30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, it is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death, on Thursday, 10 March 1977, of the Honourable John Ignatius Armstrong, A.C., a former senator for the State of New South Wales. I move:
I am sure all honourable senators will share my regret at the death last Thursday of former Senator John Ignatius Armstrong. Former Senator Armstrong had a long and distinguished record of service to Australia- a record that encompassed many fields of endeavour. His contributions were especially notable in the Senate, in local government and as a representative of his country overseas. John Armstrong was born in Sydney in 1908, and educated at the Marist Brothers High School, Darlinghurst. After joining the Australian Labor Party he entered political life in 1934 as an alderman of the City of Sydney Council. Three years later he was elected to the Senate, taking his place here in 1 938.
While in the Senate, John Armstrong served Australia in a variety of ways. He was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances from 1938 to 1940. During World War II he served as a member of the Rationing Commission and a member of the Profits Committee. He became Minister for Munitions in 1946 until 1948, when he became Minister for Supply and Development, a post he held until December 1949. In the year before, he had visited the United Kingdom in his role as Minister in charge of the Royal visit. From 195 1 until 1956 he was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and later served on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. He left the Senate in 1962.
After leaving the Senate his career in public life continued. He became Chairman of the Sydney County Council in 1963, serving in that post until 1965, when he achieved the first of what he himself described as two of his major ambitions as a young man. He became the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney. He held that post for 2 years. In 1973 he resumed active public life by taking up the post of High Commissioner to London, fulfilling his second youthful ambition. As High Commissioner he represented Australia bluntly but honestly, maintaining Australia’s traditional ties in a period of evolution. For many years John Armstrong strongly believed in the establishment of an Australian system of honours, a view he put forward as far back as the late 1940s. His own contribution to public life was therefore appropriately recognised on Australia Day this year when he became a Companion of the Order of Australia.
John Armstrong was a true Australianaggressive and blunt, but fair and honest. Throughout his life he served his Party and his country with dignity and dedication. I am sure all honourable senators will join with me in expressing sympathy to his wife and family.
– On behalf of the Opposition I rise to second the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). As he has indicated, John Armstrong was without doubt one of the outstanding political figures of the war years and the post-war years in Australia. I do not wish to restate the details of his distinguished career. They have been adequately outlined by Senator Withers. John Armstrong was not a member of this Senate at the time I had the fortune or misfortune to be elected to the Federal Parliament. Therefore I did not have the honour of working with him in this chamber. He was at one time Deputy Leader of the Opposition. That in itself is an indication of the esteem in which he was held by his colleagues. I was able to meet him on other occasions outside the Parliament and especially during the time that he was High Commissioner for Australia in London.
There is no doubt that John Armstrong was regarded as a very loyal member of his political party and a man of great integrity which probably is as important a quality as any that one can have in public life. My New South Wales colleagues had a closer association with him than I did and I am sure that they would wish to express some comments. Formally on behalf of the Opposition I second the motion and reiterate that we deeply moura the passing of a great Australian.
-I wish to associate the National Country Party senators with the motion of condolence moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). John Armstrong served Australia with distinction as a senator, a minister and a diplomat over a span of close to 40 years. His attributes included great strength of character and an unwavering loyalty and dedication to his Party and to his country. These qualities alone earned him wide respect and friendship. My National Country Party colleagues join me in extending sympathy to Mrs Armstrong and her family.
– I support the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). With the passing of John Armstrong Australia has lost a very distinguished son. John Armstrong was to be invested with the Order of Australia last Wednesday, 9 March, by Her Majesty the Queen for his distinguished services to Australia. Unfortunately his life span ended at Bateman ‘s Bay on the south coast of New South Wales the next day. As has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the late John Armstrong entered public life at a very early age. In 1934 he became an alderman of the City of Sydney. Three years later, at the early age of 29, he was elected to the Senate as a senator representing New South Wales. In total he gave well over 40 years of very active public service out of the 68 years that he lived. He represented New South Wales in this Senate for 24 years. He was Minister for Supply in the Chifley Labor Government from 1946 to 1949, when that Government was defeated. In 1951 he was elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and occupied that position until 1956.
A year after he left the Senate in 1962 he was appointed Chairman of the Sydney County Council and he occupied that important position until 1965- some 2 years, when he achieved one of his lifelong ambitions to be democratically elected by the people of Sydney as its Lord Mayor. In 1973 he was appointed High Commissioner to London- a position he filled with very great professional competence. The late Mr Armstrong was a man who loved people, a man with a great sense of humour, a man who had a love of life and an understanding of men. Within the Labor movement he was known very affectionately as the ‘Golden Barman’. He himself often said that, coming from Pyrmont, felt that in comparison with so many of his friends he had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Indeed, on one nomination form I know of which he submitted as a candidate for Senate election he showed his occupation as that of barman.
Many stories were told about him. Many stories were told by him about himself. He always enjoyed a joke about himself and at his own expense. I well remember him telling me why he was appointed as Minister in charge of the Royal Tour in 1 947 by the then Prime Minister, Mr Ben Chifley. His story was that he was called into the Prime Minister’s office one day and the Prime Minister said to him: ‘John, I am going to appoint you Minister in charge of the Royal Tour. The reason I am doing it is that you have more suits than anyone else in the Cabinet, which means that you will not need any clothing coupons to enable you to do the job’. That was the type of joke that he loved telling about himself. In his early days he showed great potential as a fighter. I know that as a welterweight he once fought the late Frank Packer. There are 2 conflicting sides to the story and I do not quite know which one is right. Some people have told me that he defeated Frank Packer on points. The other side of the story is that which John Armstrong told himself. He said that he had a few more brains that Frank Packer in that he let Frank Packer win the fight because during the fight he suddenly realised that the winner of the bout had to fight a fellow called Ambrose Palmer, who eventually became the Australian champion.
John Armstrong was very much connected with the film industry through his long association with the Greater Union Theatres organisation. He was of tremendous assistance to me, both before and during the time I was Minister for the Media in the Whitlam Government. I had many discussions with John Armstrong about the way in which the Australian film industry should be developed, and only a handful of people would know of the large part his knowledge of the industry, coupled with his great political acumen, actually played in the course the Labor Government charted in order to bring about the successful establishment of a commercially viable Australian film industry. It is very rare that men are made with the capacity, the temperament and the understanding of John Armstrong. He was a very great man indeed. I was honoured to be invited by you, Mr President, to represent you at his funeral yesterday in Sydney. I was deeply honoured to be invited to be one of the pallbearers at the funeral. My sympathy is extended to his widow, Joan, and to all members of the Armstrong family. I support the motion of condolence moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
-I should like to be associated with the motion of condolence on the death of John Armstrong. He was a member of this chamber for a number of years, and he served the Senate and his country with great distinction. It can be truly said that John Armstrong was a distinguished and respected citizen of Australia who had a profound sense of public service. He was one of the youngest men ever to enter the Senate. He brought to the Senate some knowledge of local government, which stood him in very good stead during his time here.
I first met him in 1 946. He had then been a senator for 8 years. I found him then to be very aware of the situation in which a young man coming into this chamber found himself, in needing a friend, a counsellor and an adviser. I saw him regularly take on this role. Whenever young people came into the Senate he virtually would take them under his wing, not only to show them the physical side of the Senate but also to give them some very sound and well balanced advice that money could not buy. It is very interesting that John Armstrong should continue the tremendous tradition that Balmain has established in the life of Australia. On many occasions we hear references to people who have come right through the whole gamut of being a typical Australian, many of whom started their lives on the bottom rung of the ladder and achieved the highest possible level of success. This illustrates not only that Australia offers that opportunity to its sons but also that its sons have that opportunity available to them.
John Armstrong was a man who seemed to have the golden touch. He was referred to earlier as the ‘Golden Barman’. He had the ability, having battled away in a bar and having taken on the job of pouring drinks, mixing drinks, mixing with people and looking after his job well, to make that an honourable calling. He carried on in the tradition of his parents, who often found that the opportunities of their time only opened up such places as required them to work hard in hotels and the like to make a living. But that is another story. John Armstrong was the progeny of fine Irish stock. Many of them, of course, have become the very core of Australian citizenship today. He had a golden touch about him. In everything that he set out to do he seemed to have the touch of success. That has been spoken of and reiterated already in outlining the various phases of his life. In every field to which he applied his talents he did so with grace, charm and dignity. His record has been recited. I remember him well when in the Chifley Government he was Minister for Munitions and then Minister for Supply. Although that was a time of scarcity and rationing and Australia had come through a very difficult period, he was able to make some concessions that I hope the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) will try to emulate. John Armstrong carried out his job as Minister for Supply with great capacity. He proved himself to be an able administrator. He was very highly respected by all those people in the Public Service with whom he came in contact. He carried with him a confidence that was quite refreshing.
I knew him closely in his family life. His wife ‘s uncle was the headmaster of my school in Launceston. I knew his wife’s family. I knew him and his wife when they were first married and I saw their little family come along. He was a wonderful husband and father- generous and understanding but firm. He had, as I say, a sense of humour. He was always able to bring some relief into the most serious situation through his capacity to exercise his sense of humour. He was a tremendously generous host and was able to enjoy to the utmost not only the pleasure of giving hospitality but also the company of his friends. It has already been mentioned that John Armstrong was a good sportsman. He excelled as a boxer but he also played a very good round of golf and was an almost fanatical bowler. In all those fields he had a wide circle of friends.
Besides his sporting interests he was a patron of the arts. Those who knew John Armstrong in his own home realised the great sense of artistic values he possessed in the beauty of the collection of works of art in his home. His attainment of the positions of Lord Mayor of his own city of Sydney and High Commissioner in London has already been mentioned. I can remember well sitting in the Senate- I was possibly in breach of Standing Orders- and discussing with John Armstrong the possibilities of an Australian Order in the future. We discussed different names. He believed that this was something Australia should develop in order to express itself as a nation. It is a great coincidence and a great pity that on the very eve of his passing he should have seen this Order conferred on so many worthy Australian citizens and should have received it himself. I am certain that this would have been a great culmination to a life well spent in the service of his fellow men.
To his wife Joan and to his family I offer my very deepest sympathy in the great loss they have sustained. I pray that his wife will have the courage and the fortitude that will be necessary for her to overcome the tremendous burden of sorrow that is on her. I assure her that I personally and those other honourable senators who knew John Armstrong will always remember him with profound respect and admiration for having fulfilled the work of a good and faithful servant of Australia.
Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales)All previous tributes have been based on the late Senator John Armstrong in triumph. The tribute I pay to him is based on what he suffered in adversity. In 1960 the then officers of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party, of which I was one, introduced a collegiate system. Out of 54 candidates John Armstrong was narrowly defeated. I think it speaks volumes for the capacity of the man that in similar circumstances most people would have squealed, whimpered or sulked. I met John Armstrong a week after that ballot and his first words were: ‘If there is any way that I can serve the officers of the New South Wales Labor Party just ask me’. As Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, he subsequently served in numerous capacities. I think honourable senators know that in any big city duties without much glamour have to be performed. I know that the Sydney County Council was one of those instrumentalities that needed meticulous administration. John Armstrong performed his duties until destiny gave him the position he desired, that of the Australian High Commissioner in London.
The only other anecdote which I think is relevant relates to the small duties he performed. Senator Douglas McClelland referred to the way he received his assignment in 1948 as Minister in charge of the proposed Royal Tour. Another story is told in the Concord area where I live. That district has a large percentage of gas workers, waterside workers and railway workers. In the early postwar years, a tremendous gale occurred and houses and fences were battered. Some of those houses were war service homes. As Senator Wriedt will appreciate, the then Minister for Repatriation in the Labor Government was Charlie Frost, who was a big, powerful man but who did not relish meeting an army of 50 angry women seeking to learn who would repair the houses and the fences since the War Service Homes Commissioner was not noted for speedy decisions. It so happened that my mother was one of those 50 irate women. She was not backward at handing out criticism. I can remember asking her: ‘How did you get on?’ She said ‘Well, when that Senator Armstrong gave us that big smile, we were content to listen to him ‘. That was the Senator Armstrong we knew. Yesterday I represented my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Keeffe, at John Armstrong’s funeral. I paid his respects and my respects to Joan Armstrong. The reply I received from that woman was symbolic of the attitude of the Armstrong family. She said: ‘Look Tony, on Tuesday night he saw all his old friends; that was the way John would have liked to go out ‘.
-Mr President, I wish to support this condolence motion. I know, as all of us do, of the achievements of the late John Armstrong, but I also know something about bis disappointments. I met John Armstrong on the night that I joined the Labor Party. He drove me home from the Party branch meeting. I was closely associated with him from that day on. I remember his disappointment when he lost his Senate preselection after, as Senator Mulvihill just mentioned, 24 years service. He went on to become Chairman of the Sydney County Council and Lord Mayor of Sydney. I remember his disappointment when the New South Wales State Government terminated this appointment and altered the boundaries of the Sydney City Council. As his campaign director, I remember his disappointment when, on those altered boundaries, he narrowly failed to regain the position. Then he became our High Commissioner in England. On the morning after the last federal election when senators on this side of the chamber were not receiving many calls, I remember, John Armstrong called at my house and discussed the results. Only 2 weeks ago he attended my local branch and actively participated. I associate myself with these remarks today not only because I have lost a personal friend and the Labor Party a stalwart member but also because I believe that this country has lost a fine citizen.
– I ask honourable senators to signify their concurrence in the motion by standing in silence.
Honourable senators having stood in their places-
-The motion is agreed to.
– I present the following petition from 1 1 citizens:
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the Government’s Child Care Policy should be immediately clarified and announced to ensure continuity of programmes and allow effective forward planning.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure that:
The Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide not less than SO per cent of all funding for Australia s roads.
The minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5, 903m of Commonwealth, State and local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Collard.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution. by Senator Tehan.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the mean’s test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a ‘Right and not a Charity’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Thomas.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. It refers to a question I asked last Thursday concerning federalism, in reply to which the Minister said to me: if Senator Wriedt were to look into the matter he would find that there were some years when his Government cut back on specific purpose payments and some years when it expanded them.
In view of the fact that Budget Paper No. 7 records that increases in specific purpose payments to the States under the Labor Government were 68 per cent in the first year, 89 per cent in the second year and 40 per cent in the third year, would the Minister indicate the year in which the Labor Government cut back on specific purpose payments? In view of the fact that the same Budget paper records that under his Government the estimated increase in specific purpose payments this year, under federalism, will be a magnificent one per cent, will the Minister explain how, with these factual figures, the federalism policy has improved the financial position of the States as he claims?
-Senator Wriedt, by the production of those figures, produced the confirmation to my statement. In fact, if the figure for the first year was 68 per cent, that for the second year 89 per cent and that for the third year 40 per cent, then clearly there was a reduction or cutback in the third year- or figures mean nothing. Constantly the Labor Party attempts to ally the year by year amounts of section 96 grants with a demonstration of federalism. Federalism, in its philosophy and practice, is based on the belief that States ought to have a substantial increase in their sovereignty; that they should have a substantial increase in the amount of money they receive which it untied and over which they can exercise decision making power uncluttered by Federal interference. The test of it is whether a government is willing to do that. The test of the Whitlam Government was that in its 3 years in office tied grants moved from 37 per cent of the total amount to 52 per cent of the total amount. That is a clear indication of the destruction of federalism and the move towards unification. In the first year of office of the Fraser Government stage one of federalism has given to the States, in the revenue sharing process under a formula of 33.6 per cent of personal income tax collections, at least $89m more in untied revenue- probably an additional $ 10m or $1 lm to that- than would have accrued to the States under the Whitlam Government’s unification formula. The Premier of Western Australia recently commended this result. The principle was commended by other Premiers. I repeat that what we have done under federalism is what the State Labor Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, asked the Whitlam Government to do in 1974 and what the Whitlam Government did not do.
- Mr President, I wish to ask Senator Carrick a supplementary question. As he confirms the fact that there was an average 66 per cent increase in specific purpose payments to the States in the 3 years of the Labor Government, will he confirm that this year the increase is one per cent and that the total increase in all payments to the States is 7 per cent- representing about one-quarter of the increase under the Labor Government? In view of his reference to Mr Dunstan, is it not a fact that Mr Dunstan, amongst other premiers, has now described the new federalism as a sham, a sick joke and a con job?
-Senator Wriedt has attempted to confuse all matters. His first question to me was whether I was right or wrong in saying that from time to time, year by year, there were variations in specific purpose paymentssection 96 grants- and then he quoted some figures which demonstrated that the Whitlam Government varied those payments up and down very considerably in those 3 years. He demonstrated those variations by his own figures.
– Downwards from 89 per cent in the second year to 40 per cent in the third year, on Senator Wriedt ‘s own figures. That, basically, is of course proof of what I said. If Senator Wriedt is asking whether there was a reduction in this last year in specific purpose grants, the answer is yes. The reason is very obvious. One year ago when we inherited government we took over a situation in which inflation was running at 18 per cent and rising. The deficit was running at some $4.5 billion to $5 billion and rising. Even Mr Hayden said in his Budget statement that it was necessary to halve that Budget deficit.
– It is running worse now.
– The interjection is typical of the plausible errors committed every day by Senator Wriedt. He knows that the publication of the deficit figures at this moment excludes the quarterly payments of company income tax. He knows that in the last quarter of this year company income tax will restore that situation. But it suits the Leader of the Opposition to say this because he has no other defence to fall back on. Due to the wrecking of the economy by the Whitlam Government it was necessary to cut back on some expenditure last year. The thesis of the cut back was claimed to be the right thesis by Mr Hayden.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether she is aware of reports appearing in the Press over the last week on racial discrimination.
I draw the attention of the Minister to the Canberra Times of today’s date with the headlines:
Racial discrimination seen in Townsville.
I also draw the attention of the Minister to a paragraph which states:
A year after the Anti-Discrimination Act, housing discrimination is blatant in Townsville. The facts speak for themselves.
I ask: Will the Minister inform the Senate as to what action is intended to ensure that this discrimination against the Aboriginal community in Townsville ceases?
-I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He advised me that he has seen a copy of the report which was prepared by Professor Knud Larsen and a team of volunteers who carried out research over a considerable time in the Townsville area. I understand that the report was released at the Catholic Centre in Brisbane on 9 March and was launched under the auspices of the combined churches of Queensland through the recently established Foundation for Aboriginal and Islanders Research Action. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is currently examining the report and looking at ways in which an improvement in the situation may be achieved through the activities and programs of his Department in this area. He is also seeking the reaction of the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement to the report. If there is any further information I shall see that the honourable senator obtains it.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Science has a similar background to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition and seeks further information. I preface my question by drawing the attention of the Minister to an answer which I received to Senate question No. 741 in which I was informed that details of the current annual level of funding for alternative energy sources are not available. I ask the Minister: How does he reconcile this answer with the answer he gave in the Senate on 9 March 1977 in reply to a question I asked in which he stated that $1.5m is spent on solar energy research alone? Will the Minister provide the Senate with a detailed breakdown of government and non-government funding for solar energy and coal research in Australia for the periods 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1 976-77? Alternatively, can the Minister tell me the straight facts of how he arrived at the figure of $ 1 .5m?
-The honourable senator has asked a very wide ranging question. If my memory serves me correctly, it is somewhat similar to the question which he asked on 9 March of this year. The question now asked by the honourable senator suggests that he had earlier asked a question relating to the amount spent on ‘energy sources’. They are the words that he used in the question he asked me a moment ago. I do not know that I have ever attempted to respond in this place to a question related to energy sources. If my memory serves me correctly, Senator Keeffe previously asked about amounts spent on solar energy research. His question today attempts to elicit from me what amounts have been spent on government and non-government research. As I said on 9 March, I will attempt to get the information for him. If he wishes me at question time to give the amounts spent in 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 on this research he certainly is seeking a lengthy answer from me.
– I ask a supplementary question. The Minister appears to be under a misapprehension as to the basis of my question. I appreciate that the details sought at the end of my question need further research before an answer can be given, but I am not asking about that now. The Minister quoted a figure of $ 1.5m in this chamber only a few days ago. I ask: How much of this was supplied by the Government and how much was supplied by private industry? It was obvious from the reply to my previous question that the Minister did not pluck this figure out of the air. The figure has to be justified and that is what I am seeking.
-The honourable senator now asks what amounts are spent by the Federal Government on research into solar energy. My understanding of his earlier question was that it related to just solar energy research and it elicited from me the comment that in the vicinity of $ 1.5m had been spent. I will attempt to verify that figure for him. The figure which came to my mind when he asked the question without notice was that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in this current year is expending on solar energy research and on areas associated with solar energy about $1.2 7m. The honourable senator may know- I saw it stated publicly although it is not within my portfolio- that Professor Harry Messel has suggested that the University of Sydney had received $250,000 a year for each of the last 3 years for solar energy research and that in a rounded figure brought the amount known to have been spent on solar energy research directly to at least $ 1.5m. By no means is that suggested as the total amount spent by the Australian community on solar energy research. For instance, I am aware, although it again is not within my portfolio, that the Flinders University has a solar energy unit. My understanding is that the Australian Postal Commission is doing wide solar energy research and that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is spending a lot of money on solar energy research. The honourable senator’s question attempts to embrace government and nongovernment expenditure on solar energy research. I will attempt to find that figure for the honourable senator, as I indicated in reply to his question of 9 March.
-Can I ask 2 supplementary questions?
– I would prefer not. We have had only 3 questions in 15 minutes. I call Senator Chaney.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. How much money has been spent by the Commonwealth Government up to 10 March 1977 on setting up the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s FM radio station in Perth? How much money is needed to make the proposed Perth FM station operational? When is it proposed to commence ABC FM broadcasting in Perth? What is the estimated number of FM receivers in Perth? How many Australian Broadcasting Commission FM stations are broadcasting in Australia and what was the date of opening of each station? What is the estimated annual budget of the proposed Broadcasting Commission FM station in Perth?
– The honourable senator was kind enough to indicate to me that he would direct a question to me with regard to Perth FM stations. As a result I have the information he seeks. The answer to the first question is that so far no money has been spent by the Government to set up a Perth FM station. The answer to the second question is that the capital cost of the necessary transmitting equipment is estimated to be $160,000. As to the third question the establishment of an Australian Broadcasting Commission FM broadcasting service in Perth is bound up with future policy on FM broadcasting which at present is under study by an interdepartmental committee established in relation to the 1976 inquiry into broadcasting. As the committee has not yet forwarded its report and recommendations to the Government, there are as yet no firm plans concerning the development of FM broadcasting services in general, including the further extension of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s FM service.
It is not possible to estimate accurately the number of FM receivers owned by Perth residents, but the Postal and Telecommunications Department considers that the number would not exceed 10 000 receivers at the moment. There are 4 ABC FM stations. There is an originating station in Adelaide and there are 3 relay stations in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. All 4 stations began operating on 26 January 1976. Finally, it is not possible to estimate the annual budget for a Perth Broadcasting Commission FM station until technical operating conditions have been determined.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. By way of preface, the Minister will remember that, about 8 months ago, at the behest of the moulders union I conveyed to him the concern of that union about what it considered was an undue inflow of imported castings. In view of the rekindling of the union’s fears, can the Minister outline to the Senate the Government’s plans to combat this apparent inflow?
-Quite a slack position has obtained in the general casting foundry industry. Of course, that affects the moulders who are employed in the industry. I believe that the situation in regard to overall demand is now beginning to improve. On Monday afternoon next there will be a meeting of the Heavy Industry Engineering Advisory Council at which these general matters will be discussed by representatives of the manufacturers, union people and general consumers. Out of that meeting I will obtain some more information which will be more up to date and which I will be pleased to give to the honourable senator personally.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to an article in the Sunday -Mail of 12 March 1977 concerning assistance to children with handicaps resulting from congenital causes or various forms of amputation. Is the Minister aware that a body called the Children’s Amputee Association has been formed in South Australia? Is she aware of an anomaly which the Association claims has arisen in 2 apparently identical cases for assistance provided under the handicapped children’s allowance scheme? Can she say why assistance for one case was approved and the other rejected? Is she able to state whether the facts as suggested in the article are correct? If so, can she clarify the guidelines laid down by the Government for the granting of such assistance?
– I think that it would be preferable if I were not to discuss individual instances of benefits or payments that are made through my Department. In answer to some of the questions raised, I am aware of the formation of the Children’s Amputee Association in South Australia because I have had some correspondence from that Association. The handicapped children’s allowance scheme is intended to give some assistance to parents who choose to care for their children at home rather than to place them in institutions, and to complement the Government’s other schemes of assistance for handicapped persons. In regard to the types of cases that were referred to in the newspaper article it would be appropriate to say that where a very young child is fitted with a prosthesis, this may increase the amount of care and attention that is required to be given by the parents of the child. However, it is generally accepted by medical experts that as the child grows older he will cope more independently of his parents, especially where he attends a normal school. In addition, medical experts have found that once a child has adjusted to an amputation, with or without a prosthesis, the fitting of a new prosthesis usually does not cause significant new problems.
In cases that involve determining whether a handicapped child’s allowance is appropriate, we receive advice from the Commonwealth Medical Officer. He determines whether the child requires constant care and attention in the terms of the requirements for the handicapped child’s allowance and a decision is made. The decision is subject to review and to appeal. In general, where a child is able to attend a normal school and is emotionally and socially well adjusted and well adapted to the prosthesis which had been fitted, the Commonwealth Medical Officer would not decide that that child was eligible for a handicapped child’s allowance. I have had some correspondence on the 2 situations that were the subject of Press comment. I will review the matters and see whether any further discussion should take place or whether any further review should be made on medical evidence. What I have stated is the general approach of the Commonwealth Medical Officer to these situations.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Government received a submission from the Australian Council of Wool Selling Brokers, whose plan asks the Government to legislate to compulsorily and selectively acquire 46 per cent of the wool clip? Is this plan diametrically opposed to the scheme put forward by the Australian Wool Corporation? Does the Minister acknowledge grower resistance to the wool brokers ‘ plan?
-I do not have direct knowledge of what the honourable senator is suggesting in his question. I, like him, draw by inference views from the Press. View No. 1 is that the Australian Wool Corporation has certain plans. View No. 2 is that the wool brokers have other ideas. This is not unusual in the wool industry. I will have to seek from the Minister an accurate statement of the position. If the matter follows the normal course the whole scene will be clouded, people will be throwing rocks in all directions and we will have to wait to see how the dust settles.
-I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to an article appearing in the March 1977 edition of Modern Motor concerning the installation of ‘hi-dro cell cushions’ along hazardous sections of roadway in the United States of America. These cushions consist of clusters of vertical rubber tubes filled with water and with small holes cut in the top. On impact the water is squirted in the same manner as oil is squirted from one chamber to another in an hydraulic shock absorber. These cushions are installed instead of the usual concrete or steel guard rails. They are able to absorb fairly heavy amounts of kinetic energy from vehicles crashing into them, with much less damage to the vehicles and correspondingly lesser injuries and /or deaths to the vehicle occupants. Is the Department of Transport investigating these cushions? If not, will it do so? If the Department has already investigated the cushions, does it consider them applicable to Australian conditions? If not, why not? If the cushions are suitable, will the Minister advise whether any of the road authorities are likely to install them in the near future?
– The question is an important one. The death and injury toll on the roads is of such magnitude at the moment that it must draw our attention to taking all suitable steps to reduce it. I have some advice from the Department generally on the principle of crash barriers. Different types of crash barriers and what are called crash attenuators are available throughout the world. The hi-dro cell cushions are one example. The Department itself has not taken steps at this moment to evaluate that mechanism. I will direct the attention of the Minister to it. My advice is that the kind of method that is suggested by Senator Collard is, of course, very expensive; nevertheless it offsets the tremendous expense of loss of life and handicaps to people. To date, all Australian road authorities have relied for assistance on receiving reports of tests made in the United States and the United Kingdom and we have not conducted them here. The Minister for Transport recently announced the setting up in his Department of an office of road safety which will enable the Commonwealth Government to take a more active role in the development of practices to reduce the number and severity of road crashes in Australia. Against that background I will refer the particular device to the Minister and seek his study of it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Did the Minister see today’s report of the suggestion made by Professor L. W. Cox to the Law Reform Commission that material from aborted foetuses could be used in transplants? Did the Minister note that the academic stated that transplants of this nature would be effective, particularly using foetuses aborted by a possible mini-labour method, since the foetus could be delivered in completely sterile conditions and only just alive’? Will the Minister give an unequivocal guarantee that no federal government research funds have been or will be used in support of such projects, which would be abhorrent to most Australians?
