to find places in tertiary institutions, whether they be colleges of advanced education or universities. Of course, this means the application of more money. In the statement I made here tonight I affirmed that that should be possible next year and that is one of the priorities which the Government is keeping in mind. I also remind the honourable senator that one of the extra costs and one that the Government has had in mind is the necessity to raise student allowances of all kinds in the calendar year ahead. These student allowances, which include stipends and allowances for post-graduate scholarships, will incur a total of $50m more in expenditure in the whole calendar year 1976 than in the previous year. So we will have a bill for next calendar year of $200m for student allowances. Whilst one recognises the importance of adequate allowances for those in need one must look again at the competing priorities. I remind the honourable senator that the Government has announced increases in stipends from $3,250 a year to $4,000 a year, which is a useful increase; an increase in the spouse’s allowance from $780 a year to $1,508 a year; and sundry other increases. So now we can help post-graduate scholarship holders in that regard. I stress and acknowledge the importance of post-graduate work in universities. I acknowledge that it ought to be kept under review.
The honourable senator raised the question of metered telephone calls, telephone accounts and subscriber trunk dialling calls. I understand that to achieve the kind of accounting that he mentioned it would cost in the order of $80m on the advice which I have received. The Australian Telecommunications Commission is planning to upgrade all present exchanges to provide a number of additional services including those mentioned by the honourable senator. Nevertheless the comments he made are common in the community and I will draw them to the attention of my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
-I want to respond briefly to the explanation by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) about the 3 islands which are a haven for the Cape Barren geese. I discussed the matter with Senator Devitt who was my co-protector of the Cape Barren geese eight or nine years ago. The Minister enumerated 3 islands. I became lost after he mentioned the island on which there is a lighthouse and for which the Commonwealth has responsibility. Senator Devitt and I had negotiations with Mr Sinclair, who was then the Minister for Shipping and Transport, in regard to protection for the birds on the island with the lighthouse. Senator Devitt then carried the ball and negotiated with Premier Reece. The Minister mentioned that one of the 3 islands is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Am I to understand that the other 2 islands are not the habitat of the Cape Barren geese or am I to understand that one of them is a State Government Sanctuary for the Cape Barren Geese.
– I wish to refer to divisions 480 and 483 which relate to the accountancy operations of the Postal and Telecommunications Department. I am indebted to my colleague Senator Colston for taking up this matter at Senate Estimates Committee C in my absence overseas. My query in relation to the accountancy of Telecom may be only for my own edification. I want to refer to the hire charges which that organisation makes for its equipment. According to the information that Senator Colston was given, the hire rates of cranes up to and including 5 tons is $ 1 . 1 0 an hour. That seems to me to be ludicrously low for any type of crane but particularly for one up to 5 tons. For cranes over 5 tons and up to and including 9 tons, except crawler mounted, the rate is $1.45. If we go right through to a 10-ton Austin- Western the hire charge rate is $32 a day or $4 an hour, one presumes, for an 8-hour day. When we go to tractors we find that for a crawler tractor up to 10 000 lbs the hire rate is $2.60 an hour. For crawler tractors over 60 000 lbs or 30 tons the hire rate is $24 an hour. There are no wheeled tractors up to 3000 lbs in service but for wheeled tractors over 3000 lbs and up to 6000 lbs the hire rate is $ 1.05 and for over 10 000 lbs the hire rate is $5.80.
I can recall about twelve of fourteen years ago hiring a crawler tractor of about 40 or 50 horsepower and the charge was then $12 or $14 an hour. I am wondering how Telecom can hire out its equipment at such a ludicrously low charge and still remain viable. Quite frankly, unless the fuel is charged separately, the hire charge would hardly cover the cost of the diesel fuel for the particular machine, let alone depreciation and running repairs. I am wondering whether the Minister could at some time in the near future obtain for me a breakdown of the accounting as it relates to that sort of equipment within the department and let me know how the department can run at any sort of a profit on such low charges.
– I want to make a few remarks on divisions 480 to 483 on the Postal and Telecommunications Department. I want to comment briefly about the people of the outback. I have lived in the outback all my life and I would not hesitate to say that the hardships that have been created for the people of the outback in the last few years have been tremendous, particularly with the cost recovery policies and so on. I feel that particularly in the last few years the rest of Australia has forgotten the people of the outback. It was only a few years ago that Australia was encouraging people to go into the outback. But I believe now that the present policy is creating hardships. Because of falling incomes in the pastoral industries, because the mining industries have been disrupted and are collapsing there is very little incentive for people to go out there.
I believe that a few years ago when the Postmaster-General’s Department was responsible for postal and telecommunications services the people in the outback were much better off. Now that department has been split into 2 statutory bodies. When one looks at the returns of those organisations one finds that they are making very great profits. I suggest that this profit making has been to the detriment of the people in the outback and consideration should be given to this problem. When we look back a few years to the services that were given to the people in the outback, whether they be mail services, radio services, telegram service and so on, we find that the people were much better off. They had a much better postal service. The postal service to the people in the outback, the isolated areas, the mining fields and the stations has now depreciated.
Having some interest in the Flying Doctor Service of the outback, I have noted that, whereas the people of the outback had found it most necessary over the years to use the Flying Doctor Service for telegrams and communication with the rest of Australia, because of increased charges there has been a dramatic cutback in the number of telegrams being put through the Flying Doctor Service base. This means only one thing: Not only are the people of the outback economising; they cannot afford that service. This is the only line of communication they have with the rest of Australia. I do not want to lay it on too thickly, but I must say that the living conditions of the people in the outback have not improved; they have depreciated. Once again I make a plea for these people in the outback who are completely dependent upon postal and telecommunications services. If the cost recovery policies that are being adopted in relation to postal and telecommunication services and other services continue to be applied and costs are increased while the living conditions of the people in the outback depreciate, the people of the outback will leave. This is beginning to happen now. I do not know whether this plea will carry any weight, but if Australia wants to see the development of the outback we must recognise the people of those parts and ensure they are given some facilities and privileges for living there.
– I say to honourable senators again that three of the last four speakers have spoken on a vote that is not included in this Division. They have spoken about the Telecommunications Commission. I ask honourable senators to confine their remarks to a particular Division.
- Mr Chairman, if Senator Mulvihill requires any further information I shall be happy to give it to him. My understanding is that he referred to the Chappell Islands, that is, Goose Island, Badger Island and Mount Chappell Island. I understand that he referred to a disused lighthouse on Goose Island.
– I hope it is not disused.
-We will look after all ecology, human and otherwise, Senator Devitt. I am told by my experts that in the Kent Island group, for instance, there is perhaps a disused lighthouse but that there are not many, if any, Cape Barren geese around. As for Senator Primmer ‘s question with regard to hire charges for equipment, his question is too hard for me at the moment. I shall refer it to the appropriate Minister and seek an answer in writing. I think Senator Kilgariff made a significant contribution in drawing attention to the difficulties of people in the outback, in particular to difficulties that are experienced when there are added charges for communications. They suffer a double disability because of their present economic difficulties. I can only say that I shall refer the matter to the Minister and make sure that he peruses the comments made.
– I was in my office when Senator Carrick gave an answer to some of the questions that I posed earlier tonight. He referred to a feasibility study which I had mentioned. The only reason why I mentioned it was that it had been raised by Senator Kilgariff. I said that I was not aware that any feasibility study had been made, and apparently none has been made. The Minister did mention that there was an interdepartmental study which I am not aware of either. I take it that it is not possible to have access to interdepartmental studies. So I do not know why Senator Kilgariff used the term ‘feasibility study’ with regard to the closing of the DarwinLarrimah link.
Proposed expenditures passed.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $2 15,404,000.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $1,803,485,000.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $32,975,000.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $8 1,529,000.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is it the wish of the Committee to take Group D as a whole? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– I wish to relate my remarks completely to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Recently Senator Guilfoyle, in her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), presented a list of statistics relating to the Australian Citizenship Act 1948. Just for clarification of the terminology used, the nationality or citizenship of persons granted Australian citizenship was given. Whilst in most cases the nationality was clear-cut, namely, Australian, Belgian, etc., other terms such ‘Australian protected person’ appear. One hundred and twenty seven of these people ultimately obtained citizenship. Another term used was ‘British protected person’. There were seventeen of these people. I do not know whether these are people who have left some other country and have found sanctuary in Britain or Australia and then have declined to claim that they were of another country and we have taken them and have given them Australian citizenship. That is my first problem.
The next problem is one of which Mr Dempsey and his colleagues would be aware, that is, the operation of our office in Belgrade. In overall terms I would say that, considering the lower intake of people from Europe generally, our processing in both Belgrade and Australia should be quicker. I simply instance this because I had a deputation about such a case only a half an hour ago. The case involves a Mr Anton Ruskovic of 44 Faithfull Crescent, Kambah, Canberra. The file number is 68/49072. It boils down to this: Mr Ruskovic went to our Canberra office about May-June and said that he was going to Yugoslavia for 2 months. He hoped that, by filling in all the forms then, at the end of his 2 months stay he could bring his mother, who was in her middle sixties, back to Australia.
Two problems emerged. I accept the fact that confusion is created when people change their mind about whether they want to come to Australia to live permanently or as a tourist. As I understand the situation, the woman concerned is most adamant that she does not want to live here permanently; she wants to live here only temporarily. Mr Ruskovic has spent 13 years in Australia, so no language difficulties should be involved. He claims that when he rang our Embassy in Belgrade to have an interview they kept him at bay on the telephone and said that his proposal was not on and that his mother would have to wait a couple of more months. He is a building worker and of course was on a limited budget. At the end of 8 weeks he had to come back to Australia. I am not questioning the ultimate decision but I think that the Minister and his officers should confer with our office in Canberra and in Belgrade.
I refer again to the unremitting battle I had earlier this year on what was known as the Svigelj case. This case involved a tourist. I know Senator Lajovic will probably smile at this but there is a burning question as to whether our officers in Canberra delegate too much authority to the female staff. This will not affect Senator Lajovic or even my complaint, but I think the argument arises as to whether a girl, be she a Macedonian or a Montenegran girl will give the same attention to a Croatian, a Serbian or a Slovene. I have had this matter out with the Department on many a night when we were considering the Estimates and during many an adjournment debate, and it keeps recurring. I cannot see why, with an Australian taxpayerthat is what Mr Ruskovic is- and with the lower migrant intake, some senior officer could not have spoken to him, rather than have an intermediary keep him at bay. I will not pursue the matter any further. It can be taken on board.
There are 2 other matters. One is a much more serious matter, in my view. When we severed immigration and ethnic affairs from the Department of Labor, taking into consideration the broad concept of fewer migrants coming to Australia we expected to have an ample work force to process things quickly. I return to the other matter that I have hammered for a long while, and that is the capacity of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Sydney to give citizenship applications a reasonably speedy processing. I think the Minister would know that at present in the major groups of immigrantsthe Greeks, the Yugoslavs and the Italiansthere are probably more than 70 000 people who have not sought Australian citizenship. Many of them portray Australia in its tough times. Some of these people, who are now aged 40 years, had some nasty experiences in Australia in their teens. These people have paid their taxes and have worked hard, but they have a suspicion of authority. It is against that background that I wish to refer to a case by way of illustration.
A certain family arrived in Australia from Italy in 1937. It included a boy and a girl aged 2 years and one year. Two more children were bom to that family in Australia during the war years. They lived in Surry Hills. For the benefit of my Victorian comrades I point out that that suburb would be like Footscray and Collingwood. It was a tough area in which to live. One of the boys about whom I am talking had some difficulty with the authorities. I can assure honourable senators that it was not a serious offence. Subsequently, when he was aged about 38 years and had had 10 years membership in the Builders Labourers Federation and 10 years membership in the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association, he applied for Australian citizenship, but he was confronted with the thorny question of his birth certificate. The officers in the Department in Sydney said that they wanted his baptismal certificate from Italy. I am like former President Kennedy: I believe in the separation of all churches from the state in respect of certain procedures. Apart from a person’s religion, both here and in Europe church records are not infallible. It may have been that a person did not like a particular pastor or priest in a certain town. Senator Guilfoyle knows that already I have referred to the situation in Italy. That matter is in the pipeline now.
