30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, I inform the Senate that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has been appointed also Minister Assisting the Prime Minister. He will continue to hold his present portfolio. The Minister will be assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) across the whole range of matters handled by the Prime Minister other than the areas covered by other Ministers Assisting the Prime Minister. The Minister will handle some policy matters on the Prime Minister’s behalf, and, in particular, will relieve him of some of the day to day administrative load. He will work closely with the Prime Minister’s office and keep him fully briefed on matters he is handling on his behalf. The Minister will begin his new duties immediately.
– I present the following petition from 69 citizens of Australia:
To the Right Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Whereas there is mounting evidence that some 60 000, perhaps as many as 100 000, East Timorese may have been lulled since the invasion of East Timor by Indonesian forces; and
Whereas a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 12 December 1973, stated that it strongly deplored the military intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in Portuguese Timor’ and ‘calls upon the Government of Indonesia to desist from further violation of the territorial integrity of Portuguese Timor and to withdraw without delay its armed forces from the Territory in order to enable the people of the Territory freely to exercise their right to self-determination and independence ‘; and
Whereas Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, in a statement to the House of Representatives on 4 March 1976, described Australia’s policy on East Timor as ‘clear’ and calling for ‘the withdrawal of Indonesian troops’, ‘a cessation of hostilities’, ‘the implementation of an act of self-determination and a resumption of humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross ‘;
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should:
Ensure that the Australian Government re-state this policy on East Timor publicly and unequivocally and
pursue the implementation of the said policy as strongly as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 146 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
The grounds constituting ‘due cause’ for termination of services of tenured staff are expanded beyond those already available in existing legislation thereby introducing subjective discretionary powers which are inconsistent with career service expectations and entitlements;
The Bill relegates to subordinate legislation or administrative direction matters affecting substantive rights of employees including the scale of compensation, the composition and powers of the appellate tribunal, and the criteria upon which services may be terminated;
Existing rights of reinstatement in tenured employment are abrogated by the Bill;
Agreement has not been reached on a number of matters which should have been finalised before any attempt to introduce legislation. These include: an arbitral determination on redundancy arrangements; benefits; procedures.
As currently drafted the Bill overrides entitlements under Arbitration awards.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That all people have the right to education, irrespective of class, age, sex, sexuality and ethnic background, and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right.
Your petitioners believe that:
Your petitioners therefore pray that the needs based grants scheme should in no way be jeopardised by any other program of student assistance, including partial, supplementary or comprehensive loans schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Carrick.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Webster.
-Will the Minister for Education give an undertaking that the Federal Government will continue to finance, fully, Australian universities and colleges of advanced education in the calendar year 1 978?
– The funding for the calendar year 1978 has been announced. The Government has made no decisions affecting that announcement and, as such, it remains.
-My question is also addressed to the Minister for Education. It relates to current public interest in various phases of education expenditure in the future as well as the report just issued in the United Kingdom by the Central Policy Review Staff which states that big changes in education policies will be required to meet ‘dramatic development in population trends over the next 25 years’. Has the Minister’s Department made any survey of education needs in Australia during that period ahead, taking into account the findings of the Australian Population and Immigration Council? Has it researched possible needs for that period in such areas as technical and adult education insofar as they are related to likely employment and social circumstances? Has the Minister had any conference with State departments on these or related matters? I would be appreciative if he could give any further information relating to this important development.
– A great deal of work has been done in recent months in relation to not only population trends in Australia as they affect education but also changes in the trends of community attitudes and technological demands and requirements. The result has been that we have set up, for example, the Williams Committee of inquiry into education and training. I draw the attention of Senator Davidson to the terms of reference of that Committee. Those terms of reference embrace virtually every point raised by Senator Davidson. The Committee is hard at work. It should be able to report by about June of next year. The Tertiary Education Commission will have the responsibility of setting up various inquiries along these lines. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development did a study on transition from school to work and the need for technological training. A wide variety of studies has been carried out.
asked whether discussions had taken place between the Commonwealth and the States. The answer to that question is yes. Extensive discussions took place, particularly through the forum of the Australian Education Council. To relate this matter purely, shall we say, to the trends that are shown in the Borrie report would, I think, be wrong. One must apprehend, for example, the relative stagnation of school and college populations in the years immediately ahead when looking at, shall we say, teacher demand. But, of course, one cannot predict what future immigration trends will be or indeed the fecundity of the Australian population. As such, one would need to revise these matters on population trends horn year to year.