– I did see the report mentioned by the honourable senator but I have not discussed the matter with the Minister for Health and I have no information from him with regard to federal research funds which may have been or will be made available. I will refer the matter to the Minister and obtain an answer as soon as possible.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Is subliminal advertising permitted on any of the electronic media in Australia under federal control? Is it known whether any subliminal advertising is used in advertisements appearing on the electronic media in Australia?
– As I understand it, subliminal advertising is a flashing on the screen, in the video situation, for a fraction of a second of a message which does not register on the conscious mind but is claimed to register subconsciously. I have a briefing note on this subject and my advice is that such advertising is not permitted in Australia. This form of advertising is specifically excluded by section 10 of the television program standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– It does not exist now. The Board is defunct.
– If the honourable senator will wait, he will learn that I was about to say that those standards have been adopted by the newly established Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Section 10 states:
A licensee shall not allow his station to be used for the process known as subliminal perception or for any other technique which attempts to convey information of any sort whatever to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near the threshold of normal awareness.
I am advised that there has been no suggestion of evidence indicating that that section of the standards is being disregarded.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the Minister give details of the amount of funding given by past federal governments to the National Aboriginal Council for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, commonly known as NACADA? Because of concern in the community in the area of alcoholism and drug abuse, will the Minister tell the Senate the reasons why future funding will no longer be granted? Will the Minister also establish whether funding will be made available for the Abercrombie project and similar projects designed to assist Aborigines who have problems with alcoholism and/or drug abuse.
– I have no information in answer to those specific questions. I shall refer the questions to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and obtain the required information as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. I refer to the agreement reached, without dissent, at the Fourth Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, known as UNCTAD, held at Nairobi in May 1976. 1 ask the Minister: Did that agreement provide for an integrated program for primary commodities and the establishment of a common fund to assist the poorer and developing nations in a fairer system of international trade? Did the Australian Government, prior to the Conference, express its intention to participate fully in the deliberations and negotiations for the creation of a common fund? Has the Government made a determination whether it will now support the creation of this fund and so contribute to the stabilisation of prices and markets for the 18 primary products involved in the scheme, which primarily affect the economies of developing countries of a low per capita income, including a number of our Pacific neighbours? Will the Government be making a firm commitment in respect of the implementation of the UNCTAD agreement?
-I listened carefully to the question because it relates to a matter in which I have some interest. However I do not think that I can answer the question in precise terms at the moment. The question will have to go on notice and I shall obtain a precise answer for the honourable senator.
-Can the Minister for Social Security confirm that there is a freeze on filling social worker positions in her Department? Is it a fact that in Victoria only two such country positions are currently filled? Further, in view of the social problems associated with long term unemployment, which are increasing in this country, will the Minister and the Government move more quickly to ensure that all such available positions are filled?
– A ceiling has been imposed on Public Service appointments in all departments, but I am not aware of a freeze having been applied to filling social worker positions in my Department, nor have I given any direction in that regard. I do not know whether only two such country positions have been filled. Sometimes availability of staff is a problem in country areas. However, as far as service to the public is concerned, my Department has been exempted in many ways from the stringent staff ceilings that are imposed in general. As far as filling existing positions is concerned, our instructions to the Public Service Board are that those positions be filled with a minimum of delay and that, wherever service is able to be given, this is extended as far as possible. I shall investigate the general matter of social worker positions. If I have any further information I shall make it available to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to comments made at the weekend about ethnic radio in South Australia which suggests that lack of funds will force a serious cutback in ethnic radio services after the end of June. I ask the Minister: What plans has the Government for the extension of ethnic radio, particularly to other capital cities? Has the Government received representations relating to the extension of ethnic radio? Finally, what is the latest information relating to the development of this very important service?
-I rather think that matter falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Because I have no first hand information I shall seek the information for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer the Minister to 2 questions I have asked him already regarding persons who voluntarily leave their employment and who are included in unemployment figures. Following his answer to me last week, I again refer the Minister to a remark made by the Prime Minister who asked whether people who voluntarily leave their jobs really want to work. Does the Minister agree with the implication contained in that remark, that is, that persons who voluntarily leave their employment are, in the opinion of this Government, incipient dole bludgers?
- Senator Button seems to want to keep debate going on what inferences are to be drawn from some statistics which I think I first quoted in the Senate about a fortnight ago. I reiterate, as I have explained in answers given to several questions on this matter, that the statistics arose from sample surveys that were taken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. They do not refer specifically to any analysis of registered unemployed at the end of any particular month or state that any percentage of those people voluntarily left their employment.
I went on to say that the purpose of referring to those statistics was to show that various interpretations could be drawn as to the implications of the fact that a large section of those unemployed could have left their employment voluntarily. I have suggested certain interpretations. The Prime Minister suggested another interpretation, namely, that some people who voluntarily left their employment may well have done so because they wished to go on the dole and put themselves in a position where they could not be forced to return to the work force. That is a perfectly legitimate and feasible interpretation. There is certainly evidence that that is the case.
– What evidence?
– There is a lot of evidence that there are many unemployed people in various parts of Australia, particularly near surf beaches and in salubrious places like that, well away from areas where there is a demand for employment. The Prime Minister was referring to this type of person. I also suggested another interpretation, namely, that if people voluntarily leave their employment, in many cases they must be confident that they will obtain other employment. It is simply the various interpretations of the statistics which have been canvassed. I see no inconsistency between anything that I have said and anything that the Prime Minster has said.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister not agree that the Prime Minister’s comment makes no differentiation between people who voluntarily leave their employment and others; that is, his comment ‘ Do these people really want to work?’ relates to all persons who voluntarily leave their employment? Does the Minister agree with that interpretation by the Prime Minister? That question has not been answered on 3 occasions on which I have asked it.
– Senator Button keeps on putting that interpretation on the matter. If he likes to do so, that is his business. I have not put that interpretation on the statistics; nor has the Prime Minister done any more than simply raise the matter in people ‘s minds for consideration.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of a statement made by Mr Dunn, of the Parliamentary Library, over the Dutch television service on 10 March which implies that his public activities are basically designed to encourage Indonesians to resist the present Government of Indonesia? Secondly, are we to assume that Mr Dunn is now a political activist?
-The Senate is entitled to assume what it likes. I am informed that on 10 March 1977, during an interview on Dutch television, Mr J. S. Dunn said:
I think it’s very bad for Indonesia that the Military Group, and perhaps it is only a Military Group, have got away with such a terrible operation. I think what we are doing at present is as it were consolidating the power or influence of a right-wing military group and against this we are giving no encouragement to those moderates, and many of them are -
– They are in gaol.
– The honourable senator was wrong: in government who depend upon our support and I think it is these people who would like to see in power in Indonesia.
I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that he has heard news reports that the Director-General of Political Affairs in the Indonesian Foreign Ministry had called in the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta to discuss the involvement of Mr James Dunn in activities hostile to Indonesia. The Foreign Affairs Department has received a report of this conversation from our Ambassador, Mr Woolcott.
– Are you going to impeach members of Parliament too?
-Don’t get excited. It is not the usual practice of the Foreign Minister to discuss the substance of diplomatic exchanges such as these, which he regards as confidential between the governments concerned. However, in this case the Foreign Minister can confirm that the Australian Ambassador has been called to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry where a senior official expressed the grave concern of the Indonesian Government about Mr Dunn’s involvement in activities that it believes are hostile to Indonesia.
Mr President, you will recall that, last week, my colleague Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asked you, as one of the Presiding Officers in charge of the Parliamentary Library, a question. At that stage, I think, you undertook to make certain inquiries and to look at certain matters. I also now draw your attention and the attention of Mr Speaker to the answer which I have given on behalf of the Foreign Minister concerning a person employed by the Parliamentary Library.
-I will look into the matter.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Did Commonwealth Police in Sydney by direction from the Attorney-General interview and question 2 union officials on the allegation that they had given a photograph to an inquiry agent which was not a photograph of the person whom the union officials claimed it to be? What would the giving of such a photograph, whether it was a true photograph of the person of whom it was claimed to be a photograph, have to do with Commonwealth Police? Was there a suspicion of a breach of Commonwealth law and, if so, what law?
– I presume that this matter comes within the portfolio of the AttorneyGeneral rather than the administration of the Commonwealth Police, as the question was on a direction given by the Attorney-General.
– I have not any information concerning this matter which is a specific one. I will pass the question on to the AttorneyGeneral and endeavour to obtain an early answer. It may be that he will seek some further details in relation to the matter. If so, I will let the honourable senator know.
– I ask a question of Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Treasurer. I noticed in the House of Representatives Hansard of 10 March that the Treasurer answered a question from Mr Bungey, the honourable member for Canning, regarding the income equalisation deposit scheme. The Treasurer said that $3 1.3m in deposits was lodged by the end of January which qualified for deductions in the 1975-76 income tax assessments. He further gave the breakup among the States. Will the Minister answer the following questions: 1. How many taxpayers in each State lodged deposits? 2. How many of those taxpayers in each State made application for withdrawal under the provisions of the Act? 3. What is the total amount requested for withdrawal in each State? 4. How many applications for withdrawal in each State have been, or are likely to be, successful? 5. What amount of money has been, or is likely to be, returned to depositors in each State under the withdrawal provisions of the Act?
– The honourable senator was good enough to ask whether I could obtain this information for him. I have the answers to queries 1 , 2 and 3. This is in the form of statistical information. I suggest, therefore, that leave be granted for the incorporation of that information in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– Queries 4 and 5 require specific answers. I ask the honourable senator to place those parts of his question on notice.
– I ask my question of the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Northern Territory. I remind the Minister that on 25 August last year I asked whether the Urban Development and Town Planning Branch of the Department of the Northern Territory was preparing, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, a regional study of the north west Queensland and McArthur River areas. The Minister in his reply stated that such a report had almost been completed but that the decision on whether the report would be made public had to be taken in conjunction with the Queensland Government. I now ask whether this consultation has taken place? If so, is the report to be made public? When will it be made public?
-I am unable to give a comprehensive answer to the honourable senator’s question. I shall seek advice and attempt to get the answer for him immediately.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. The Minister for Overseas Trade has been reported in the media as having expressed concern about the effects of the growing over supply of cattle in Australia, a situation readily acknowledged by all people with any knowledge of the cattle industry. Can the Minister advise what steps are being taken currently to relieve this position by increasing the sale of live cattle to overseas markets, particularly those which would not interfere with existing beef exports?
-My information is general, not specific, but I know that the Minister has been very active in this area. I know that during several visits overseas he has tried to develop this market. I know that investigations are being undertaken currently but I cannot be specific as to the countries, possible destinations, or numbers. I shall ask the Minister whether he can get more information for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to Senator Carrick, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. It concerns his reply to Senator Wriedt ‘s question on 10 March in which he stated, on the subject of specific purpose payments to the States:
The inference in his question is that there should always be an increase. That is nonsense.
Is this a tacit admission that grants have been reduced and that this is consistent with Government policy? If so, will he now withdraw the unequivocal assurance he gave, in answer to a question on 27 April 1976, that total payments to the States, that is general purpose grants plus specific purpose payments, would increase in the 3 years 1976 to 1978 by more than they increased in the 3 years 1973 to 1975; that is, by more than 58 per cent in constant value dollars? Will he apologise for misleading the Senate on 27 April?
– The answer to the 3 earlier questions is no. The answer to the last question is no, because there is no need, the facts speak for themselves. The simple fact is that as we develop federalism and increase the total amount, year by year, of untied moneys that go to the States and to local government, so too we hope to be able to reduce the necessity for tying grants in such bulk as the Labor Party did. Over a period we hope to give more freedom to the States, more money to the States, and it may well be that over the years there will be fewer tied grants. I am happy to say that under the formula applying to the States 33.6 per cent of income tax, each year the States will get substantially more money than they would have got under the Whitlam Government’s formula. Happily also, in accordance with the formula of 1.52 per cent for local government, local government again will get substantially more than it would have got under the Whitlam Government. Given an ordinary favourable climate over the years ahead there is no reason to expect that my prediction will not come true although I know that Senator Walsh and his colleagues, as spreaders of gloom, will hope very much that my prediction fails.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind Senator Carrick yet again that the question he answered on 27 April concerned total payments to the States, specific purpose and general purpose payments, whereas the answer he has just given relates only to general purpose payments. I again ask whether he stands by trie unequivocal assurance he gave on 27 April last that total payments, that is general purpose payments plus specific purpose payments, will increase in real terms in the first 3 years of this Fraser Government or in any 3 years of this Fraser Government by more than 58 percent?
– If the honourable senator examines at least 2 references in Hansard over recent months he will find that he has asked me those questions in exact terms before and that I have replied to him. I direct his attention to my previous answers.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. In the Bulletin of 12 March 1977 Mr Peter Samuel attacks the university system in his article:
The Scandal of our Universities.
He is quoted as stating:
The tertiary education system has grown so fat, so fast, that academia has become an enormous island of privilege, populated in considerable measure by drones and parasites.
Are these charges accurate? If so, what is the attitude of the Government to this situation in which it is suggested that waste is most prevalent? Having in mind the concern of the Government and of the Australian community at the abuses presently indicated in the unemployment benefit scheme, does the Government intend to bring about reforms in this area of tertiary education?
-I have seen the article written by Peter Samuel. By way of preface I say that over the years I have regarded Peter Samuel as a writer of some skill and experience. I believe that in this article he has painted with much too wide a brush and with much too thick a paint. By that I mean that whilst there remain some points of quite significant criticism which one might have within tertiary education institutions, Mr Samuel has drawn an exaggerated caricature rather than a precise criticism. Nevertheless, if there is waste and extravagance, it will be the purpose of the Government and, through it, the proposed new tertiary co-ordinating commission, to see that taxpayers’ money is expended as best we can. Lest anyone has any doubts, I say that in the tertiary system of universities and colleges, as in any other walk of life, there are those with great skill, great dedication and great application to their work and, as always, there is a percentage who can be described otherwise. It is true that in the years of the burgeoning of universities there were some opportunities for waste. This is not true today.
I remind the Senate- the Opposition should need no reminding- that the Whitlam Government in its last Budget cut back the grants to universities by $21m. So, with an expanding population the universities have needed to accommodate themselves to that. My Government has increased the amount of grant but the universities are still, in fact, on lean times. Over recent years universities have not greatly increased their physical resources. What has happened- this has failed to attract the attention of the public- is that some new universities, particularly Murdoch, Deakin, James Cook, Wollongong, Newcastle and institutions of that type, are now demanding heavy new early funds for establishment. That means, of course, that money is pulling away from other areas. I repeat that whilst there are grounds for criticism in any institutions the grounds as described are exaggerated. The proposed tertiary co-ordinating commission will be looking at the whole field, not to cut back in any wanton fashion at all- the reverse is true; we, as a government, have expanded in real terms- but to ensure that money is well spent and priorities well established.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Was a Commonwealth car driver flown from Melbourne to Sydney to- pick up a car so that he could drive from Sydney to Newcastle and there transfer from that vehicle to drive the Rolls Royce in which Her Majesty the Queen travelled while she was in Newcastle? Was either a driver or an allocation clerk from Brisbane flown to Tasmania by the Department so that that person could drive the Queen on part of her visit to Tasmania? If so, why was this additional and apparently quite extravagant expense indulged in by the Government when a Sydney driver could have driven Her Majesty’s car in Newcastle and the services of a Tasmanian driver could have been used in Tasmania?
– Competent as I am, and ably as I run my Department, I really do not know what happens day by day to the 1200 drivers employed in my Department. I am terribly sorry about that, but I will seek the information for which the honourable senator asked and let him have it at the earliest possible time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to reports that the Handicapped Citizens’ Association (A.C.T.) Incorporated, also known as Koomarri, is facing severe financial difficulties. Is the Minister aware of this situation and can she say whether any immediate assistance can be given to Koomarri to overcome the problems which have arisen and to ensure that services to handicapped people in the Australian Capital Territory are not adversely affected?
– I am aware of the situation at Koomarri and of some Press comments made today and maybe earlier. I also am aware of the intention of the Handicapped Citizens’ Association (A.C.T.) Incorporated to seek subsidy assistance for an additional 14 staff members as an extension of existing services. I am aware of its desire to establish an additional sheltered workshop and to rent and equip an additional office in Fyshwick. These are both new services. The Association also seeks subsidy assistance in respect of a half-way house project which is also a new service. These matters have been the subject of recent discussions between officers of my Department and of the Association and I understand that I have an appointment to discuss them with the Association next week. In respect of new services, the funds available under the legislation for the triennium 1976-79 are fully committed. These were insufficient to meet all the demands for assistance from voluntary agencies and no applications for approval of new services can be considered. The Government will continue to provide on-going assistance at the present level and any request for further financial assistance for the expansion of existing approved programs can be considered only in the light of the funds which the Government has approved for continuing commitments. The review of funding commitments for 1977-78 is currently being undertaken by my Department for all voluntary organisations in receipt of assistance under the legislation and it is not known at this stage whether any additional positions can be approved in the foreseeable future.
I think it is appropriate to say that the Department is providing an annual salary subsidy of approximately $179,000 in respect of 51 approved positions at Koomarri. I understand that the Department of Education is funding the complete operation of the training centre in O’Connor and that the Department of the Capital Territory is funding 2 social worker staff positions on a 100 per cent basis and providing an annual maintenance grant of $8,000. So, considerable Government funding already is being extended to Koomarri. I can only say in response to the Press reports today that it would be highly undesirable if there were a standing down of handicapped people by this Association without the Association first looking at reducing its staff level. It also should be said that some positions have been established at Koomarri prior to consultation with the Government on whether funding would be available in respect of them. These matters are some of those that will be the subject of discussion when I meet with the Association next week.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. On 23 February I asked a question regarding the eviction of an Aboriginal woman from her Victorian Housing Commission home in Morwell and asked what the Minister intended to do about future accommodation for her. The Minister has since advised me that the woman was immediately provided with alternative accommodation at the Lionel Rose Centre in Morwell on an indefinite basis. This Centre is designed to provide temporary accommodation for young workers and transient people. As this woman had kept her house well, I ask again:
What steps does the Minister intend to take to provide this lady with the permanent accommodation that will give her the proper privacy, comfort and permanency to which she is entitled?
– I will ask the Minister whether he has made any further decisions of which he can advise us. As I understand it, the emergency was recognised and accommodation was provided. I take note of the matters now raised and I will refer them to the Minister to see whether further action can be taken to provide more permanent and appropriate accommodation.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that the President of Uganda, Dr Idi Amin Dada, has consistently stated that he will attend the Commonwealth Conference in London in June this year, will the Australian Government give consideration, as Canada is presently doing, to boycotting the meeting in protest at the savage practices that currently are widespread in Uganda under Amin?
-I will seek the information from the Prime Minister.
– I address my question to the Minister for Science. I refer to an announcement made on 2 April 1 974 by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, to the effect that the Government had allocated $57m to construct an animal health laboratory at Geelong in Victoria on land owned by the Government. Was construction of this laboratory commenced last year, as scheduled under the Whitlam Government? If construction has not commenced, can the Minister say what is being done in the interim to safeguard Australian animal health by way of testing and treatment of exotic diseases? Finally, when can it be expected that construction of the laboratory will commence if it has not already commenced?
-The interests of this animal health laboratory are such that its construction comes within the responsibility of the Ministry for Primary Industry. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will actually manage the laboratory when it is built. The honourable senator has a keen interest in this matter and I know that he and Victorian senators are anxious to see the secure laboratory built. I will attempt to obtain some information for the honourable senator during the day.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Education for some information regarding the staff utilisation review of ancillary staff in Australian Capital Territory schools which was commissioned by the Minister and has been completed. How long has the Minister had the report? Does the report recommend a return to 1975 staff levels? When will he be prepared to release the repot for public discussion?
– The report has been available for quite some time. Certainly it has been available to the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority and to all those concerned with education. I was not aware that it was not available publicly. To the best of my knowledge there is no reason why it should not be. I shall look at that aspect. I think its availability is a matter that can be dealt with readily. The second part of the honourable senator’s question asked whether the report recommended reverting to lower staff ceilings. My own recollection of the report is that it puts up a new in globo concept of ancillary staff which is more generous than has been the situation in this last year. The real question is the methodology of handling the matter. That is being worked upon by the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority and the schools themselves. I will see whether I can obtain a copy of the report and let the honourable senator have it.
-On 9 March 1977 Senator Colston asked me one or more questions relating to the Committee on Student Loans and suggested a number of things. He suggested that inadequate notification had been given and that there had been an inadequate period of time for response. He suggested that some extension of time might be necessary. I imagine that that is a fair paraphrase of the series of questions. I sought the information and I was advised that the Committee had prepared a preliminary paper from which it sought reaction and other submissions. In late January that paper was circulated to individuals and organisations likely to be interested, including the administration and the student body of each university and each college of advanced education. So notification was given then.
Advertisements announcing the availability of the paper and calling for submissions appeared in the Press on 29 January and 5 February and a media release was made. It is fair to say that the media release did not attract a very great deal of notice, and that is recognised. The deadline was set at 1 March. It was realised that students, being students, with their own preoccupations, may not have been able to meet that deadline. It has been extended to 1 April. Some 58 submissions have been received already and a further twenty-eight are indicated. I am advised that the Committee, within reasonable limits, would receive submissions even after 1 April, provided of course that it was still in operation. The Committee’s aim is to receive the widest possible number of submissions. Therefore, if the honourable senator knows of any areas which can be encouraged, by all means he should encourage them.
– On 10 March Senator Georges asked for an assurance that no officer of the Senate will be involved in the preparation or will assist in the preparation of a case by senators opposed to the referendums to be held in May. In reply, I refer Senator Georges to the statement by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack made at the end of question time on 10 March. I add only that I agree with Sir Magnus’ general comment that it would be an impossible situation if any honourable senator seeking as a senator the advice of the Clerks were denied access to them.
– I inform honourable senators that pursuant to the resolution agreed to by both Houses I have received letters from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition nominating the following members of the House of Representatives to serve on the Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory: Mr Beazley, Mr Bryant, Mr Calder, Mr Drummond, Mr Les Johnson, Mr McLean, Mr Ruddock and Mr Wentworth.
– Pursuant to clause 11 of the Sugar Agreement 1975 I present the annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended 30 June 1976.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Law courts building at Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That standing order 14 be suspended to permit consideration of the Standing Orders Committee reports of the Fifty-seventh Session before the Address-in-Reply has been adopted.
That Government business, order of the day No. 1 (Her Majesty the Queen’s Opening Speech- AddressInReply) be postponed until after consideration of orders of the day Nos 2 and 3, relating to the first and second reports of the Standing Orders Committee.
Consideration of the First Report of the Fiftyseventh Session.
– I have circulated motions standing in my name which I intend moving in respect to the first and second reports. I indicate firstly that in accordance with past practice there is no such thing as a government view on the reports of the Standing Orders Committee. That means that my colleagues will vote as and how they think fit on the various items. Honourable senators will recall that the first report arises out of some questions asked by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Bishop on, I think, 1 1 November 1976. 1 do not think there is any need for me to go through the report which, I take it, all honourable senators have read.
I take this opportunity in the chamber- I know it is adverted to in the report- of thanking, in a personal capacity, Senators Brown and Chaney for the work they put in as a sub-committee of the Standing Orders Committee. As honourable senators will realise, the matter required a great deal of detailed consideration by the 2 honourable senators concerned. From my own knowledge I know that a great deal of time was put in by Senator Brown and Senator Chaney in carrying out the normal detailed work of questioning and talking to the Clerk, of going through the manuscripts, the galley proofs, the corrections and doing all the other things that had to be done. Let me say- perhaps one should not say this-that I think the report which the Committee has brought in without dissent by any of its members quite clearly sets out the facts. It sets out, I believe in a manner which ought to be totally acceptable to the Parliament, what it believes to be a resolution of the problem. Therefore without further ado I move:
That the report be adopted.
I foreshadow, if that motion is adopted, that at a later stage I will move that a new standing order be agreed to. If the motion I have moved is not accepted the question of whether we should have a new standing order will not arise. I think I will leave my comments about the actual form of the new standing order to a later stage.
– In speaking to the motion for the adoption of the report, I think it is appropriate, as one who initiated the matter leading up to the report, that I should make a few remarks. I have an amendment to move to this motion. At present it is being typed. The Standing Orders Committee makes 3 recommendations. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) proposes to move a motion giving effect to the second recommendation. I point out that when that matter is debated I will seek some clarity or move an amendment. The third recommendation provides in effect that nothing is done in the Standing Orders. I think to cover the position something should be done. Accordingly I shall seek to move an amendment to the third recommendation.
It will be recalled that I raised in the House the matter of whether substantial alteration had been made in the copy of Australian Senate Practice from the original document which was tabled in the chamber. This matter was the subject of subsequent discussion. The question was asked whether substantial alterations were made from the tabling of the document to the printing of it. At the time I queried, if that had been the case, whether this was a breach of the order of the Senate. I expressed some doubt as to whether the document that I was given was the original tabled document.
Let me take the last matter first. The Committee found that while it is normal to place an identification mark on the documents as tabled none was placed on this document. My suspicion that I was not given the correct document was based firstly on the fact that it had no identification mark on it. Secondly, I had made a cursory examination of the tabled document and the printed document. While at the time of raising the matter there was some admission that alterations had been made I was unable to find the alterations in the first chapter of the book. This led to the suspicion that some other document existed and that I had not received the original. Since that time to justify myself I have had the original document for some time. I, along with 2 girls I employed for the purposes of perusing the document, have tried to proof read it to find the alterations that were made from the time that the document was tabled to when it was printed. Our experience was that it was impossible to proof read. It was such a mess. It had printer’s marks concerning the alteration to the method of compilation, pages torn out of a previous edition, some typewritten additions and some pencilled additions. I do not know whether the Committee experienced the same difficulty, but it was impossible to locate the alterations made. Therefore in the absence of being able to pinpoint the alterations in the document I withdraw any suggestions that it was not the original document that was given to me. While there are reasons for suspicion I accept that it was the original document. I see that the Committee makes provision that such documents will be easily identified in the future and no justification will exist for anyone having such a suspicion if he receives an original document.
I think note should be taken of some sections in the Committee’s report. I refer to page 3 of the report which states:
After the first proof copies had been checked against the original manuscript and the photo copy of the manuscript made by the Senate reproduction section there were substantial alterations made to these proof copies and further alterations to subsequent proof copies from which the Fifth Edition was finally produced.
Obviously that substantiates the suspicion I had that substantial alterations were made. I refer again to the second question. The next paragraph of the Committee’s report reads:
Senator Cavanagh was supplied with the document he requested, namely the original manuscript which was tabled on 18 February 1976. It is the Committee’s view that the procedure followed in the publication of this and previous editions is not strictly in conformity with the order of the Senate that a tabled manuscript be printed as there is substantial revision between tabling and final printing.
I am wondering about the meaning of the words strictly in conformity’. The procedure either is or is not in conformity with the order of the Senate, and I do not know that it could be said to go half way. An admission has been made of substantial alterations. I do not know whether there was a desire to whitewash, but the word ‘strictly’ has been used. When the Leader of the Government replies, I would be grateful if he could advise me what is meant by the words ‘strictly in conformity’. Page 6 of the document sets out a series of questions and answers. I do not know who asked the questions or who gave the answers.
– The Clerk asked the questions and Senator Chaney gave the answers.
-If Senator Chaney, in the absence of anyone else, takes responsibility for the answers he is entitled to do that. Question 10 asks:
Are the alterations substantial.