I am very irate about this matter, and I have told the officers of the Department in Sydney of my feelings. I refer to a Mr C; I will not go any further with his name. He is aged between 38 and 40 years. He has an old mother in a nursing home in Croydon. He also has an aunt in her seventies. I produced to the Department in Sydney, as evidence of good faith, the P. & O. passenger list which showed the boy and his sister as being aged one year and 2 years when they arrived in Australia. We went to the RegistrarGeneral’s office and obtained birth certificates of the brothers who were born in Australia. There is a reference to his sister and himself coming here from Italy. The officers of the Department in Sydney are adamant that they have to get a baptismal certificate or a birth certificate from Reg.g10 in Italy. I think that is the name of the province there. This man is not reluctant to get the baptismal certificate, but I told them that I think it is not warranted. The man has been in Australia for about 35 years.
I admit that there is a doubt as to whether this man was aged one year or 3 years when he arrived in Australia. What sort of odds are we playing with? At the worst, when he is aged 64 years he will get a pension which he should not receive until he is aged 65 years. I think that it is bureaucracy gone mad. I believe that if the Registrar-General’s office in Sydney says that this man was aged 3 years, and not 2 years, when he arrived in Australia, that ought to be sufficient. The officers of the Department in Sydney know me and I know them. I think that generally their batting average is good. But now we are getting to the stage where we have this hard core of 60 000 or 70 000 people, many of whom are in their forties and who suffered a few insults in post-war Australia. Sometimes they were even subjected to miscarriages of justice, and State law did not help them. It has taken a lot of cajoling to get them to apply for Australian citizenship. It is for that reason that I think the officers here in Canberra should get in touch with their colleagues in Sydney in the morning and establish a rule that people have not to rely on a baptismal certificate from a European country. I am not adopting a holier-than-thou attitude about the Registrar-General’s office in Sydney. I think it is overdoing things when this man can show that he has participated in trade unions and other organisations for 20 years.
I repeat that when this man was aged 18 years or 20 years he might have received a minor booking for being in a bit of a brawl. I do not care who the man is: If somebody questions his parentage or nationality he has every right to hit back. If anybody likes to probe the case he will find that this man was released on a bond in respect of that offence. But that was 20 years ago. He is not a member of any subversive organisation. I was rather direct with the officers of the
Department in Sydney, but I do not retract what I said to them. When we are cajoling people to take out Australian citizenship we should make it easier for them to do so. This man has worked in heavy industry. He has no other future. He does not want Australian citizenship in order to become a professor or a professional man. The highest position he will obtain is the driver of a lofty crane as a member of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association- that is not an intentional pun about height.
I think I have made my point perfectly clear. I would like officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to give me an idea of whether, in view of staff ceilings, there is a 3 months delay in processing applications for citizenship. I do not wish to run foul of the Minister for Social Security as I did Senator Withers earlier, but I will raise a second point. When we carry out security checks on people who live in Britain and southern and northern Ireland, are these checks carried out by the Special Branch in Britain? If not, by whom are these checks carried out? I think that I have spoken for long enough. I will refer to two other matters later.
– I would like to raise a matter under division 120, subdivision 4, item 09- legal aid- in the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I start by saying that, when one supports a program, that does not mean that one should or can support the deliberate flouting of Treasury Regulations, of budgets and of all management procedures which government lays down for the proper marshalling of its resources. The matter I raise tonight relates to one of the Aboriginal legal aid services in Australia whose behaviour over several years has been quite disgraceful and which has brought the whole Aboriginal legal aid service movement into disrepute. I point out at the beginning that I firmly support Aboriginal advancement and Aboriginal enterprises. I support the legal aid services. I draw attention to the fact that the report of the Senate select committee of which I was a member acknowledged the job which the Aboriginal legal aid services have done and which they continue to do in giving Aboriginal people greater access to equality before the law. The Aboriginal legal aid services have done a lot to equalise opportunities for people for whom the opportunity was not available previously.
Most of the Aboriginal legal aid services in this country operate efficiently, effectively, honestly and within their budgets; but the Aboriginal legal aid service in New South Wales, which operates in Sydney, has done nothing to make me proud of its operations. I has caused me, as a senator with a duty to the Parliament to examine expenditure of government money, considerable disquiet. The more I have investigated this matter the more disquiet it has caused. The legal aid service in Sydney has ignored ministerial directions not once but many times. It has ignored the budgets which have been set down for it. It has blackmailed successive Ministers and governments. It has ignored Treasury procedures. It has failed to satisfy its own auditors. I believe that it has behaved disgracefully, improperly, illegally, selfishly and in a manner quite destructive to the cause of the Aboriginal people. A history of trouble is associated with this legal aid service. I do not wish anyone to think that I am attacking Aboriginal legal aid. I am not. I am concerned that if this service continues it will bring the whole concept of legal aid for Aboriginal people into disrepute.
What has happened is that one of the main officers of the service has used a simple form of blackmail. He accuses us of being racist unless we meet his every demand. Early this year at a seminar at Sydney University I had the opportunity to face these claims by him that we are a lot of racists. My response was to invite him publicly to give an undertaking that his service would work within its budgets from then on. He refused to give such an undertaking.
It is appropriate to go to the Hay Report which examined, among other things, the Aboriginal legal services operating in this country. It expressed concern at some of the Aboriginal aid schemes. I start by quoting paragraph 4.13.7 of the Hay report which sets out the conditions under which these schemes operate. It states:
Grants to Legal Services are subject to conditions, including the provision of quarterly certified financial returns and audited annual accounts. Councils are required to spend their grants only on those items which were approved, and to incur no new commitment or expenditure without prior consultation with and approval of the Department. The Legal Services have in many cases failed to comply with these conditions. For example, there have been failures to:
consult with the Department and/or obtain departmental approval before incurring new commitments; and to
lodge financial returns as required.
The next 2 paragraphs of the Hay report expand the concerns expressed. Paragraph 4.13.8 states:
Files examined indicate that even when financial returns were submitted, the Department until 1973 failed to carry out an analysis of them, and that when over-expenditure or over-commitment occurred there were no departmental assessments of the need for, or effectiveness of, the additional services provided. Attempts made by the Department during the period 1973 to 1975 to provide continuous monitoring and review of the quarterly financial situation of the Services were spasmodic and largely ineffective.
The final paragraph which I will quote from the Hay report, paragraph 4.13.9, states:
According to the Department’s own financial procedures, non-compliance with conditions attached to grants should result in the suspension of grants to the delinquent organisations. However, notwithstanding the failure of the Services to comply with those conditions, the Department continued to provide additional finance to meet over-commitments and over-expenditure. At times the advice to Ministers in support of requests for supplementary finance provided no justification or explanation but simply endorsed the request. Furthermore, the Department did not actively seek to engender a more responsible financial attitude on the part of Services.
– Which Department is this?
-This is the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, with specific reference to Aboriginal legal services. I am confining my remarks to one Aboriginal legal service which I believe is harming the others. Having expressed this general concern, I indicate that I examined more closely the history of the Legal aid service in Sydney. I did it against the background that there has been a general improvement and that most legal aid services have recognised the need for budgeting and the need to work within their budgets.
I am indebted to a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, who released on 4 November 1974 a Press statement which set out some of the history of the events surrounding the funding and the delinquency of the Aboriginal legal service in Sydney. In April 1973 the Service received $ 10,000 to get it going. In June of that year it received $ 100,000, with no budget at that stage. The budget was to follow. The conditions included the requirement that the Service provide quarterly returns. From the beginning the returns were late coming in. From the beginning the service was not complying with the conditions of its grants. In December 1973 a grant of $262,590 was made. In January 1 974 a letter was sent by the Department setting out conditions under which the legal service in Sydney should operate. These conditions were subsequently ignored. In May 1974, just a few months later, the service was out of money. It had no money left. An overdraft was arranged, and an interim grant of a further $ 104,000 was made.
In July 1974 the Government was advised that the service had appointed extra staff without authority. The service was forced to go back to its approved staff levels. At that stage it submitted a budget of $ 1.1m for the ensuing year. It was given an interim grant of $91,650. Just a few weeks later, in August 1974, it had run out of money again. It was obvious that the service had disregarded the conditions of its grant. Six days later, still during August, a further $ 100,000 was given to it, to be administered through its auditor’s trust account. On 30 September 1974 the auditor sent in a heavily qualified financial return. The auditor said that there was at least $54,000 expended for which he could find inadequate documentation. Honourable senators may remember that for several months there was the continuing saga of what would happen to the legal service in Sydney and what would happen to the unaccounted for $54,000. Gradually accounts were found, documentation was found. The missing amount came down to $8,000. By November 1974 $350,000 had been allocated for new premises in Sydney.
In November 1974 Senator Cavanagh said in his Press release that he was not willing to approve funds for outstanding debts until discussions had been carried on and a new proceedings agreed upon. The Aboriginal legal service in Sydney came to Canberra, and there was a demonstration. A demonstration for what? A demonstration for it to be allowed to have unrestricted resources that no other organisation in Australia could have? A demonstration for it to ignore all conditions, for it to be free of all kind of Treasury controls? This is just part of the general blackmail picture which it had used. Its outstanding debts in November 1974 were $44,108. On 8 November 1974 Senator Cavanagh agreed to fund the service, to keep it going. I emphasise that this is not an attempt to criticise a Minister who, I think, performed with great credit in a very difficult portfolio. This Aboriginal legal service has a bad history.
The budget this year for Aboriginal legal service was $3,746,000, of which New South Wales was to receive $930,000. With this background, when the consideration of the Estimates began, we explored the question of legal service with more than our usual interest. I refer honourable senators to pages 608 to 6 1 1 of the Hansard of Estimates Committees D, E, and F of 14 October. Senator Brown stated that the amount did not appear to have increased. He asked how the Government could claim that the same level of services would be kept up. Mr Malone, the officer who responded, when speaking about the possible diminution in service, said:
Not necessarily, because some of the grants that were made last year were to pay debts which the services had run up and which they should not necessarily have this year.
We asked what was the amount of the debts that were paid last year, what debt level had the Aboriginal legal services run into last year in excess of the budget. The information has subsequently been provided. The amount of unauthorised debts which had to be met by the Department was $293,400. I proceed to the examination which took place then. I asked Mr Malone whether organisations which give legal aid received money from the Department with conditions attached, and he agreed to that. I asked him whether they were required to work within their budgets, and he agreed to that. I asked him:
Do they work within their budgets?
Mr Malone was forced to say:
Most do; one or two do not.
I asked him:
Which ones do not?
It is interesting that Hansard does not record pauses or long pauses or very long pauses, but there was a very long pause. It was not our intention to put the officer on the spot so I assisted him by saying:
Do they include the service in Sydney?
He was forced to agree that they did.
Mr Chairman, I intend to take this matter further. I notice that my time is nearly up. I will resume my seat when the time is finished. It might be possible to get the opportunity to continue now. If not, I will continue later.
-Mr Temporary Chairman, I rise to give Senator Baume an opportunity to continue.
– I am most indebted to Senator Wright and to the Committee. I will carry on with the facts that emerged. I asked Mr Malone:
What steps does the Department take to make organisations receiving funds observe the conditions of their grants?
The answer came out:
We have taken every step that we can think of.
Have you been effective?
Mr Malone said:
Not completely. The one thing which we have not been able to stop is people running up debts.
I then asked:
What has been your response when people have run up debts?
Mr Malone said:
We have attempted to find ways of stopping them from running up debts.
And you paid the money?
Mr Malone answered:
In most cases, yes, because not to pay it would leave solicitors and others with debts for services which they have provided for Aborigines, and it would be unfair for those people to suffer as a result of the misdoings of the legal services.
That is the answer of an officer trying to be reasonable and to assist the Estimates Committee. I know that he is correct, because I received from my friend the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) a letter from a firm of solicitors in his electorate- Messrs Johnston, Boylson and Dalley, of Nowra- which in September had more than $1,200 owing to it which had been owing for more than 9 months. The Aboriginal Legal Service had told it that payment was held up because it did not have any money. I went on to ask Mr Malone the following question:
Therefore it has been an effective tactic for organisations to ignore the guidelines and overspend?
The answer from the officer was:
So it has been brought out in the Estimates that there is an organisation which will ignore its budgets, ignore its guidelines and hold the Government to ransom because it knows it is an effective tactic. My comment at the end of that examination was:
I hope we can draw to the attention of all levels of the Government that we are being taken for a ride.