-I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory by reminding him that some weeks ago he promised to bring a full report into the Senate on the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund. The Minister will recall that both his office and the office of the Minister for the Northern Territory gave me an assurance that that report would be made no later than the parliamentary sitting week beginning on Tuesday, 22 March 1977. Can the Minister now inform the Parliament what happened to the report?
– I was of the view that that report had been put down. I shall check the facts and report to the Senate following that inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. With the collapse of a number of Australian apparel manufacturers, those who stood by those manufacturers for as long as possible by buying the Australian made goods are now being penalised in that they are being prevented from obtaining quotas for overseas supplies by reason of the allocation of import quotas to those confederates who, by their level of imports, were substantially responsible for the downfall of the Australian industry. As considerable Press and industry speculation exists on matters relating to the auctioning of or tendering for import quotas for textiles or apparel, can the Minister advise whether discussions will be held for the reallocation of import entitlements, having regard to the great changes that have taken place in the retail trade since quotas were applied?
– The whole matter of quotas, in the context in which the honourable senator is asking his question, is under very detailed study at the moment by the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs which administer these various areas. It is a difficult and a very complex situation indeed. Obviously certain areas are in need of some reform. The matter does need to be studied in fine detail because, as is normal in these matters, everybody wants his own position solved at the expense of everybody else.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that, when the Prime Minister announced a ceiling on the growth in the Commonwealth Public Service, the Premier of Queensland said that there was no need for such a measure in Queensland, that Queensland was the greatest earner of export revenue of all the States, and that it was a developing State which needed an enlarged public service to administer it? Is the Minister aware that last week the Premier’s Deputy, Mr Knox, said that the rate of increase in the Public Service in Queensland had remained almost static and that in the last 9 months it had increased by 0.05 per cent, one of the smallest increases ever in the Queensland Public Service. Does the Minister view this as a pause in recruitment in the Public Service in Queensland; which of the 2 leaders does he think is telling the truth; and which one of the 2 policies does he favour?
-I think that that is a matter which Queenslanders ought to sort out with their Government. It is not a matter on which I as a member of the Commonwealth Government ought to have a view or in which I should interfere.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I draw the Minister’s attention to the recent report of the United States National Transportation Study Board dealing with an intensive study of the lifestyle of pilots, in and out of the cockpit, to see whether fatigue and imprecise crew communications are major factors in airline accidents. Is the Minister aware of this report? If so, will it be made available to the appropriate officers of the Department for study?
– I personally am not aware of the report. I am quite sure that my colleague the Minister for Transport is aware of it. It sounds as though it is a most valuable report. All honourable senators will be aware that studies are being undertaken, in this country and in other countries, of the lifestyle of pilots. I will bring the question to the attention of my colleague and seek a comment from him.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, by reminding the Minister that it is now more than 4 weeks since the High Court finalised its declaration that the Director-General of Social
Security did not have discretion to deny unemployment benefit to school leavers during the last long vacation and that the time for appeal against that declaration has long since passed. I ask the Minister: When will the Government announce any decision that it has made on what action it will take in the light of Karen Green’s case? Is the Government to announce a decision? Is the Government to make a decision in the light of this case or is the Government merely to ignore the decision of the High Court and the law of this land?
– The case of Karen Green is under review by the Director-General of the Department following the High Court judgment and it will be finalised as soon as possible. If a re-examination of Karen Green’s case requires the Director-General to review other cases where unemployment benefit was not paid, that review will be made by him. The DirectorGeneral, having undertaken the review and made his decision, will announce that decision as soon as possible.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister telling the Senate that the entire decision will be the decision of the Director-General of Social Security and not the decision of the Government? Will not the Government in fact direct the Director-General of Social Security as to what decision he will make?
– I have nothing substantial to add to what I have already said. The Act requires the Director-General of Social Security to satisfy himself with regard to eligibility for the payment of any benefits or pensions under the Social Services Act. That is the requirement of the Act. The Director-General will make a statement following his review of the particular case and of any other cases that may have relation to it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the report in the Age of 17 May 1977 which outlines the campaign being mounted by the Angilican Church against exploitation in the funeral industry. Is the Minister aware that an interim report alleged many instances of overcharging and dishonest practices used by funeral directors on the bereaved and usually vulnerable next of kin? Can the Minister indicate what action the Federal Government can and will take to ensure a fair and respectable deal to the public from the funeral directors?