The answer is:
Yes. The first chapter particularly was heavily revised, but all chapters were subject to revision.
That substantiates what I said. Question 1 1 asks:
Do the alterations so made alter the substance of the papers tabled.
The answer is:
The theme or essence of the new edition is expressed in the preface which except for grammatical and minor changes remained unaltered from the tabling of the manuscript. The first galley proof was amended heavily because parts did not satisfy the Clerk in balance or expression e.g. the section on the overseas loan raising which was written in 1975. In such cases sections were re-written. There were also numerous deletions. The judgment of whether or not the substance is changed -
I did not raise the matter of substance, but not only have there been substantial alterations, the question of substance also arises. The answer continues:
The judgment of whether or not the substance is changed is difficult because what is substance is open to differences of interpretation.
On one interpretation not only ‘is there a substantial change, there is a change in the substance of the document.
– But read the next sentence.
– The next sentence states:
The Committee did not consider it necessary to make that judgment. The Clerk altered the proofs as he saw fit to meet his own standards of expression and balance consistent with the practice in the production of previous editions.
I do not think that adds anything to my point. Whether there was an alteration of substance or not is a matter for interpretation. There could have been more drastic alterations to the document than we have seen, and in view of the massive alteration that has taken place I think the words ‘not strictly in conformity’ need consideration. It is pointed out on page 9 that a previous edition of Australian Senate Practice had a note which stated:
In seeking the Senate’s approval for the printing of this second edition, it is proper that I should say that, although the work is largely a compilation of Presidents’ rulings and established practice, there is some degree of personal opinion. In so far as that opinion is concerned, it is put forward as a contribution to thought and without pretension to be accepted as conclusive.
I think there is a great need for the author to include that type of note in any such publication. I do not know what standing the publication has because the Senate takes it under its cloak and has it printed, but certainly the deletion of that note from the fifth edition can be interpreted as meaning only that it is no longer desired that the document be accepted as being the opinion of the author but is something that is printed by the Senate and could have the authority of the Senate.
Turning to the recommendations, the first recommendation makes provision for marking, and no one could object to that. The second recommendation will be the subject of another motion for the implementation of the Standing Orders, and I think it can be left until that time. It is the third recommendation which gives me concern. It states:
That in the case of the future production of ‘Australian Senate Practice’, or any similar work, a matter which will be determined by the Senate at the time when the question arises, the Senate authorise the preparation of the work which when ready for publication can then be tabled and a motion moved for it to be printed as a Parliamentary Paper.
Dealing with the fifth edition of Australian Senate Practice, I would be one of the few people who has read a lot of it. Like Marx’s Das Kapital, no one has ever read it but everybody uses it for reference at times. I judge the fifth edition to be a gross anti-Labor publication.
– Because it tells the truth.
– There is an admission of what it is. Whether it is true or not, and Senator Walters agrees with me, it is an anti-Labor Party publication and on no condition would I have agreed to the Senate authorising the printing of such a document, but I voted for it because I did not know what was in it. This sort of situation might occur from time to time and, when it does occur, the opportunity should be given to a responsible person from a Party or to an individual to look at the document before a decision is made to agree to its publication. I will seek that provision in a motion I propose to move. While it can be said that a motion for the printing of the paper can be adjourned, it can be adjourned only on the decision of the majority of the Senate. As an individual, I want to see the document before I vote on its publication. In view of what has happened, I think that right should be given to every honourable senator in the chamber.
– You want to censor the paper.
-No, I do not want to censor the paper. The Senate will decide whether it will be printed, but I do not want to vote for the printing of a paper to which I am opposed. On the other hand, the Government leaves me no alternative but to oppose the printing of the paper, and I do not want to do that if the publication is worthy of printing. All I am asking for is the opportunity to see what is in the paper.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– A number of points have been raised by Senator Cavanagh. Of course, it is appropriate that he should have spoken first as he originally raised this matter before the Senate. I was pleased to hear him say that he now agrees that he was supplied with the original manuscript. Although he fell short of making any formal apology, I think he has made it clear to the Senate that there is now no imputation on his part against any honourable senator or officer of the Senate in that respect. I should like to clarify for the Senate a couple of points he raised. The first point related to the origin of questions and answers contained in the report. I direct the honourable senator’s attention to the top of page 3 of the report, which I think makes the procedure that was followed quite clear. The report states:
The Committee has extracted from Questions Without Notice and the statement the questions of fact and those relating to the Standing Orders which in its view fall to be answered.
In other words, the Committee examined the questions that were put down and the answers that were given- the statement that was put down- and then made a determination of the questions which in its view fell to be answered. I think the next paragraph on page 3 of the report makes it clear how those questions were answered. It commences:
The questions of fact were answered by the Clerk of the Senate and author of ‘Australian Senate Practice’, Mr J. R. Odgers, who discussed them with a sub-committee of two appointed by the Committee, Senators Brown and Chaney, and who provided written answers to the Committee.
So I hope that the means by which the questions of fact were devised and the answers obtained by the Committee are quite clear to Senator Cavanagh and to other honourable senators. Senator Cavanagh referred also to an extract which appears on page 9 of the report and which appeared as a note in the second edition of Australian Senate Practice. I quote in part from that note:
In so far as that opinion is concerned, it is put forward as a contribution to thought and without pretension to be accepted as conclusive.
I think the honourable senator was suggesting that it was a pity that that note had been dropped. That is a view with which I might agree. But I think it should be made clear to the Senate that that particular note appeared only in the second edition, as I understand it, and was not simply dropped from this particular edition. It has been absent from a number of editions. Although were further editions to be produced one might wish to see a similar note included, I think it should be made quite clear, in view of the allegation by Senator Cavanagh that this is such a political work, that this is not a note which for the first time does not appear in this particular edition. It has been absent from a number of editions. I do not believe, therefore, that any particular significance should be attached to its omission. I agree with Senator Cavanagh that that sort of personal note from the Clerk probably is useful as underlining the particular status of the work. This was made clear in the report in quotations from various statements made by honourable senators over the years when welcoming earlier editions. The document is not meant to be a conclusive work. It certainly is put forward as containing opinions which have proved to be helpful to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber in dealing with matters which are of concern to this chamber.
I am sorry that Senator Cavanagh sees the need to make recommendation (3), as contained in the summary on page 1 1 of the report, more definite in order to protect the rights of honourable senators. Once again, I do not particularly disagree with the view put forward by Senator Cavanagh, namely, that if a work of this nature is to be printed by order of the Senate then quite clearly honourable senators who are called upon to vote on such a motion ought to have the opportunity to inspect the document if they believe that it has political content. In any event, they are entitled to know what it is that they are voting to have printed. But I suggest to Senator Cavanagh that it is not necessary to be more particular than recommendation (3) is. The recommendation is fairly careful to make it clear that it is not seeking to bind future honourable senators as to what decision they might take with respect to the publication of a similar work. Recommendation (3) states:
That in the case of the future production of ‘Australian Senate Practice’, or any similar work, a matter which will be determined by the Senate at the time when the question arises, the Senate authorise the preparation of the work which when ready for publication can then be tabled and a motion moved for it to be printed as a Parliamentary Paper.
I think the whole spirit of that recommendation is that to avoid the sort of difficulty which has arisen in this case it should be possible for the Senate to have before it the final form of document which somebody proposes ought to be printed by order of the Senate. I think it follows from that that should honourable senators wish to inspect the document they should have that opportunity. In my view, nothing in recommendation (3) suggests that the tabling of a document and the passage of a motion have to be contemporaneous. In fact, I think the whole inference contained in recommendation (3) is to the contrary. The object of the recommendation is to ensure that the Senate, should it move in this direction, will do so knowing what is the final form of the document. Therefore, I think the recommendation is consistent with the view expressed by Senator Cavanagh that this opportunity should be available to honourable senators.
– I do not want to be difficult in this matter. I appreciate the explanation Senator Chaney has given. He has been very helpful. Firstly, I acknowledge the omission of the note which appeared in only the second edition. I expect the honourable senator to go along with me to the extent of saying that he thinks that the note which has been omitted from the document is a very good note and should be included in any such document. Although I could not agree with a vast number of points raised in the document, I acknowledge that an author should be given some licence to put an opinion, provided it is well known that it is his opinion.
With respect to the last recommendation, I accept Senator Chaney ‘s assurances concerning the intention of that recommendation, but that intention has not been spelled out as a provision. Sometimes these matters are decided upon when we are not in such an admirable mood as we are today in discussing this matter. If an honourable senator wants to hold up the passage of the motion for a work to be printed Ibr the purpose of having a look at what is contained in the work, he can move a motion for the adjournment of the debate on the motion; but he can obtain such an adjournment only with the support of the majority of the Senate. Whilst Senator Chaney says that the intention of the recommendation is to provide that an honourable senator will not be asked to vote on a motion to have work printed if he does not know what that work contains, I seek to place such a requirement in the Standing Orders to ensure that honourable senators are given that right without their having to rely upon gaining the support of a majority of honourable senators. I believe that my proposed amendment has been circulated. It states:
That the report be adopted and the Senate requests the Committee to consider a Standing Order to provide for the question of the printing of any such word as ‘Australian Senate Practice’ be adjourned for 14 sitting days if requested by a Senator.
Of course, that is not to say that we must accept the introduction of such a standing order. The Senate would be asking the Standing Orders Committee to consider whether such a standing order could be adopted. Senator Chaney knows what I desire and can see some logic in it. He says that it is covered by the intention of recommendation (3). I doubt that it is covered sufficiently. I do not think it would hurt for the Standing Orders Committee to consider the matter in order to determine whether the recommendation does cover my requirement sufficiently and subsequently to make a recommendation to the Senate. From what Senator Chaney has said, I think he could well accept my proposal that the Standing Orders Committee should look at that point.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Senator Cavanagh, are you going to move the amendment that has been circulated?
-Yes, Mr Chairman. I was hoping that Senator Chaney would accept it, but I shall formally move the amendment. I move:
– I wish to make what is really a fairly footling comment, which picks up the next point to be considered. A verbal, formal, typographical or clerical error appears to have been made in line 4 of the amendment. It should read any such work as “Australian Senate Practice” ‘. not ‘any such word as “Australian Senate
Practice” ‘. I take it that that is just a typographical error in the honourable senator’s amendment.
– Yes, it is a typographical error.
– We would not want to leave the error to be corrected by the Chairman. The comment of substance I wish to make on the proposed amendment is simply to point out to the Senate that the Committee did not propose that there should be any standing order covering the publication in the future of a document such as Australian Senate Practice. I think the view of the Standing Orders Committee has to be taken from the report it has put down. The Committee’s view was that such a publication stands outside the normal run of documents which are ordered to be printed. It is something of a special case which ought to be considered as a special case when the need arises. We should not try to formalise in Standing Orders a procedure for what is almost a one-off situation. I think that the Senate has on five or six occasions followed this particular procedure.
– You could have a look at it. There is remarkable ability on that Committee.
– I am putting the view that we are not dealing with something that affects the normal operation of the Senate in the printing of papers and so on. We are dealing with a situation in which, as one of my colleagues on the Committee said, the Senate has from time to time chosen to use the device of having something printed as a paper which is really enabling a book to be produced in the normal way that a textbook is produced with the author enjoying an author’s normal rights to revise right up to the point of final printing.
I merely express doubts about the suggestion that there ought to be even a consideration of a new standing order because I think that one is trying to formalise a rule for a situation which has not arisen and which could arise in a totally different way on some other occasion. I think it is a matter which we ought to leave to the Senate in the future. I have no doubt that following the matters which Senator Cavanagh has raised with respect to this particular edition of Australian Senate Practice there will be careful consideration by the Senate chamber as to how it wishes to proceed if it is to engage in this exercise in the future.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) I move:
That to give effect to Recommendation (2) in the Report, the following new Standing Order be agreed to: 365a. Amendments of a verbal or formal nature may be made, and clerical or typographical errors may be corrected, by authority of the President, in a Paper that has been ordered to be printed. No other amendments may be made except by authority of the Senate.
This proposed new standing order arises from the recommendation that has, as I understand it, already been agreed to by the Committee. This is to give effect to that recommendation which was absent from the general recommendation which has already been adopted.
– I have some reservations about the proposed standing order. It uses words that I do not know the meaning of when they are used in a particular document. I think that is very important. As honourable senators will notice the Committee made the following recommendation:
That there be incorporated in the Standing Orders a provision, similar to Standing Order 2 1 9, to provide that no correction shall be made to a document ordered to be printed unless they are of a verbal or formal nature.
One associates the word ‘verbal’ with the word oral but in looking up the dictionary one finds that it has a relationship to words. I do not know what is meant by ‘formal nature’ in altering a document. If we are now extending the Standing Order to allow the alteration of words, will there be a limit on that alteration? That is the question. It is nice to use certain phraseology but when it appears in a document one may not know what it means. When this report was discussed in the Labor Party Caucus I looked up standing order 2 1 9 and saw that the words ‘ verbal ‘ and ‘ formal ‘ were used. I take it that the words in the proposed new standing order were taken from there. Standing order 219 also uses the words clerical’ or ‘typographical’ which now appear in the proposed new standing order. So whatever the words ‘verbal’ and ‘formal’ may mean, they do not mean ‘clerical’ or ‘typographical’. They mean something different. I think we would all agree that clerical or typographical errors should be corrected without reference to the Senate. I suggested in my amendment that we should stop at that. Now we are permitting some other alteration without reference to the Senate. I do not know what type of alteration that is. The proposed new standing order needs some definition of the word ‘verbal’. I cannot see the value of the word unless there is an intention to go far beyond what is covered by the words clerical’ or typographical’. The Committee found that the present edition of Australian Senate Practice has had substantial alterations. Whether they went further than verbal or formal alterations I do not know. Before proceeding with any amendment I would ask whoever has the carriage of this motion to stand up and give us some idea of what is meant by ‘verbal’ or ‘formal’ and whether these words are even necessary in the standing order.
– I appreciate the concern behind the statement that has just been made by Senator Cavanagh but I think that it would be a mistake to omit the words which he is seeking to have omitted in the amendment that has Deen circulated. I think the words ‘clerical’ and ‘typographical’ are fairly clear. I think we are clear as to what is a typographical error. It is a word which is mistyped or misprinted.
– Like ‘word’ instead of work’.
-Yes, it is like the error which appeared in Senator Cavanagh ‘s circulated amendment. A clerical error is an error in figures of a similar nature. I do not think therefore that Senator Cavanagh is concerned about that sort of error being corrected. Nor am I. The other sorts of errors which are covered by the words ‘verbal’ or ‘formal’- of course the proposed new standing order merely picks up the wording of existing standing order 219- are the misuse of words or the use of the wrong word which is quite clearly a simple misuse. I am thinking of grammatical errors. Before speaking, I was trying to think of an example. The one that always throws me is the use of ‘me’ and T. My wife tells me that whenever I use T I should be using ‘me’ and whenever I use ‘me’ it should be T. She tells me that is a legacy of the brand of school I went to. I do not know whether that is true. If a report said something like, ‘Neither the Government nor the Opposition are about to do something’ instead of ‘Neither the Government nor the Opposition is about to do something’, that would be an error which would be covered by the word ‘verbal’. Incidentally, I agree with Senator Cavanagh that after consultation with the dictionary as to the meaning of ‘verbal’ one will see that it is not to be confused with ‘oral’. The word ‘verbal’ in this instance simply enables one to correct words which have been misused. I think most of us would admit that we are all capable of putting down a report containing grammatical misuse of words which we would be happy to have corrected. The formal nature of what we are considering covers matters such as slight changes in punctuation, in paragraphs and things of that sort which go to the form of the document and not to its content. Again, there ought not to be any problem there.
It is notable that the draftsman of this proposed Standing Order must have been conscious of the concern that might be felt by this chamber and which in fact has been put forward. We find in this proposed Standing Order words additional to those contained in standing order 219 in which I believe it has its genesis. At the end of the proposal the words are added: ‘No other amendments may be made except by the authority of the Senate’. Those additional words stand as a caution to the President that he is not to amend otherwise than in accordance with this standing order. Traditionally, that provision has not been included in standing order 2 1 9. Perhaps at some future time the Standing Orders Committee may think that similar words ought to be added. With the greatest respect to the views put forward by Senator Cavanagh I think that he is concerned unnecessarily. I give him a free legal opinion, and, therefore, he can regard it as valueless. I do not believe that, on a proper legal construction of what is proposed, it could be suggested by any stretch of the imagination that the types of amendments which give rise to his concern in this case could be contemplated by the President. This proposal is clearly limited to very minor clerical, formal, verbal -
– Yes, consequential. All of these words are simply to cover the range of possible minor changes which need to be done. I do not think that the fears which are expressed relate to matters which really do need concern on the part of this chamber. It is proper for Senator Cavanagh to raise them, but, on the strength of my valueless free legal opinion, I would disagree with him.
– I do not disregard the legal opinion because it is free or because of the authority from whom it comes. I disregard it because the proposal is framed in such a wide fashion that what has been said of it reinforces my original fears that it could mean anything. We are told that it is intended to cover grammatical errors. But because the words ‘grammatical error or errors’ are not used one imagines that it is intended to cover something more. No one disagrees with the proposal that any grammatical error should be corrected without reference to the Senate. What
Senator Chaney said was that this proposal was wide enough to cover such an alteration as a grammatical error. I think he referred to the use of a plural verb with a singular subject. If such an error is found, if this provision is adopted that error can be changed. It is wide enough to cover that circumstance. I agree as I think we all agree that any grammatical error should be corrected with consequential alterations of necessity simply flowing from that change and being made. But the wording used in this proposal has a meaning which is subject to the interpretation of the Presiding Officer at the time. How far the Presiding Officer goes depends on the meaning that he gives to that wording. Senator Chaney is of the opinion that the President cannot go as far as the author of the publication which is under consideration went, but can go to a certain point but not as far as that author went. Where the author is to be stopped, I do not know. I was worried when I read that Standing Order. I am reminded of the question that concerned us one night last week about offensive words where words, in respect of which we accept a general meaning, when used in a certain sentence can have a meaning which is different from that general meaning. We have an assurance that by order of the President ‘verbal alterations’ can be made. But what that means no one knows. We do know that it covers grammatical and consequential alterations. It may cover many more aspects. We do not know how wide we are leaving open the interpretation of this matter. It seems so unnecessary to use a word that the simple layman cannot understand.
– I still oppose what Senator Cavanagh has put.
– I point out that I have not moved it as an amendment.
– I merely say, if it was put forward, I would think it would be improved if the words ‘Amendments of were deleted. I think it is quite clear that the proposed new Standing order 365a and standing order 2 1 9 deal with two different matters. Standing order 219 deals with amendments-in other words, changes- in any part of a Bill which are to be made at the direction of the Chairman of Committees. When we talk about clerical and typographical errors, we are talking about mistakes which have been made. I would have thought that the distinction is one that is correct. In one case we are authorising an amendment where it is merely an amendment of a formal or verbal nature. In the second case corrections are being authorised. If the amendment is to be put forward in the form proposed by Senator Cavanagh, I believe it should provide that clerical or typographical errors may be corrected. That is a small point, but I think the form of words that I propose is better.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Consideration of the Second Report of the Fifty-seventh Session.
Motion ( by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the items in the Second Report be considered separately.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the recommendations contained in item 1 be agreed to.
– I indicate that, in dealing with the Second Report of the Standing Orders Committee, Opposition senators will be free to vote as they see fit in respect of each item. Any senator on the Opposition side will be at liberty to contribute to debate and to amendments as he or she sees fit.
– May I inquire, by way of interjection, whether Senator Durack has moved that the recommendations in item 1 be agreed to? Are we dealing with the items separately?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) The Committee has agreed to consider the items separately. We are presently considering the motion that the recommendations (1), (2) and (3) contained in item 1 be agreed to.
- Mr Chairman, perhaps you would agree to the Committee giving further consideration to this matter and take recommendations ( 1), (2) and (3) seriatum and not together. Is that your intention?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) I am in the hands of the Committee. If that is the wish of the Committee we can do so.
– I am agreeable to that course being followed.
– Is there any objection?
– It is so ordered.
– We now have an ad hoc system to deal with the incorporation of matters in Hansard. An honourable senator asks for leave to incorporate something in Hansard and that is agreed to and the matter is incorporated or it is not agreed to and the honourable senator then reads the document or effects to do so on another day when he or she thinks that the recalcitrant senator is not in the House, or adopts some other attitude to try to get the matter incorporated. What is wrong with the present situation that makes it necessary to draw up guidelines? This matter is not in the Standing Orders and they have no application in this regard. I would have some opposition to the Senate saying to the Opposition that we must adopt guidelines. The Opposition will adopt whichever guidelines it wants for the purpose of incorporating matter in Hansard.
There have been occasions when the practice of incorporating matter has been abused but if there has been abuse it has been with the permission of the Senate. The purpose of this recommendation now before us is to try to provide some justification for an honourable senator who refuses permission to incorporate a matter in Hansard. When permission is refused the honourable senator who refuses permission does not have to provide justification for that course. According to what is proposed in these recommendations that honourable senator can refuse leave and say that the incorporation does not conform with the guidelines adopted by the Senate. These guidelines are not binding but they can be adopted. In answering a question today either Senator Cotton or Senator Carrick said that he had a table which would be of value to the Senate and he asked for it to be incorporated in Hansard. We agreed to its being incorporated. If one honourable senator wanted to be nasty he or she could disagree with the incorporation. This makes the person who objected to the incorporation look worse than the person who sought the incorporation. What is proposed will give a person opposing an incorporation a means of justifying himself or herself by saying that the incorporation does not conform with the guidelines.
I wonder why guidelines are necessary when we now have a system which has operated for some 76 yean. No one has seen fit to alter it before. Has the system been abused more in recent times than it was previously? Is the system being abused or is there some other unforseen reason behind the suggestion? Does someone want it for some other reason? I realise the purpose behind the decision of 1 1 February 1 975 and the justification for recommendation ( 3 ) but why do we want guidelines? We are giving our imprimatur to guidelines for Opposition and Government supporters to find an excuse for not permitting the incorporation of something at some time or other. It is not necessary, it will not be binding and it will have no effect.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.4)- The preliminary statement to item 1 in this report states:
Where matter is incorporated in Hansard by leave of the Senate, it shall be on the understanding that the final decision as to the practicability of incorporating material such as graphs . . . shall be made by the President.
I am bound to say that this was found necessary when I had the honour of occupying the Chair. There was a quite simple reason for the Senate agreeing to this sort of guideline. When I explain it some of the objections raised by Senator Cavanagh will disappear. There is a basic reason for this matter being put in the hands of the President. Senator Cavanagh mentioned that for a period of 76 years this matter had been dealt with in a suitable and traditional way. However 76 years ago it took an interval of some two or three days for Hansard to be produced. Honourable Senators will recall that some years ago a demand grew in the Senate for the production of a daily Hansard and this is a very difficult proposition. Previously we were dealing with problems associated with the flat bed printing press and the old time methods by which printers set up a press. The situation arose that a lot of the material that honourable senators sought to incorporate in Hansard could not be set up under the old printing system. Therefore it was necessary to put an imposition on the quite laudable and legitimate desires of honourable senators from time to time to incorporate in Hansard matters which made it impossible for the type setters to produce a daily Hansard.
Honourable senators will realise that we then moved into a new era. The whole of the Government Printing Office operation down towards Fyshwick became worn out and out of date. The old machinery and the old printing system was grinding to a halt. Eventually it was decided that it would have to be scrapped and some $750,000 was spent on putting in new presses. The opportunity was taken of putting in a system of computerised printing involving a whole new technique. If honourable senators care to go down to the Government Printing Office these days they will not see the old style type setters busy setting type. Most of the material these days is produced by people who punch holes in tape. In other words, it is a highly automated, computer controlled system. This is why these guidelines were put down and that is why the Standing Orders
Committee has asked the Committee of the Senate to reaffirm those guidelines.
The next thing involved in this question is the problem facing the occupant of the Chair when permission is sought to incorporate matters in Hansard. I think that the President or his Deputy or the Acting President, or the Chairman of Committees or the Acting Chairman of Committees must exercise some control over these matters. Therefore it has been the practice, where possible, for the matter to be incorporated to be shown to the President or his deputy or the Chairman or his deputy to see whether it is possible for it to be so incorporated in Hansard and still allow honourable senators to get their daily Hansard. We are dealing with techniques which have evolved as a result of modern systems and modern pressures. All these matters were taken into consideration by the Standing Orders Committee when it considered these items.
It is perfectly true that at any time the Senate may turn down a guideline for the Senate is master of its own business. This resolution merely provides a method by which the officer in charge of the Senate, either the President or the Chairman of Committees, or their deputies, can make a ruling in the Senate. It merely sets out the practice. It is within the ambit of the President or the Chairman of Committees to order that this be done but the Senate can always disagree with the ruling. The resolution we are discussing does not take any privilege from the Senate. It simply provides authority for the incumbent of the Chair to deal with the matter as expeditiously as possible. I recommend that item ( 1 ) be reaffirmed.
– I take it that there will be separate votes in respect of recommendations ( 1 ) and (2). Is that right?
– Yes, that was agreed.
-The incident to which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred was, I think, one in which both he and I were involved.
– I did not refer to any incident.
-I know that the honourable senator did not do so. There was an occurrence here some years ago which involved certain words that were contained in a pamphlet on which I wanted to speak. It was getting close to the dinner hour and an honourable senator on the Government side invited me to have the pamphlet incorporated. I duly had the document incorporated, and it was after that that all hell broke loose because there were some 4-letter words in the document. The President, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the Leader of the Opposition and I spent our dinner hour trying to resolve the matter. The suggestion was then put that if the matter ought to be looked at that ought to be left to the President. I think that arrangement has worked fairly satisfactorily.
I have had problems when I have wanted fairly lengthy documents incorporated. The excuse has been given that the printing machines cannot handle the documents. The machines can now handle such documents, provided they are not incorporated at the end of the day during the adjournment debate or something like that. If such documents are incorporated at other times they do not seem to create any great problems. I have no objection to recommendation (1), but I shall object to recommendation (2) of the proposal. As these paragraphs will not be taken together there is no need for an amendment to be moved, but I indicate that I shall vote against recommendation (2). As Senator Cavanagh pointed out a few moments ago, one leaves oneself wide open if an honourable senator wants to be a bit cranky. That happened quite recently. An honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber refused leave for the incorporation of a document because it criticised the Fraser Administration.
– He did not want to buy a pig in a poke.
– He was not buying a pig in a poke because he was totally aware of what was in the document. The reason why he did not want it incorporated and why he refused leave was that it criticised the Fraser Administration. It got under the rather thin skin of a rather venerable gentleman on the Government side of the Senate. So my colleague, Senator Colston, and I had to share the reading of the document during the adjournment debate. Finally, the incorporation of part of the document was agreed to. It is now a very concise record in Hansard. I do not think that when Mr Knox made the speech he expected it to finish up in Federal Hansard. This can happen equally as easily if a Minister does not want a document incorporated because it might embarrass him in some way. He has the veto power. I ask: Why not leave this power with the President who, technically, is impartial and let him make the decision as to whether a document should be incorporated, taking into account the practicability of incorporating material such as graphs, maps, blocks, etc. and also material of an improper nature or material which is irrelevant.
Like Senator Cavanagh, I think that sometimes the actions of members in the Senate or in the other place in relation to the incorporation of a document are rather childish. In fact, irrelevant material has been incorporated in Hansard. But this puts people on their toes. It puts the onus on them to ensure that only relevant documents or documents of great importance are incorporated in these circumstances. I think these remarks apply to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. If a Government Senator wants a document incorporated and if leave is refused by the Opposition, or vice versa, there should be some tolerance. I do not think we will have tolerance if we take away from the President some of the onus to make a decision, and pass it on to a Minister or to the leading Opposition speaker. This gives too much latitude and it could lead to very great difficulties at some future date. Even if this Committee adopts this part of the proposal, I hope that it will be subject to review by the Standing Orders Committee at regular intervals to ensure that the practice is not being abused. I have no real objection to the proposal down to the end of recommendation (1). I propose to support that. But from there on I propose to vote against the motion. I hope that I nave made sufficient points to indicate to honourable senators that there are very great weaknesses if we start establishing new guidelines as wide as this in relation to whether a document shall be incorporated in Hansard.