We are being taken for a ride, not by Aboriginal legal services but by one legal service, and not by everyone within that legal service, but I suspect by its chief tactician.
– I believe Mr Paul Coe has a lot to answer for. Mr Paul Coe has stated to me that he does not believe in budgets. We have met him. At a meeting at Sydney University I asked him directly whether he was willing to work within budgets. He wanted to accuse us of racism if we did not give him all the money he wanted all the time. The other point that came out of the examination by the Estimates Committee was that when Mr Malone was asked about guidelines he offered some comments. Here I will be a little critical of the department. He said.
I must say I cannot really agree with that as a blanket statement. I subsequently learnt that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) issued a Press release on 13 February this year. In that Press release he alluded to the problems of the Aboriginal Legal Service in Sydney. I will quote a portion of the Press release. It states:
Turning to the problems of the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service, Mr Viner said that this Service alone of the services had serious financial problems. It had not been prepared to respond to budget cuts imposed by the Labor Government and now had debts totalling S 1 76,000.
The NSW Service estimated it would require at least $330,000 in addition to its budgeted funds of $841,000 to operate for the balance of the financial year. At yesterday’s meeting, Mr Viner advised the Service that funds of this magnitude were not readily available and he would, in any event, have to consult the Treasurer.
We know that an amount of $ 1 1 7,499 extra was actually allocated by governments anxious to help and anxious to respond.
What has happened is that the Aboriginal Legal Service in Sydney has accepted quite literally the promise made by Mr Whitlam that every Aboriginal could have access to legal representation in every case. This legal service does not and has never acknowledged the limits of resources. It does not and has never acknowledged the Department’s right to limit the available funds. It has never acknowledged the Department’s right to impose conditions on its operation. That is to say, it has in the end denied the authority of Parliament to supervise its activities by way of proper financial controls and to determine its budget.
I believe that the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders was right earlier this year when it stated:
Aboriginal legal aid groups have brought major benefits for Aborigines in their relations with the law, where the services for such groups are available.
Of course I want the service extended. I want it extended very much. I remind the Committee that on 14 October there was a meeting in Canberra of Aboriginal legal aid services. All legal aid services except one attended that meeting and participated. The New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Aid Service did not attend and did not participate. It does not acknowledge its proper relationship with the Department. The Aboriginal legal aid services are too valuable an initiative and too valuable an enterprise to be destroyed or brought into disrepute by one maverick organisation. They are too valuable for one irresponsible officer acting illegally to destroy them.
I am pro-Aboriginal. I represent this Parliament on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. I am in my third year in that capacity. I was a member of Senator Keeffe ‘s committee when we carried out our major study of the environmental conditions of Aborigines, and when under Senator Bonner we completed that study. I believe I am a very ardent supporter of certain current matters affecting Aboriginal welfare and rights; but I am no supporter of rip-offs, because the people who are being ripped off are the Aboriginal people themselves. If there is a fixed
Budget and one organisation takes from that budget more than its due, the other organisations and other Aborigines have to take less. We have given a total vote. It is not the place of one organisation to use its muscle to increase its own share of moneys at the expense of its fellows.
The Aboriginal people do not believe in blackmail. They laugh at us if we give in to it. We would gain a lot in terms of the respect of the Aboriginal people if we responded to this legal service in the appropriate way. That response should be in a firm and helpful way and it should involve a resolve that the department should implement its budget and implement the conditions for financial returns. If they are not implemented to cut off the money or to restructure the organisation. As things stand now the Parliament has lost control. I speak tonight to seek from the Minister an assurance that the Government will clean up the situation and that it will not allow the Fraser Government to be held to ransom any longer by one organisation that is bringing a very worthwhile and necessary enterprise and service into disrepute.
– I address myself to divisions 120 to 125 which deal with the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I am prompted to take part in this debate as a former chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Earlier this evening I was able to tell the Senate that there are many distinguished senators in this chamber, some of whom are Ministers today, who did not understand Treasury regulations and Treasury procedures. But I am amazed how much some honourable senators have learnt in 12 months when they have sought good advice by accepting membership of the Public Accounts Committee.
Most of those honourable senators to whom I refer are educated people, people who have had the benefit of high school and university education. It is all right to challenge in this chamber the misappropriation of public funds or the failure to comply with Treasury regulations or, like a Disraeli, to quote at length form the AuditorGeneral’s report, is taking up about 10 hours of today’s sitting, matters which will be taken care of by the Public Accounts Committee in any case. It is all right to challenge the Aborigines and try to make a scapegoat of one or two officials of some Aboriginal organisation who say that they will not bow to Treasury regulations.
The point I am trying to develop is this: We are dealing with an area in which we have got to show a lot of compassion, a lot of understanding and a lot of give and take. It is an area in which I feel we will not get anywhere until we start to approach the problem on a non-party political basis. It is no good our trying to score points off the Tories on the other side or the Tories trying to score points off us when we were in government. We will not solve anything in that manner. A public inquiry was held into the affairs of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Anyone can make a very strong case in regard to the omissions and defaults in not adhering to the regulations. But when the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the government of the day have to hand over authority to people out on missions and far-flung places who do not even know how to read or write, who can sign their names only with a cross but who are probably as honest as those people who can with the greatest eloquence and write with the most perfect handwriting, and when you are dealing with people who genuinely feel when they put their cross that they are signing for something that has been committed to them, how on earth overnight are you going to make them fill in these voluminous forms that Treasury regulations require?
A lot of these people send their messages by message stick. We had evidence to that effect given to the Committee of which I was a member. It is all right for honourable senators to attack departments in this chamber and to think that they are unearthing some defalcation or mismanagement of the public purse. That sounds good and it might read all right in the record. But I appeal to those honourable senators who have a spark of humanitarianism in them and who have had any experience of these matters. I hope that Senator Baume will acquire that quality before the final report on the investigation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is brought down. We are dealing with 2 types of departmental people. The departmental heads are all right; they are trained public servants. They know the Treasury regulations, but they have got to hand down along the line the supervision of the affairs of the Department, so you are getting down to mission stations where people will not go.
– It is in Sydney.
– It does not matter where it is. Whether it is the legal service -
– It is in Sydney.
– Yes, but you are dealing with people who do not understand the procedures.
– He understands it.
-Now the interjection is that because he does not understand Treasury regulations he should not have been there. I submit to the Senate that apart from Senator Cotton, Senator Guilfoyle and Senator Wright, not one Government senator should be in this chamber trying to consider intelligently the estimates for this year because they do not know anything about the Treasury regulations and they were proved to be wrong.
-It is no such thing. It is all right for Senator Baume to try to make a scapegoat of one official from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. What we have to do is to adopt an education program. I think that the Department should be able to do it. It will be able to teach and train the Aborigines it takes on to its staff. It will be able to train them in what is required under Treasury regulations, how estimates are prepared, and what are the requirements in appropriations. That is what honourable senators opposite should be doing instead of castigating people who do not understand those procedures, when half the honourable senators in this chamber do not understand them. I reckon that if I submitted five of the simplest questions on Treasury procedures honourable senators opposite would fail with a mark of minus five. Yet they attack people who have never been shown what to do but who are willing to do these things. Their consciences are good.
What has happened here tonight is absolutely ridiculous. I could not sit here and listen to an official being castigated as an excuse for some failure or some discrepancy in accounting. I put Senator Baume ‘s attack on the Legal Aid Service in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the same category as Senator Wright’s verbose reading of the Auditor-General’s report. If he feels so strongly that all these things should be corrected, he should nominate himself in his party room to become a member of the Public Accounts Committee. In that way he could get all the redress he would want in the world.
– I think Senator McAuliffe has just put a most unfortunate interpretation on the comments of Senator Baume. I rise because I think that Senator Baume went to considerable pains to isolate a particular area of complaint and to distinguish one particular Aboriginal Legal Aid Service from all of the others that are functioning around Australia. That was quite clear to me, and I wonder whether Senator McAuliffe was intentionally or unintentionally misunderstanding the points which have been put before the Senate. I wish to speak on this particular item of the appropriations, simply to put the record straight in regard to what Senator Baume has been putting before the Senate, which is a particular problem. To suggest that that problem arose as a result of the inability of an Aboriginal person to understand the regulations simply flies in the face of the fact that other Aboriginal legal aid offices all around Australia manage to cope quite adequately with the regulations which apply and are able to function within the regulations of the Government, which are very reasonable requirements. There is no problem. We happen to have one person who is standing out against the proper regulations in regard to the spending of government money.
I regard this problem as one which will in fact grow over the next few years. The fact remains that while there has been a vast expansion of the Aboriginal legal aid service over the last few years, there are still substantial areas which are not covered. I can speak with some experience of this. Years ago when we founded the Aboriginal legal aid service in Western Australia we received no government grant at all. I well remember our first application for Government assistance which was for the sum of $8,000. Of course, in today’s terms that is a laughable amount. I note that the budgeted amount for the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in Western Australia this year is some $570 000. In the space of four or five years the expenditure has increased from nothing to $8,000 to something over $500 000. Yet in the context of Western Australia, a State of 1 million square miles with a very large Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, there are still some quite notable areas which remain without an adequate Aboriginal Legal Aid Service.
We have managed, with the grants that have come from the previous Government and the present Government, to establish Aboriginal Legal Aid Service offices in Perth, Narrogin, Kalgoorlie, Carnarvon, Port Hedland, Kununurra, Laverton and now in Derby. I think that is probably the last office to be opened. But I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that some substantial centres of Aboriginal population in Western Australia- Meekatharra, Geraldton, Roebourne, Kellerberrin and Albany- at this stage are still without the direct services of any representatives of the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. I certainly suggest to honourable senators that that is a pity. I would hope, if it is not possible this year for the Government to see its way clear to increase expenditure in this area, that next year it may be able to increase the grant to the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service to enable it to open additional offices. Those honourable senators who are concerned about the expenditure of public moneys in this area will be interested to know that in the year 1975-76 there was a drop of 25 per cent in the prison population of Western Australia. I think that quite a deal of that drop can be attributed to the fact that for the first time in many generations the Aborigines in Western Australia were in many cases receiving adequate legal representation and hence were not languishing in the prisons of Western Australia. But still a very substantial proportion of the prison population in Western Australia is Aboriginal. Still there are many individual cases of injustice that will continue to occur for a combination of reasons. The operation of a substantial and well-run highly professional competent service assisted by good Aboriginal field officers is essential to the advancement of the Aboriginal people in my State of Western Australia. I commend the Government for the fact that it not only has continued to fund the service; it also has given increased funds, as I understand it, to the Service. But we have merely begun to bear this burden. I hope that we will see substantial increases in these appropriations in future years.
– We should be grateful to Senator Chaney for his remarks on the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, and the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in Western Australia in particular. One of the most horrifying experiences in my time as a senator was to visit a Western Australian gaol. One of the main impressions that I gained while I was there was that there were far too many black people in prison. One quickly gained the impression that the black people of Western Australia seemed to accept the responsibility for any misdeed no matter how small and pleaded guilty when in many cases-
– Have you read Soul on Ice? Senator GEORGES-No, I have not.
– I just wondered. I thought that you might have been able to relate it to your remarks. I was trying to be helpful.
-I have not. I was saying that in Western Australia some four or five years ago a substantial proportion of people in the prisons of Western Australia were of Aboriginal descent. I want in some way to try to correct what Senator Baume said and perhaps put a little of the blame elsewhere. There has been a tendency for the legal profession to take advantage of the knowledge that whatever bills it incurs in regard to Aboriginal legal aid will eventually be paid. The view is that in some way the services which the Aboriginal Legal Aid Office seeks are guaranteed for payment or are underwritten by the Government. As an example, I cite an experience of an Aboriginal community at Cabbage Creek in northern New South Wales. It had a rather good co-operative ruined by the over-use of credit. This credit was offered to the Aborigines beyond the normal terms. They were offered unlimited credit by their suppliers and the Aborigines reached a stage where they could not pay their bills. Who should be held responsible for that situation in which a firm gives unlimited credit beyond the normal terms? My suspicion is that many legal firms which are associated with the Aboriginal Legal Aid Office give credit well beyond what they ought to give. They do not exercise the necessary precautions.