– I have not seen the report to which Senator Missen refers. I will draw the report and the details of his question to the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and will endeavour to obtain an early reply from him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, refers to reports of jamming of messages from East Timor on 14 and 18 May. Is the Government aware of such incidents of jamming? Can he state whether such jamming emanated from any source in Australia? Further, can he assure the public that no Australian Government agency or individuals were involved in such jamming?
-This question would be rightly directed to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I personally am not aware of the details stated by the honourable senator. I shall seek the information from my colleague for the honourable senator.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the drop in lambing figures for March this year, which figures show a fall of 100 000 head in Tasmania alone? Because of our excellent autumn season, it has been claimed that the drop is due not to seasonal conditions but to the lack of fertiliser used by farmers which, of course, is a result of the enormous increase in the cost of this commodity despite the government subsidy. This comment is substantiated by the fact that in 1973-74 180 000 tonnes of superphosphate were used in Tasmania, whilst in 1975-76 only 58 000 tonnes were spread. Will the Minister investigate these claims, because if they are correct the long term repercussions to the industry and to Australia as a whole would be disastrous?
– I have had some experience with lambing, but I personally am not responsible for this disaster. What I do know is that the problem may well be due to something quite unrelated to the cause suggested in the question. Many years ago in Western Australia there was a problem of low fertility in lambing ewes caused b y the use of subterranean clover of a variety which produced large doses of oestrogen. I imagine that the problem may need to be investigated in depth. I certainly undertake to do what I can to direct it to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry. I shall pay close attention to results in the next 9 months. Honourable senators may all come to me for some comfort.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and is in 3 parts. I ask: Firstly, was the decision by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission this morning in breach of the wage-price squeeze? Secondly, if the air traffic controllers, contrary to the announcement of the Prime Minister, were to receive lc, or indeed 2c, would that be in breach of the wage-price freeze? Thirdly, will the Minister table in the Senate a list of companies whose dividend policies in the past month have been in breach of the criteria laid down at the beginning of the wage-price squeeze?
-I think this is one of those questions which ought to go on notice.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has he seen reports that the Premier of South Australia has withdrawn his support for the prices and wages freeze? Did not the South Australian Premier give his full support to such a freeze when it was first suggested? Does not his new stand on the matter clearly show that once again he has bent to the demands of the radical section of the trade unions in South Australia? Is the Leader of the Government aware also that Mr Dunstan ‘s actions now leave the way open for the South Australian Government to increase State taxes which in some instances are already the highest in Australia, thereby adversely affecting the further development and expansion of industry in that State? Will not Mr Dunstan ‘s new stand on the prices and wages freeze also encourage industry to increase its prices, which could lead to an increase in the consumer price index in South Australia?
-Mr Dunstan ‘s unilateral and premature action in withdrawing from the agreement made by all heads of government, including Mr Dunstan, on 13 April is only to be deplored. After all, it was done without consultation with the Commonwealth or any State government. One can only speculate about Mr Dunstan ‘s motives. He said the action was taken because of threats to business viability and employment opportunities. The experience of the Prices Justification Tribunal does not support this. Only a very few companies have availed themselves of procedures available through the
PJT. As the honourable senator said, there certainly has been union pressure in South Australia to break the pause. Honourable senators can therefore make up their own minds as to the Premier’s real motives. I understand that Mr Dunstan has been making a lot of noises about an election this year. I suggest that he now have one and test his action with the population of South Australia.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the tabling of the third report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security which, as the Minister knows, is confined to restructuring our security organisations. I have frequently asked whether the Government contemplated, following the Hope report, the establishment of a tribunal to consider rejected citizenship applications. As this is the third and final report of the Royal Commission, I ask: What happened to the first and second reports? Did any of the reports make any reference to the establishment of a tribunal to review citizenship applications that have been rejected?
-The Prime Minister has clearly indicated that the Government will be as forthcoming as national security permits regarding its announcements and tabling of the reports of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. In relation to the particular matter raised by the honourable senator, the Government will make a further announcement to the Parliament about the reports of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security as soon as possible after the Prime Minister returns to Australia at the conclusion of the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to an advertisement in the Australian on Saturday, 2 1 May, which reads:
Department of Health Services, Tasmania, Locums . . . A locum is desired to relieve in the district Medical Officer’s Post at Derby from Thursday, 26 May, to Monday, 13 June 1977. A salary rate of $502 a week will apply and a considerable amount of extra remuneration can be obtained by charging certain types of patients ‘in hours’ and all patients ‘out of hours’ at a prescribed rate.