– I intend to be brief in speaking about the matter which is the subject of discussion; that is, the first recommendation of Item 1 of the second part of the Standing Orders Committee. The recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee, of which I am a member, is that the resolution adopted by the Senate on 1 1 February 1975 be reaffirmed.
– No one is opposed to that proposal.
– I am now given to understand that there is no opposition to that part. But certain matters have been stated which I think -
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! I have allowed honourable senators a little leeway, but I think that in order to get back on to the proper track I should put the first question.
-Let me shortly state why, on 1 1 February, when an Australian Labor Party Government was in office and when I was Manager of Government
Business in the Senate, acting on behalf of the then Senate Standing Orders Committee, I brought that recommendation into the Senate. The recommendation was:
Where matter is incorporated in Hansard by” leave of the Senate, it shall be on the understanding that the final decison as to the practicability of incorporating material such as graphs, maps, blocks, etc., and incorporating material of an improper nature or which is irrelevant, shall be made by the President.
Much has been said this afternoon about certain matter which may or may not be considered to be of an improper or irrelevant nature. We all must remember that Hansard is a document about 8 inches in length and about 6 inches in width. When I was Minister for the Media I had ministerial responsibility for the Government Printing Office. I assure honourable senators that from time to time I had complaints from members of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union about certain graphs which were contemplated for incorporation in Hansard. I was told that they were of an absolutely impossible nature as they could not be printed in a document -8 inches in length and 6 inches in width. While members of the Printing Office did not want to restrict the publication of Hansard in any way, they indicated that the task which was put to them from time to time was virtually impossible as far as the printing of documents was concerned.
After consideration of that and other matters relating to the publication of graphs, maps and blocks, the Standing Orders Committee unanimously brought that recommendation into the Senate. The Committee consisted of representatives of all parties, as does the present Standing Orders Committee. That recommendation was adopted unanimously by the Senate. As far as I am concerned, I do not know of any single instance where the practice for incorporating a document has not worked as far as the authority of the Senate or of the President is concerned. After all is said and done, any honourable senator can object to anything being incorporated in Hansard. If there is a single objection, that objection automatically stands. As I understand the position, no one objects to the resolution of 1 1 February 1975 being reaffirmed. Therefore I will cut my remarks short. I thought I should set out the reasons why that proposition was advanced in 1975.
– As I understand the position, we are adopting the recommendations contained in Item 1.
– No, we are debating Item 1 to the end of recommendation ( 1 ).
– Is that so? All right, I shall speak on this matter later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) The question now is that recommendation (2) be agreed to.
– This is the matter about which Senator Keeffe and I spoke. I expect an explanation of why it is contained in this item. I have puzzled with my brains to find out. It has no application. Senator Douglas McClelland just said that anyone can object to an incorporation with or without reasons for doing so. Senators do not need to have reasons in order to object to an incorporation. Under this recommendation a senator who is ungentlemanly enough to refuse leave can justify his action by saying: ‘You did not give me a copy of it’. Senator Cotton frequently incorporates quite good tables in Hansard when answering a question, and did so today. However, under this recommendation if when answering a question he sought leave to incorporate some material an honourable senator could refuse leave by saying: ‘You did not supply the Leader of the Opposition with a copy of it . A senator ought to be able to refuse leave either because he is that type of person or because he does not want the material to be incorporated in Hansard. Whether this recommendation would then give him an opportunity to explain why he acted m the way he did I do not know. I think that whoever on the Government side has the carriage of this recommendation should give us some indication of why the Committee recommended these guidelines for the various parties. I do not know how political parties would react to the Senate laying down guidelines on how they should operate in the chamber.
– I support the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee. The present procedure relating to the seeking of leave to incorporate material in Hansard is totally unsatisfactory. The position now is that there is no obligaton on those seeking to incorporate material to show to people from whom they are seeking leave what the document is, which means that the refusing of leave has the appearance of pique. People are called on to make a judgment on material they know nothing about and are asked to give a blanket approval to the incorporation of a piece of paper which could contain anything. The recommendation to which we have already agreed states that material would be excluded from Hansard only if it was impractical to include it, or if it was irrelevant or improper. There could be any number of reasons for the Senate refusing leave if it had knowledge of what was in a document. To leave the matter as it is at the moment with senators having to rely simply on good faith in a situation when a senator can refuse leave because he happens to be a bit cross that day is totally unsatisfactory.
It is unsatisfactory for another reason too. For years senators in this place have defended the Senate as a House of debate. They have opposed the reading of speeches, and as we will be dealing with that question a little later I will not trespass on it. The whole idea as I understand it has been that this is a chamber where people should speak, where subsequent speakers should respond to what has been put forward and where there should be genuine debate. If a senator is about to speak in a debate and the preceding speaker seeks and gets leave to incorporate in Hansard some material which is then in the written record and appears as part of the argument, he is in the situation where he cannot respond to what may be the most substantial point made by the previous speaker.
– Then do not permit incorporations.
– If it is incorporated it is not available until the next day.
– Then you do not permit incorporations.
-The whole point is that one does not wish to appear peevish or to be acting out of pique by refusing leave to a senator who may quite reasonably want to incorporate documents. I think it is also reasonable that subsequent speakers have access to incorporated documents and be able to respond to them so that the documents then truly become part of the debate. It is a fact that all of us are under pressure to produce bits of paper which we send out to our electorates to show what a magnificent contribution we are making to the national scene. That is a complete side use of the facilities that are available to us and it is using this chamber in a way which takes from it the thing which we should be aiming at; that is, a set of operating rules for the chamber which facilitate genuine discussion of the issues before us. I do not think under the present system of seeking leave and then having documents disappear without senators knowing what is in them until they appear in Hansard the next day that it is possible properly to debate many issues.
Senator Keeffe referred to his own experience. In my time in this chamber Senator Keeffe, when discussing matters in which I have been greatly interested, has incorporated material in Hansard. I remember recent debates on matters affecting Aborigines when this was done. I have been interested subsequently to read the incorporated material but it was then too late to make any comment in the debate on the material incorporated. In totality the rule which the Standing Orders Committee has suggested simply says that material to be incorporated should be shown to the person who is leading- the Minister or the spokesman for the Opposition- and a copy of it made at the time it is incorporated so that it is available to honourable senators to comment on as part of the debate, and that it should be in printed or typewritten form, which is simply a practical requirement. It is not proposed that this be a standing order. I think it is reasonable that a Minister or spokesman for the Opposition when suddenly called upon to make a decision for his colleagues on whether leave should be granted for material to be incorporated in Hansard should make that decision with his eyes open and knowing what he is agreeing to rather than agree to the request simply because he knows that, for example, Senator Keeffe is a good chap who would not incorporate something which he would not want to see in Hansard.
I am sure that honourable senators will agree that the practice should not be left on that basis so that people are made to look pigheaded oafs if they refuse leave to one of their colleagues. If the granting of leave by a senator is to be a meaningful act it should be based on knowledge and not on some odd sense of mateship. As one who in a relatively short time in this place has been quite dissatisfied with the procedure that has operated with respect to incorporations, I respectfully suggest to the Senate that we ought to try out these guidelines. They are no more than that. The adoption of them will not prevent senators on either side from time to time, either through a flow of bile or for any other reason, refusing leave in circumstances when the rest of their colleagues wish leave to be granted. I believe that the Committee’s recommendation will place senators in a better position to accept the decisions of their leaders on incorporations if they know that their leaders have seen the material, that it will be part of the debate which follows and that the granting of leave is not simply an act of grace.
– I think the operative remark in what Senator Chaney has just said is that he has been dissatisfied in his relatively short time in this place. I suggest that after a few more years he probably will be more satisfied with the present situation.
-If I intend to stay that long.
– I thought Senator Chaney would be here for a long time. He should realise that one does not get ambassadorships at a very young age even in his party. I think all senators on both sides of this chamber have a tendency when they want documents incorporated to give a brief outline of what is in them. This probably constitutes a gentleman’s agreement. The practice is not set out in the Standing Orders or in anything else. I am a great believer in the Standing Orders and if we adopt what is now suggested we will be taking away some of the powers of our Standing Orders. We are not dealing with standing order 406 yet. It will be a controversial one and a decision on it will be left to us. Adopting the recommendation before us will take away some of the power and the prestige of the President of the Senate in the same way as if the recommendations were adopted in the other place it would take away some of the power and the prestige of the Speaker.
I do not conform to all the pomp and ceremony we have in the Senate but basically I subscribe to all the rules which bring discipline into this chamber and enable it to function as chamber in which orderly debate takes place. That is the way it has to be if we are to conduct our business in a proper way while we retain the Westminster system. If we are to take what is a right regarding incorporations away from the President we will take away some of his decision making powers. It will be said that by virtue of recommendation ( 1 ) which we have just carried we will not take that power away because the new rule will operate only on odd occasions. However, there will be Ministers and Opposition spokesman in this place who will not always have the equilibrium of an average politician. They will get very cranky and say, regardless of whether an honourable senator supplies copies of the document to them, ‘No, we will not allow that document to be incorporated in Hansard’. It may be said that this does not stop a document from being incorporated in the Hansard record because an honourable senator could come back here night after night and read into the Hansard record for example, the novel Gone with the Wind or something like that. There would be nothing to stop him doing that chapter by chapter by chapter each night unless somebody drew attention to the state of the House and a quorum could not be formed to enable that honourable senator to stay here to continue the reading. I am not suggesting for a moment that tonight I will bring Gone with the Wind into the Senate chamber and start reading it in order to have it incorporated in the Hansard record. But I believe that if we start spreading the so-called guidelines we will only make rods for our own backs, and that applies to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. We will have a standing order, if we want to put it this way, that will be a damn nuisance to us. It will inhibit debate and in some circumstances will prevent the incorporation of what ought to be valuable documents.
If an honourable senator does not give an outline of what is contained in a document which he seeks to have incorporated, any honourable senator on the other side of the chamber can refuse leave to have that document incorporated. If there is any doubt about the matter, an honourable senator has the right to ask the senator who seeks to have a document incorporated to give him an idea of what is in the document. If it is a lengthy statistical table which is probably necessary to back up an argument, obviously all the honourable senator has to do is to give a 2 minute description of what the table is all about. I think that the Mount Larcom document was the last one to create a rumpus in this chamber. On that occasion, when incorporation was sought, an explanation was given that there were statutory declarations from a number of aggrieved farmers in a particular area who were being stood over by a government, by the Mines Department and by a certain mining company. They sought some way of obtaining publicity for their case to achieve what they hoped would be some sort of justice. There is a real need for the incorporation in Hansard of documents of that nature because there is no possible chance of reading twenty or thirty documents in the limited time that is available for debate. The only alternative is to come back each evening and read them during the adjournment debate. I think it has been shown over a period of years that not many honourable senators are lovers of lengthy adjournment debate speeches.
I return to the statements made by Senator Chaney. After he has had a few more years of experience- this is no reflection on him- he will realise that there has been a gentleman’s agreement in existence, at least for all the time I have been here. An honourable senator wishing to incorporate a document in Hansard makes some sort of statement about the contents of the document before he seeks leave for the incorporation.
There may be rare occasions when an honourable senator becomes a little testy and is not prepared to give that sort of information. But again, I respectfully suggest that the only way to deal with recommendation (2) in Item 1 is to oppose it because it will impose further fetters on free debate in this place, upon freedom of action and, worst of all, it will take away a lot of the authority of the President.
– I want to voice my opposition to this proposal. I support the remarks of Senator Cavanagh and Senator Keeffe. I, like them, see no need to have these guidelines written into the Standing Orders. There is no guarantee, if these guidelines are written into the Standing Orders, that an honourable senator seeking leave to have a document incorporated in Hansard, after showing it to the Leader of the Opposition or to the Minister in charge of Senate business, will receive leave to have it incorporated. We may find that another honourable senator who does not want some material made a public document will protest to the last. I had an experience last year when it took me 3 days to have incorporated in Hansard a list of persons who were named in a government document as having purchased more than 400 tonnes of superphosphate and who had received a subsidy of about $12 a tonne, which amounted to $5,000 per person.
Despite my endeavours in the public interest and in the interests of the taxpayer to have that document made a public document, I was continually refused leave by Government senators opposite to have it incorporated in Hansard. It was only when some common sense came into the debate and when Senator Cotton, who was in charge of the Bill at the time, granted leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard that I was able to have it incorporated. I was determined to have those names in the Hansard record if it took me a month to do so by reading them into the record. If honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber had had some common sense- they were the ones who refused leave- and had granted me leave to incorporate the document in the first place, my speech would have finished on the first day instead of extending over 3 days. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; the members of the public at large wanted to have that document incorporated in Hansard. I received a multitude of requests for copies of the list of names, which I had incorporated in Hansard, of persons in receipt of $5,000 or more of the taxpayers’ money as a superphosphate bounty.
As I said when I rose to my feet, if this recommendation is carried there is no guarantee that any honourable senator will have incorporated in Hansard the document which he seeks leave to have incorporated. He could still run foul of some honourable senator, as happened in my case, who was determined that the public at large would not have the information made available. In the main honourable senators who attempt this are trying to protect their colleagues out in the country areas who are in receipt of that massive superphosphate bounty. For that reason I voice my objection to the carrying of this motion.
- Mr Chairman, I want to deal with this matter for a few more minutes. I do not see much need for a fight on this question. As I said before, it means nothing. I rose before to ask for an explanation as to why it was before us. Senator Chaney complied with my request and gave an explanation. He gave me an explanation which included the proposition I thought it would include, namely, that it was an excuse for pig- headedness on the part of the individual who refuses to comply with the will of the chamber. His excuse was that it provided a let-out in that situation. I think Senator Chaney did put up a case in regard to the unjustifiability of having documents incorporated in Hansard during debates when we have no opportunity to see what is contained in the documents. The speaker who follows an honourable senator who has the documents incorporated has no opportunity to see what he is replying to. Such documents should be made readily accessible to that honourable senator. There is much logic in that argument and possibly it wins the day.
However Senator Chaney ‘s argument falls flat when he does not have such a provision incorporated in the Standing Orders. What we have been talking about today will never be agreed to while there is some arrangement between the leaders of the parties; there would be no justification for an honourable senator refusing leave to have a document incorporated. The time will come when I will ask for leave, for example, to have a letter from, say, a Mrs Smith incorporated in Hansard. Without guidelines the President must made the decision as to whether Mrs Smith’s letter should be incorporated. He may say ‘No’ and seek to justify that decision on the basis that I have not made available a copy of the letter; but in the majority of cases I think that leave would be granted.
I think that it would be unfortunate if the parties stuck to the guidelines in recommendation (2) (c) which states:
Material proposed to be incorporated should be submitted in printing or typewritten form.
I would say that if the material were submitted in legible form, that would be satisfactory. I may wish to incorporate a letter from Mrs Smith, a poor bereaved widow who has been done out of social security payments. In her letter she may paint a picture of hardship and state that she has three or four kiddies. It is unlikely that her letter would be printed or be in typographical form for me to incorporate it in Hansard. If I had the letter retyped, it may cast some doubt on its genuineness. I take the matter no further because this is only a guideline to which no one will agree. It is presented as an excuse to what is termed the pigheaded individual. I think there are more such individuals on the other side of the chamber than on this side of the chamber. I think that honourable senators on this side of the chamber will act correctly. But the guidelines will apply only on such occasions when an honourable senator wants an excuse to deny leave to incorporate a document in Hansard.
– I am grateful to Senator Cavanagh for clearing up the confusion in Senator McLaren’s mind in part at least. He has made it clear that it is not intended that the recommendation should be incorporated in the Standing Orders. It is meant merely to be an assistance to the Senate- a set of guidelines, which is precisely how it is described. I think it is quite clear that the sort of reservations expressed by Senator Cavanagh are taken into account in what is put forward by the Standing Orders Committee. These are guidelines which apply ‘normally and wherever practicable’. One accepts that there will be in the to and fro of proceedings in this chamber occasions where it is not practicable to follow the guidelines. The judgment of the Leaders on either side in the main will be the determinant of what happens.
I think it is also clear, looking at paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of recommendation (2), that it is intended that the guidelines generally should apply in the situation of debates. The recommendation refers to people leading for the Opposition. I think this means that we are talking about the debating situation. The guidelines would normally apply with someone such as Senator Keeffe who often in this chamber presents a prepared speech- I do not mean a written speech-which includes the incorporation of perhaps quite substantial written material which the honourable senator wants to be in Hansard as part of his speech. On those occasions where the incorporation is part of a formal presentation it is reasonable that the other side should know what it is being asked to give leave to incorporate, that the material should be available when it is incorporated so that it can be discussed subsequently in the debate and that it should be in a form that is easy to read.
-A lot of what my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, has said is quite correct. Firstly the Standing Orders Committee considered the matter at great length and agreed that guidelines of this nature should be proposed to the Senate. All that is proposed are guidelines. It is recommended that the guidelines apply normally and wherever practicable’. It will not always be practicable for these guidelines to apply. For instance a Minister might seek leave to have a document incorporated in Hansard or might make a statement which immediately could be counteracted by a member of the Opposition running outside to his office, getting a document and having the document incorporated in Hansard. Because of the thrust and parry of debate under that sort of circumstance one would not expect these guideline to be complied with. Again I emphasise that the recommendation is put down more as a basis of commonsense procedure to be adopted.
My colleague, Senator McLaren, referred to some difficulty that he had at a time when he wanted to get a document incorporated in Hansard setting out details of superphosphate bounties that had been approved by the Government. He said that if the members of the Government had had some common sense his remarks would have been over and done with in a couple of minutes rather than in a couple of days. I agree that had common sense been adopted in that regard the matter would have been over and done with in a couple of minutes. I think it is the viewpoint of the Standing Orders Committee that these guidelines are proposed more to assist senators to get documents incorporated than to have the documents excluded from Hansard. The recommendations have been put forward in a genuine endeavour to overcome suspicion on the part of members on the opposite side to the person seeking to have a document incorporated in Hansard. For instance, I can remember that there was some difficulty in this chamber at the time of the New South Wales State election campaign in May of last year when a senator on the Government side wanted to have a document incorporated in Hansard. If I might say so there was an evening of shindig. It is probable that if the document had been shown to us in the first instance, we would have agreed to the whole of it being incorporated rather than only part. If these guidelines generally are not adhered to it is a simple fact that it may be possible to overcome the ordinary Standing Orders.
Sitting suspended from 5.4S to 8 p.m.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; progress reported.
– by leave- The statement which I am about to make on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is written in his name and where a first person singular pronoun appears it refers to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
In this statement I shall review the main aspects of the Government’s foreign policy during the 15 months it has been in office, indicate the understanding of Australia’s interests and of the international situation on which it has been based, and direct attention to some of the key issues which will confront us in the near future. As it happened, the Government’s first year in office coincided with the beginning of the last quarter of this century. Marking the flow of history into centuries and fractions of centuries is usually an artificial and unprofitable business, for historical trends are not respecters of dates. But occasionally such divisions do coincide with significant, even profound, transitions in human affairs, and when they do they can help to dramatise and focus attention on those changes. This is true in the present instance.
The last 25 years were dominated by the tension between the super powers in an essentially bi-polar world. This domination was as evident in the overriding priority given to the search for super-power detente in the later years as it was in the stark cold war confrontation of the early years. It was a period characterised by the priority given to the ideological and military dimensions of world affairs, and by a high degree of political immobility. During it, the Third World countries, absorbed in gaining or consolidating their independence, tended to be objects of international politics rather than actors. For the developed countries the last quarter century was, until near its end, a period of sustained and spectacular economic growth, symbolised best, perhaps, by the economic miracles of Japan and West Germany. It was a period of unprecedented affluence, and this experience profoundly affected attitudes and expectations, at least in Western countries.
This picture is now rapidly changing. The ability of the super powers to control other states and to determine the agenda of international politics has diminished perceptibly, and they are being forced to give less attention to each other and more to third parties. While the question of the military balance remains crucial, the process of converting military strength into political power and influence has become more complex and uncertain. The potency of ideology- at least of the ideologies of the cold war- has diminished, and pragmatism, scepticism, dissent have become more prevalent. Alignments are less fixed and static and there is more room for manoeuvre. Since the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries decison on oil prices in 1973, the Third World countries have shown a new assertiveness and confidence, and in their collective capacity have thrust themselves on the international scene as initiators of change particularly on economic matters.
During this period the momentum of growth in the world’s economies was temporarily arrested and Governments wrestled with the twin problems of inflation and recession. There was some recovery in the world economy in 1 976 and further progress is expected in the current yearalthough clearly there is a long way to go before inflation is brought under control. Global economic, social and environmental questions have assumed major prominence.
I deliberately began this statement by drawing attention to these changes. I do so, not as an academic exercise, but because they provide an essential framework for any realistic consideration of Australia’s foreign policy during the coming years. Unless we take account of them, and make an effort to understand them- unless, that is, we have at least a provisional map of the future into which we and the world are movingour assumptions and perspectives will be inadequate. This is a real danger, for as a people we have tended to approach foreign policy with a short-term, improvising outlook. We now need to learn to think strategically and in terms of decades, rather than tactically and in terms of instant solutions- and we need to do so urgently.
I do not exaggerate the extent of the changes. I recognise the validity of the historians’ warning that it is important to identify not only what is beginning but what is not ending at a given time. The traditional issues of international politics are not about to disappear, and some of them- notably the control and limitations of military power- will inevitably become more critical. But, collectively, the impact of the developments I have described must be great. They will both render existing problems more complex and unfamiliar, and supplement them with new ones. It is going to be of vital importance to Australia that these effects and their implications for her interests, are properly understood.
An awareness of this is not something suddenly arrived at by the Government. On the contrary, it permeates the thinking contained in the coalition Parties’ policy statement of October 1975, and has been repeatedly stressed in subsequent statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and myself. Most important, it has been manifest in the policies we have been implementing.
One of the things we have stressed throughout is the importance of strengthening Australia’s relations with the major developed democracies. As the major sources of the world’s trade, finance and technology, these are the countries on whom the recovery, reform and smooth functioning of the international economic system principally depend. Both in their individual capacities and as a kind of de facto trilateral alliance, the contribution of the United States, Japan and Western Europe will be crucial as far as the whole global agenda is concerned. If Australia is to have adequate access to the North-South dialogue, if it is to be a properlyparticipating member of the various other forums where these matters are discussed, if the democratic concert’ of which President Carter has spoken is going to become a reality- then we have to address ourselves seriously to ensuring that our voice is heard and our interests taken into account. In conducting its affairs with these three great centres of democratic economic power over the last fifteen months, the Government has had these considerations, as well as bilateral relations, well in the forefront of its attention.
I put Japan first deliberately, for in no other year in our history has our relationship with that country been given such an impetus as in the last 12 months. Certainly the only year ever to compare with it is 1957, when Sir Robert Menzies and Sir John McEwen negotiated the Treaty of Commerce. The last year has witnessed visits to Japan by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) the final signing of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the ratification of the Cultural Agreement, the establishment of the Australia-Japan Foundation, and, in January of this year, the fourth meeting of the Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee, which was attended by 4 Australian Cabinet members. Some of these measures were initiated by the previous Government, but it was the energy and determination of this Government that brought them all to completion so quickly after coming to office.
This activity has flowed from a clear recognition of the importance of Japan in Australia’s future, both as a major economic power and a critical factor in the affairs of the Western Pacific region. Our concern has been, first, to consolidate our important and substantial economic relationship by recognising the mutual interests of both countries in being stable and reliable suppliers and markets for each other; secondly, to create the machinery and spirit necessary to deal with the strains and differences which inevitably develop periodically; and thirdly, to supplement and support the economic tie with closer political, cultural and social ones.
The cumulative effect of these steps was most evident at the Ministerial Committee in January. That meeting was a very important one in practical terms. Extremely useful progress was made regarding the Australian beef quota. The port access agreements for Japanese vessels were extended. The Japanese Government gave an assurance that imports of coal and iron ore from Australia during 1977 would be maintained at 1976 levels. There was an agreement to examine the possibility of reducing air fares between the two countries to facilitate contacts between our peoples. Japan accepted our proposals for periodic joint meetings between a range of senior officials from both sides. As well as all this, however, I think that all those who took part in the talks were left with the sense that the whole relationship has now been put on a new plane, that its importance and potential are fully understood. This was as evident in the directness and frankness of the discussions as it was in the spirit of compromise that prevailed.
The recent decision to appoint an ad hoc working committee, to report to Cabinet on ways in which the co-ordination of Australian policy towards Japan can be improved, may be taken as a clear indication that we intend to build purposefully on the foundation which has been laid.
I turn now to our relations with the United States. The first thing to be said about them is that the uncertainty about the future course of Australian policy, the doubts, reservations and acrimony which were so much a feature of the previous Government’s dealings with the United States, have been removed. We pursue Australia’s interests, express our disagreement with American policy where it exists, but the fundamental importance attached to the alliance and the general relationship are no longer in question.
During the last year American affairs were dominated by the presidential election. As these elections have often been criticised in the past for their disruptive effects on American public life, I think it is worth observing that this one established that they can also serve the purpose of regeneration and renewal. During this election there was a palpable sense of a healing of wounds and the renewal of self-confidence.
The Government worked effectively to establish early contact with Mr Carter, and with many who have now become key figures in his Administration, and we have acquainted ourselves very thoroughly with their views on foreign policy.
I note amongst other things the emphasis in these views on the strengthening of ties with well-established democratic allies; the concern with finding a secure moral basis for policy and for ensuring that policy is consistent with the values of the American people; the stress on hard-headed bargaining and reciprocity as the basis for sound and productive relations between the super powers; and the importance given to an energetic and imaginative response to those global problems which are rightly identified as crucial.
As far as the last of these is concerned, I will make two points. First, the strife and uncertainty of the last few years in America’s history should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the United States’ capacity for contributing to the solution of these global problems is unparalleled. In terms of all the ingredients necessary for a solution- food production, technology, investment and aid capacity, managerial and research skills, and, certainly not least, a deep, humanitarian sense of responsibility- the United States is pre-eminent, and no solution is conceivable without its serious commitment.
Secondly, from our Government’s standpoint the new Administration’s commitment on thee issues gives a new significance to the concern expressed by the Prime Minister and myself, to develop our American alliance not only as tn instrument to make Australia more secure hit also as one which, joining as it does two of tie democracies richest in resources, can make a significant contribution to the solution of global problems. The Government has already indicated to President Carter that we share his seise of urgency and that we intend to participate actively in the international efforts to find s)lutions to these problems.
The third great centre of democratic power and development is Western Europe. Given cur origins and history, it is the centre with which we could be expected to have the closest relationship. However, this has not been the case It is true that there is a substantial trade relationship the European Economic Community supplies us with more of our imports than anyone else and takes more of our exports than anyone else except Japan. But beyond that there has not been, at least until very recently, any concerted and determined effort on either side to develop a broad and balanced relationship. The Government believes that, given the trends in international affairs, this state of affairs can not be allowed to continue, and that our relationship with the European Communities must be brought closer to the level of the relationships we have with the other two great industrial democracies. Western Europe’s strategic and political importance, its increasing significance as an international ‘personality’ in important conferences and forums, its role in maintaining and strengthening a viable international economic system, its potential as a source of development aid to developing countries through the Lome Convention arrangement- all these pint to the need to move in that direction.
Consequently, the Government has been very active during the last year in moving to strengthen our ties. In June of last year we sent the first delegation of senior officials for talis in Brussels, thus inaugurating a system of annual across-the-board consultations with the Commission of the European communities. The second of these meetings began in Canberra this morning. In October 1976 I visited Brussels and had talks both with Community and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation heads. Under further exploration, since my departure, has been our concern to develop more useful political and military contacts with NATO which might both enlarge the range and depth of >ATO information available to Australia and broaden the bases of Australia’s relationship in a political context. The Prime Minister and I will again visit Brussels in June of this year. There is already evidence that Australia is assuming sharper definition in European eyes.