In fact, it could be said that some firms are ripping off the Service and are assisted by, shall we say, the weakness of the administration of the particular branch about which the honourable senator was speaking. Without saying anything more on the subject, let us also accept that some firms are extending their facilities beyond the point which they ought to extend them. They should be demading payment. I would say that in many cases they have not demanded payment or they may have been, as many legal firms seem to be, rather tardy in sending out their accounts. It seems to me that some of those firms ought to accept the responsibility for allowing their accounts to get so much into debit. Although I am not quite conversant with what is going on in New South Wales, let me say that if what Senator Baume has spoken of tonight is correct, it would prejudice the whole legal service. With those remarks, I ask him to perhaps accept that there should be some balance in the case that he has put.
– I find myself in the somewhat unusual position of wishing to disagree with 2 people who may have been taken to be disagreeing, and to agree with both of them. I believe that what Senator Baume had to say tonight was important but, it having been said, I want to support what Senator Chaney said about the way in which this chamber should view the overall problem of how to provide a service- an extremely necessary service of legal aid- going beyond the direct provisions of legal advice for court cases but having a role in the evolution of a people into a legal system. How does one provide that service within a budget?
How does one provide legal aid within a budget? I happen to be perhaps the only person in this place who has run a legal aid system and who had that problem of trying to keep within a budget; of trying to work out how, if a person was on a murder trial, the position could be reconciled. I will just pick figures out of the air. The trial may cost $20,000 if the person pleaded not guilty and $ 1 ,000 for the investigation if he pleaded guilty. I pose the question: Do you ever consider whether you will say ‘No’? You draw on a certain set of criteria to consider whether the person is entitled to help, and it builds from there. There is a problem in budgeting in relation to legal aid.
I would hasten to add that we managed to operate the legal aid service within a budget. But it was difficult. It was made easier only because the legal profession provided most of the services for nothing. Its members received a dividend out of that budget according to what was left to go round. The Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in New South Wales is not operating on that basis. I can understand that with the way the courts operate, the way the legal system has operated and the way the police have operated there can readily be an overdose of enthusiasm to provide legal assistance to Aborigines in New South Wales going beyond the limitations of some arbitrary budget. I do not differ from what Senator Baume said about the importance of trying to ensure that people who are dealing with public money do so responsibly and intelligently. Senator McAuliffe started to talk about people out in the backblocks who cannot sign their names. That is not the sort of person who is running the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. There is a group of intelligent people, and one, in particular, is a highly intelligent person. I think we need to apply a degree of tolerance and a degree of understanding to this. I think it is appropriate that it was raised, but equally I think it is appropriate that we do not overdo it and that we do not make the most incredible case out of it when what was happening was perhaps one person overdoing something in the interests of a whole people who have been underprivileged in almost every respect so far as the law is concerned for far too long. I would just like to support what Senator Chaney said and basically what Senator Georges said. By all means let us raise it, by all means let us be aware of it, by all means let us make sure that people who flout the system that is supposed to operate do not get away unchecked; but let us not judge harshly.
-I have nothing as dramatic as the expose on the Sydney Aboriginal legal aid to talk about service tonight, but some interesting sideplay went on during the debate. When the honourable senator who raised this matter was talking about it and explaining about the overutilisation of the service and the control of the service by the people providing the service there was an interjection in these words: ‘Well, they should not have provided the service’. That shows a basic difference between the 2 sides of the chamber. I am sure that those on the other side of the chamber would expect the lawyers who are providing the service to act as a police force and to control and regulate the service which is provided, in much the same way as they expected, in the case of the pensioner medical service and similar services provided by Government, the providers of the service to act as a police force. That is just an observation on the way government works.
I have 3 areas at which I would like to look. They come under the estimates for the Department of Health on pages 79 to 83 of the Bill. Division 325, subdivision 1, concerns the Woomera hospital which I think the Government could examine with some profit, if that is the right word to use. This hospital was taken over by the Department of Health from the Department of Defence. No doubt the hospital had considerable expenses before the transfer and no doubt it will have considerable expenses in the future. As I understand it, we have come down from the Buck Rogers days when the Blue Streak and the Jindivik scorched our skies. The Woomera rocket range has been virtually disbanded, as far as I know. There is still a hospital service there. This hospital services the people who are operating the defence and space communications station, the people on the pastoral properties in the area, the people in the village, the families of the staff operating the defence facility, Commonwealth railways personnel and anyone travelling through the district.
The hospital was taken over at an expense of more than $602,000. It must be a most peculiar hospital. The wages component of that amount is $474,000. The largest estimated expenditure in the total expense is $46,000, which is for stores and laboratory supplies. They are the only items that I could relate to the treatment of any patients. The rest of the items are for travel and subsistence, office requisites, advertising and incidentals and other expenditure, which item amounts to $40,500. The report of Estimates Committee D states:
As stated these amounts have been frozen in the departmental appropriations.
I do not quite know what that means, because there must be future expenses. I point to that hospital as an area for profitable examination by the Government with a view to making economies.
The second item I would like to mention is the provision of vaccine by Commonwealth medical officers to private individuals going overseas. Last year the Government spent $201,978 on this and it is estimated that in 1976-77 the cost of the vaccine alone will be $242,800. That is merely for the provision of the vaccine. I presume that the vaccine would cost something like 25c an ampule; so the appropriation means that over one million doses of vaccine will be given at departmental expense to people going overseas. That does not take into account the cost of syringes and the things used to give the doses. Syringes cost about 15c each. The swabs, spirit and other things which are used would cost about 5c for each injection. There would be the cost for doctors giving the needle and the costs for the provision of nurses in the surgery; secretarial staff would be required; certificates have to be provided; and passport books which people get have to be provided. This would amount to some considerable cost. I would say that in total the cost would run into something like $lm. What I have against this is that this is all provided free by the Commonwealth. I consider that to be an anti-private enterprise operation. These people should get their vaccine from their own doctors before they go overseas. The Commonwealth Government uses the argument, now that Medibank is in, that it would merely be transferring the money from one pocket to the other; but I do not see that the general population- the taxpayersshould have to meet the expense of providing vaccine for people going overseas.
The other item with which I wish to deal comes under Health Services, Planning and Research Program. This section of the Department has running expenses of $260,500 to operate a planning and research program of Sim. Of that $lm, an amount of $500,000 goes to the States and the other $500,000 covers Commonwealth programs. I would just like people to know the sorts of programs we are funding, mainly because I do not see many of them as a Commonwealth responsibility at all. There may be some value in the research- there probably is- but not quite as much as the amount we are spending on it here. For example, the Government has spent $68,000 to develop standards of accreditation of hospitals, which I consider would be an inordinate amount for such a program. The Government has spent $28,000 gathering information on the cost of construction of hospitals. It has spent $2,000 on studying efficiency and productivity in hospitals. It has spent $72,000 to develop medical administrative standards in Australian general hospitals, by conducting a survey of the formal organisation of medical staff in Australian hospitals and analysing the effectiveness of the organisational patterns in representative hospitals.
The Government has spent thousands of dollars on rapid construction methods in respect of health centres. I personally do not consider the building of Commonwealth health centres to be a Commonwealth Government responsibility. It is bad in principle and we do not get value for the money. The Government has spent $26,000 to test the hypothesis that the health of the elderly chronic ill would improve by utilisation of a practitioner nurse attached to a general practice. Why anyone would think that was a hypothesis, I do not know. I would think it was an already proven fact. The cost of that program was over $26,000.
There are many other items I can see by turning over the pages. One which intrigued me was a grant to the Benevolent Society of New South Wales to conduct a benefit-cost analysis of services provided at an obstetrics hospital. In the end I think the Society wound up giving something like $26,000 back to the Government. I think that is the one item I enjoyed in this list. An amount of $12,500 was provided by the Government for a detailed study of the continuing educational needs of medical , specialists. This may be worth while. It is probably even one of the goals of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. But I do not see it as a Commonwealth responsibility. There are many items of expenditure concerned with planners and researchers.
– Which item are you referring to?
– It is a sub-item: ‘Hospitals and Health Services … . -Planning and Research’. We spent more than $22,000 to study the information needs and practices of health facility planners, whatever they are. We have spent nearly $56,000 to improve the ability of health planners and policy makers to provide suitable and adequate health services for urban children. I wonder who decides what is suitable, what is adequate, and how it comes to be necessary anyway. Another item was research of the teacher training corps whereby health service researchers can improve their expertise by the discussion of common problems. I could go through these pages for. ages. There are 19 more pages of these kinds of items that I suggest to the
Government could be reviewed with some profit to us taxpayers.
– I am rather surprised at Senator Sheil who talks about all these items which have specific obligations as far as the Government is concerned- this Liberal Government and previously the Labor Government- which ought to be considered as national objectives.
– You are not getting value for money.
-What Senator Sheil has been arguing tonight is that most of these services might be turned back to the doctors, to private enterprise. I wish to relate my questions to what Senator Sheil said about Woomera because that is the issue that concerns me enough to make me enter the debate. I am surprised that a senator who often gets up in this place and talks about the need for defence and for Australia to have a defence capacity should now suggest what he did about Woomera. Although the activity of Woomera has declined, presently this Government has put it on a care and maintenance basis, as did the Labor Government, which does not mean that it is in disuse. In fact, Woomera is an important base which might well be activated quickly if the friendly powers with which we are associated decided to use it again. But more importantly, as the honourable senator would probably recall, questions have been asked in this place about the base. The present position is that the Australian Services are presently considering to what extent Woomera might be activated with respect to operations by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army and other people who see it as an important base within Australia.
– Why did they give it back to the Department of Health?
– It is not a question of giving it back to the Department of Health. I am arguing that there has to be a capacity within Australia. Woomera is a village with an important population which has been maintained by this Government. It was agreed that it should be maintained by the Labor Government. That population has to be maintained. The people who are there are skilled. The people who represent the Defence Services and the Department of Administrative Services ought to have available a competent health component to run the area if there is a new use for the base. I know that presently the base is being evaluatedbecause I have asked questions- as to whether the Army or the Air Force might be able to use
Woomera for various Service exercises. Of course we in South Australia are hopeful that there will prove to be an available use for Woomera until such time as the other powers which joined with us in the early days again decide to conduct certain activities at Woomera. What Senator Sheil is saying to the Committee is that we have to disband these facilities.
– No; just look at it.
-Senator Sheil says: ‘Look at it’. I cannot understand what he means. When he says that it seems to most of us on this side of the chamber that he is saying: ‘Why don’t you cut it out?’ That is what he is saying to the Government.
– What rot!
– Of course you are.
– It is a business review. You are getting irritable.
– And you are too, senator. I am surprised at you.
– You are getting irritable. It is late at night.
– Yes, I am, because you come into this place and you often charge-
– You are yesterday’s man.
- Mr Chairman, many years ago Senator Wright used to be called- it is many years ago- the Hursey man. How long ago was that?
– Fifteen years.
– Order! Senator Bishop, you are referring to item 326.
-Yes, Mr Chairman. I just want to reinforce the view of the people on this side and especially my South Australian colleagues who over recent months have urged the Government to look at the need to maintain Woomera, not only from a State point of view. As honourable senators will know, for 3 years I was Assistant Minister for Defence and I know that Woomera ultimately will be a very important place. We should not disband the facilities there. All I am saying is that I resist most strongly any suggestion to the Government by any senator that any health facilities there might be depleted. As I have told the Committee- this seems to be the ultimate answer; the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) might give us some information about this- I know that presently the Service chiefs are looking at the extent to which Woomera might be useful for the Services until such time as the whole area may be activated again. It is an important base and for that reason I object to the remarks, particularly of a Queensland senator who perhaps does not see the position as I see it.
– Several matters have been raised by honourable senators on the estimates for the Departments examined by Estimates Committee D. I want to respond to some of those because information was sought. Senator Mulvihill raised several matters with regard to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the first of which was with regard to Australian protected persons. This was the status of the New Guinea born persons, as distinct from Papuans, when New Guinea was a protectorate of Australia. The status has been retained for a transitional period of 3 years following independence of Papua New Guinea. In this time former Australian protected persons will hopefully have opted for New Guinean citizenship or Australian citizenship where eligible for the latter. It will be of interest to us to follow the comments that were made by Senator Mulvihill in this matter.