I ask the Minister: Does this mean that the Department regards the doctor’s salary as low at $502 a week and is condoning the practice of a doctor’s seeing a patient ‘in hours’ and referring that patient to himself as ‘out of hours’ so that he can be paid at the prescribed rate for doing procedural work such as minor operations?
-I am unable to comment on some of the assumptions or assertions that may have been made in the question. I do want to say that the level of remuneration paid by the Tasmanian Department of Health Services to doctors serving in the district medical officer scheme is entirely a matter for that Department. The scheme does receive some funding from the Commonwealth Government under the health program grant arrangements. But as the matters raised by the honourable senator are matters of internal operation of a Stateorganised scheme, it is not appropriate for me to comment and I have no information on them.
-My question which is directed to the Minister for Social Security follows the question asked by Senator Grimes. Is it not true that it was a decision of the Government to deny unemployment benefit to school leavers? Is it also not true that the decision of Mr Justice Stephen in the Karen Green case was to say that the Government acted in breach of the law in denying those school leavers unemployment benefit. Is it not the Government’s responsibility to take action as a result of Mr Justice Stephen’s ruling?
– In regard to the first question, it was the announced policy of the Government early last year that there would not be automatic unemployment benefit for school leavers immediately on the cessation of a school year. Under the Social Services Act the DirectorGeneral has to be satisfied that steps have been taken by the applicant to obtain employment, and that he is eligible and available for employment. There are other matters on which the Director-General must be satisfied in accordance with the Act.
The second question raised the matter of Mr Justice Stephen’s judgment. I do think it should be said that many of the comments that have been made in this place and in the Press in regard to that judgment do misstate the judgment itself and it was for that reason that the entire judgment was incorporated in Hansard. I think the honourable senator who directed the question would rephrase it if he were to read that judgment entirely. As I said earlier in answer to Senator Grimes, the Director-General is studying the judgment and the matter is under review by him. In accordance with the Act he will announce his own decision in regard to this particular case and others relating to school leavers. As far as the Government’s responsibility is concerned, its policy in regard to school leavers was announced. The Government is requiring the Director-General to pursue that policy in accordance with the Act and that will be announced as a decision by the Director-General in due course.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. The question concerns an insect, the American lucerne aphid as I believe it is called. Some members of the Labor Party may think this is funny, but it is not very funny for people in the rural areas of New South Wales. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the presence of an aphid in plague proportions in rich pastoral areas such as the Upper Hunter Valley in my own State of New South Wales where it is destroying lucerne crops and causing major damage to rural industry? Can the Minister indicate the extent of the plague infestation? Is any information available as to the source of the aphid? Do we know anything about the potential for treatment or eradication of what is really quite a disastrous infestation? Can the Minister indicate the possible role that the Commonwealth Government could play in assisting in this area?
– I do have a lot of information on this subject. I will have to paraphrase it as best I can. It is characteristic of Australia that introduced pests, vermin and plants have a tremendous capacity to flourish here when in their own environment they tend not to flourish. They do not have the natural pests and predators to kill them off in this country- as we have in the Senate- and therefore they nourish and spread. The aphid infestation is, I have been informed, very serious. It entered North America in 1954 and it does have a very serious effect in that country. It has a very serious potential effect here. The Australian hay, green fodder and seed crops are valued at between $120m and $150m per annum. The outbreak that we now have in this country could place a large part of that at risk. This aphid does have a very wide range of host species, including legumes and ornamentals, but it does not attack peanuts, white or subterranean clover or soya bean, so that is some comfort for some honourable senators who are here. This matter was discussed at the special meeting of the Standing Committee of the Australian Agricultural Council on 4 May. It was then reported that thousands of acres of lucerne in New South Wales had been ruined, particularly Hunter River varieties.
Work on the problem of control is now in the hands of the State agricultural departments and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The following are the main approaches, and I would need to get some more paper work done for the Senate on this after question time. A spray program is going on in Queensland. The authorities are recommending that and they are starting to move on it. Biological controls within the CSIRO are being investigated; resistant strains of lucerne are being looked at. There is also a development in Deniliquin that produced a new strain that might be able to withstand this insect. There are also some management practices relating to the time of the cutting of the crop. I will get more information for the honourable senator and I commend him for his interest in a very serious matter.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it a fact that on Saturday, 7 May, damage was done to a number of cranes and other equipment on Christmas Island which are the property of the British Phosphate Commission? Has the Minister seen a statement issued on Monday, 9 May by the Union of Christmas Island Workers expressing condemnation of the type of damage that was carried out to the implements. Have Commonwealth Police at Christmas Island investigated the circumstances of the damage? Can the Minister say what action is contemplated in the matter?