What we are moving towards is a regular, institutionalised system of wide-ranging consultation at various levels ranging from ministerial meetings to middle-order official discussions. These consultations are not expected to remove al problems. Our difficulties with the Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC are real and sub.stintial. It will be to the advantage of both sides if these can be discussed in the context of more substantial framework of contacts and consultation which will help to remove misunderstandin; and provide an opportunity for exploring anas of mutual interest.
China s one aspect of our policy has been to strengthen relations with the major democracies, another has been to place our relations with the major communist countries on a more pragmatic, less ideological, basis. This is not because our opinions of the ideologies have changed, or because we find the repressive aspects of communism any more acceptable. Again it follows firm changes in the international system. In a les: static, polarised and ideological world, we car afford to give less weight to ideology and mo e to a discriminating evaluation of actual behavour and capabilities, and their relevance to us.
The Prime Minister’s visit to China in June 1973, and the extensive discussions that took place during it, confirmed our earlier evaluation that in the prevailing circumstances and on the bass of a realistic reading of the existing configuration of forces, China ‘s foreign policy is con.cerred to maintain global and regional stability. This is a fact of enormous significance for the immedate future of the region. We share this con.cernand will do what we can to sustain it. We believe that it is more likely to be sustained if China is fully integrated into the international system of communication and consultation, and we have mace this view known to other governments.
In terms of our bilateral relationships, the his.torical background and the enormous cultural differences between our societies point to the initial reed for what might be termed a familiarisation process and steady progress, rather than spectacular gestures. We have proceeded in these terms. The Family Reunion agreement, concluded in October 1976 after long negotiations, is an achievement of considerable human and practical significance for people of Chinese origin in our community. We are examining the possibilities of establishing an Australia-China foundation which would function as a particularly useful addition to other points of contact between our two countries. We are also examining the scope for co-operation in the exchange of technical information in areas of shared interest such as the development of semiarid land. We expect that the visit of the superb archaeological exhibition now in Australia, and of a party of Chinese newspaper editors in January, will be followed by regular exchanges and visits both ways. Later in the year, we expect to welcome a delegation from the National People’s Congress and it is worth observing that such a visit to a non-communist country is unusual. Against the background of vast emptiness and silence which represented early SinoAustralian relations, steps such as these have a cumulative significance.
There are three further points it is necessary to make about our relations with China. The first is that our concern with improving relations has in no way inhibited us from taking up matters on which we disagree. In the Peking talks it was apparent that these include such important questions as nuclear proliferation and testing, our respective positions on the Middle East conflict, and the question of support for insurgency, particularly in South East Asia. These are anything but trivial matters and there has been no attempt to minimise the significance of the differences over them. On the question of support for insurgency, in their talks with the Prime Minister the Chinese leaders used a formula which in the view of Dr Stephen FitzGerald, our then Ambassador in Peking, was significantly different from ones they had previously used. But what is important ultimately- and it is very important- is what happens on the ground. We shall be watching with close interest for evidence of changes in levels of activity and degrees of support.
The second point is that in our dealings with China we have to take into account the elements of uncertainty in China’s domestic affairs and the effects these may have on foreign policy. In the last year the two founders of contemporary China- Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai- died. Such a double loss in so short a time, and the problem of succession it raises, represents a severe test for a regime which has been in existence for less than thirty years. The practical, and perhaps the symbolic, effect of a devastating earthquake in the same year must have added to the sense of dislocation. Recognising the element of uncertainty, I can only say that at this time we see no evidence of the likelihood of a sudden and radical discontinuity in China’s foreign policy.
The last point I wish to make- and both the Prime Minister and I have made it before- is that anyone who interprets our policy towards China as essentially a function of our policy towards a third country is proceeding on a wrong assumption and will arrive at a wrong conclusion. We are not ‘taking sides’ and we are not ‘ganging up’ on anyone. It is appropriate that I end what I have to say about relations with China on this point, for the third country usually referred to in this context is the Soviet Union, and I turn to our relations with that country.
If China is important to Australia principally because of the great significance it has within our region, the Soviet Union is important as a global power. Because of the reach of its power, its formidable ability to influence the course of events far beyond its boundaries, and, above all, its capacity to influence the overriding issues of peace and war, we, like every other country, have to pay close attention to the Soviet Union.
As the Prime Minister and I have previously emphasised, our bilateral relations with the Soviet Union are sound and we wish to make them as extensive and friendly as possible. During the last year two senior Australian Ministersthe Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon)- visited and held wide-ranging and useful talks there. Agreements on scientific, technical and cultural co-operation are being actively implemented. Australia has recently achieved substantially increased sales of beef and mutton to the Soviet Union, and both countries are actively promoting trade with each other. We hope that the degree of trade imbalance that now exists can be corrected over time. We also hope that the ties between us can be developed and will give careful consideration to Soviet proposals as well as to formulating our own.
There is therefore little in our bilateral relationship which causes the Australian Government concern. What does concern us and what we have felt obliged to draw to public attention is the extent, and the implications, of the Soviet arms build-up in recent years. That build-up threatens to destabilise the fundamental strategic balance. If it continues it will leave others in the position of either having to match the Soviet effort, causing a steep upward spiral in the arms race, or of acquiescing in Soviet superiority. In either case the peace of the world will be threatened.
There is no need to deny the complexities and ambiguities of the debate on the strategic balancethey are real enough. But they must not be allowed to obscure the essence of the matter, which is that over the last 10 years the Soviet Union has: First, closed the strategic nuclear gap between the United States and itself; second, substantially closed the naval gap between the United States and itself; and third rapidly widened the gap in conventional land forces in its favour. Having done this it continues to outspend the United States in its arms program and shows no sign of letting up.
When the Prime Minister drew attention to these facts last June he was widely criticised, as if drawing attention to them, rather than the facts themselves, constituted the danger to peace. Subsequently, the balance of informed Western opinion has strongly confirmed what the Prime Minister said. Throughout the Western world- in social democratic countries as well as ones with conservative governments, from civilian sources as well as military ones- there is deep concern at the trends in the military balance. The NATO Foreign Ministers stated on 8 December 1976 that ‘they viewed with concern the high level of military expenditure in the Soviet Union and the continued disquieting expansion of the military power of the Warsaw Pact on land, air and sea which are difficult to reconcile with the avowed desire of the Soviet Union to improve East- West relations’.
There are some who say that even if all this is true, it is not appropriate for an Australian government to comment on it. We do not accept that view. The question of world peace is not a regional matter, nor something to be left exclusively to the great powers. It concerns everybody. We cannot in one breath speak of peace as being indivisible and in the next maintain that unless there is a perceptible and direct threat to ourselves we should keep silent.
Similar considerations apply, I think, to recent evidence of continuing restraints on intellectual freedom in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. But at the same time we assure the leaders of the Soviet Union that criticising one of the world’s super powers is not something we do lightly or with relish, and we want nothing more than the removal of the justification for our concern. We hope, profoundly, that they will respond to the approach of a new American President for a genuine arms control agreement which will lead to a substantial reduction in the accumulation of military power.
I turn now to our regional relationships and policies. Together with our relationships with the major democracies, these form the core of our foreign policy. They are important both in terms of the traditional international agenda, in that they bear upon the peace and stability of our neighbourhood, and of the emerging issues I have referred to. For the part of the Third World which is most relevant to us, that we can do most to assist, and in which we can best demonstrate our intent, is that which is adjacent to us. It is here that the global problems- problems of development, trade, population growth, refugees- become also regional problems.
The processes of transition which I have identified are very marked throughout the region. In South East Asia, the success of the Association of South East Asian Nations countries, that is Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, in achieving an impressive degree of unity and purposefulness, and the unification of Vietnam into one state, have given the affairs of the region a different structure and atmosphere. At this time there is probably less internal dissension and violence in the area than at any time since the end of the Second World War. To point to this development and the encouraging examples of economic growth in the region is not to claim that all is well there. The memory of recent terrible and tragic events is still fresh, and there are still serious points of tension and areas of instability there. In my experience the countries of the region have a very realistic appreciation of the tasks still facing them and of the fragility of the progress so far made. Nevertheless the progress is real.
The Government attaches the greatest importance to consolidating and developing our close relationship with the five members of ASEAN, both individually and collectively. On their two basic political priorities- the determination to see a region free of great power rivalry and domination, and the concern to develop harmonious and co-operative relations among the countries of the region themselves- we are in full agreement with them.
This Government recognises that, while political and security considerations will always be vitally important and while aid in various forms is, for the foreseeable future, indispensable, the ASEAN countries are increasingly concerned to develop their economic relations with Australia. We for our part are determined that they shall be developed, for we fully recognise the importance of healthy economic growth in the region and the importance of expanding trade for the developing economies generally.
We have stated our position on this matter. It is that any significant change in our trade relations will have to take place gradually to minimise any domestic dislocation in this country. The fact that we make these stipulations is evidence not that we are concerned to prevaricate or delay for its own sake, but, on the contrary, that we are serious about the matter and determined to approach it in a systematic and viable mannerrather than simply to make a political gesture. Progress in these matters depends on the recovery of the Australian economy. In the meantime we recognise that if now is not the time to act, now is the time to prepare for action. We decided, in December, to form an interdepartmental standing committee to review all aspects of our relations with the ASEAN countries and make positive recommendations on the way they can be improved. The composition of that committee, which is heavily weighted on the economic side, is a clear indication of our purpose in this matter. The invitation I have extended to the Secretary-General of ASEAN, General Dharsono to visit Australia in the near future further emphasises this purpose. Preparations are also going ahead for discussions, probably in May, between senior ASEAN and Australian officials to examine a wide range of matters connected with the development of closer economic relations between Australia and the ASEAN countries.
As far as the countries of Indo-China are concerned, it is in Australia’s interest to see the three governments participate in the kind of peaceful activities which will contribute towards bringing about their own economic progress and harmonious relationships in the region. We are not being starry-eyed about this. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with a population of fifty million and the most formidable military apparatus in South East Asia, is a communist state hardened by thirty years of revolutionary struggle and war. What course it will take will be crucial to the future of the region. The new regime in Cambodia began its rule in the most savage and drastic manner. We believe, however, that nothing will be gained by either Australia or the region ostracising, ignoring or setting out to alienate these governments. In the case of Vietnam in particular, it will be dangerous if it is placed in a position where it feels that it can only maintain cordial relations with other communist states. We have put this view to the United States during the past year.
There are signs that Vietnam does not wish to be placed in such a position. While it views ASEAN with some suspicion, a suspicion which it is possible to understand though it is completely unwarranted, it has made sensible efforts to improve its bilateral relations with ASEAN members. It has joined various international organisations and has shown an interest in foreign investments from non-communist sources.
It is Australia’s policy to encourage it in this direction. We have supported its successful application for membership of the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as its so far unsuccessful application for membership of the United Nations. We have initiated a modest aid program, for humanitarian as well as political reasons, one that concentrates on agricultural development where the benefits to the people of Vietnam will be most apparent. These steps should make it evident to the Government of Vietnam that if it wishes to establish a peaceful and constructive role for itself in the region, Australia will be concerned to assist it.
As far as our other bilateral relationships in the region are concerned, I will mention only two: That with Indonesia over Timor and that with Papua New Guinea. When we came to office in November 1975, we inherited a situation in Timor which was already far developed. Most of the limited opportunities for exerting influence had already passed. Short of physical intervention- and I do not think that was contemplated by any responsible Australian- our purchase on the situation was slight. There were very vocal groups in Australia who maintained that in this issue our only concern should be to maintain our good relations with Indonesia. There were other groups who maintained that our only concern should be with what they believed to be the interests of the Timorese and opposition to outside intervention. The Government believes that both these views oversimplified the issues and that Australia ‘s interests would be best served by finding a balance between these concerns.
At the United Nations General Assembly in December 1975, we voted in support of a resolution appealing to the parties in Portuguese Timor to join in talks to end the strife and calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops. At the same time we suggested the sending of a United
Nations special representative to Timor, and this was subsequently done. We assisted that representative, Mr Winspeare Guicciardi, with radio facilities to attempt to contact Fretilin, and we indicated that if all parties would guarantee his safety, we would provide him with transport to visit the territory. We urged, consistently and strongly, that the International Red Cross be allowed to resume activity in East Timor. When this did not eventuate, we contributed $330,000 in aid to the Indonesian Red Cross, as the only means available to relieve distress in the territory. We have been particularly concerned about the plight of those refugees who have come to Australia without their families. Arrangements are well advanced for many of these people to be reunited with each other.
Our opposition to the use of force to settle problems in the region has been clearly registered and still stands. But throughout we have striven to maintain our close and friendly relations with the Indonesian Government and to contain our differences over the Timor question. To jeopardise these relations would not have been in Australia’s interests and would not have benefited the people of East Timor. The Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia in October 1976 established that the relationship continues to be soundly and firmly based.
Since coming to office shortly after Papua New Guinea’s accession to independence in September 1975, the Government has given high priority to laying a solid basis for the new, independence era of the relationship with our nearest neighbour. During the Prime Ministerial visits by Mr Somare to Canberra in March 1 976 and by Mr Fraser to Port Moresby this month, and in my many discussions over the past year with the Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister, Sir Maori Kiki, the great importance which both Governments attach to the relationship between the two countries has been unequivocally reaffirmed.
The Australian Government has also reaffirmed the pledge of successive Australian Governments to give the highest priority to providing assistance to Papua New Guinea. Indeed, we improved on it: The new aid commitment announced in March 1976 which guaranteed Papua New Guinea at the very least $A930m over the five-year period beginning in 1976-77 represented a substantial increase in Australian assistance. The new aid arrangements were also designed to put an end to Australian involvement in Papua New Guinea’s budget-making and have been warmly welcomed by Mr
Somare ‘s Government as a substantial contribution to Papua New Guinea’s ability to move towards its objective of self-reliance and to determine and implement its own development priorities.
Substantial progress has also been made during the past year in the negotiation of a range of long-term bilateral agreements and arrangements including the Trade and Commercial Relation Agreement and an Agreement on Air Services. The same is true of the negotiations which began in May 1976 for a settlement of all issues relating to Torres Strait. There are a number of points not yet resolved and more work needs to be done on the complex legal and humanitarian issues involved. But both Governments are determined and confident that outstanding issues can and will be resolved through a continued process of amicable and direct bilateral negotiation. As my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) informed the House on 23 February, a Status of Forces Agreement was signed in January and a joint statement on the future defence relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea was issued by the two Prime Ministers on 1 1 February.
The relationship between our two countries by no means depends solely on the actions of Governments: It is sustained by personal associations and friendships which reach into every corner of our two societies. It is a complex and intimate relationship which reflects the many abiding common interests we have. The relationship is soundly-based and I look with confidence to its future.
In the second of the regions in which we have a special interest, the South Pacific, there is again a rapidly-accelerating pace of change. In the next two years, three countries, the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, and Tuvalu, are likely to achieve independence. The Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides is moving towards self-government and eventual independence; the future status of the United States Trust Territories is being actively considered. Contacts with countries outside the region are increasing, notably through the relationship which has developed between Fiji, Western Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea and the European communities through the Lome Convention, though there are also significant developments in bilateral diplomatic relations. In the South Pacific Forum and the South Pacific Commission the countries of the region are also actively studying possibilities for closer regional co-operation, such as shipping, telecommunication, civil aviation services, and law of the sea matters, including the policing and surveillance of 200-mile economic zones and the possibility of establishing a South Pacific fisheries agency.
In retrospect I think it is clear that in earlier years Australian Governments of both persuasions have not given the South Pacific the attention it deserves. In terms of the considerable problems its countries face, in terms of the importance of the area for Australia, and in terms of the impact which even a quite limited intrusion by outside powers can have on the smaller countries, it deserves serious attention. Australia is now working in close collaboration with our regional partner, New Zealand, to assist the countries of the South Pacific in advancing the welfare of their people. As I announced in Suva last October, we have now carried out a major revision of Australia’s South Pacific aid program. It has been placed on a rolling threeyear basis with an initial commitment of $60m for the period 1976-79. This amounted to an increase of 400 per cent. In addition, guidelines have been made more flexible to allow the program to meet the particular needs of different countries more effectively.
The Australian Government’s policy towards the third region which is necessarily of particular concern to us, the Indian Ocean, is based on the premise that it can only become a zone of peace if it first becomes a zone of balance. Our concern, repeatedly stated, is that this balance be achieved at the lowest practicable level. We support an American presence at a level sufficient to maintain a balance and we neither seek nor urge a greater capability. The United States for its part is committed to a policy of restraint and the new United States Administration has signalled since it took office that it would be interested in negotiating a bilateral arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union on the Indian Ocean. President Carter last week confirmed this. It is, of course, early days yet to judge what the prospects are for such negotiations.
We have drawn attention to the Soviet naval presence in the Ocean not because we see it as a direct threat to Australia but because we see it as a destabilising and exacerbating development in the global strategic picture. We supported the modest extension of the facilities in Diego Garcia because of the existence of the very extensive Soviet facilities in Berbera and the not insignificant ones elsewhere in and around the Ocean. If both can be removed by mutual agreement, so much the better. An Indian Ocean zone of peace is an objective with which Australia has sympathy and we recognise that those who sponsor it are concerned with the same end as we are, namely, a stable peace in the Indian Ocean. The degree of complementarity between the two approaches was evident in the communique that was issued at the end of the Indonesian visit last October, when it said: ‘Pending the achievement of a zone of peace, the President and the Prime Minister recognised that a balance in the Indian Ocean at as low a level as possible should make it possible to avoid a competitive escalation of forces ‘. We believe this gets it right.
Areas of tension
Apart from those trends in the central strategic balance to which I have referred, international peace is most immediately threatened by the chronic tension which exists in three widelyseparated regions- southern Africa, the Middle East and North East Asia.
The last year has seen the tempo of change in southern Africa quicken decisively, bringing the region to the forefront of the world’s attention. The meaningful questions now are not whether fundamental changes will take place, but when they will take place and how they will take place. These questions are clearly related; fundamental changes will have to be made sooner- very much sooner- if they are to be made comparatively peacefully, and if the whole region is to avoid the incalculable consequences of large- scale outside intervention. Obscuring this fact will serve no one’s interest. We recognise the difficulties which have grown with the wasted years, but the future of all the people both black and white now depends on making swift and resolute use of the little time remaining.
This is why we have supported the process of negotiated change in Zimbabwe and Namibia. This is why, in pursuing a policy of maintaining correct diplomatic relations with South Africa, we have sought to convey very firmly that we not only oppose that regime’s policies of racial discrimination without reservation, but also we believe its political structure can not indefinitely sustain the tensions and divisive forces inherent in a system which institutionalises racial inequality. The tragic, and significantly sustained, eruption of violence in Soweto underlines the validity of this message. It is one which it is proper for us to convey and we will continue to do so. For what is happening in southern Africa is significant not only in Africa; it demonstrates in most convincing terms the potency of the racial question in contemporary international politics, and it has an important effect on the whole spectrum of Third World- Western relations.
I want to make it clear that the Government opposes racism not only in South Africa but wherever it occurs and whoever are its victims. In the African context we find utterly deplorable the racist and tyrannical regime in Uganda. We also bear in mind that, repugnant as it is, racism is by no means the only thing that violates the dignity of men and denies human rights. It is necessary to defend those rights against all forms of attack.
This Government has made clear its concern about human rights both publicly and privately on many occasions and in respect of events in many different countries. Furthermore in my speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year I said ‘We see importance too in the more general re-assertion of” the cause of freedom of the person, and the elimination of the indignities which man still heaps upon man, torture, forced labour, discrimination and inequalityto mention but a few’.
In the Middle East the last year witnessed another tragic episode in an already tragic history: the terrible internecine conflict in Lebanon. Australia has played its part in international efforts to alleviate the human suffering, both through gifts of food and through special immigration arrangements. We hope President Sarkis will make rapid progress in rebuilding the country. I am very pleased that we will be able to reopen our office in Beirut in May. In the meantime the resident embassy now being established in Damascus will deal with Lebanese migration applications. As well as the embassy in Syria, we have recently established one in Iraq, where an Ambassador takes charge this month. These moves to strengthen our representation testify to our recognition of the growing economic and political importance of the region.
On the central Arab-Israeli dispute, the coming year will see a renewed effort towards settlement, and together with most other states we welcome this and trust that it will be pressed with the utmost determination. In the meantime, we have been glad to contribute to the United Nations peace-keeping effort for the Middle East. At the request of the United Nations SecretaryGeneral, Australia deployed four Royal Australian Air Force helicopters with their crews and maintenance staff to the United Nations Emergency Force in the Sinai in July last year.
Australia has lent its support to United Nations resolutions 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973, seeing them as giving absolute recognition to the right of Israel to survive as a nation, and as also recognising the need for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. One change in the situation since 1 967 is that the Palestine problem has come to be seen generally as not merely an issue of refugees, but of the need for any settlement to take account of the legitimate rights of the Palestine people.
Proposals are now being advanced from the Arab side relating to the setting up of a Palestinian state on territory to be vacated by Israel on the west bank of the Jordan and in Gaza. It is an entirely legitimate concern in Israel that whatever entity is in control of these territories should live in peace with its neighbours, and abjure threats or acts of force, as required by resolution 242. This cannot be said of the long-established platform of the PLO, and so long as the PLO cannot be seen to have abandoned its earlier written rejection of Israel’s right to exist, the road to peace will be blocked. A reciprocal proposition is that recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people will also require action by Israel in one form or another. If, as a result of negotiations, there is agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian homeland alongside Israel, this will have Australian support. All this is a matter for negotiation among the parties directly concerned.
Because the interests of four great powers intersect in North East Asia and because of the hostility that exists between the two states into which it is divided, the Korean peninsula inevitably constitutes one of the principal danger points in international politics. Our concern is to reduce the level of friction which exists, to encourage any new initiative which will enhance stability, and to foster an atmosphere in which constructive negotiation can take place. We welcomed the fact that in 1976, at the wish of both the Korean governments, the prospect of another sterile debate at the United Nations was averted. We hope that a means acceptable to both sides can be found, outside the United Nations context, of reducing the emphasis upon the military aspect of the confrontation. Until this happens the Government believes that the sensitivity of the situation is such that any step which will substantially affect the status quo should be approached with great caution and preceded by thorough consultation. In foreshadowing its intention to withdraw its ground forces from the Republic of Korea over a period of years, the new United States Administration has made it clear that is fully recognises this.
Throughout this statement, I have stressed how an awareness of change pervades and shapes the Government’s foreign policy. In the last part of it, I turn to look directly at the implications for Australia of the emergence of what have come to be known, rightly as ‘the global issues ‘.
This Government came to office fully seized of the importance of these global issues. In our policy statement prior to the elections, we recognised that they presented Australia with its greatest test of statesmanship in foreign policy. In his statement on the world situation last June, the Prime Minister spoke at length about these problems, in terms that dispelled any complacency about the record of the developed countries and recognised the need for a farsighted response to them, if they were not to create an international atmosphere inimical to Australia’s well-being. Subsequently, I and other members of the Government have elaborated on this theme.
In a speech to the National Press Club last November I spoke at some length on the significance of this ‘new agenda’ for Australia. I argued that because of our resources- our role as a food producer, our energy resources, our vast mineral resources- and our position as a trading nation, it is bound to enhance our importance. This in turn will mean not only that our bargaining power will increase, but also that we will almost certainly be subjected to more demands and pressures- not only from the Third World but also from other countries which are concerned to find solutions to such questions.
These issues are individually important, many of them vitally so, and they are even more important in their collective, cumulative impact. They are important in the short run and going to be even more so in the longer run. They are important in terms of the substantive matters they raise and they are important politically. In one way or another they will affect our relationships with most other countries- the 120 or so states which now constitute the Third World, as well as the great powers.
For at least the next decade, we will still be a sparsely-populated and richly endowed country in a world which is going to be increasingly overcrowded, short of food, energy and other essentials, and seized of the importance of how the world ‘s resources are distributed and utilised. This is not an empty cliche. It points to the heart of Australia’s foreign policy problem over the coming years. We had better address ourselves to it because it will certainly address itself to us.
Those who think that it is a realistic approach to stand pat, to wait and see, to conduct business as usual, are seriously underestimating the dynamics of the situation. In many areas, the time for decision is rapidly approaching. I will give some specific examples.
First, the stage reached in the deliberations of the Law of the Sea Conference, and the declaration of a number of other states on the matter, means that Australia will soon have to make a decision on the question of a 200-mile economic zone. This concept, which has developed over the last decade, involves giving to coastal states jurisdiction over the living and non-living resources of the seas and seabed up to 200 miles from the coast. For Australia, with its enormously long coastline, it is a development of a unique and unprecedented order of magnitude. A decision to declare an economic zone will confront us with a series of vital decisions- in terms of developing a capacity to exploit what we have claimed; the kinds of agreement we will need to enter into with others concerning the zone; our responsibilities in terms of resource-sharing; and the problem of surveillance. But the matter is an urgent one, involving responsibilities both to the Australian people and to the community of nations. The Government is giving it the most careful consideration. The Law of the Sea Conference has not yet concluded its work. Whether it succeeds or fails remains to be seen. There is at present a deep division of opinion between the developed states and the Third World states, particularly over the question of an international regime of the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. More generally, up to this point the Conference has been characterised by an absence of the political will and determination necessary to find an agreed solution. If this continues, it is likely that there will be a breakdown and this will have the most serious consequences. For our part, we are determined to do everything to avoid a breakdown. Our delegation has been playing a valuable and wellregarded mediatory role. Between now and the next session of the Conference in May we will do nothing which might prejudice its success.
Second, and in important ways connected to the Law of the Sea Conference, is the future of Antarctica and its resources. As the Australian Antarctic Territory comprises about threesevenths of the entire Antarctic land mass, this is a matter of great concern to us. It will be considered by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Powers at their next meeting in October of this year. The questions involved are enormously complex involving living and non-living resources, environmental issues, defence and strategic questions, access and sovereignty. It is an issue on which the defining of the national interest in realistic and enlightened terms- terms which recognise the potential importance of Antarctica to the whole of mankind- is a major and urgent task. It is now being undertaken.
Third, Australia is being asked to play a major role in the resettlement of refugees from the alltoomany areas of conflict and disruption around the world. Over the past year the Government has responded to many such situations, for instance in the Lebanon, Indo-China and Latin America. It is presently engaged in arranging reunion of East Timorese evacuees in Australia with their close relatives in East Timor and elsewhere. The Government recognises that refugeetype situations will continue to arise and that Australia, because of its size, resources, existing level of population and general capacity to resettle refugees will continue to be seen as a major refugee resettlement country. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) will be making a detailed statement on our refugee policy and proposed new mechanisms in the near future.
Fourth, in the field of international trade, the difficulties of developing countries, apart from most oil exporting nations, are serious and immediate. In the past twenty years, their share of world trade has declined sharply. They have faced a situation of erratic change in their terms of trade. Extreme fluctuations in their export earnings have added formidably to the task of planning economic growth. Against this background, and in the name of equity and justice, the developing countries are pressing hard for adjustments to the international economic system. Proposals for the restructuring of international commodity trade, for the improvement of market access arrangements, for the alleviation of international debts, and for the sharing of technologies are now on the table. Detailed negotiations are now proceeding within the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Conference on International Economic Co-operation (CIEC) and the Multilateral Trade Negotiations (MTNs). These negotiations are technical and complex for the layman but their outcome will ultimately affect us all. Acceptance of the proposals advanced by the Third World countries would have far reaching consequences for the growth and direction of world trade. Equally, rejection, or a failure to achieve any measure of consensus, would be a source of instability and conflict. An assessment of whether the proposals are realistic and appropriate both to the needs of the developing countries and the capacities of the developed countries is currently proceeding. Australia, as an important trading nation with a vital stake in the international trading system, has a legitimate and serious interest in the outcome. The Government fully recognises the need to be sensitive, positive and constructive as far as the difficulties of the developing countries are concerned. It also recognises the need to be realistic and pragmatic in terms of what the system will bear, and of our own interests, interpreted broadly, in political as well as economic terms. Finding the appropriate balance between these considerations is a problem we share with most other countries, and is not one that can be set aside.