Another matter was raised with regard to a person with a Yugoslav mother of Australian residence. It is not possible for us in the chamber this evening to determine the reason for the delay without the full facts from Belgrade. We can look at the matter if the details are given to the Department. Senator Mulvihill has now handed me the name and details of the person concerned. I shall see that that investigation is expedited for him. Another matter was raised that again needs some investigation.
– That is the citizenship processing progress.
– Yes. There was one case that had a lack of documentation to which Senator Mulvihill referred. We will investigate the case and the lack of documentation will not necessarily debar the man from citizenship.
– Will that matter be taken up with Sydney in the light of the principle of the State records against church records and birth certificates?
– Yes, that one will be investigated and I will see that Senator Mulvihill gets further information on that. Another matter with regard to citizenship delay was referred to by Senator Mulvihill. I am able to report that in the last 6 months we have been able to halve the delay in the granting of citizenship in most cases.
At this stage the delay varies from one month in Tasmania to approximately 3 months in Queensland and the Northern Territory, but efforts are made to deal with citizenship as expeditiously as possible. I think we can assure Senator Mulvihill that any difficulties and delays are always minimised as far as the Department is concerned.
Senator Mulvihill raised a question with regard to security checks and the effect that staff ceilings may have on these matters. He also raised questions with regard to Britain and Northern and Southern Ireland. I am able to tell him that where checks are made these are handled through the central police authorities in London as far as Britain and Northern Ireland are concerned, and through the police authorities in Dublin for Southern Ireland.
The matters that were raised by several honourable senators with regard to Aboriginal legal aid require some comment. I believe that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) would have been grateful for the debate that has been conducted this evening on this important service. I think that we all agree that there have been some problems with regard to financial control by the service and with regard to the departmental monitoring of the service. It is known that additional payments to the service for excessive debts in 1975-76 were of the order of $ 170,000. The service handled more than 20 000 cases in 1975-76. It would be agreed that cessation of funding must involve cessation of urgently needed services. I consider it would be preferable to avoid this, and I am sure that the Minister would agree with me. I can assure honourable senators that the department continues to monitor the service closely.
I want to make a brief reference to Senator Baume ‘s comments. He referred directly to the evidence given to the Senate Estimates Committee. It was apparent from the officer’s evidence to the Estimates Committee that there have been problems in controlling the expenditure by the services. I believe that the officer concerned gave every assistance to the Estimates Committee in dealing with this item of expenditure and it was known to the Senate Committee that in previous years some services accepted all work for every Aboriginal without limit as to cost, without regard to the client’s ability to pay or to the utilisation of alternative means of obtaining legal aid. As a result of this practice some legal services incurred debts far beyond the funds allocated out of departmental appropriations, and others accepted the obligation to tailor the service to priority areas of need as well as looking to the efficiency of their own administration.
The Minister has advised that when he assumed office in this Ministry he was faced with the problem of finding additional funds to meet professional debts for services rendered in good faith incurred by the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service beyond its Budget allocation without the authority of the department. The Minister, Mr Viner, authorised the provision of $ 1 17,000 subject to certain accounting and audit requirements in an endeavour to bring about a measure of accountability and financial responsibility on the part of the service. The matter has not been finally settled but continuous discussions have proceeded with the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service in an effort to encourage the service to establish financial controls in order to ensure the provision of legal aid to Aboriginals within the limits of funds allocated to it. With a view to reaching mutually satisfactory arrangements between the legal service and the department, a conference was held in Canberra on 14 and 15 October, as referred to by Senator Baume. The Minister attended this conference and some important ground work was covered. A further conference will be held in December or January and the Minister hopes that a firm foundation for the onward functioning of legal services will result from that.
The Minister says that he and his Department are only faced with real difficulties in respect of one legal service but he is hopeful that ways will be found soon to set the course for long term policies and to set priorities in relation to all services. I will draw to the Minister’s attention the comments of Senator McAuliffe who has had long experience with the Joint Committee on Public Accounts on the investigation into the department and other matters. I believe that what was referred to by Senator Chaney, Senator Georges and Senator Rae will also be helpful to the Minister as he reviews this important service for the Aborigines concerned.
Senator Sheil raised several matters with regard to the Department of Health, one of which was in relation to the Woomera hospital. I wish to advise that the Woomera hospital has not yet been taken over by the Department of Health from the Department of Defence. This matter is still under consideration and that is the reason why the Health estimates on this project are frozen and why the funds continue to be used under the Defence estimates at present. As Senator Bishop said, this is an important area. It has a population of about 3000 people. It is proposed that this population level will continue. The hospital will serve over 250 people in the surrounding areas of South Australia. As I said, the assuming of this responsibility by the Department of Health is still under consideration.
Another matter raised by Senator Sheil was in relation to vaccines. I wish to advise that the cost would have been automatically recoverable from Medibank for individuals prior to 1 October. It is still automatically available for those under Medibank Standard care. This matter is under consideration and review for the privately insured people at this stage. The charge in relation to this would have been only a paper transfer for extra administrative costs. As the matter is being reviewed in one aspect I believe that the comments of Senator Sheil may be considered by the Minister. Senator Sheil also raised the matters of health services planning and research. Whilst he stated an attitude in the examples that he used I think it puts the matter into some perspective if we look at the total health operating costs, which amount to $ 1,500m. The total health services for planning and research amount to $lm. It has often been said and it was certainly said a year or two ago that the level of research funds in this country were not as high as one would wish them to be. Australia spent less per head on medical research than other developed nations and we should be looking for innovations and up-to-date research in many ways that may provide better health services and indeed cheaper health services.
I thank the honourable senator for the comments that he made with regard to specific matters. If he has specific questions to ask with regard to the items raised I will obtain the information for him from the Minister. The items that were mentioned by Senator Sheil are under continuing and close review by the Department and by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. It would be understood that, as we approach each Budget for the research component of it, all matters are reviewed at that time.
I would like to clarify one matter concerning my own department. In the Estimates Committee evidence was given which related to the advertising component of the publicity vote for 1975-76. The Budget allocation for advertising other than for Medibank was $190,000. In the event, expenditure on this component during 1975- 76 was some $71,000. This amount includes both English and foreign language advertising. The allocation for advertising in the 1976- 77 Budget of $80,000 is higher than the expenditure of $71,000 in 1975-76. It is proposed that the major portion of that sum be expended in areas of interest to ethnic groups, in a campaign related to the telephone interpreter service and advertising in the ethnic Press to inform migrants about social security. I think that these are the principal matters raised by honourable senators with regard to Senate Estimates Committees B and D. I thank honourable senators for their deliberations on these matters.
– I regret very much that I was not in the chamber for the discussion on Aboriginal affairs. Senator Baume had told me that he intended to speak on the question of Aboriginal legal aid. As I had other commitments I could not be here and when I returned I realised that the question had been discussed. I take it from the reply of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that some mention was made of the Sydney Aboriginal Legal Service. I believe that perhaps too much blame has been placed on a particular service or individual. If the Aboriginals who enjoy an Aboriginal legal service today owe a debt of gratitude to anyone they owe it to Paul Coe who established the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in Sydney before it was funded by the Government. He got legal personnel to man the post for the purpose of giving legal aid to Aboriginals. Paul Coe is a peculiar character who has many difficulties that we have to overcome. I think that in the past he has been very much ill-treated by the New South Wales Police. He seems to have a contempt for white domination, white authority, at present.
I think that while he had a big say in the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in Sydney many questions arose over financial transactions. It was this question that was responsible for the establishment of the last Aboriginal embassy on the lawns outside Parliament House. At that stage because there was no accountability for previous contributions from the Department to the Legal Aid Service we discontinued payment to the Service until such time as it put its house in order. I was of the opinion at that time that, through the efficiency of officers of the Department, its house had been put in order, that the Service had a qualified accountant, that it had capable legal personnel, and that control had been taken out of the hands of those who wanted to control and possibly disrupt the Service. We recommenced to fund the organisation. It is with some regret today that there are reports of concern about the Legal Aid Service in Sydney. If the reports are true then this matter is to be regretted all the more, because it has occurred despite the system of preventing a recurrence that I insisted upon and implemented in that Service. If the system has gone wrong it is regrettable.
In giving legal aid to Aboriginals Sydney has a problem which is greater than that experienced by any other Legal Aid Service in Australia. Aboriginals are attracted to the bright lights of Sydney. They are not accustomed to this, they are living in overcrowded conditions with their relatives, and they have nowhere else to go but to the Empress Hotel in Redfern, and they get into serious trouble. They have not been treated kindly by the New South Wales Police. We had the best rapport with Aboriginals that we have ever had when I introduced monthly conferences with the Police Association. These conferences reduced the crime rate. Aboriginals, as a group, have to be given special consideration.
I would say that legal aid to Aboriginals is one of the greatest achievements that has ever been made to assist the Aboriginals of Australia. Mr Whitlam, in his policy speech and in opening the first National Aboriginal Consultative Committee meeting, said that never again would it be necessary for an Aboriginal to appear in court without legal counsel. No matter how guilty he was and no matter what the crime was, he said that if the Aboriginal had to go to court we would provide the counsel, no matter what the cost. We thought this would help to put him on an equal footing with the white man who may have to go to court. At present, he starts off much behind the white man. When Mr Viner was appointed the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, he sent out a circular to the legal aid services to say that the policy that no one need go to court without legal counsel was no longer the policy of the Government and it must not be accepted that it was the policy of the Government. Therefore one could only interpret his remarks as meaning that the new Government’s policy was that legal aid would be provided in specific circumstances, that there would be some restriction. While honourable senators may talk about the excess of legal aid given to Aboriginal people in Australia -
– No one has mentioned that though, Senator.
– Well, I shall mention it directly. Special consideration has to be given to this particular section of our community. I am not quite sure that we should defend every case that seeks assistance from the Legal Aid Service. The Legal Aid Service as established cannot always supply salaried staff lawyers to meet the requirements of every Aboriginal who must face court proceedings. So much of this practice is let out as briefs to private solicitors. If there is any abuse of this service, it is coming from the legal profession and not from the Legal Aid Service. I do not know the facts of the case, but I recall meeting Mr Justice Sangster in South Australia at a social reception one day and he complained a lot about what we were doing in regard to Aboriginal legal aid. He cited the case of an Aboriginal who came out of an hotel drunk. A policeman went to interrogate or arrest him and the Aboriginal picked up a post in the yard and immediately bashed the policeman. The Aboriginal was charged with assault and resisting arrest, etc. He had legal aid and pleaded not guilty. In Mr Justice Sangster ‘s opinion on no account could one ever entertain such a plea; it was obvious that he was guilty. When he was found guilty by the court, by private brief which the Legal Aid Office obtained for him at the Commonwealth’s expense the case was taken to the Supreme Court. The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court. He then made an appeal to the Full Court of the State. In Mr Justice Sangster ‘s opinion he was guilty from the start and whatever may be the capabilities of the legal counsel that he had, they could not get a verdict other than guilty. Those seeking profits from the Australian Government kidded him on to go from appeal to appeal, never with a hope of succeeding, for no other purpose than obtaining remuneration from the Legal Air Service.
– I think you need more facts, Senator, before you make those sorts of statements.
– I am not saying that it is a fact, but this is one of the questions that needs inquiring into. The other question I raise is whether there is some justification for an inquiry. Honourable senators will recall the case I brought up in this Senate- the case of Paula Sweet in Alice Springs who died and is now buried. She was raped and six Aboriginals pleaded guilty to the charge. It was alleged that the rape was the cause of her death. The Aboriginal Legal Aid Service supplied the counsel for the purpose of defending the 2 Aboriginals who were charged with her murder. Mr Baker, a Queen’s Counsel, was brought down from Darwin. He showed that the Aboriginals could not possibly have made the confession which the prosecutor desired to submit as evidence to the court. The evidence of the doctor was that the injury that caused her death occurred some 4 hours before her death. The rape with which the Aborigines were charged occurred some 48 hours before her death. When I was Minister for Police and Customs I instituted an investigation into what went wrong; into why, with such convincing evidence, we charged Aborigines with the murder of that girl. The report of that investigation, which the Minister who is presently responsible for this matter will not release to me, showed that the person responsible for the death of this girl was someone other than the Aborigines who were associated with the rape, although the rape was a contributing factor to the death of the girl.