-The answer to each of the first 3 questions is yes. As to the fourth question, I am awaiting a report from the Commonwealth Police as a result of their investigations. When I have received that report, if I have any further information I will let the honourable senator have it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the extremely poor reception experienced by listeners to Adelaide University radio station 5UV? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that this poor reception is caused reportedly by persistent and strong interference from an Australian Broadcasting Commission station in Western Australia? Is he aware that listeners from 20 metropolitan area suburbs have lodged consistent complaints over this interference? Will the Minister investigate these complaints with a view to allocating another frequency to radio station 5UV, as this seems to be the only way to correct the problem.
– I have some information on this matter. I have been aware of the claims concerning the difficulty of communication and interference. The Department of Post and Telecommunications is aware that the licensee of station 5UV is concerned about apparent interference to transmissions from the station. This matter is currently under investigation and, if the reports are substantiated, action will be taken to remedy the situation. Any such remedy will, of course, be subject to the limitations that exist in allocating frequencies in the heavily congested medium frequency broadcasting band. I understand, too, that another constraint would be a financial one in that the licensee would wish to continue to use an omnidirectional aerial.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer the Minister to the decision by Mr Justice Forster in the Northern Territory Supreme Court to uphold the appeals by 3 men against a conviction of attempting to export illegally firearms and medical supplies to East Timor from Darwin. In view of the determination of the Prime Minister in 1976 to have the case prosecuted, does the Government intend to appeal against Mr Justice Forster ‘s decision?
-I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government. I refer to various allegations made recently by Mr Philip Agee, a former Central Intelligence Agency agent, with regard to CIA activities and other matters in Australia. Does the Government consider that such statements are authentic or that the statements that have been attributed to Philip Agee may be based on hearsay and are possibly a hoax? What is the present whereabouts of Philip Agee?
-I hope that before the suspension for dinner I shall be making a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister concerning these allegations. I suggest that the honourable senator await that statement?
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. I ask: What progress has been made in resolving the staffing disputes in her Department which have caused work bans in 2 States, particularly in South Australia? Does the Minister believe that a satisfactory resolution of the staffing and training problems can be obtained before next Friday’s meetings when further work bans will be discussed? Finally, is the Minister satisfied with the present service to the public, taking account of the evidence of long queues in offices of the Department, the small percentage of telephone callers able to make contact with State offices and the fact that the Department will not handle any queries from members of Parliament.
-Negotiations with regard to the industrial disputes are proceeding between the Public Service Board, the Department and the Australian Clerical Officers Association. I am hopeful that these matters will be able to be resolved. Discussions have been held in Melbourne. As I have been asked particularly concerning South Australia, I can say only that discussions are proceeding. Mr Corrigan and Mr Scott of my Department attended a meeting of some 200 staff in South Australia. This meeting gave staff members the opportunity to express their concern over the effects of the current staff ceilings. In turn, information was given on the action being taken in conjunction with the Public Service Board to obtain additional staff and to facilitate the greater utilisation of existing staff. As with the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association Federal Executive decision in relation to the Melbourne work bans, staff at the Adelaide meeting expressed concern at the breaking of the agreement for a joint working party to examine the departmental staffing in South Australia. There was no evidence at the meeting to suggest that the work bans would be lifted in the near future. As I said earlier, these negotiations are continuing with the Public Service Board in order to resolve the matter.
I was asked whether I am satisfied with regard to the present services in the Department to the public. I am very concerned that members of staff in the Department have withdrawn services from the public. I hope that the discussions that are held will enable service to be given to the maximum extent possible within the Department. I am concerned that representations made through members of Parliament are not being serviced within the Department. It seems to be overlooked by members of staff in the Department that many persons use members of Parliament to negotiate on their behalf. To suggest that this action does not withdraw services to the public I think overlooks the very real role that members of Parliament play as representatives of the people in their own electorates or in a wider sphere. I am hopeful that in a short time there will be some resolution of the matter. I repeat that there may need to be- some reorganisation to utilise existing staff numbers rather than the adoption of the suggestion that the automatic solution is an increase in staff. These matters are now being discussed with the Public Service Board. I hope that an early resolution of the whole industrial problem can be achieved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations concerning the use, and problems in the use, as I understand it, by handicapped persons, particularly the visually handicapped, of Commonwealth hostels. I refer especially to visually handicapped persons who wish to use the hostels but face problems because of inadequate facilities for handicapped people in the hostels. Can the Minister say whether facilities are provided, or will be made available in Commonwealth hostels, appropriate for use by the handicapped, especially the visually handicapped? Can the Minister also say whether the small number of handicapped persons who are not public servants and therefore, as I understand it, are unable to use these hostels at all but who wish to do so, might be permitted to do so where facilities are provided in the future?