Fifth, and perhaps most urgent of all, along with every other country, Australia has a vital interest in how nuclear power is developed and utilised in the near future. I say the near future, for it seems clear that time is of the essence in this matter. Apart from the interest it shares with the rest of mankind, Australia has a particular interest and responsibility because it controls a sizeable part of the world ‘s resources of uranium. The decision regarding the export of these resources will not be made in advance of the final Ranger Inquiry report. But the Government would be remiss if it did not address itself to he general questions of nuclear development and safeguards in the meantime, for these are vital matters in any event.
The Government regards it as imperative that peaceful nuclear energy development takes place- and it seems inevitable that it will take place- under an effective international regime. We attach the greatest importance to the NonProliferation Treaty and will abide strictly by its provisions. We attach the greatest importance to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime, reducing distinctions between nuclear have’s’ and ‘have not’s’, and between developed and developing countries. We believe that adherence to the Treaty needs to be made more attractive to non-nuclear states, by balancing new and tightened safeguards with rational incentives for the self-denial of a weapons option.
It is clear that other countries will continue to rely to an increasing extent on nuclear generated electric power for their energy requirements. This trend to a greater reliance on nuclear energy abroad will occur whether or not Australia becomes a large-scale exporter of uranium. At the same time, the maintenance and improvement on an effective international nuclear safeguards regime will continue. Australia’s contribution to ensure effective international nuclear safeguards must surely be much greater if we accept positively the responsibility which we have to the international community as a major world supplier of uranium. While it awaits the final report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Government has conducted a most thorough preliminary investigation on the whole question of nuclear safeguards, both as they apply in Australia itself and overseas. If Australia does become a major exporter of uranium, she will do so with a comprehensive and stringent national policy on the safeguards to apply to her exports.
We recognise fully the nexus between the prospects of ‘horizontal non-proliferation’- the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries- and the prospects of ‘vertical non-proliferation’- the placing of curbs on existing nuclear arsenals. There is an inescapable connection between the two. The outcome of the SALT negotiations later this year will go far to determine not only the future balance between the United States and the Soviet Union, but also the propects. of non-proliferation for the rest of this century. We take hope from the fact that President Carter clearly recognises this and the imperative need for the super powers to reach agreement on stabilising, and ultimately reducing, their nuclear armaments.
I have said something about these five issuesand I could easily have extended the list with references to food, the control of conventional arms sales, and many others- because they make it clear that as far as Australia is concerned decisions on many of the global problems are not ones that can be postponed to an indefinite future. They will have to made in this decade if they are not simply to be made by events. Even if they are made successfully, there will be others to follow them. The population of the world cannot double in thirty years without producing problems of unprecedented complexity and dimensions.
Apart from their specific content they are bound to raise general questions about the way we conduct our foreign relations.
We shall have to give increasing attention to the question of ensuring adequate access to international deliberations in a world increasingly characterised by a system of groups and the organisation of international negotiations in terms of group representation. I refer, of course, to such entities as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, of which we are a member, and the Group of 77, the Nonaligned Movement, and the Eastern European Countries’ Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. It is essential that Australia should not be left in the interstices between these groups. We cannot do this by claiming to be what we are not, in order to gain membership where we do not belong.
It will involve patiently pressing our case for representation in new forums. It will involve strengthening our bilateral relations with countries in all groups and it will involve ensuring that we make full and energetic use of those forums to which we do have access.
In this last respect I want to make special reference to the Commonwealth and the United Nations. Not too long ago the Commonwealth was a centre-piece in Australia’s foreign policy. In recent years it has been given somewhat less prominence, partly because our relationships have become more diverse, but partly also because, historically, the Australian approach to the Commonwealth was largely a function of the importance attached to our connection with Britain but as her interest east of Suez declined and her commitment to Europe increased, it was inevitable that Australia’s attitude towards the Commonwealth should be affected.
But the time is ripe for a reassessment of its significance for our foreign policy. After all, a North-South dialogue has been going on in the framework of the Commonwealth for a long time however novel it is elsewhere. The Commonwealth is an old multi-racial forum and the accumulated experience of its members is great. It is an international organisation which is not overshadowed by the presence of great powers. And lastly, there are many other Commonwealth members in regions adjacent to us- in South East Asia and the South Pacific.
For all these very sound reasons the Government believes that Australia should attend more actively to the possibility of its Commonwealth role- both globally and regionally. That is why the Prime Minister has invited a number of Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries in the Pacific for talks prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to be held in London in June. These will supplement the talks which the Prime Minister and I have had and will have with the Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Malaysia against the same background. The Prime Minister will attend the London Conference with the positive approach indicated by these preparatory steps.
The importance of the United Nations derive from its comprehensiveness. It is the only inter national meeting place at which virtually al countries are represented. Despite its imperfec tions- and, from different points of view, al members acknowledge that these exist- this ensures its indispensibility. The growth and change of the United Nations over the years have reflected- for better and for worse- the growth and change which have occurred in the world around it. Australia was one of the 51 founding members. There are now 147 members. In the United Nations our electoral grouping is with the so-called WEOG- the West European and Others Group. We also have a pattern of consultation with the ‘ASEAN plus’ group. And beyond that the United Nations provides our only means of constant and ready contact with close to half the countries of the world. In terms of the need for access, therefore, the United Nations is of great benefit to us. It is important that we do what we can to maintain its authority and effectiveness.
We will also have to give increasing attention to ensuring coherence and coordination in our policy. The days when foreign policy was something relatively self-contained are over. Thi distinctions between domestic and foreign, econ omic and political, are becoming increasingly blurred. We will have to devise more flexible am integrated methods of decision-making i’ traditional boundaries and conventional jurisdic tions are not to lead to overlapping, inconsistencies and missed opportunities.
It is not only a matter of problems. Australia i also presented with opportunities by many o’ these changes, for they enhance the importance of what we possess. How we respond to these opportunities will determine not only how securely and comfortably we will live in a chang ing world, but also what kind of a country Australia will become. The goals of our foreign policy in this changing world are ambitious ones. Their pursuit will take patience and persistence and require the skilful use of our nation’s resources.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
– Prior to the interruption of he debate the Committee of the Whole was leliberating on the second portion of the first term of the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee, relating to the incorporation n Hansard of unread matter. The second recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee states:
That the Government and Opposition adopt the following as guidelines to apply normally and wherever practical when leave to incorporate written material is sought by a Senator-
the material should previously have been shown to the Minister or to the Senator leading for the Opposition, as applicable;
at the time of the actual request a copy of the material should be made available to the Minister or to the Senator leading for the Opposition; and
material proposed to be incorporated should be submitted in printed or typewritten form.
I think it was commonly conceded during the course of the Committee’s deliberations this afternoon that we would deal seriatum with the 3 recommendations in item 1. I note that all told :here are 9 recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee to be dealt with, and I believe t is necessary that we deal with them with some expedition. Therefore I will not repeat the points made before dinner, except by way of a sumnary. So, let me summarise the remarks I made hen: The guidelines that the Standing Orders Committee has proposed were drawn up by way d” a commonsense consensus to achieve a better handling of the circumstances in which documents are sought to be incorporated in Hansard. The guidelines were produced in an endeavour o overcome suspicion by senators about documents which might be sought to be incorporated tom time to time and in a genuine endeavour to assist in having documents incorporated in Iansard rather than in having them excluded.
The point I make is that there is always a possibility, if not a temptation, that the Standing Orders will be side-stepped by a senator seeking o have certain documents incorporated in Hansard. For instance, if I were to stand up and :ay that Senator Smith, to use a neutral name, was a vile contemptible cur, I would automati:ally be pulled up under the standing order which says that no one shall make derogatory remarks about a member of this Parliament or of any other Parliament. From recollection, that is standing order 418. But, if I seek to have included in Hansard a document which says that Senator Smith is a vile contemptible cur and the incorporation is agreed to by honourable senators on the voices, then that is a circumvention of standing Orders.
– It is an offence against Standing Orders.
-As Senator Sir Magnus Cormack says and as the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders suggested, it would be an offence against the Standing Orders. It is to cover that sort of thing that we have put forward these proposals in this recommendation. The proposal is merely a guideline; it is not a standing order. It still will enable any honourable senator to object to a document being incorporated in Hansard. But it assists an honourable senator who wants to have a document incorporated in Hansard to say that he has shown the document to the Minister at the table or, in the case of a Government senator, to the Opposition, and that to date no one has offered any objection to that document being incorporated in Hansard. Therefore, if any other honourable senator had any objection to its incorporation, surely he would have to state his reasons. Frankly, I think that this proposal is purely and simply a matter of common sense. I cannot see anything wrong with it. It is designed purely for the purpose of assisting honourable senators to incorporate documents in Hansard. Therefore I support the Committee’s recommendation.
– We are discussing amendments to the Standing Orders. Perhaps we should be discussing also the incident we witnessed a while ago when the Acting Deputy President (Senator Wood) actually put the Senate into limbo between the President’s chair and the Chairman’s chair. Possibly the Senate was not in operation for those few seconds. However, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I may inadvertently have stated that I was under the impression that the matter before the chamber in fact related to an amendment to the Standing Orders. That was not my intention. My intention was in fact to express concern that a precedent might well be established by a decision of this chamber to accept these recommendations relating to guidelines which we are now considering. In the short time that I have been a member of this chamber it has often happened in this place, although it is not provided for in the Standing Orders, that when certain events have occurred honourable senators have referred to precedents that have been created and the Senate has made a decision on a precedent. That could cover very many issues.
I am concerned now that if the proposed guidelines are agreed to by this chamber they may well be referred to in times to come as a precedent which has been agreed to by the Senate. These guidelines are set out in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of recommendation (2) of Item 1 of the recommendations made to this chamber by the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders. I just wanted to put the record straight and to indicate that even though I perhaps inadvertently gave the impression that this represents an amendment to the Standing Orders, I did not mean to do so. I am well aware that, as Senator Chaney hastily pointed out, this represents merely a recommendation that lays down some guidelines. I reaffirm my earlier statement to the effect that I am opposed to these guidelines.
– I am not sufficiently disabled to need the assistance that Senator Douglas McClelland was offering to the unfortunates of this chamber. Therefore, I disagree with him on this aspect. As I said earlier, it means nothing, but if there is some gentleman’s agreement on this matter and as a vote against the proposal will not be recorded because I do not think a division will be called, I just want it to be known that I am not a party to this gentleman’s agreement. At any time that I desire to have something incorporated in Hansard I shall seek leave to do so, regardless of whether the Government has previously seen a copy of it. It is then for this chamber to decide whether it will permit the incorporation of the document. At any time that an honourable senator from either side of the chamber seeks to have something incorporated in Hansard I shall make a decision about that incorporation, regardless of whether copies of the document have been supplied beforehand.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner Senator Chaney was replying to comments made by Senator Cavanagh but he failed to make any mention of paragraph (c) of recommendation (2) of Item 1, which states: material proposed to be incorporated should be submitted in printed or typewritten form.
I cannot understand why this has been included in the recommendations. As Senator Cavanagh mentioned, we often receive letters that we would like to have incorporated in Hansard, whether during the adjournment debate or during the debate on a Bill. These letters would have to be typewritten or printed, made available to the Minister in charge of the House or to the Leader of the Opposition, and then any honourable senator, Government or Opposition, could oppose the incorporation even though the Minister may have agreed to the incorporation of the letters. I should like Senator Chaney to explain why material- it could be letters written by citizens of any State to an honourable senator on a particular issue- could not be incorporated in its original form and not typewritten or printed. Paragraph (a) of recommendation (2) contains ample provision for a Minister to consider a document and, if he wants, to oppose its being incorporated in Hansard. I should like Senator Chaney to explain why it is necessary to include paragraph (c) of recommendation (2) of Item 1 in the recommendations.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8. 16)- Although Senator Donald Cameron invited Senator Chaney to make some observations on this matter, before Senator Chaney replies I thought perhaps Senator Cameron would forgive me if I intruded. The story is quite simple. I put this suppositious case to you, Mr Chairman, in reply to Senator Cameron. Suppose in a few years, if I am still alive, I want to write a letter to Senator Cameron complaining about something or other and he wishes to have it incorporated in Hansard. I make the simple statement that it would baffle the best brains of the Hansard staff to make head or tail of my letter. I make that partly as a facetious and partly as a true statement. The facts are that a great number of letters that are written in supposedly plain handwriting are very difficult for the Hansard people to discern quite clearly. Hansard is supposed to be an accurate record of the business carried out in this chamber. The proceedings are transcribed and printed in Hansard. The Hansard staff are up against the pressure of time, which I hope I made clear to honourable senators earlier. Surely it is a simple operation for an honourable senator whose intention it is to seek leave to have a letter incorporated in Hansard to have a fair copy made in transcription which can be attached to the letter and then incorporated in Hansard. That is the first point.
The second point, of course, is that it is not possible to transcribe a holograph, that is, an actual reproduction of the letter, in handwriting into the Hansard. So it is with these things in mind that the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders suggested that in order to help Hansard to provide a true and accurate record of the letter, honourable senators who seek leave to incorporate into Hansard a handwritten letter which is very difficult to discern should- and at the same time oblige the rest of the honourable senators who may want to examine the letter before it is incorporated- produce a typescript of the letter. We have typist pools in this Parliament where the letters could be reproduced on a typewriter. The reproduction could then simply be attached to the letter and, on leave being obtained, it could be incorporated in Hansard. This would aid in the speeding up of the daily production of Hansard, which honourable senators so much desire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Recommendation (3) of Item 1 agreed to.
Item 2- Reading of speeches.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) proposed:
That the item be noted.
– We move on to our next momentous decision in this series of debates concerning the Standing Orders. I move:
I draw the attention of the Committee firstly to the Committee’s report. As a member of that Committee I listened to the various points of view that were put. Obviously, the Committee was divided as to whether this standing order should remain or be deleted. In the third paragraph of item 2 of the report the Committee stated:
To assist further consideration of Standing Order 406, the Committee suggests that the Senate may wish to debate the matter so that the feeling of the Senate may be expressed.
I think it is important that the feeling of the Committee be expressed because standing order 406 has been a contentious one for many years. I believe it is important that tonight if we possibly can we should get a decision about it.
We all know that it was once not permitted in the House of Representatives for honourable members to read their speeches. But the House of Representatives on one of those rare occasions when it showed its capacity over the Senate, deleted that standing order because it knew that that was the only sensible thing to do. We have abided by that standing order, yet we know that every day in this chamber the rule is broken. Ministers and office holders are permitted to stand and read speeches verbatim. They are never questioned and yet they are in direct breach of the standing order which states:
No Senator shall read his speech.
Yet we do it every day. We get ourselves into this ridiculous bind where people are challenged on both sides of the chamber because they are alleged to be reading their speeches. Almost invariably the President or Chairman has to resort to the argument that the senator is referring to copious notes. We know that this is a farce. Why should we go on living this farce? Apparently there are two principal arguments against this practice. Firstly, there is the alleged cut and thrust of debate to which Erskine May refers in his definitive work. I do not know whether Erskine May was ever a parliamentarian or what right he had to exercise a judgment as to how parliamentarians ought to perform. I do not see that the Parliament is a place of entertainment either for ourselves or for people outside the Parliament. The manner in which we conduct debates as individuals is purely a matter for the individual senator or member of the House of Representatives. If he is the sort of speaker who is able to speak at length fluently and who has the necessary discipline to make a speech in that style that surely is an attribute which I personally envy. Some people can do that on almost any subject but there are others amongst us for whom this is a liability.
Honourable senators, as elected representatives of the people, are entitled to express their points of view in the Senate in the manner that they see fit. I do not imagine that the electorate outside will judge any one of us on whether we speak off the cuff, whether we speak from copious notes or whether we read a speech which we prepared ourselves. That has to be a decision we make as individuals.
– You are speaking off the cuff yourself now.
– I have wanted to say this for a long time, that is why. I do not think that the electorate at large gives a hoot about reelecting any one of us when they look back and find out whether we read our speeches or whether we speak off the tops of our heads. It is a matter for the individual to make that judgment. I hope that no lawyers will wish to exercise that very advantage which most of them have over us poor non-legal people and, by cut and thrust, persuade somebody else that that is the right way to conduct a debate. I do not wish to dwell at length on this matter because it is perhaps not of great substance. It is a matter of defending the rights of the individual in the chamber.
The other reason given for not reading speeches is that somebody outside the Senate might prepare the speech. That is a very facile argument. After all, we know that the Ministers who read their speeches do not prepare them. They are prepared outside this place by public servants. I have read dozens of them. Every other Minister has also read them. They are not his words. Why should we differentiate? Why should that privilege be given to one member of this chamber and not another? When we ask questions we have them typed out and we read them. Who is to say that they have not been prepared outside the chamber? In many cases they probably have been. Is anybody pulled up? Of course they are not; we accept it. It is the individual senator’s right to make that judgment himself. I will not dwell on this matter much longer. I think everybody knows the argument but I shall re- state this fundamental principle. As elected members of this Parliament we should be allowed to make that decision ourselves. No honourable senator should be told the manner in which he shall deliver his point of view to the Parliament.
I should be just as opposed if a rule was brought in which stated that honourable senators must read their speeches. It would be as wrong and as discriminatory as the present standing order is. I hope that the Senate will take the opportunity of finally catching up with the House of Representatives after all these years. I am quite sure that if this amendment is carried the style of debate in this place will not alter. Those honourable senators who can speak in the manner in which so many can will continue to speak that way because it is their natural style. Those who wish to read their speeches or virtually read them, even if they do not admit that they are doing so, will continue to follow the same practice. I do not think it will make the slightest difference to the quality of debate in this place. It will make a great difference to human rights in this place.
– I am sorry that I must quarrel about this matter with my friend, if not colleague, Senator Wriedt. The problem is whether honourable senators believe that the standing order as it is presently written is interpreted by the Chair in a reasonable and sensible manner. We all know that it is a fiction. Ministers in fact do read their speeches. I do not know what the present practice is but I think it is fair to say that for 3 years when I was Leader of the Opposition I always read my speeches. That was for a particular reason. When one side or the other leads and puts down a definitive view one needs to be very careful that the words spoken are carefully chosen. But the matter goes a bit beyond that. How far do we start to take out of the Senate the individuality of the senator? I remember former Senator Condon Byrne once saying to me that it was once put to him that the business of the Senate ought to be conducted by correspondence. We could all stay at home and send our speeches off to Hansard. They would be duly incorporated and it would save us this enormous drag to Canberra putting up with this terrible climate. That would take from the Senate the whole idea of an atmosphere where, in spite of what some people may say, there is the cut and thrust of debate.
– Why should you be privileged?
-That comment is fair enough.
– Chiefs and Indians.
– It is not a case of chiefs and indians. Whether Senator Primmer likes it or not, his speeches are not gone over with a fine toothcomb by the Press gallery as are my speeches and speeches my his Leader, Senator Wriedt. That is why there has grown up a practice when you are speaking for one side of the Parliament -
– Gee whiz!
-It is all very well for honourable senators to interject. Those speeches are read because the speaker is putting down a point of view on behalf of a group and is not necessarily making a speech as an individual. I think that is part of the reason. When Senator Wriedt addresses the chamber, he does not speak as Senator Wriedt; he speaks on behalf of the Opposition. He puts down a view from the Opposition. As far as I am concerned, that privilege ought to be extended- and I think it is- to each Opposition speaker who leads in a debate. Does anyone believe, when Senator Keeffe speaks, that he is not speaking as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for and on behalf of his Party? A senator cannot wear 2 hats in this place when certain obligations are imposed on him or her. In this chamber there are a number of shadow ministers- I think that the Opposition still uses that term- including Senator Grimes and Senator Button. They do not speak as individuals; they speak in a collective capacity. They put down views on behalf of their colleagues. It is for that reason, I suspect, that the practice has grown up by which the leading speaker on this side or the other side is entitled to read his or her speech because that speech is not delivered as an individual but on behalf of the collective party.
– And for the sake of precision.
-You are quite right, senator, that is what I was attempting to say.
– Order! The Leader of the Government does not need any assistance.
– With respect, Mr Temporary Chairman, occasionally I do. I am always grateful when my old friend and colleague, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, provides assistance. There are some people who need more help than others. It is fair to say that the rule in relation to copious notes from which an honourable senator may quote has been interpreted very generously. Depending on the mood of the Chair- with respect, Mr Temporary Chairmanand the mood of the Senate, the interpretation has been more than generous.
– More than generous.
-Yes, more than generous. But if we are not very careful and if a rule is introduced that people may always read speeches, what will happen is that we will have all these interesting research officers, as they term themselves when they are really electorate assistants -
– You provide them.
-I do not provide them. The Remuneration Tribunal provides them.. They will be writing speeches for people to deliver here.
– Why should they not? What are you paying them for? Are not your speeches written for you?
-Whether Senator Bonner likes it or not, I do not deliver departmental speeches. I go through every speech and I must satisfy myself that it is appropriate.
– Why can we not do the same? Are we not intelligent enough?
-I am surprised that people wish to read speeches in this place other than when, as I said earlier, they are putting down a collective view and seek to do so, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack reminded us, with great precision. When one speaks as an individual why should one wish to read that speech. I have never heard Senator Cavanaghand he will not mind me using him as an example- put down a written speech.
– Because he does not make a good speech.
– But you make a very long speech. Perhaps that improves it.
– But you are critical of my speeches.
-Senator Douglas McClelland perhaps is lucky. He writes his speech in shorthand and we do not know whether he is reading from the shorthand notes.
But Senator Douglas McClelland does not need to read a speech. I have never seen Senator Georges read a speech. I have heard Senator Keeffe speak on many occasions using notes. He refers to this point and that and speaks from the heart. Why does he need a written speech? I believe that some speeches would be improved if they had been written but I will not name the honourable senators to whom I refer. I make the simple point that this proposal seeks to interfere with a practice which is of longstanding. The standing order has been interpreted sensibly by the Chair no matter who occupies it at any particular time. That standing order has always been interpreted with great common sense. I do not think anybody has ever been terribly upset about it. We know that occasionally the copious notes of an honourable senator may be a bit more ‘copious’ than copious. But that is accepted in the spirit of the exercise. Why get into a situation where all speeches can be read? Before very long we would reach the stage where, as I understand happens in other places, when a member of Parliament receives the call, an attendant rushes up, puts a lectern in front of him and out comes a prepared speech, a copy of which has been given to Hansard beforehand, and the member stands there and reads it. If that happened here, it would be terrible. We would become known as the ‘red reading room’. I would not want that to happen in this place.
– Why not, senator?
– Well, senator, do you read your speeches? Do you have any problems in that regard?
– That is not the point. There are probably some who do?
– How many senators have been disadvantaged by that standing order?
– Any number of senators.
– I challenge any honourable senator to say that he or she has suffered some disability in delivering a speech in this place because of the application of that standing order. I do not know of any honourable senator who has suffered in that way in the time that I have been here. That is not as long as Senator Wood, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack or Senator O ‘Byrne who is not present at the moment, have been senators.
– If we took that right away from some Ministers there would be many headaches.
-I do not think those long serving honourable senators whom I have mentioned have ever noticed any difficulty among their colleagues in making speeches in this place because of that standing order. I am not a conservative. I believe in change.
– Ha, ha!
-I am moving all the motions seeking to introduce new standing orders in this place. I am not resistant to change as long as it is change for improvement. In spite of what my friend, Senator Wriedt, said, I have yet to see any disadvantage in this place through the interpretation of the present standing order. I do not think that any honourable senator can claim that he or she has ever been disadvantaged by the present practice. Until that can be shown to me, I will oppose any change.
– I am most disappointed at the speech just delivered by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers).
– Are you reading this speech, senator?
-No, I am notfortunately or unfortunately; perhaps I could make a better speech if I were reading it. The Leader of the Government has not put forward a case that would satisfy me and perhaps would satisfy many of the Australian people who elect senators to this chamber. Unfortunately because of a set of circumstances- this could be related to education among other matters- many people who are elected to this chamber perhaps are unable to collate and put forward an argument that would satisfy the people. Because of the generosity of the Parliament, these members now have the help of research assistants. With that help, they would be able to put forward a sensible and rational argument on many of the matters which come before this Parliament.
I believe that there are people who need to be able to prepare their speeches before speaking in this chamber. I do not think there is anything wrong with preparing and delivering a written speech here. Such a practice would add to the quality of debates in the Parliament and would enhance the kinds of arguments which are put forward by those here as representing the views of the people who elected them. I see nothing wrong with that. I think that the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Government have no foundation whatsoever. I believe that senators should be allowed to read a speech if they feel so disposed. Many people can read a speech quite eloquently and put forward a point of” view that would sway not only the people they need to sway in the electorate but also the people in this chamber. I believe that if we confine debates to those who have had extra training in various aspects of speaking, to people such as many of my colleagues on my side of this chamber and many of my colleagues on the other side who have had training in Rostrum, Forum or whatever other organisation they choose to -
– You are not doing too badly yourself. This is a very good speech.
-Maybe I am not doing too badly. Unfortunately there are people who, because of circumstances beyond their control, are not able to put forward an argument without having it written and before them in a speech with which their research officers have helped them in regard to the collation of statistics that they need to put forward. Ministers in this chamber are allowed to read their speeches because they claim that their speeches sometimes contain statistics and there are certain aspects of their speeches that have to be collated properly; so they have to be put forward in this chamber in a proper manner. I see no difference between Ministers and back benchers who have to put forward a case in order to convince their colleagues in this chamber and the electorate at large. They have to convince them that the arguments that they are putting forward are the best and are in the interests of the people they represent. Why should Ministers have that kind of privilege over back benchers? It is wrong that they should have that kind of privilege over back benchers. Back benchers should have the same privilege. I believe that the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Government have no foundation whatsoever. I support the view that members of this chamber, like members of the other chamber, should have the right to read their speeches if they think they will be able to put better arguments forward by doing so.
– It is not often that my Leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), and I disagree on things; but tonight we disagree and I find myself in the happy situation that I have to support the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). Probably that will never happen again in this chamber. Standing order 406 was inserted in the Standing Orders for a very specific reason. If one wants to make -
– That is why you get so much of your stuff incorporated in Hansard. You cannot speak yourself.
– I will deal with Senator Bonner in a moment -
-Order! Senator Keeffe must be heard in silence.
-Senator Bonner put up a couple of arguments which I am prepared to slash down in a moment, but I want to deal with other more important things first. In the other place the speeches, generally speaking, are as dull as ditch water because everybody is allowed to read them. There is no fire or emotion in them. Often they are very logical, but that is all.
If we abolish standing order 406 the only people in this chamber whom we will satisfy will be the members of the National Country Party. I remember sitting here on the back benches with my former colleague Senator Poyser one night when a certain member of the Country Party, now long retired, came in with a very long written speech. We kept calling out ‘page one’, ‘page 2 ‘, ‘page 7 ‘ and so on; and then he got confused, read page 13 and immediately sat down. A number of National Country Party senators have always read their speeches from copious notes. The only member of the National Country Party who is sitting here tonight is not an offender because he is able to speak without copious notes; but honourable senators will recall that the other night the Minister for Science, Senator Webster, had 30 minutes in which to speak and he complained because eventually he had only about 10 minutes in which to make his speech. At that point of time he had no privileges; he was just another honourable senator speaking in a particular debate. He was not necessarily stating his Party’s policy. Therefore he had no privileges and had no right to be reading his speech. I think he would be the first to admit that he had no right to read it in those circumstances.
But, with all the liberties that we give and concessions that we make in respect of standing order 406, and all the things we do under it, if we abolish it this chamber will turn into a chamber of old men. We will all read our speeches. Chronology will not matter. People such as Senator Chaney and others who come here when they are young will sound like old men while they laboriously read their speeches. Why should we have that sort of thing? We ought to retain this rule so that we can use it if the situation is being exploited in any way.