The whole purpose of my pursuing this matter is to get something done for the people of Alice Springs who may be subject to the same incompetence as was shown at the time of Paula Sweet’s death. But no one other than the Northem Territory Police Force has done anything about the matter. All the Northern Territory Police Force has done is to say that it has taken steps to ensure that prosecutions will be laid more properly in the future and that people will not be charged unless the Police Force is more certain that it can record a conviction against them. The actual death of Paula Sweet has never been investigated. She was an Aboriginal girl who was murdered in Alice Springs, and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has done nothing about it. The legal aid service in Alice Springs, which is funded by the Commonwealth, was more concerned with bringing a Queen’s Counsel from Darwin to Alice Springs for the purpose of getting people off a charge of which they had been accused than with finding out who killed an Aboriginal lass living in Alice Springs. Last week I was still chasing up the report of the Australian Police Association. Therefore, while I say that there is a need for an inquiry into Aboriginal affairs, I will not go off on this tangent. The fact that there has been some misappropriation of moneys and some wasteful use of money in some areas is no reason to condemn the legal aid service provided for Aborigines. It is one of the greatest services that have been introduced. I see that my time is up. I hope that at a later stage I will be given an opportunity to deal with the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee.
– I refer to division 334, Northern Territory Hospitals, and to subdivision 1- Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary. My comments will be directed to the recipients of those salaries, the dedicated people of the Northern Territory Health Department, and to the problems they face. Before I deal with that matter I wish to make one statement in regard to the speech that Senator Cavanagh has just made concerning the death of Paula Sweet. I support him completely in his statement that the death of Paula Sweet has not been investigated. If he can do anything about the matter, I certainly will assist him. In fact, I believe that I have a document which may help us to do something about it.
I believe that the Northern Territory Health Department and its people have been very well served by the various Commonwealth governments. Generally, the health facilities in the Northern Territory are extremely good. There are very many sophisticated hospitals, and the health facilities throughout the Territory, from Alice Springs to Darwin, are extremely good. A new hospital is being built in Alice Springs at a cost of $ 13m to $14m. A new hospital is being built at Tennant Creek. There is a 32-bed hospital at Katherine. At Casuarina in Darwin a new hospital is being built at an emormous cost.
My concern about this matter arose when I read the Hansard of 12 October 1976 of Estimates Committee D, when the matter of the establishment of the Northern Territory Health Department was discussed under this subdivision. When I look at the questions and answers recorded in Hansard I find myself very confused. It was said that the present staff ceiling of the Health Department is 2 299 and that the actual number of people employed is 2 274. The question was asked whether there was sufficient staff for the 286-bed hospital in Alice Springs, where there is a requirement for 80 personnel, the 32-bed hospital at Katherine and 4 wards at Darwin hospital. An officer giving evidence before the Committee indicated that because of the fluctuations in staff numbers- there are many resignations and recruitments- there was no necessity to increase the establishment because the growth in the Health Department would occur within the staff ceiling. I presume the officer was saying that if there were some 100 to 150 resignations from the Northern Territory Health Department the staff which would be required to operate the modem facilities in the Territory would be drawn from within the staff ceiling of the Department. That does not take account of the fact that the 150 people who resigned would need replacing.
This matter concerns me greatly. Over the last year or two the Northern Territory has been very short of professional people, because the salaries, facilities, privileges, etc, given to the professional people generally have been lower than those given in the States. There was a continual controversy for a year or two before it was decided by arbitration that salaries would be increased to bring the Northern Territory medical profession on to a par with the profession in the rest of Australia. The fact that Cyclone Tracy blew Darwin apart meant that at that time there was an extreme shortage of professional people. I suggest that, taking into consideration the number of resignations and the effects of Cyclone Tracy, the staff ceiling of 2299 is insufficient. I have a telegram which was sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) by David L. Pollock, M.L.A., the Executive Member for Social Affairs. He is the person in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly who liaises with the Health Department on the subject of health facilities in the Northern Territory. In that telegram he said:
Express my deepest concern at advice that staff ceilings of Northern Territory Division Department of Health are to be reduced by further 1.4 per cent at a time health services in Territory need expansion owing to ( 1 ) rehabilitation of additional wards at Darwin Hospital essential to maintain health services at time of continued high population increases (2) commissioning of new 286-bed hospital at Alice Springs and 32-bed ward at Katherine Hospital before end of year. It must be remembered that before ceiling restrictions imposed staff levels already low due cyclone and recruitment difficulties owing low salaries and conditions offered. Whilst appreciating need for restraint health services cannot be strangled. Your intervention in this matter urged to ensure maintenance of health services in NT.
I do not know whether it is a deliberate move by the Health Department as a whole- I am not referring to the Northern Territory Health Department- to disregard the requirements -
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Tonight I raise a matter which I intended to raise at question time today, but because of the lengthy answers to some of the questions and because there were quite a few supplementary questions the opportunity was not available to me.
– That is a disgraceful statement. You had an opportunity to raise it each day of this week.
– Not on this occasion. I received this telegram only this morning. I wanted to raise the matter at question time but I did not get the call, despite what Senator Baume said. I bring to the attention of Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) a matter that I raised yesterday. I refer to the matter of the conversion of the loan to the Riverland Fruit Products Cooperative Ltd cannery in South Australia. The Minister will recall that I made a strong plea yesterday, through him, to the Minister for Primary Industry to ask the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to reverse his decision not to convert the Federal Government’s share of the loan to the Riverland fruit cannery at Berri to a direct grant, as has been done by the South Australian Labor Government with its share of the loan. I now ask Senator Cotton whether he is aware that the Chairman of the Co-operative has called a special meeting of shareholders for Friday, 12 November, to discuss the urgent problem now facing the canned fruits industry, as the shareholders would appreciate the Minister for Primary Industry making an announcement before the meeting about whether the Government would change its mind and make direct assistance available to the Co-operative. I now ask Senator Cotton whether he will take up this matter with his colleague, as a matter of great urgency, so that he can perhaps re-assess the problem in South Australia and perhaps send a message to the Chairman of the Riverland fruit cannery in time for it to discuss its problem and probably make an effort to sort them out at the extraordinary meeting next Friday. I would appreciate it if Senator Cotton would take up that plea.
– Having listened to Senator McLaren, I think I should see whether I can get the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on the telephone to see whether he can help.
- Mr President, I direct some comments to you in relation to question time. I realise that you are in a difficult position because no matter what you do you cannot please everybody. Most of us, I would venture to say, realise your position. Therefore, we make comment only when we think it is really necessary. I think that when back benchers feel they have a grievance they should say so, not keep it to themselves. Who knows? It might be rectified. If the back bencher is under a misapprehension he can be told. Therefore, in deference to you, Mr President, I make some observations about question time this week. Before I do so I make one other observation, and that is that however insignificant a member’s question may be, to that member, I am sure, the question appears important. It might be a quite insignificant question. To the senator it might be a world shattering one.
I was one of the senators who this week asked only one question. I was one of those senators who rose to ask a question on every sitting day. In other words, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thurday I attempted to ask a question. I should like to point out some of the ways in which the call to honourable senators who wish to ask questions was allocated. According to informanon that I have, there was one senator who asked more than 4 questions during the week. That was the Leader of the Opposition. We all accept the convention that the Leader of the Opposition can ask a question at any time and I think it is a good convention.
– And necessary.
-Yes. It is necessary. But I shall mention some data that relates to questions asked by senators other than the Leader of the Opposition. This week, each of 24 senators asked one question. Although not all of those 24 senators, as in my case, would have been trying to ask a question on each sitting day of the week, certainly some of those 24 senators would have done that. Fourteen senators asked 2 questions. When I refer to questions I do not include supplementary questions. I am just speaking of the basic question. Those of us who asked one question would not look with too much envy at those who asked 2 question. But 8 senators asked 3 questions. In other words, they were given the call 3 times. Those of us who asked one question, having tried to ask one question each day, I think would look with some degree of envy at those people who asked 3 questions.
One senator was afforded 4 questions and I am sure that the envy of those of us who asked one question would be a little bit higher still towards that senator who asked 4 questions. I speak of envy, not in the real sense of the word, but just to point out that perhaps there is something a little amiss when such a distribution of questions does occur. In other words, 24 senators asked 1 question, 14 senators asked 2 questions, 8 senators asked 3 questions and one senator asked four questions.
I realise, Mr President, that you have a system that you use to try to afford senators the best possible chance to ask questions. However, in view of what is happening I think that there could be something amiss. I would like you to take into consideration the remarks that I have made this evening. Let me just repeat that I do understand that you are in a difficult position and I thank you, Sir, for allowing me to bring this matter before you.
– This is a matter that concerns me very, very deeply. I have sought to be as fair as is possible in this matter to those honourable senators who wish to ask questions and to Ministers. I have sought to ensure that a senator who does not get the call to ask a question on one day is certain to be called early in question time on the subsequent day. This is what happened today. Senator Bishop, Senator McLaren and Senator Robertson were 3 senators whom I sought to call before questions closed but they missed out. There was another honourable senator whom I had in mind but who did not seek to ask a question.
It is true that the Leader of the Opposition has the call from me whenever he rises. He is the spokesman for the Labor Party. I will never get away from the practice of calling him as the No. 1 senator on the Opposition side. I am concerned that I should be fair in calling senators during question time, bearing in mind that 32 to 33 questions are asked a day and that the complement of this chamber is larger than those numbers. In Senator Colston’s case I am sorry to say that in February he had only one question in 5 days. In March he had 7 questions in 1 1 days. In April he had five in 7 days. He was absent for one day, so maybe he would have had six in 7 days if he had not been absent. In May there were 9 sitting days. He was absent 3 days. He had 6 questions. In June there were 3 sitting days. He had 3 questions and he was absent for one day. In August there were 5 sitting days. He was absent for three. He had one question. In September there were 9 sitting days. He had 5 questions. In October there were 9 sitting days. He had one day absent and 3 questions. This month there have been 3 sitting days and he has had a question.*
If I can do better than that from my place, I would like to know how. I have the records of other honourable senators before me. My system has sought to be as fair as possible. If I call a person No. 3 1 one day, I try to give him an early call the next day. So, I appreciate Senator Colston’s concern, but I hope he will also appreciate mine. I endeavour to ensure complete impartiality. As a back bench member of this chamber I was a very avid question asker. I regard question time as a very important time. When I was sitting on
** See also page* 1691. the back benches I used to think to myself: ‘For heaven’s sake, why have I not a question today?’ But I can well appreciate the Presiding Officer’s dilemma in endeavouring to accede to every person’s request. I can only assure honourable senators very sincerely and very honestly that I am doing the best I can to ensure fairness.
-Mr President, may I make a statement on the grounds that I think I have been misrepresented?
-I have not been absent from this chamber one day since I came into this Parliament.
– My apology. I was referring to absences during question dme. If I am wrong in this, I will tender my very sincere apologies; but my research indicates that in the period I mentioned this is the situation.
– May I say a few words about the allocation of questions during question time? It is one matter that causes concern to all honourable senators who are not permitted a question when they desire one. I regret what has happened since I have been in the Senate. At one time there was no limit on question time. Normally it went for an hour and a quarter.
-Senator Murphy brought the limit in.
-That is so. When the Australian Labor Party got into government Senator Murphy introduced the system of asking after an hour that question time be cut off. That practice has been followed since. If it was not followed, very little extra time would be taken up to give every senator a question. I make a plea to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) to refrain from asking that further questions be placed on notice until such time as everyone who wants to ask a question has had an opportunity to ask one. Very little extra time would be involved.
Every person who has been in your position, Mr President, has received some criticism or condemnation by the individual who feels aggrieved because he has not been able to ask a question. I was convinced at one time that you had hatred of myself, because I was not succeeding very often. I still believe that everyone could ask a question each day within the hour if we stuck strictly to the standing order relating to questions. Many questions give information; they do not seek information. I refer to the question asked by Senator Wheeldon yesterday. It went on for 10 minutes.
All he wanted to ask was whether the Minister would reconsider something that he had decided before. Every time Senator Walters gets up to ask a question she prefaces it with half an hour’s debate.
– Would you like to make any admissions on your own behalf?