-To the extent that accommodation is not required for staff of Australian Government departments and authorities and for members of the defence forces located at defence headquarters, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has approved the admission of casual guests at non-subsidised tariff rates. However, the guest houses are not designed for use by handicapped people. This would include those who are visually handicapped. The admission of visually handicapped people undoubtedly would provide some problems in these hostels. If the honourable senator is aware of any instance where visually handicapped people are having difficulty finding suitable accommodation I suggest that he let me know the details and I will then pass them on to the Minister.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to statements concerning the Prices Justification Tribunal hearing on vehicle spare parts made yesterday by Mr J. Zahara counsel for the Automobile Association of Australia. He said that the threat by the car parts companies to withhold information relating to profit margins was tantamount to ‘bullying tactics’. Mr Zahara said further:
This is nothing more than blackmail and a contempt of this tribunal and the Minister for Consumer Affairs, who directly caused this inquiry.
Does the Government support the Tribunal ‘s decision not to accept confidential information from the companies on an informal basis? Will the Government urge the companies to make available to the Tribunal itself all information relevant to the inquiry in order for a proper decision to be ascertained?
– I shall pass on that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and endeavour to obtain an early reply from him.
– Is the Minister for Administrative Services aware that a number of busy polling booths in Victoria had no heating on Saturday which, by any standards, was a very cold day in that State? In view of the fact that polling clerks are on duty for some 15 hours or more on polling days, will the Minister take some action before the next Federal election to see that suitable heating is provided in polling booths where none exists at present?
-I shall draw the attention of the Chief Australian Electoral Officer to the matter raised by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It refers to some alarming statements about South Australian rail jobs made by the General Manager of the Australian National Railways in Adelaide recently. On 10 May the Adelaide Advertiser reported that the General Manager had said on the previous day that thousands in the South Australian railway work force would have to lose their jobs before the system could operate efficiently and competitively. He is also reported as having said: ‘I am talking about the kind of reductions that will make you all in South Australia cry. We are talking about thousands of jobs lost. Passenger services are the curse of the railways’. As these reports created a lot of concern among railway men and railway organisations and were rebutted in the newspaper the next day, will the Minister have the statement clarified? If necessary, will he ask the General Manager or the Australian National Railways Commissioner to make appropriate statements to clear up the matter?
-I have not seen the report in the Adelaide Advertiser adverted to by Senator Bishop, nor have I seen the rebuttal, but I shall seek them out and inform myself. The matter is an important one. I can understand anxiety among railway workers and others in this regard. I shall refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, and seek his comments on it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It concerns a purported KGB agent in Australia. Can the Government say whether there has been in Australia a Russian diplomat by the name of Raina? Is the Government aware that recently Raina was reported as being in Melbourne interviewing a Soviet citizen who had defected? Is Raina the person who was expelled from Britain in 1971 because he was a KGB agent? Can the Minister say when Raina was admitted to Australia? Can he say whether it is the Government’s intention to expel Raina?
-I shall seek the information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to the announcement by Mr Harders, Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, concerning the transfer of an officer who gave advice in his own free time to a member of Parliament. Did the Attorney-General authorise Mr Harders to make this statement? On what grounds is it considered that the officer placed himself in conflict with his departmental duties? Does the Minister consider that Mr Harders’ action infringes the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 111? Will the Minister clarify the ambit of duty of departmental officers as it relates to their own time and will he indicate the guidelines which exist for public servants? Does Mr Harders’ decision mean that public servants cannot engage in political activities outside their normal working hours?
– This question raises a number of matters of detail and also some of considerable constitutional importance. I think it would have been more appropriate if the question had been put on notice. As it has not, I shall refer it in full detail to the Attorney-General.