I turn now to a couple of things that Senator Bonner said. He made a great plea for the abolition of this standing order so that all senators could read their speeches, saying that one of the problems was the lack of education.
– You are not reading that, are you?
– I had to read those three or four words because I noted them. I am allowed to speak from copious notes. With very great respect, I would say that, with the possible exception of members of the National Country Party, every honourable senator in this chamber had to battle his way through his Party executive and did not have the opportunity -
– Do you not think I had to do so?
– Does Senator Bonner read his speeches when he comes up for preselection, when other people decide whether he is to be a candidate? Senator Wood might do so. Does Senator Bonner do so or not? How on earth would he ever prove his sincerity of purpose if he came in with a prepared speech?
I have criticised people in this chamber before for making a prepared speech which was not written by them or by their research staff. Those speeches were written by people from outside this chamber. Those people wrote the words that the politicians mouthed in this chamber. One of the worst offenders in this regard is the Australian Mining Industry Council. Let us be truthful about this matter. The big lobbyists of private industry frequently write speeches for people on the government side of the chamber and Government senators come in here and read them. We have taken points of order against them before now and it has become very embarrassing for them when they have not been allowed to read in detail. Finally, what will happen if we get to the stage where we are all allowed to read our speeches? I agree with Senator Withers that if one is making a policy statement one has to be particularly careful and there is some justification for reading a prepared speech.
– Does it not matter if a back bencher is inaccurate?
– I have not read a speech here while I have been a member of the shadow ministry. I have read only from notes; I have never read a speech. I have not yet been shot down in flames. So, I am prepared to stand by what I am saying tonight. If we reach the stage where every honourable senator is allowed to come in here and to read his or her speech, the proceedings here will sound like a continuous funeral oration. I hope that we do not abolish standing order 406.
– Honourable senators who are arguing against the view that senators ought to be allowed to read their speeches should examine their motives for doing so. Is it because they feel they have an advantage in some way? Those who have argued the case against senators being able to read their speeches have been those honourable senators who are capable of speaking off the cuff. They have an advantage. Do they wish to retain that advantage, or do they wish to carry on the hypocrisy of saying that an honourable senator has no right to read a speech when they know full well that that person can get off the hook by using copious notes? People with copious notes have an advantage and they feel great. The reality of the situation is that we speak about many subjects. A person may be able to talk freely and clearly on a subject with which he or she feels emotionally bound up, or a subject in which he or she has been involved. But we have many subjects before us. All honourable senators get their research officers to look into the topics. If an honourable senator has the advantage of being able to talk off the cuff with the aid of a few notes supplied by his research officer he wants to hang onto that advantage. The greatest egotists and actors in the world are in this Parliament and, by heavens, they are going to hang onto that advantage for as long as they can.
Senator Withers mentioned that the individuality of the Senate would be taken away if honourable senators were able to read their speeches. I doubt it. I think individuality is being taken away from the Senate by retaining a standing order which gives an advantage to four or six honourable senators. On many occasions if honourable senators were allowed to read their speeches they could contribute much to the Senate. If honourable senators were able to use what we hypocritically call copious notes they would be able to contribute far more than they do now. I am losing the point. I should have copious notes.
– You are doing much better without notes.
-I thank Senator Missen very much for saying that but I ask: How would I react when it comes to a Bill on which I feel I should be speaking, to which I feel I should be contributing? I can do my research. I can write out a speech. We know whether a person is talking from his heart, even if he is reading his notes. But under Standing Orders I cannot have my notes with me so I have to sit mum in case some smart alec gets up and says: ‘He is reading all his speech ‘. An advantage goes with good eyesight.
A few honourable senators have good eyesight. They can read from very small notes and they stand and read their speeches. Honourable senators talk about discrimination. Are they not discriminating against a person who does not have good eyesight, or against a person who is incapable of talking off the cuff, I hope that honourable senators will reconsider their whole attitude towards this standing order and examine their motives in taking the attitude they are taking.
– I think that is one of the best speeches I have heard from Senator Mcintosh. It was delivered practically without notes and said with a great deal of feeling. In fact, the honourable senator did what we are supposed to be doing in this chamber, namely, debating, arguing and trying to persuade. He was not merely coming forward and reading not copious notes but the full speech. I defy practically anybody to make a good speech by just reading it. That is something which nobody can do. If Senator Bonner who is trying to interject will listen for a moment I would appreciate it. I was interested to learn that many honourable senators are taking fast reading courses. I think Senator Bonner is one of those honourable senators. I suspect that we will be in for a very nasty shock when we find honourable senators reading their fast reading speeches. I suppose we will have many more words in a minute but not much feeling and not much interplay between honourable senators.
I am entirely against the idea of reading a speech. I think that would be a false pretence. It would be disillusioning for those who come to this chamber knowing that we could read our speeches. When we go out on the hustings why should we not speak to the people?
– Why should we not read our speeches?
– I shall even speak to Senator Bonner if he will listen. The fact is that there is a distinction between this chamber and the House of Representatives. A couple of years ago I went over and listened to a number of debates in the House of Representatives. I do not make a practice of that but I did so on this occasion. The debate was on the Family Law Bill. We had a second reading debate on that Bill here. We debated against each other and argued the point. But I discovered that in the House of Representatives honourable members came in one after another, made a speech and went out. They did not reply to each other. They did not listen to each other. It was not a debate. It was a matter of a few soul-searching statements and that is all it was.
I have another example of that. When the Family Law Bill was being debated in the other chamber I was driving my car in Melbourne. I heard one of the speakers who will be nameless and who was not on our side of politics, making a speech. I though it was very good material. I said to myself: ‘I really like that. That is good. That is interesting’, lt was the last page of my speech in the second reading debate, word for word. That is all it was. That is marvellous. We can copy someone’s speech and use it over and over again. That is such an economy of ideas. But 1 liked the speech. I hope that we do not come to the situation where we try to exercise that type of socalled debate.
– Self praise is no recommendation.
– It is not self praise. The speech was read better than I delivered it in the first place. But that does not matter. We should not have the situation where people can read their speeches. It is to the eternal disgrace of the House of Representatives that it does not have this standing order. May we have it for the rest of time.
– I say from the start that no one has ever seen fit to repeat any of my speeches therefore I have had no reason to praise anyone else’s speech because it was my composition. Senator Wriedt surprised me tonight. He is a member of the Senate Standing Orders Committee which considered this matter. It brought down a report recommending that we have a debate in order to get the feeling of honourable senators which could be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. It, in the quietness of the smaller group, in its own room could consider the consensus and then decide whether we should do something about this standing order. It could well be that the Committee having heard the debate would decide to abolish the standing order, or to continue it, or to make some modification to it. But Senator Wriedt same out with a bold move today. Apparently he does not want to rely on the Committee. He wants the Senate to decide to abolish the standing order. Let us question why we should alter a standing order. A standing order or a rule which is in operation is altered when it is creating some mischief and when some remedial action is necessary. No one has demonstrated that there is some mischief, some impropriety or some hardship caused by this rule.
– Read some of your speeches.
– I do not read speeches but I often think I should. I never sit down but that I remember something I should have said. Senator Wriedt went out of his way to say that he is incompetent to make a speech off the cuff and then he demonstrated that he was not.
– I did not say that.
– Order! I do not think Senator Wriedt said he was incompetent to make a speech.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I raise a point of order. I think Senator Wriedt ‘s speech was very competent and relevant to the point under discussion.
– There is no substance in that point of order.
- Senator Bonner not only has the inability to make a speech but also he has the inability to listen intelligently to a speech. I said that Senator Wriedt set out to show an incompetence which he demonstrated he did not possess. On many occasions in the Senate, because of the rule against the reading of speeches, we have developed politicians to a stage which they would never have reached by the reading of speeches.
– Knock it off.
– I think Senator Bonner read one speech to which no one objected and that was when he introduced the Aborigines and Islanders (Admissibility of Confessions) Bill. The speech would have done justice to any Queens Counsel in Australia who knows all the law. But anyone reading the speech knew that it was not Senator Bonner’s speech. Senator Mcintosh found the solution. He said that we to not need written speeches when we are speaking from the heart, when we know our subject and when we have an interest in that subject. But I ask: Should we speak on everything in which we have no interest? Is it a part of our duty to do so? It ask the Committee to point out the occasions, despite the rigidity of the rule, when it has been abused, when someone has pulled up an honourable senator for reading his speech. It is an accepted custom for ministers to read their second reading speeches. It is important to do so because of the necessity to be accurate when stating government policy. The Leader of the Opposition has never been pulled up for reading a speech and no one reading his maiden speech has ever been pulled up. To my knowledge no one else has ever been stopped from reading a speech until he has got down to gutter snipe tactics of abusing someone and has made someone irate.
I well recall that the best speeches made in this chamber at that period were made by an individual who did not have a brain in his head or the ability to utter a syllable of his own making. One hundred copies of his speeches were circulated to his constituents who thought that he was the brains of the Senate. It was only because he said that he was using copious notes that I asked that he table his notes in order to prove that he was defying the Chair. I then read the copious notes as my contribution to the same debate that night and in Hansard the next day appeared 2 identical speeches, both from the copious notes, and there was not a word out of place. The other night a Minister was going into the long history of the Antarctic, using scientific terms. His time was taken up with points of order and when Senator Chaney approached and asked him if he wished an extension of time the Minister said that he did not want an extension of time because he was not capable of speaking without notes. There we had paraded one of the high scientific minds in Australia using scientific phraseology in speeches which were to be circulated throughout Victoria. However, he was cut in the bud. He did not want the extension of time offered by Senator Chaney in order to ventilate his knowledge because he was not capable of making his speech without notes.
– We do not know whom you are talking about.
– It would be very unfair on this occasion without a written speech to name the honourable senator because I may use indelicate words which are out of order. We have developed a system in this chamber which has made it perhaps the best debating chamber in Australia, and it is recognised as such. There was a more fiery debating chamber in another place until that House introduced the power to read speeches. The other House has destroyed the capabilities of good debaters and in debates there members hear a series of read speeches which may have been prepared by a research officer in the Parliamentary Library. The research officers in the Parliamentary Library are almost fully employed writing speeches for members of Parliament to read in the House. There are occasions when political parties want so many speeches and say to the research officer: This is the type of speech we want on this Bill’. That attitude has lead to debates in the House which are not a free exchange of opinion but are comprised simply of material that the research officers have been directed to write. The members read it. It looks good in Hansard and they get some publicity as a result. Everyone is clamouring for it, but they have destroyed the purpose of debate.
No one enters this Parliament incompetent to make a speech. All members and senators have risen to endorsement through struggle in their political movements. They are capable of making speeches. We get members and senators who adopt the attitude that they are unable to make a good speech unless it is written or could make a better speech if it is written. Senator Wriedt ‘s speech tonight was good and his speech in the Address-in-Reply debate was one of the best I have heard Senator Wriedt make and it was not read. It is not a question of getting over Senator Wriedt ‘s humility; it is a question of making Senator Wriedt not read his speeches. He has the capability.
– You made some great second reading speeches.
– In second reading speeches it is a case of perfection of wording for the purpose of expressing government policy and no one has objected to it. No one is opposed to it.
– Is not a back bencher also entitled to be precise?
– It is not a second reading speech.
– In any speech?
-He is entitled to be precise but I think he is capable of being precise without having a prepared speech. He has that capability. A second reading speech occurs at the introduction of a Bill and is rarely part of a debate. It may form the basis of the debate that follows but the introduction of the Bill -
– The reply by the Minister is not read.
-I do not agree with reading the reply. Even with these limitations one cannot point to occasions when this rule has been enforced against those who repeatedly read speeches unless they have got down to skulduggery and abused someone who has become irate and has called the speaker to order. So the protection is there, but let us not go altering rules unless we can prove that there is some abuse of the rule and a need for change. I support the suggestion that after the discussion tonight the Standing Orders Committee should consider the viewpoints raised- the viewpoints put forward by Senator Wriedt, Senator Mcintosh and Senator Bonner- and see whether there should be any alteration to accommodate those viewpoints. We should let the present rule continue with such modifications as the Standing Orders Committee thinks appropriate.
– With my colleague, the illustrious Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Keeffe, I on occasions have raised points of order because senators have been reading their speeches. I have not done it in a carping fashion. Senator Keeffe has explained what we are getting at. The stilted written statistical speeches- I exempt those speeches with statistical content made by Ministersdo not reflect the personality of the speaker delivering them. That is the first problem we have to get over. If we take that to its logical conclusion, and I have a lot of respect for what Senator Bonner and Senator Mcintosh said, we will cull speakers from every debate and will probably be limited in any debate to four or five specialists in that subject. I do not know whether that would be to the detriment of the Senate; I think endless repetition can destroy interest in a subject. I have heard Senator Bonner at committee hearings tie up in knots certain departmental witnesses because he has had a varied career- he has been a bridge carpenter as well as other things- and there are at least 5 subjects on which he can handle himself very effectively. In the same vein, if I get outside the responsibilities of four of five departments I am struggling for words.
We all remember the epic speech on industrial relations which Senator Mcintosh made on one occasion and I know that it would not be Senator Mcintosh’s speech in respect of some other subject if he had had recourse to information supplied by a research officer. Let me illustrate it in this way. A good friend of Senator McClelland and myself had an illustrious career in football. His name is ‘Tiger’ Black. He became an international broadcaster. To illustrate how one can become synthetic, early in his career he was given a script to use and when a player dropped a vital pass- I suppose in another code it would be said he missed a vital mark- he had to say: He has butter fingers’. Is there any other code of sport where it is said that a man has butter fingers? If second slip dropped a catch would Chappell say that he had butter fingers? Would an Australian Broadcasting Commission commentator talk like that? We know that it would not happen. I know the real Senator Bonner and I know the real Senator from the Clydeside, Senator Mcintosh. It would not be either of them really speaking if they read from a printed script and that is what they were trying to get across to us. It makes for a more virile senator and a more viable Senate if senators talk naturally. That is the purpose of this standing order. It means that if a senator believes in something his passions and feelings will overcome his inarticulation That has happened many times. It will happen again. I look across the chamber and see many honourable senators who, when we wool them up a little, rise in their places and without notes give us curry. That has happened with honourable senators on this side of the chamber also. That is the spirit of the rule, as I see it.
– The Senate has many virtues but one of the greatest virtues lies in the fact that it is a debating chamber. Quite frankly I feel that if we get away from that and start reading our speeches the Senate will not remain a debating chamber; it will become a monotonous chamber. I do not object to the concept- I support it- that Ministers should be entitled to read their second reading speeches, as should the Leader of the Opposition and members of the Opposition shadow Ministry if there is a need to do so. There I draw the line entirely. There are 2 groups of front benchers in this chamber and I can see that the members of both those groups should be entitled, if necessary and if they are so inclined, to read their speeches. Beyond that, no. In another place, as was mentioned tonight by Senator Cavanagh, since the introduction of the concession which enables members to read speeches the colour has gone out of that chamber. This debate tonight, I think, provides a good example of what honourable senators can do when they rise and speak on the subject before the Chair and do not read prepared speeches in monotones.
One can have copious notes. A discretion is vested in the Chair in relation to the use of copious notes. Sometimes the notes are more copious than at other times and sometimes the word copious’ could be spelled with a capital C. I see a danger in allowing the reading of speeches in this chamber. The research officers are now doing very much work and are of great assistance to senators and members of Parliament in the providing of facts, figures and background information. There is a danger that if we allow senators to read their speeches, as time goes by the speech of the research officer will be read here by the honourable senator rather than that senator making his or her own speech. This is entirely wrong and it would kill what I think is one of the great aspects of this chamber, which is a debating chamber. I would hate to see the situation arise in which we are allowed to read our speeches. It is interesting to note that even though honourable senators are allowed to refer to copious notes, as times goes on more and more senators are pulling out their reading glasses these days when they make their speeches than was the case in the past. I would hate to see honourable senators continually wearing their glasses in this chamber all the time because they are reading their speeches.
I have said that it is unfortunate that some honourable senators from both sides of this chamber have to some extent adopted the practice of reading their speeches. Points of order have been taken by some honourable senators and overall there has not been what I consider to be fair play on this matter. I say that quite impartially. It has been unfair of certain senators to take objection or exception to another honourable senator reading his or her speech. I hope that this place will remain as it has been in the past, that is, that the opportunity to use copious notes will remain but that we will never lose the opportunity to stand up and debate the issue before us rather than read a speech prepared weeks before and read it in a dull monotonous voice as happens in some chambers. I would hate to see this happen in the Senate chamber. I strongly support the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee that we support what has happened in the past, that is, that this will be a debating chamber and we will not be able to read our speeches, but with discretion of the Chair will be able to make use of copious notes.
-This is a very important question for the Senate. I think that the standing of this chamber in the minds of its members and the people generally depends on it. I really wonder when it is suggested that people should come into the Parliament and read their speeches. I remember campaigning in the days before the television took over. People campaigned in the streets, in the outback, in halls and everywhere else in order to achieve entry to the Parliament. I do not know what the present parliamentarians who are arguing for the reading of speeches in Parliament would have done in those days. Can honourable senators imagine a candidate reading his speech to a meeting of electors when he was trying to enter Parliament? What chance would he have of entering Parliament if he carried on a campaign like that.
– I agree with you.
– Yes. They would have been out and people would have said: ‘Fancy sending a person like that to Parliament’. Would prospective parliamentarians read their speeches at the plebiscite in front of the electors?
– Of course they would not. Senator Bonner interjected and said ‘Yes’. I can imagine where he would have got if he had read his speech when he stood for Parliament.
– I did.
– If that is the case, it is amazing. If the average person standing before a preselection committee read his speech he would finish up on the other side of the lectern. We hear this silly talk about people being able to speak publicly only if they have a high education, if they are academics, and so on. Senator Cavanagh has just finished speaking. I want to say this and I have said it before: He has been a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, of which I am the chairman, for many years. I have found him to be a very capable person. Generally speaking the arguments that he puts forward are presented very capably. I do not think Senator Cavanagh would ever say that he was a man of high education; yet because of his work, development, initiative and resource he is able to make an interesting and very capable speech. As Senator Mulvihill said, this is because he is fired with a vision and a desire to present his case. He does remarkably well under all circumstances. To suggest that a high education is necessary to make a speech is silly. I left school before I was 13 years of age.
– We can understand that.
– Certain people can be cheeky when they probably owe you an obligation. Let me say this: It is not necessary for a person to have a high education to make a speech. All that is needed is for the person to have sincerity, honesty and a capacity to shed nervousness so that that person can think while on his feet. There is no necessity for a high education. That is the simple way in which people can overcome these things.
It has been pointed out that Ministers read their second reading speeches when they present Bills to this chamber. I have never regarded those second reading speeches, as they are termed, as being real speeches. To me they are statements of fact relating to the legislation and are presented to the chamber for the purpose of debate. Therefore the presentation that the Minister makes in each of those cases is not the advancing of an argument as is the case when back bench senators make their speeches. It is a statement of fact made so that we as senators know what the Government of the day is presenting to us and so that we may make our contributions to the debate on the legislation.
– They are pretty uninteresting, too, aren’t they?
– As one who has heard the reading of speeches in the Parliament, I think that Senator Baume has touched upon a very important aspect of reading speeches. How many people really enjoy a speech that is read? As Senator Mulvihill said, such speeches are more or less colourless and have no life. What happens when a person reads a speech? Anybody who knows anything about speaking knows that that person has his head turned down towards what he is reading. As a consequence, there is not the same flow to the listeners and furthermore the reader of the speech does not face his audience, which is an important factor in the delivery of any address. I think it is disgusting to see people reading speeches at opening ceremonies. I refer to Prime Ministers, Ministers and other public men who go along to an opening ceremony and read a speech in front of the gathering. I cannot think of a more monotonous presentation at an opening ceremony. Surely to goodness, if a person is sufficiently interested in the subject of the opening ceremony he should make himself at least sufficiently conversant with it to enable him to make a reasonable speech without having to read his speech. I have always felt that the reading of a speech detracts from the delivery and as a consequence it is not a very interesting speech at all.
Someone has said: ‘Let us get into line with the House of Representatives’. Does that mean that we want to descend the ladder? It is well recognised that in the House of Representatives today many speeches are read. The standard of that House, in my view, has gone down considerably in recent years. I believe that there is nothing like the speeches that are delivered by people who mean what they say, who face their audience and without notes put their speeches forward with a very good delivery. That is the type of presentation that we as senators should be able to give. I feel that if we maintain the provision that speeches should not be read this chamber not only will maintain its present standard but also will always have a standard above that of another place. Relying on written speeches indicates very often a lack of initiative and resourcefulness on the part of the people concerned.
I think Senator Young mentioned that research officers seek out information and that they can prepare speeches which can be delivered by honourable senators. I have always believed that when a person states a case in this chamber it should be his view. The members of this chamber are sent here by the people of their State to present views on behalf of their party or as individuals in any particular case. To come in here and read a presentation of the thoughts of somebody else I think is an indication of a desire to reduce the standard of this chamber very considerably. Make no bones about it: Because research officers are being employed people are having speeches prepared by them. I think that this is a very downward trend. As senators and members of the Australian Parliament we should be out to lift this Parliament to the highest possible standard. I notice that Senator Bonner is still mumbling away to himself. He is carrying on a conversation.
I believe that it is our duty to come here and to present our thoughts so that we can put forward the best ideas possible in order to lift our Parliament to the highest possible standard. Let us keep the standard of this chamber as it is today. Do not let us be degraded to the lower position to which another House has descended over several years, with parliamentarians reading their speeches because they cannot think on their feet and present what they themselves really feel.
– I found that speech by Senator Wood very interesting. I remember that one night Senator Wood read his speech. He got around standing order 406 by reading from Hansard his own speech which he made 12 months previously.
– He would not do that.
-That is exactly what he did. Let me get to the point of what I want to say.
- Mr Temporary Chairman I raise a point of order. I want to say that Senator -
– Order! What is the point of order? Under which standing order is it taken?
– The point of order is that Senator Georges -
– Order! Senator Wood you have been in this place a long while and you know the rules. I ask you to state the standing order under which you are raising the point of order.
– The point of order is that -
-Order! There is no point of order. I call Senator Georges.
-I put it to honourable senators that fewer speeches ought to be read in this place. In fact the Senate has been proceeding to that point. This year we have accepted the proposition that second reading speeches, which are perhaps the only speeches that ought to be read in this place, should be incorporated in Hansard. In fact tonight an important statement was incorporated. The Senate is getting to the point where fewer speeches are read; not more. I would have thought -
– On which side are you?
– I am opposed to the removal of standing order 406. 1 am just making the point that we have been quickly proceeding to the point where fewer speeches, including second reading speeches and statements, are read than ever before. It would be foolish to reverse the trend. Someone came forth with the horrific idea that a shadow Minister should be allowed to read speeches in reply to second reading speeches made by Ministers. Nothing would be more divisive, in my mind, than to allow that.
My view is that if we are to change or remove standing order 406 we ought to change a few more rules. The time allocated to each speaker should be reduced to 15 minutes. If that is the case, we may be prepared to accept short, wellprepared and well-researched speeches. If the proposition is that we should read our speeches we also ought to limit the time allocated. Can honourable senators imagine the Whip in this place, if he has to meet a timetable, trying to encourage someone who has a well-prepared speech of some 25 pages to speak for only 10 minutes instead of for the full hour? I think that we do not properly understand the character of this place. It is quite different from what some people believe it to be. My view of this place- it ought to be the view of the electorate- is that it represents, shall we say, a meeting place of people who represent the people and who are similar to the people. What we debate in this place should be debated in simple terms that people can understand. If debates are carried on in simple terms, with some sort of cross-fire and interjection, people will be prepared to listen and in fact even to read Hansard.
I do not think we should be prepared to allow this House to become a highly technical House with prepared speeches being read. I refer not only to speeches prepared by those who support us in the Parliamentary Library and other places but also to speeches prepared by lobbyists- there are a considerable number of lobbyists- who endeavour to use parliamentarians in this place.
– Knock it off, George.
– I had no objection to the honourable senator reading his speech in support of his Bill on concessions by Aboriginals. I do not know the exact name of the legislation. I considered that speech to be a second reading speech properly explaining the Bill that the honourable senator was bringing in. One has no objection to such a speech, well researched and supported by legal opinion from outside the Parliament, being read. I am not objecting to that. I am objecting to the ordinary contributions of members of this place being prepared, supported and directed in such a way as to serve a particular interest outside this place. If we allowed this extension, one of the tendencies would be for speeches to be read more often than not. This House is half the size of the other place. It is a more intimate sort of chamber. For that reason I think it has been a better chamber. I believe that every member of this House, given certain notes upon which to build, can make a speech more effectively than if he stands up and reads a speech.
– I should like to speak briefly on this proposal. I have a little sympathy for the amendment put forward by Senator Wriedt, mainly on the basis that I think the existing rule tends to fall a little unevenly on senators. I have seen the point of order taken on new senators particularly, who perhaps have been a little more conscious of the newness of their surroundings, rather more often than I have seen it taken on more senior senators. I think that on occasions the standing order is used tactically simply because in the irritation of the moment it is thought to be a clever thing to do to throw the speaker off his stride. From that point of view, I think the standing order is counter-productive. On the other hand, and more substantially, I think that tonight’s debate demonstrates the value of not having speeches read. I should have thought that it was unusual to get so many senators in the chamber at this time of night. They are here partly because they think they understand the Standing Orders but partly because the debate is more interesting when people are making extempore contributions. I for one believe that the Senate would be a better chamber if the debates which generally occupy our time were conducted in the same spirit, with people responding to what has been said previously instead of making a set piece speech. I may lose my place here because I could not get the rest of my speech typed.
But I do wish to say that, on balance, having heard the discussion tonight and having listened to it with great interest, we should preserve the rule and continue to examine it. At least that will mean that at some time in the future when a motion for the removal of the standing order is before the Senate we will have one more interesting debate before I leave this place.
A number of statements have been made about the fact that there are exceptions to the standing order. Front benchers from both the Government and the Opposition sides do read speeches. I accept the analysis of that situation made by Senator Cavanagh. The contributions of Ministers are meant to state a position which is subsequently to be debated by the Senate. In the same way, those who lead for the Opposition put down a position which is to be taken up in debate by their colleagues. Although that represents a winking of the eye at the standing order, it is something which is acceptable in principle to me and is within the spirit of retaining this place as a debating chamber. I propose to oppose the amendment moved by Senator Wriedt. I think that this chamber does benefit from the free flow of debate which occasionally occurs when people choose to bring their minds to bear on what has been said previously, and I think it would be a great pity if” we lost that.
-The Senate is debating Item 2 of the second report of the Standing Orders Committee, to which Senator Wriedt has moved an amendment to leave out all words after ‘That’ and to insert words seeking the deletion of standing order 406. I support Senator Wreidt’s amendment because I think that standing order 406 is abused almost every day in this Senate. People get away with reading speeches under the cloak of using copious notes. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is not in the chamber at the present time, but when he was President the words ‘copious notes’ used to make him rise up out of his seat and his wig would nearly fall off. He was very hostile to the words ‘copious notes’ because he knew that they were just a cloak for people who were reading their speeches. I must admit that on some occasions I incurred the then President’s wrath when he sat me down and said that I was reading speeches. When I said that I was using copious notes he did not believe me, and perhaps he was right. I think that the same thing applies to many other senators who say that they are using copious notes when in fact they are reading their speeches. Many people in this Senate make good speeches which read well in Hansard, but if the President had the power to ask them to disregard their copious notes I doubt that they could put 6 words together. For that reason I support Senator Wriedt ‘s amendment that standing order 406 be deleted. All honourable senators will then be put on an equal basis and nobody will have an unfair advantage. But if we maintain standing order 406, 1 suggest that the person in the Chair ought to enforce it very rigidly so that nobody has an unfair advantage.