– -Chivlary prevents me from doing so. I regret having to bring up this matter but my remarks are factual. The purpose of a question is to obtain information. A check of replies will show that very little information relevant to the question asked is given. We usually get a long tirade of political propaganda. We should time the replies to questions by Senator Carrick and Senator Webster. Senator Carrick ‘s replies are different from Senator Webster’s. Senator Carrick replies with irrelevant material on the failures of Labor when it was in office when no one asked him about the failures of Labor. Senator Webster, to give him his due, gives long drawn out replies, which no one understands, to Dorothy Dixers which he has been asked so that he can show his knowledge. The information is far beyond the average person. We hear all the scientific terms and the answers take a long time.
Senator Withers sets an example. While he never gives an honourable senator an answer to anything it does not take him long to refuse to give an answer. I ask, Mr President, that you restrict questions to those seeking information and that you ensure that replies are relevant to the questions. I think then there would be no further complaints and everyone would have an opportunity to ask a question each day.
– I do not want to delay the Senate unduly but I want tonight very briefly to discuss community attitudes and the need for governments to provide avenues of assistance for people who are already disadvantaged. I am particularly pleased to see that a few journalists are in the Press Gallery. It is a most unusual occurrence at any time and it is even more unusual during the adjournment debate. I hope they will listen to what I have to say and I hope it will sink in that they have a responsibility to the people of Australia which they are not accepting at the moment. My speech is not related to those members who are in the Press Gallary at the moment. I refer to a situation developing in Australia which I do not consider to be a healthy one. To make my point quite clear I want to relate a very sad little story. I learnt about it in Kalgoorlie last week. It had absolutely no Press coverage. I can only presume that the reason is that the events concerned an Aboriginal girl and her Aboriginal baby. It would not have happened to a white person. A white person would have been able to communicate. Perhaps the only thing that was wrong in this instance was that the Aboriginal girl had no means of communication.
This very sad story relates to a young Aboriginal girl with 2 children, one aged 2 years and the other a 7-month old baby who had a very bad heart condition. The Aboriginal girl had been staying at an Aboriginal hostel run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. She had been looking after the children. The Sisters informed me that she did not drink. She cared about nothing but her children and the fact that she had a very ill baby. One weekend she went to stay with a friend at Kambalda which is 60 kilometres from Kalgoorlie. Her baby got sick. She apparently had no means of communicating with people at Kambalda because she went to a phone and rang the Little Sisters of the Poor and asked them to come to Kambalda to pick her up because her baby was ill. It was unfortunate that on the day the Sisters had no transport. They rang a community welfare sister and asked her to go and see the baby, which she did. She immediately advised the Aboriginal girl and arranged for her to go and see one of the doctors in Kambalda. The doctor gave the Aboriginal girl a prescription and apparently through lack of communication or a communication breakdown she was unable to explain to the doctor that she did not have any money to have the prescription made up.
So she decided that she should make her way back to the only people she knew cared about her and her baby. It was a very hot day. The Little Sisters of the Poor had provided her with a brand new pusher when she first went to the Aboriginal hostel. For some reason she was not able to take her pusher on the bus. I do not know whether that was because the pram racks on the back of the bus were full. Eventually she got on to the bus but she left her pusher at the bus stop. She travelled in a very hot bus on a very hot day 60 kilometres to Kalgoorlie. Upon arrival she had a very long walk to get to the only people she knew who cared for her. Of course, the baby was already suffering from dehydration. The heat of the mother’s body did not assist the condition one bit. The sisters saw her coming and went down to meet her. They took the baby from her and took her back to the Little Sisters of the Poor. They bathed the baby as well as they could. She was suffering from diarrhoea and her buttocks were red raw. There was very little that could be done, except to take her to the Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital and from there the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which is doing a tremendous job in the north of Western Australia, took her to the Princess Margaret Hospital. The baby died the next day.
There are a number of things about which I think the Kalgoorlie people would be upset. I doubt very much whether very many of them know that this incident happened, because the Press once again has not accepted its responsibility of reporting the matter. But there are also areas about which we should be expressing concern. It indicates to me that there is a lack of communication and that there is a lack of places to which people who are already disadvantaged can go in their time of need and at which they have some communication. I do not know whether in this instance it may have been possible to save the life of the baby had there been a hospital or clinic facilities available in Kambalda. Kambalda is situated approximately 60 to 70 kilometres from Coolgardie and it is much the same distance from Kalgoorlie. It is a mining district. It has a clinic and I understand that there is only one doctor. It has a community health sister. I do not think she is a resident of the town but she visits there. There is no hospital at all. If ever there was a serious mining accident the people of Kambalda would be in dire straits because they would have to rely on hospitals that are some 35 miles distant or on the Flying Doctor Service.
The Flying Doctor Service is doing a tremendous job. It always has done a very good job. It has provided a tremendous service to the people in isolated areas. But it is also necessary to have the back-up services for it to be able to continue to provide its service. I think we should look very closely at the breakdown in communication which has occurred, particularly in areas where ethnic groups and Aboriginal communities are located, such as in Kalgoorlie. I am very pleased to notice that at long last we have had appointed a liaison officer with the Department of Social Security. He is a gentleman by the name of Fred Meredith whom I met while I was up there last week. He tells me that he has a certain amount of freedom and that he is able to go out and talk to groups of Aborigines to see whether they have any problems, simply to sit and have a cup of tea with them. I would like to think that he will be able to retain that freedom, that he will not be loaded down with work which will keep him tied behind a desk, because that type of communication is one way in which to break down the barriers of bureaucracy with people who feel that they are disadvantaged and who find it difficult to communicate.
I know time is getting on and I know that everybody is probably a little impatient, but I want to talk very briefly about another Kalgoorlie situation which Senator Chaney raised with the Minister on Tuesday of this week. It concerns a black man who was painted white by louts. That is the only word one can use to describe them in this instance. That man is still in a very serious condition. He was stripped and he was sprayed with enamel. He had enamel on his face and in his eyes. He was lucky not to have been blinded. At the moment he still has beds of enamel in his ears. It may deafen him; I do not know. His genitals were sprayed. When he arrived at the Little Sisters of the Poor hospitalthat is one of the few places to which Aborigines in Kalgoories can go- he said, ‘They thought I was a white man’. I think it is rather tragic that the Press once again has played down this situation. It has ignored completely the situation that I mentioned earlier about the black baby.
I wonder whether it is not time that we in the Parliament exercised our right and our prerogative to make sure that when we know something of this nature occurs we use this adjournment debate more regularly to bring to the attention of the people of Australia through the media- the proceedings of the adjournment debate are not broadcast and we have to rely on the media to report us correctly- what is happening. Further, we should castigate the Press in the adjournment debate whenever we hear of circumstances such as this to make its members aware that it has a responsibility to let the people of Australia and the people outside Australia know what is happening in the various communities in this country.
– Before I call Senator Knight and Senator Chaney, may I correct a statement I made earlier. Senator Colston, I tender my apologies to you. Inadvertently, I picked up the record of another honourable senator’s questions. I am terribly sorry about this. You were not absent. May I correct the record now. The fact is that you were not absent. The record is as follows, and I will announce it because it is relevant to your original question. In February there were 5 sitting days and you asked 5 questions. In March, there were 1 1 sitting days and you asked 7 questions. In April, there were 7 sitting days and you asked 6 questions. In May, there were 9 sitting days and you asked 8 questions. In June, there were 4 sitting days and you asked 4 questions. In August, there were 5 sitting days and you asked 3 questions. In September, there were 9 sitting days and you asked 1 1 questions. In October, there were 9 sitting days and you asked 8 questions. In this month, so far there have been 3 sitting days and you have asked one question. I take that as correct. I tender my apologies to you, Senator Colston, for having said that you were absent.
– Fair enough; he was not absent.
– He was not absent. That is the point of my apology to the honourable senator for my inadvertence in unfortunately picking up a wrong piece of paper which led me to make my mistake. I am sorry for this.
– I want to raise a matter of some concern in the Australian Capital Territory. It has been the subject of discussion in the media today. It relates particularly to some misconceptions which exist concerning the question of subsidies for buses which, of course, are the basis of our public transport system in the Capital Territory. There have been suggestions that Canberra public transport services, which means bus service, are heavily subsidised compared with other areas and other cities of Australia. I submit to the Senate that the evidence indicates that in fact this is not the case. To support this argument, I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a single line table indicating the Government subsidies to public transport per head of population. The figures are for 1974-75 and cover the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and the Australian Capital Territory.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-As the table shows, the per capita subsidy in the Australian Capital Territory in 1 974-75 for public transport was $20.50. In Melbourne, it was $2 1 .30 and in Sydney it was approximately $27. So, in fact, the public transport system in the Capital Territory is clearly not unduly heavily subsidised.
– Are you talking about a Commonwealth subsidy?
-These are figures I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library. They cover general Government support for the public transport systems. They refer to operating losses.
-Including State subsidies?
– I would have to check that with the Library. I was told that this is a total subsidy figure. Of course, we do not have Statelike finances in the Capital Territory. The Library has assured me that these are the comparative figures and I would take the Library’s word for that. Of course, they include for the cities of Sydney and Melbourne the subsidies for train services which do not exist here.
I would also like to refer to evidence contained in Hansard which gives more recent figures comparing Canberra with Perth. They are figures for 1975-76. The Perth public transport system was subsidised to the extent of $24.69 per capita in 1975-76 compared with $26 for the Australian Capital Territory. Those figures were provided in evidence before Senate Estimates Committee E. Figures provided by the Parliamentary Legislative Research Service indicate that government subsidies per passenger journey for the 3 cities are 22c in Sydney, 23c in Melbourne and 30c in Canberra. But the figure for the Australian Capital Territory relates to the high level of route kilometres per capita in the Territory compared with the States.
All too frequently unwarranted assumptions are made about such matters in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. It must be remembered that Australia is building a unique city, a national capital, which faces particular problems of rapid development and low density population which in turn present special problems for the public transport system. In addition, the Australian Capital Territory is only just beginning to develop an extensive public transport system and particularly rapid increases have been required over the last few years to get the system established. The Australian Capital Territory is only now about to begin the development of a rapid transit system of roads for the bus service. It is also beginning a process by which we hope this public transport system will be more widely utilised. At present about 18 per cent of commuters use the public transport system. The aim is to have about 40 per cent using it, and we are moving towards achieving that objective. I conclude by saying that I note that this subject is dealt with in the report of Estimates Committee E. I will say no more at this stage, because I will want to raise it in the Committee stage of the consideration of Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ).
– I also want to delay the Senate very briefly, partly because one of the matters raised by Senator Coleman was a matter that I raised in the Senate earlier this week, but mainly because I think that raising these matters, although they are important and I agree that they should be brought before the public and before the Parliament, can lead one to overlook some of the other aspects of what is happening in the community. I would like to mention some of the rather more heartening things which I found in Kalgoorlie last week in the field about which Senator Coleman was talking. I would like to mention the work of the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service and a conversation I had with Mr Greg Mclntyre, a young lawyer who has been appointed to that area recently. He is covering a very large area of Western Australia in the eastern gold fields. One of the notable things he told me was how pleased he was with the extensive co-operation he was getting from the police. As one who, in support of Senator Cavanagh, has complained in this chamber about police activities in the eastern gold fields, I note that in this area in which, with extensive Commonwealth subsidy, the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service is operating there are real signs of progress and change. I think that also ought to be noted in the Senate.
Mention was made by Senator Coleman of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the shelter that organisation runs in Kalgoorlie. Again it is worthy of note that a small group of very devoted people- members of a religious order and one secular priest- operate a 24-hour service in a building which was built with Commonwealth funds and which attracts a Commonwealth subsidy. I visited that place, as obviously Senator Coleman did. I can only say to those honourable senators who expressed an interrest in this subject that it would be useful for them to visit such places and to see how unpaid people, working under extremely difficult conditions which I doubt I could stand for three or four days let alone for years as these people have done, are working in a way which directly is improving the welfare of the homeless and the itinerant Aborigines of the eastern gold fields.
I mention these matters to the Senate merely because, whilst I abhor and am saddened by the sorts of matters raised by Senator Coleman, I think it would be a pity if we did not also acknowledge that there are areas of real progress and that the hundreds of millions of dollars currently being spent in the field of Aboriginal welfare is in fact achieving some results. That should not be overlooked because if it is the people of
Australia will become sick of what is becoming a very expensive exercise and I believe that they ought not to become sick of it because real progress is being made.