– The Minister for Administrative Services will recall having indicated to the Senate some time ago that he proposed to visit Norfolk Island at the first opportunity to hear the views of local residents about the future administration of the island, especially in the context of the Nimmo report. Can the Minister say whether he has set a date for such a visit? What opportunities will he provide to enable local residents to put their views to him on this important issue?
-Subject to the Senate completing its business on Friday of next week, I intend to leave Australia on the following Tuesday. I have been invited by the Norfolk Island Council to be its guest on Bounty Day, which is the principal festive day on the island. I will be attending the parade in the morning, a wreathlaying ceremony, and the Bounty Ball that night. During my time on the island I will speak to the Norfolk Island Council. I will then stay on a number of days so I may speak to residents. Already 12 or 15 residents have written to me asking whether they may have appointments to see me. I have readily agreed. I will endeavour to see as many people as wish to see me so that they may put their views to me privately.
-Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister know, as reported in the West Australian last Friday, that the Western Australian Premier last Thursday explicitly refused to take any action to curb a 25 per cent increase in meat prices and stated that the increase was inevitable? In so doing, was Sir Charles Court rejecting the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Representatives on 27 May that there ought to be no exception to the wages and prices freeze? In fact, did Sir Charles not opt out of the prices freeze before Mr Dunstan officially called off South Australian participation?
-The answer is no.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the report of Amnesty International published on 16 May 1977 which expressed deep concern at the treatment of political opponents of the Government of Pakistan. Is the Government aware that according to the report the Pakistan Government has detained several thousand political prisoners, most of them without trial, and that allegations of beatings and police intimidation are reported? Will the Australian Government consider making a request to Pakistan to release these detainees and abide by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
-I will certainly pass that request on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is sensible and reasonable and one that should have the support of all honourable senators.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In answer to a question from Senator Kilgariff he said that later there was to be a report on Government policy on intelligence and security. Will he state whether the report is accurate that Mr Agee, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee, will not be granted a visa to enter Australia if he applies? In view of the serious nature of statements made by Mr Agee does the Government not believe that his presence in Australia could be of benefit in inquiring into recent allegations of CIA interference in Australia ‘s political and industrial affairs?
-I said earlier that I would be making a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister at a later hour this day. I will reserve my comments until then.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen the latest annual report of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd which refers to the insurance business carried on by that Australian company in Rhodesia and to the company’s offices in Salisbury and Bulawayo? Is this a breach of the United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia? If it is not, will the Government be prepared to provide guidelines as to what constitutes a breach of those sanctions? It would appear on the face of it that the carrying on of business by an Australian incorporated company in Rhodesia is departing from the decisions of the United Nations on this question.
-No, I have not seen the annual report of that company. I shall inquire of my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, whether he will study that report and advise the honourable senator whether or not that company is in breach of the resolutions of the United Nations. I shall ask my colleague also whether he will provide for the honourable senator and the Senate the criteria by which no breach is judged to have been committed in the whole range of matters.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, refers to the fact that the Minister for the Capital Territory recently referred to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly a proposed Air Pollution (Stationary Sources) Ordinance to deal in particular with industrial sources of air pollution. In this context can the Minister say whether the Minister for the Capital Territory has considered the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, made in its report on Canberra City Wastes which was tabled in the Senate last December, that controls on domestic incineration should be dealt with in such legislation? If consideration has been given to that recommendation, can the Minister indicate why it is not dealt with in the proposed legislation? If it has not been considered, can the Minister say why and indicate when that will be done?
-The issues raised in the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in relation to domestic incineration were fully considered in the preparation of the Air Pollution (Stationary Sources) Ordinance. I understand that it would be particularly difficult to apply the very stringent and detailed sampling and analytical procedures specified in the proposed legislation to the usual kinds of domestic incineration which, as the honourable senator would know, entail the use of often very much improvised devices. However, the Ordinance will empower the Minister to prohibit open fires and the burning of refuse where meteorological conditions would cause an adverse environmental impact. Prohibition of that kind would have effect for such periods as is specified in the Minister’s notice. I understand that that is the latest situation in relation to the question raised by the honourable senator.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, believing that the question has some legal connotations. I ask the Minister: Can an alteration to the Constitution have retrospective effect? I am concerned about the position of Senator Lewis from Victoria who was appointed for a period up to the next Federal election in accordance with the Constitution as it then was. As there has been a change to the Constitution, will that alter the period of the appointment of Senator Lewis to the Senate? If that change to the Constitution can be made retrospective in relation to the appointment of a senator, why cannot a constitutional alteration have retrospectivity in relation to the present judges of the High Court of Australia?