Senator Withers in his contribution tonight dealing with second reading speeches said, and I noted his words, that the words in a Minister’s second reading speech are very carefully chosen. I have attempted in this place to use in my speeches some of the words which were very carefully chosen by Senator Withers and I have been prevented from doing so by the President because he regarded those words as being unparliamentary. I should like to refer to a few of the very carefully chosen words which Senator Withers used as Leader of the Opposition when he was endeavouring to get the Whitlam Government out of office. Dealing with the Appropriation Bills and a motion to restore them to the notice paper, Senator Withers talked about the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76. I will quote some of the words he used, and these were very carefully chosen words, mind you.
– They were accurate too.
-That is debatable. The President did not think they were accurate when I used them against this Government, but he voted for them and supported Senator Withers when he used them against our Government. Some of the words that Senator Withers used are: ‘Continuing incompetence; evasion; deceit; duplicity.’ Those are the words that I objected to when Senator Withers used them and the President now objects to my using them against this Government. Senator Withers said that the contents of a Minister’s second reading speech are chosen very carefully and mean what they say, but when I try to use them and I mean it I am not allowed to do so. So on one side of this chamber people are allowed to do things because they have a prepared speech but a back bencher like myself who is trying to use the same words in a unprepared speech is ruled out of order, and I object to that.
Senator Withers also criticised attendants coming into the chamber and putting a lectern in front of certain speakers. I do not know whether he was having a go at his own leader, but when I first came to this place as a senator-elect I spent a lot of time looking around both chambers to see how the Parliament worked: I spent a fair bit of time in the senators’ gallery in the House of Representatives, and the only person I saw there using a lectern was the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Every time he got up to make a speech an attendant raced out with a lectern and put it in front of him. He is such a tall man that he could not bend down to read and the lectern was put up in front of him. No doubt Senator Withers was referring to his own leader having to use the lectern. All honourable senators will recall that during the 1972 election campaign when Mr McMahon was Prime Minister he used a device called an auto-cue which did not always work properly. The mechanism seemed to get out of kilter with what he was saying and he would say things that were not on the auto-cue or he would be a paragraph ahead or 2 paragraphs behind. So these devices do not always work for the people who have them prepared.
Some people can master the art of reading a speech and some people cannot and I am in the category of not being able to master the art. When I try to read a speech the person in the Chair always detects that I am reading it, and perhaps I should not be supporting Senator Wriedt. However, I do support him because I believe that if this amendment is carried and standing order 406 is deleted, everybody in this chamber will be on an equal footing. If a senator wishes to read a speech he will be allowed to do so but if he has the capability to stand up and make a speech without reading it, so much the better. The individual senator will be judged by the people who hear him every Wednesday or who read the Hansard report of the speech he has made. The electors are not fools. The people who take an interest in the proceedings of this Parliament will know whether the speech made by an honourable senator has been prepared for him by somebody else or whether, as Senator Mulvihill said, he is speaking from his heart. They will know also whether the speech is a true reflection of what the honourable senator believes or whether he is just mouthing the words of other people, such as is the case, as Senator Keeffe pointed out, with the prepared speeches of the minerals and mining lobby which have so often been brought in here and uttered by honourable senators opposite.
I was very pleased to hear Senator Cavanagh relate tonight the episode of when he called upon an honourable senator to table his copious notes. Senator Cavanagh got to his feet later and read those copious notes. When the speech appeared in Hansard the next day it was word perfect with the prepared speech that the other honourable senator had made. The only thing Senator Cavanagh did not relate to the chamber, and I think he will excuse me for relating it, is that the leader of the party to which that honourable senator belonged told Senator Cavanagh: ‘You destroyed that man; he will never make another speech’. I do not think he did. He was not game to stand up and read the words that somebody else had prepared for him. I hope that standing order 406 is deleted. As I said, it will put everybody on an equal footing and we will be judged, whether we are reading a speech or whether we are using our own words, in making a contribution to any debate in this chamber.
– I rise again to support the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) in his amendment. I believe that when this chamber becomes a chamber of academics and people trained in speaking, God help this nation because many people who aspire to come into this chamber may not have academic qualifications but may have a lot to contribute to our way of life. If they need to write down their contribution and to read it to this chamber then I say: Good on them. I believe they have every right to do this. They come to this chamber because a number of people in a State support them- not because they have academic qualifications, not because they are trained in public speaking, but because they are fair dinkum, decent Australians.
The people who support them believe that they have a right to come to this chamber and to represent them. If they unfortunately are not able mentally to collate information and to stand up and make a speech off the cuff, maybe they need to write it down and read it out to this chamber to put forward the point of view that they have derived from speaking with and consulting the people in the communities of their various States. I say that they have every right to do that. If we do anything in this chamber and in this Parliament to deprive them of the opportunity to put forward their points of view I believe this nation will be much poorer. Maybe there are people in this chamber tonight and maybe there will be people in this chamber tomorrow who, because of their academic education and because of their training in public speaking, are able to put forward a point of view and to sway people to their way of thinking because they have the gift of the gab, as it is commonly called. The gift of the gab does not always mean that a point of view advanced is in the best interests of this nation and its people. Maybe some honourable senators need to be able to sit down and write out notes to refresh their memories. If we do anything in this chamber to stifle that, I believe this nation will be poorer and the people of this nation will be poorer. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise in this debate to support the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) in the amendment he has moved. I think many speakers tonight have taken no notice of what Senator Wriedt said. What he virtually said is that if a standing order is abused it ought to be removed. In what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) said afterwards he really agreed with Senator Wriedt. He said: Of course, Ministers are allowed to read their second reading speeches’. But then there is further abuse of the standing order. As an honourable senator said later in the debate, there are exceptions. If honourable senators on the front bench on the other side of the chamber want to read their speeches because they are leading for the Government, because of technical aspects, because of the volume of the speech, or if a member of the Opposition is speaking for the first time on a Bill, nobody takes any notice if a speech is read.
I do not think that has been the case at all. I think that if any honourable senator were to look back through Hansard he will see that Senator Keeffe, who was so strong on this point tonight, Senator Gietzelt and Senator Webster have been pulled up within the past three or four weeks for reading their speeches. Yet they are on the front bench. I think Senator Young, referring to standing order 406, virtually admitted, even though he was opposing what Senator Wriedt had said, that this standing order was used as a disruptive tactic. As Senator Chaney said, it is often used to score a point off a new member. I think in looking at this that we have to bear in mind what Senator Wriedt has said, that is, if a standing order is being abused by Ministers on the one side and by front benchers on the other and if certain other exceptions are permitted, such as was the case tonight in respect of Senator Bonner, and it is not removed it should certainly be modified because, as it stands at the moment, honourable senators from either side of the chamber do not adhere to it.
– I should like to support the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) in this debate and to reject the arguments put up by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) and by Senator Sibraa. If we carry Senator Sibraa ‘s reasoning further I suppose we would not have any road traffic rules. As we know, they are all broken, but that does not mean that we should not have any road traffic rules. I suggest that if Senator Wriedt ‘s arguments are supported in this place we should also remove the word ‘debate’ from considerations in this chamber. I feel very strongly about this issue. One of the things that I greatly admire about the Senate is the crossfire within the chamber, which is so adequately called an intimate chamber.
One of the best examples I can give of that is to outline the events which occurred when I attended the other place last August during the delivery of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when he led for the Opposition in the debate on the Budget. It was rather an hilarious experience. Every word in that speech was read. About half the Opposition was represented in the Chamber. During the delivery of this speech, which went on for some 1 V4 hours or 1% hours, a very large percentage of the Opposition members fell asleep. I think the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) led the way and went over and shook the shadow Minister for Transport and woke him up. Throughout that VA hours the Opposition members had to be kept awake during their Leader’s speech. We do not want to see that occur in this place.
I strongly support the point made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. However, while Senator Cavanagh was speaking he did remind me of one point that has not been raised by Senator Wriedt or by his supporters and that I think could be used as an argument against what I am trying to say, that is, that we may have shorter speeches if they are read. Senator Cavanagh has a tremendous ability to make a good speech but he also makes a very long speech. I suggest that if he did more preparation and read them out they would be quite a lot shorter.
– I was tempted to speak on this issue a second time because of Senator Bonner’s remarks. I think I must apologise for making a long speech. As I have always said, an Irishman is allowed to speak until he is understood and it takes a long time. I follow that practice and I regret that the honourable senator has to put up with it. I possibly have in my home one of the best working class libraries in Australia. If honourable senators encourage me to read speeches the time taken will be longer and possibly the subject matter will be more involved.
The case of Senator Bonner, who has now left the chamber, is pathetic. He has an inferiority complex because he cannot compete with the academics in this place. That is a mistaken idea. He can. Senator Wood has remarked that he does not think I have had much education. I have had as good an education as anyone else in this chamber, although because of a childhood disability I spent fewer years in school than possibly anyone else in the chamber. Education does not end at school. I had a position that brought me up against some tough fellows. I had to defeat them. I entered the Senate when it was not easy for me to do so. That was part of my education.
I do not accept that academics are superior to me on the subjects of which I have knowledge. Today I think I have reached the stage in some subjects where I could qualify as a teacher. Senator Bonner has not suffered as a result of his lack of education. He possibly has had a bigger struggle through life than many of us, because of difficulties. He has qualified now. The only thing that remains for Senator Bonner to do is to gain confidence in himself so that he can make a speech without reading it. I am trying to assist him to do that now, but he wants to throw in the gauntlet because he has an inferiority complex about academics. God help us if the academics are to rule the country in the future. It is an educational policy that people should be making speeches rather than having someone else prepare them. If our speeches were prepared all we would need in this job would be an ability to read.
– I did not intend to speak in this debate tonight, but having heard Senator Cavanagh I must express a view. The other day, during the Address-in-Reply debate I heard a marvellous speech by Senator Bonner, made without notes in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). I was most impressed, as I have told many honourable senators on this side of the chamber.
– The Leader of the Opposition nearly resigned the next day.
– That would not surprise me. I am in complete agreement with the views expressed by Senator Cavanagh tonight, except those in relation to Senator Bonner. It is my belief that academic qualification in universities and schools is of little value. Education goes on through life. I agree with the sentiments expressed in that regard by Senator Cavanagh. I think honourable senators are far better off expressing their views without notes, regardless of academic qualifications. If they had academic training they would be able to write out the words far better than they would be able to express them on their feet. They would therefore be able to stand up and read far more clever words than perhaps they are able to express on their feet. I support the sentiments expressed by Senator Cavanagh, except those in relation to Senator Bonner.
That the amendment (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Item 3- Offensive statements about legislative bodies and members thereof.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the item be noted:
– The few words that I wish to say on this matter concern a question that I raised the other night. The report states:
The Committee decided to defer further consideration of this matter and suggested to the President that it might be an appropriate item to raise for discussion at the next Conference of Presiding Officers, scheduled to take place in Western Samoa in June 1977.
I completely agree with that recommendation. But I query whether one evening last week we used correct terminology when we spoke of offensive words’. This item deals with offensive words of which we know the meaning. In this context, I ask whether there are words that we can use better to describe to a member what he is able to say within the Standing Orders in relation to legislative bodies and members thereof. Referring to the Fifth Edition of Australian Senate Practice by Mr Odgers, I note that a former Speaker in the other place ruled that words used in a debate in relation to the Vietnam war and the Australian Labor Party were offensive to an individual but could not be taken to be offensive to a group. To say that the Labor Party is linked with Communists is in the normal routine of political discussion which should be permitted.
– It is the truth.
-The Leader of the Government is most keen to jump into this debate. I am giving illustrations without Party bias as to offensive words. I could well use an illustration just as truthful of the present Government Parties. I notice that the Fifth Edition of Mr Odgers’ work promotes the belief that the seriousness of offensive words is compounded by extending the expression to more than one person. The present President has been very strict about what an honourable senator can say about other parliaments. It occurred to me to inquire whether in the proper thrust of debate it is not within ordinary practice for a person of one party to condemn those on the other side or their party in a State house and say that they are a lot of crooks? I ask whether any honourable senator believes there is much wrong with such a statement? Who determines the question as to what is an offensive word? I question whether it is more offensive to say that a certain individual is a crook or to say that the Liberal Party is full of fascists. Is such an expression offensive or should it be accepted in the ordinary course of political debate.
To be offensive, a statement does not need to be true. On the question of what is offensive we find that one rule applies in one House but does not apply in the same context in the other House. I believe that there should be some relaxation as to what we are permitted to say in this Chamber. But I do not agree that anyone should be able to get up and to say anything which would be outrageously offensive to any group of people. In consideration of what I have said, I wonder whether the President will note my comments and whether the Standing Orders Committee will consider some more suitable form of expression that we could use rather than the offensive words of which complaint has been made? Offensive words change from day to day and vary also according to what is offensive in the eyes of the person who takes objection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Item 4- Questions without notice.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That item 4 be noted.
Item 5- Questions on notice- repeat of on Notice Paper.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the recommendation contained in the Item be agreed to.
– This matter has been considered at length by members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. It is fair to say that, in principle, the Labor Party agrees with the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee. If this provision were introduced, questions would be published in toto in the Notice Paper on a Tuesday but on the succeeding Wednesday and Thursday the number of the question would be shown without any detail of the question. This would indicate merely that, for example, question 12 and question 284 had not been answered. If that were shown on the Wednesday and Thursday, well and good.
The Federal Parliamentary Labor Party believes, however, that if that new practice is to apply provision should be made for new questions to be put on the Notice Paper at a very late hour on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. As we understand the situation at present, if a question to be put on notice is not provided before an early hour of the evening to the Senate staff, it is not possible because of printing arrangements for that question to appear on the Notice Paper the next day. For instance, if I were to put a question on notice at this hour it may well be that the staff would say to me that it is doubtful whether that question will appear on the Notice Paper tomorrow. It is felt by members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party that, if this proposition be agreed to, provision should be made for a question on notice to be placed on the Notice Paper at a late hour in the evening and that question should be included in the questions on notice in the Notice Paper for the next days’ proceedings. In other words, what we are saying in short is that we agree with this proposition provided that at a time before the Houses rises any question submitted for inclusion on the next days’ notice paper should be accepted and be printed.
– I am sympathetic to what the honourable senator has said. I understand that what he proposes may be possible, but I cannot give an assurance that it could be possible. We can do one of 2 things. First, we could carry on with consideration of item 5 as is and I could undertake to report back tomorrow, if possible, the result of conversations on this matter with the Clerk of the Senate and the Government Printer. However, if Senator McClelland desires, in the spirit of the debate that we are having, that I should move to have consideration of this item postponed until tomorrow by which time I should be able to provide further information, I will do that.
– I would prefer the latter course.
-The honourable senator indicates that that would be the preferable course. I imagine that it is. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Item 6- Motions, by leave, to take note of Papers.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Item be noted.
Item 7- Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees incorporation in the Standing Orders.
That proposed new standing order 36aa be agreed to.
As honourable senators know, since the introduction of legislative and general purpose standing committees in 1970 there has been some debate on whether they ought to be standing orders committees or sessional committees as they are now, if I may describe them in that way. Honourable senators who were here in 1 970 will remember that there was some debate on this matter at that time. Government members and supporters at that time were of the opinion that they ought not be embodied in the Standing Orders but that the Senate ought to experiment- I put the matter quite gently- with legislative and general purpose standing committees to ascertain the number, the type, the range of areas, and all the rest of it. As honourable senators will recall, originally some six, seven or eight were proposed but I think we set up only two, or three or four at that time. The idea was to move into this area gently and slowly and to see how we went. I think it is fair to say six or seven years later that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber are satisfied, I hope, that the concept envisaged in 1970 has been shown to work. We have had quality reports out of those committees. In many cases quite outstanding reports have been presented to the Parliament.
I for one am enormously pleased that the Standing Orders Committee has agreed that the committee system in the Senate has at last come of age and that there ought not be a situation after a prorogation or dissolution of the Parliament whereby we have to go through the sessional order business of setting up these committees. Honourable senators will note that amongst these committees there appears the resurrection, if that is the correct word to use, of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. If the proposed new standing order is adopted these committees will be embodied in the standing orders. We would hope that before the week is out the 8 standing committees of the Senate will be not only authorised by the Senate but the members will be appointed and the references which are outstanding will be picked up. Then the Senate committee system can move on as it has in the past.
– I support the motion moved by Senator Withers. The Senate Standing Orders Committee gave considerable consideration to the recommendations now put to the Committee as a whole. It will be noted that the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee is that before any matter goes to any standing committee there should be a reference by the Senate to that standing committee. In other words, none of standing committees shall be empowered of its own volition to embark upon an inquiry into a subject unless in the first instance that subject has been referred to it or the committee has received the approval of the Senate as a whole. I personally regard that as a very important matter.
It also will be noted that among the standing committees that have been recommended there is one that does not exist, one that has not existed since the present Government came to office. I think it existed previously. I refer to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I mention this only to indicate that one of the Senate Estimates Committees recently recommended that there be referred to one of the standing committees an inquiry into computerisation within the Australian Public Service. The Opposition has not moved in that regard at this stage because we have been wondering to which standing committee such a reference should be made. Now that this committee is proposed I hope the Senate as a whole will adopt the view that it be established and then a reference of the nature recommended by a Senate Estimates Committee can be moved.
The other matter that might be of interest to honourable senators is the proposal in proposed standing order 36AA(4) (c), namely:
A Standing Committee shall have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the Committee is empowered to consider. The quorum of a sub-committee shall be two Senators.
A great deal of consideration was given to that matter by the Standing Orders Committee. We believe that this will facilitate and expedite the deliberation of standing committees. It will enable standing committees to handle a multiplicity of references at the same time. The expertise of members of this Senate will be called upon to investigate a large of number of subjects.
I believe that this will be of great benefit to the Australian community and to the Parliament generally. I believe that these standing committees can contribute enormously to the well being of the Australian community, especially at a time when the Australian public is querying the validity of the parliamentary institution. We have to face up to these aspects. This is one way in which we are facing up to the problems of change and I believe it will be for the good of the Parliament and everyone connected with it generally. I support the proposition moved by Senator Withers.
– Whilst I want to indicate my support of the motion which the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) has put before the Committee this evening I want to express some very great concern about the Senate’s standing committees. I have been privileged to be a member of one or other of the standing committees since their inception. For a great deal of that time I have had the privilege of being chairman of one committee or another. I am concerned that we have reached the stage where in my view the effectiveness of the standing committee system is breaking down. It is breaking down because some references to standing committees seem to drag on interminably. Also, no sooner does a reference get sent to a Senate standing committee than some committee of the House of Representatives takes up basically the same area of investigation. Then, part way through the investigation, the government of the day sets up an independent inquiry at one level or another into basically the same area. Therefore by the time the Senate committee brings in a report and its general recommendations a great deal of the ground has been covered by government action or in some other way. This tends to make the final result of the Senate committee’s activity rather inconclusive and ineffective.
We have had some experience of it. It is very disconcerting to be half-way through a reference and find that the same ground is being covered by some other authority or instrumentality. It takes all the interest out of the work. What is more, it imposes upon the public a great deal of duplication. Members of the public representing a particular organisation, or office or statutory authority find that after putting some material before a Senate standing committee making a particular inquiry they have to do much the same thing for another organisation.
I am concerned also that the government of the day appears to pay little if any heed to work which Senate standing committees are doing. Having been a chairman who has put down a number of reports in this place on a variety of subjects I find it is my job to refer constantly to the report, to ask a Minister if he has noted the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts or the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution or something like that. Invariably the recommendations which a Senate Committee puts down are adopted by the Government but never once does the Government indicate that the action taken might have some relationship to the work done by a Senate committee. I make an appeal for a greater recognition of the work which the Senate standing committees are doing. I express my disappointment that for too long their work, their findings and their conclusions have been ignored by the government of the day.
– A Labor government took heed of the recommendations of your committee on frequency modulation broadcasting.
– That may very well be so. Senator Douglas McClelland, who was Minister at the time, will recall that on a number of occasions I asked him questions in relation to that matter. He was good enough to agree that his Government’s action flowed from recommendations. The point I am making to the Senate is that frequently we have to ask about these matters. I suppose that if one is privileged to be a chairman one should be prepared to take that sort of initiative. I do not mind. I take the opportunity of this debate in Committee tonight to draw that point.
I think it is high time that the Senate and maybe the Government or some committee or authority within the Senate had a very close look at the nature of the references which go to standing committees. For example, the committee of which I happen to be chairman was handed a reference simply because of a situation which arose overnight in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We are still dealing with that reference because of certain other difficulties. We hope to bring down a report quite soon. But the circumstances which prompted the reference have long since past and a whole new set of circumstances have emerged. Indeed, there have been 2 independent reports relating to the same matter.
So I think we need to look very carefully at the nature of the references, give them limitations and provide an earlier reporting date. If we did that and if we sent down to a Senate standing committee some legislative measures or Bills, as is provided for in the document which is before us tonight, perhaps the Senate standing committees will have more to come to grips with and will have something into which they can put their teeth in a more effective way. I urge the Committee not to overlook this point. I strongly urge this because I feel that if we do not do this the Committee system will lose interest and break down even more than it has now. We must look very seriously at paragraph (19) in proposed new standing order 36aa which refers to a meeting of a standing committee while the Senate is actually sitting. I know that the Senate as a chamber is supreme. It is master of its own program. It is a long accepted practice that a committee shall not meet while the Senate is meeting. But if standing committees are to get anywhere at all provision must be made for them to meet while the Senate is sitting. I put the situation as firmly as that in my own mind.
– A committee can meet by special order of the Senate.
-As Senator Sir Magnus Cormack says, committees can meet by special order of the Senate. But the honourable senator knows very well the difficulties associated with that. I think there is a very strong case to be made out for a strong and strictly controlled program whereby Senate standing committees dealing with certain references can meet under the jurisdiction of the 2 Whips in this place. When we are only able to meet on a Monday, or a Friday, or during a week when the Senate is not sitting, a hearing can go on for months and months. The matter could be dealt with much more expeditiously and, in my view, much more effectively. I still have great faith in the system. I have pleasure and interest in taking part. As I have said before, the committee system provides an opportunity for the community at large to speak to the Parliament and for the committee to reflect in the Parliament what the community is thinking about a given issue. I draw attention to the personal concern which I feel about the danger in which committees are placed because of the circumstances I have outlined. I make a strong plea for a generous interpretation of paragraph ( 19) so as to allow a Senate committee to operate during the sitting of the Senate.
– I am prompted to rise by the remarks of Senator Davidson. I have always had reservations about standing committees. I have never been a member of one. I strongly support select committees, which travel all over the country if necessary and seem to attract expert evidence from all quarters. Standing committees seem to hold inquiries and, conscientiously, make long reports. For example, a standing committee may submit some 35 recommendations, of which no notice is ever taken. It seems a way of burying a question. Many of the recommendations are impossible of implementation. We may get 20 recommendations which all need the expenditure of cash and the Government is not prepared to meet this expenditure recommended by so many committees. But some honourable senators desire to sit on these committees. They go along with this exercise of standing committees. Senator Davidson has said that he has to ask the Minister what the Government is doing about the committee’s recommendations. It would be interesting to know how many recommendations of standing committees have been acted upon by the Parliament.
I am much concerned about the suggestion, which I have always opposed, that committees of any description should sit while Parliament is sitting or while the Senate is in session. The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances meets at 9 o’clock every Thursday morning in a sitting week. I think every honourable senator has a right to attend the Parliament while it is sitting. He should not give up that right. He should not make the Parliament take second place to a standing committee because he is a member of a standing committee. I would not like to see a standing committee, as a general rule, given permission to sit while Parliament is in session. If by virtue of the activities of a standing committee an honourable senator is not permitted to attend Parliament full time- that is his normal occupation- because he is a member of a standing committee, perhaps consideration could be given to reducing the hours of sitting of the Senate. When we used to adjourn at 5 o ‘clock on Thursday so that a committee could sit on Thursday night or Friday morning, that never happened. Members caught the first aeroplane home. I wonder whether honourable senators have an interest in the committee? Is it an exercise for the purpose of bringing down reports and attaching names to reports? On no account would I agree that committee hearings should interfere with the sittings of the Senate. It could well be that we might seek that the parliamentary procedure be speeded up in order to give more time to parliamentary committees, but on no account should we try to reduce the now sometimes limited number of attendances in the Senate during the day for the purpose of permitting honourable senators to attend meetings of standing committees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Item 8- Estimates Committees- incorporation in the Standing Orders.
That proposed new standing order 36ab be agreed to.
Item 8 provides for the incorporation of Estimates committees in the Standing Orders. The same situation applies here as applied to the legislative and general purpose standing committees. As honourable senators will recall, in 1970 Estimates committees were brought in as an experiment. I think it is fair to say that in spite of the fact that there were a few problems, certainly on the first day on which they met as I recall it- I see one of the Clerks smiling- in the main they have worked out successfully. In fact, some of my colleagues see an extended role for them in the future. They see these committees examining not just the appropriation Bills twice a year but perhaps running some sort of audits between looking at those Bills. I commend this matter to the Senate.
– I take it from the recommendation of the Senate
Standing Orders Committee that Senate Estimates committees are looked upon from here on as a permanent institution. I have always had reservations about such committees and, except in some circumstances, have not served on them. Perhaps the Leader of the Government in the Senate can say whether the discussions preceding the drafting of the new set of rules indicated that all members of the Committee felt that the Estimates committees were permanent and that it was necessary to draw up the rules.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally 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)
– In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It had been my intention to raise in the adjournment debate this evening the decision of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) not to grant a licence for a commercial broadcasting station to operate in the north-western area of Sydney-the Parramatta region. Last Thursday or Friday the Minister announced that he had reached a decision concerning the applications received for a licence for a commercial broadcasting station in the north-western suburban area of Sydney. The Minister said that he had taken into consideration the recommendation made by the previous Australian Broadcasting Control Board that a licence be granted to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd but that he had decided not to grant a licence for the area. The Minister went on to say that he would be reviewing the position in relation to the area at a later stage, that the north-western suburban area of Sydney and adjacent areas were experiencing considerable changes and that he had instructed his Department to develop a planning proposal involving this and other relevant areas.
It had been my intention to raise this matter in some detail this evening but, because my time has been occupied for the best part of the day in this chamber on matters relating to the Standing Orders Committee and other matters, I have not had sufficient time to make an investigation of this subject. Suffice it for me to say that, apart from the addition of radio broadcasting station 2JJ in Sydney- an Australian Broadcasting Commission station which was added to the spectrum by the Labor Government in 1974- not one broadcasting station has been added to the radio spectrum in Sydney for 40 years. Frankly, I regard the Minister’s decision at this stage, prima facie, as being of a quite scandalous nature. I am pursuing further inquiries and I warn the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that I will be raising this matter in an adjournment debate at a very early stage.
– I am grateful to Senator Douglas McClelland for indicating that he will be raising this matter again at a later time. Those of us who live in Sydney are concerned, as he is, that there be an adequate number of radio outlets. The honourable senator would be quite wrong, though, to join together 2 issues which are quite separate. The first issue is where a particular government might stand on the principle of how many radio outlets there should be, and the other issue is who should have those outlets. 1, like the honourable senator, do not know exactly what the facts are and I would appreciate it if he would let me know when he plans to raise this matter again. As a senator for New South Wales with an interest in this area and in this matter, I undertake to get together the facts that I have on this subject. A large number of representations were made to me- I have not been able to check them out- by people who were worried about the proposed licence group. I do not know why they were worried, but considerable concern was expressed to me. Like the honourable senator, I am concerned that the Hills area, the northwestern area- the whole western area of Sydneyshould have a commercial radio outlet if it can, a licence, community access radio and many other radio services; but this is a separate issue from who should hold the licence.
– The recommendation was made after a public hearing by the Broadcasting Control Board, with counsel representing all concerned.
-We will take the matter up at a later date, and all of us who come from Sydney can come properly prepared to examine what is best in the interests of our city and our community.
– I regret that I was not here at the start of this debate, I would have been very interested to hear the remarks of both honourable senators. I certainly will read them in Hansard when it becomes available tomorrow and I will take the matter up with my colleague in another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770315_senate_30_s72/>.