– I rise briefly, stimulated by Senator Coleman’s account of the death of a child in Western Australia. I understand that she was making 2 points. One related to the question of communications which may have prevented the child getting proper treatment. I could not help noticing that she talked of an Aboriginal child dying of gastro enteritis. I simply draw to the attention of the Senator that the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders was concerned with this problem and with the undue contribution it makes to the death of Aboriginal children in Australia who, operating as these children often do on the basis of marginal nutrition, are particularly susceptible to gastro enteritis which plays a disproportionate role in the excess mortality we see among Aboriginal children. The Committee was given evidence by Professor Colin Tatz that the statistics have been so bad and at one time the Department of Health was so alarmed by this illness that it ordered the statistics to be broken into several sub groups, doubtless to get a better appreciation of the different manifestations of the illness. Evidence was also given to the Committee that in the Northern Territory, for example, many admissions of Aboriginal children to hospital are on the basis of gastro enteritis.
The point I make is that the children die of dehydration. Senator Coleman made that point also. Our Committee was concerned with measures taken around the world to try to treat and overcome that problem. I commend to the Senate and to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) the fact that some developing countries- and one example we were able to find was Swazilandhave been able to develop a very simply and practical measure to try to cope with acute lifethreatening gastro enteritis in infants. Senator Coleman is quite right; it is a very serious disease. In Swaziland they have set up a network of 14 tiny clinics, each staffed by a nurse and covering an area within a radius of 20 or 30 miles, and at the clinics fluids can be given by the nurses into the peritoneal cavity and that will save the life of these children. If this is done in developing countriesand as we in this country do not seem to be able to cope with the problem that emerges because we do not have the resource’s or the personnal there is no reason why we should not copy what is going on in some of these developing countries. This information is contained in the
Senate Committee’s report. I know that the Government is aware of the report but Senator Coleman’s speech tonight stimulated me once again to draw this to the attention of the Government. Anything we can do to stop these children dying of dehydration would be a worthwhile initiative.
- Senator Knight again drew the Senate’s attention to his interest on behalf of the people of the Australian Capital Territory in the work of Estimates Committee E during these past months. He has referred to the subsidy for buses and this has been a critical issue with Estimates Committee E. The facts that he put forward are generally supported by the evidence that was given before that Committee following information that came forward last year. It was stated to the Estimates Committee that the subsidy for Canberra buses is not out of line per capita with that paid in other major capitals. I am sure that all of us are indebted to Senator Knight for bringing the matter to our attention and we realise his responsibility to the people of this Territory.
– I shall not detain the Senate for very long on a matter which arises out of the earlier debate concerning the number and length of questions and answers. I have some tables which I will shortly seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard. They are tables of statistics prepared by the Senate officers. One broad general statistic in which honourable senators may be interested, is that during the period between 17 August and 19 October, of the total time that the Senate sat 21.6 per cent was devoted to question time. That is a fairly large segment of our time. As to the length of questions and answers, which are often thought to be enormously long, could I just give a few statistics; I will not give them all. In the period from August to October 736 questions were asked and 738 answers were given. I think that is quite remarkable.
-Tell us the percentage of time taken by Senator Webster.
– I am going to come to this and you will be fascinated. One of the interesting things is that the number of words in all the questions was 79,966.
-Was that in light years?
-No, that was the number of words in questions. The number of words in the answers was 107,443. The average number of words per question was 108 and the average number of words per answer was 145. 1 was surprised that questions were so long.
– Some of the answers were yes and no.
– Wait a minute. The average length of a question was 44 seconds and the average length of an answer was 62 seconds.
– Who is the genius who wasted his time to work this out?
-There is a lot of mythology and folk lore about questions. Who should get the award for the shortest answers? Mr President had 5 questions and his average answer took 37 seconds. Mr President, you are deserving of congratulations. Senator Cotton ran second. He took an average of 47 seconds. I cannot put the others in order. Senator Webster took one minute 17 seconds. I took a minute. Senator Guilfoyle took 59 seconds. Senator Durack took 1 minute 13 seconds and Senator Carrick took 1 minute 7 seconds. It is rather interesting when we break it down and take an average as a statistical exercise. This may all sound very interesting but I invite honourable senators to study tomorrow the 2 tables which I hope the Senate will give me leave to incorporate. I must say, Mr President, that as one who sits listening through question time day after day I would have thought that on balance answers tended to be a lot longer than the questions asked. But to my surprise with an average of 108 words per question and 145 words per answer there is not such a great gap. On average it takes 44 seconds to ask a question and only 62 seconds to answer it.
– If you know anything about journalism you know that that is a bloody long time.
-I looked up in the chamber one day- I do not know whether Senator Douglas McClelland was speaking- and I was almost going to raise a point of order and say to the Clerk: ‘Surely that clock must be stopped up there. It shows only 5 minutes has passed and it seems about 5 hours’.
– It is merely 50 per cent longer.
– Wait a minute. We are talking about 44 seconds and 62 seconds. I was going to say that one gets the general impression here that answers are very much longer than questions.
– They are.
– They are not that much longer.
– If you take into consideration that Senator Cotton says yes or no and, as happened today, Senator Webster said yes to one question.
– Yes, and I have taken into consideration that some people ask questions that take a very long time. Some questions give an enormous amount of information. I have heard questions asked here that I thought sounded almost like adjournment speeches. We get some very long questions at times. I thought that just as a matter of intellectual interest to honourable senators the tables should be prepared. The first table shows the breakup of the time used in the Senate over a range of matters such as motions of condolence, Budget debates, question time, urgency debates, general business, legislation, etc. It is an interesting statistical breakdown. I must say that I found it of a great deal of interest.
– How much did it cost?
-It cost you nothing because I just never stop working. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate these 2 tables in Hansard. I hope honourable senators find a great deal of interest in them. Maybe one night when we are not so tired we could have an adjournment debate lasting some hours.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 11.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Based on those studies the then Department of Civil Aviation prepared a document entitled ‘Environmental Impact Statement for the Development of Brisbane Airport’ March 1 973 as a report on the environmental aspects of the alternatives considered by the Advisory Committee and as part of a submission to the Government in 1 973.
Subsequently in September 1973 the then Minister for Transport directed the Bureau of Transport Economics to conduct an economic analysis of the alternative schemes for the development of Brisbane airport.
It was therefore decided that the public review of the environmental impact statement should be postponed pending the outcome of the Bureau of Transport Economics and consequential studies.
It is understood that the Department of Transport is currently reviewing this matter with a view to advising the Government on a preferred long term development scheme. An environmental impact statement covering the preferred scheme will be prepared at the appropriate time and published in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Anti-cyclone Measures (Question No. 1128)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s questions is as follows:
In respect of the honourable senator’s questions, a reply was given on 6 October 1976 and appears on pages 1087-8 of Hansard.
Defence: Technical Co-operation Program (Question No. 1132)
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:
Cape York and Arnhem Land: Wilderness Area (Question No. 1168) Senator Keeffe asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
Has the Government taken any steps to declare parts of, or all of, Cape York and Arnhem Land a wilderness area with full protection for all fauna and flora. If not, will the Government view this matter with immediate concern and a sense of urgency.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a letter from L. E. Shannon of Hurstville, New South Wales, which appeared in Nation Review dated 8 October 1976, in which Mr Shannon claims that he had received a letter from the Member for Barton, Mr J. M. Bradfield, M.P., which in part said, in referring to the recent Cedar Bay raid, that ‘no Commonwealth assistance was given to the Queensland police in this raid’. If so (a) is the information provided by Mr Bradfield to L. E. Shannon incorrect in relation to Commonwealth involvement in the raid, and (b) did the member for Barton obtain his information from the Minister’s office, or from the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.
Senator DURACK- The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Welfare Services for the Aged (Question No. 1188)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Minister for Health, Dr L. Edwards, quoted in the Courier-Mail dated 3 October 1976, has expressed disappointment that the Commonwealth Government has reduced funds for welfare services for the aged. If so, (a) is the Commonwealth Government solely responsible for the Queensland Government’s cutback in planned new programs for the aged foreshadowed by Dr Edwards, and (b) what new programs will be affected?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am aware of the statement by Dr Edwards as reported in the Courier-Mail on 3 October 1976.
There has been no reduction in Commonwealth Government funds for aged persons’ welfare. The honourable senator will be aware that I recently announced a $225m 3-year program for funding aged persons’ homes projects. A sum of $45 m will be provided m 1976-77 and it is the Government ‘s objective to provide a further $ 1 80m over the following two years. In the meantime those organisations whose projects have been selected for funding in 1977-78 and 1978-79 may proceed with their projects using existing funds or bridging finance.
The Government has also announced a $ 12m, 3-year program to fund the construction of senior citizens’ centres under the States Grants (Home Care) Act, i.e. $4m in each of the 3 years. Under this legislation this Government also reimburses two-thirds of State Government expenditure on home care services for aged persons, and two-thirds of the salaries paid to welfare officers. The amount allocated this financial year for these services has been increased to $1 1.7m, which is more than 28 per cent above the expenditure in 1975-76.
No new senior citizen projects can be approved this financial year because the outstanding expenditure at 30 June 1976 was in excess of $5. 5m and will require all the funds allocated. However, a total of $6m has been allocated for new projects in 1977-78 and 1978-79.
During 1975-76 home care services throughout the Commonwealth were extended considerably and it is now apparent that the $7m allocated for these services for this financial year, a 23 per cent increase on the amount provided in 1975-76, will be required to maintain existing services. Furthermore, due to increases in the salaries of welfare officers employed at senior citizens’ centres, the $700,000 provided in 1976-77 will be required to fund the existing positions
As the honourable senator may be aware, the Government recently set up a Committee of Inquiry into Care of the Aged and Infirm and has also appointed a task force to examine welfare services and community based programs in the health/welfare/community development area. The States Grants (Home Care) Act is one of the programs under review.
Future policy decisions may be made in the light of the recommendations received, at which time an appropriate announcement will be made.
Therefore, in reply to (a) and (b) of the honourable senator’s question, I can speak only of those services jointly funded under the States Grants (Home Care) Act and, as I have indicated, any new commitments will be dependent upon the decisions taken following consideration of the above Committee ‘s recommendations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
The grants being provided to each State were based generally on the recommendations made by the Bureau of Roads in its ‘Report on Roads in Australia- 1973’ which took into account the varying costs of road construction between regions when developing a warranted and feasible road program.
Since the Acts were introduced in 1974, the Commonwealth has provided additional grants to the States to generally offset the effects of cost increases. An additional $30m was provided in respect of 1 974-7S and this Government has provided further grants of $64m in respect of 1975-76 and $35. 8m for 1976-77 of which Queensland will receive $7.5m and Western Australia $4.6m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s question:
However, as the Service is operated by the Western Australian Coastal Shipping Commission which is responsible to the Western Austraiian Government, the honourable senator may wish to direct his question to the responsible authority.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
For moderately handicapped people the general improvement in design of buses is of advantage to them.
Charter Aircraft: Use by Ministers and Members (Question No. 1214)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In the case of Ministers and Opposition officer holders, approval is generally given to use charter aircraft where necessary to assist them to carry out the responsibilities of their offices in circumstances where commercial services are unavailable or would not allow commitments to be met.
The honourable senator will be aware that my approval is not required by those members of the House of Representatives and by the senators for the Northern Territory when using charter transport in accordance with their entitlement as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal (Clauses 2.22 to 2.24 of Determination No. 1976/6).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
Will the Minister give approval for the return of a Volkswagen Kombi van to the Darwin Regional Council, seized on 2 1 September 1 976 in connection with an alleged contravention of the Customs Act, to enable the Council to carry out its valuable work in the Darwin area.
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
An employee of the Darwin Regional Council has been charged with offences against the Customs Act.
The vehicle concerned was allegedly used in the commission of these offences.
As the matter is currently before the Court it would be inappropriate for me to intervene at this stage. However when the prosecution has been finalised I will re-examine the matter in the light of any decision made by the Court
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
Has the Department of Administrative Services discontinued sending the daily compilations of ministerial Press releases to the electorate offices of members and senators. If so, why.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
No. In accordance with normal practice the daily collation is delivered to the Parliament House offices of members and senators when Parliament is sitting and to their electorate offices when it is not.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761104_senate_30_s69/>.