-I would be a very bold man if I were to give legal opinions from my place in the Senate, even if I were allowed to do so. However, I will be so bold as to answer the last part of the honourable senator’s question. The reason why the constitutional amendment so satisfactorily passed by the electorate in relation to the retiring ages of judges does not apply to the present members of the High Court is that it does not purport to do so. It clearly does not provide for that. As to the other question, I understand that it has been assumed that the amendments will affect the situation as it now stands. The honourable senator asks whether the relevant constitutional amendment will apply to the period for which Senator Lewis has been appointed to the Senate. I shall refer that matter to the Attorney-General for his consideration.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Employment Service pays the unemployment benefit to the husband of a claimant if the claimant is a married woman instead of to the claimant herself? If this is the case, can the Minister indicate whether she approves of this discriminatory practice and, if not, what steps she will take to have the policy changed to one which does not discriminate against claimants on the basis of sex or marital status?
-I am asked a question about the Commonwealth Employment Service paying unemployment benefit. It is the Department of Social Security which actually pays unemployment benefit. The work testing of claimants is arranged through the Commonwealth Employment Service. As far as 1 understand the position, a claimant is issued a cheque in his or her name but there is an eligibility test related to the family income. If that does not satisfactorily answer the matter raised I will have a look at the question in detail to see whether there is further information which I can provide. I am unaware of any practice whereby a claimant would have a cheque paid to any other person on his or her behalf. I state again that the eligibility for unemployment benefit is tested on an income of both husband and wife.
-Is the Minister for Science aware that the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr Camm, has recently indicated that he favours oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef? As well, is the Minister aware that Mr Camm has also claimed that an interim investigation has shown that there would be no danger to the reef from oil exploration and drilling? Is the Minister able to inform the Senate of the investigation to which Mr Camm has referred? Was the Commonwealth involved in the investigation and what are the Commonwealth’s intentions in respect of drilling on the reef?
– If I recall the whole of the question correctly, my answers are as follows: Yes, yes, no, yes. In relation to the last question, I will seek that information from the appropriate Minister who is, I think, the Minister for National Resources.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to Press reports in which Senator Martin is alleged to have said that the Cabinet lied about the likely effect of one of the referendum proposals. I ask the Minister: Is that allegation in relation to this particular matter correct? Did the Cabinet lie?
– About what matter?
-The likely effect of the referendum concerning simultaneous elections.
-That was all last week. This is this week.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. In view of the general discontinuance by State governments of 1080 aerial baiting, is it true that the Northern Territory contemplates the introduction of 1080 aerial baiting in various areas?
-The control of pest animals by the use of 1080 is seen by some people to be cruel and undesirable. I recognise the thoughts of the honourable senator in relation to this matter. My understanding is that excessive numbers of dingoes in pastoral areas in the Northern Territory have required some assessment of what method should be used to control them. I understand that if 1080 is used carefully it is a relatively selective poison. It will control mainly dogs, and losses of other wildlife can be minimised by its use. At the present time 1080 is not widely used in the Northern Territory. It is currently proposed to undertake a control program of dingo baiting by the use of 1080 on a restricted basis on some cattle stations. The whole operation is being supervised by the responsible Government officers. The decision to proceed with this control was apparently taken by the responsible Executive Member for the Northern Territory, and that followed discussion and consultation with the Chief Inspector of Wildlife in the Northern Territory.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. On 10 March I asked a question regarding the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee as to when an election was to be held to replace Mr David Anderson who resigned on 28 February and when the next meeting of the NACC was to be held. To date I have received no reply. As to this date no by-election has been held to replace Mr Anderson and now more than 12 months have elapsed since the last meeting of the NACC, can the Minister give me some information on this matter?
– I have no information on this matter that I can give the honourable senator. I shall refer it again to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to find out what has been decided with regard to elections for the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee and to obtain such other information as I can.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Is it a fact that Mr Green, the Secretary of the Postal and Telecommunications Department, carried out an inspection of the Radio Australia base situated on Cox Peninsula in the week commencing 16 May ? If this is a fact, will the Minister please advise: Firstly, the purpose of this inspection; secondly, whether the Government proposes to repair the facilities on the base which have been out of action since Cyclone Tracy; and, thirdly, whether the Government now proposes to install the 2 radio transmitters which have been stored in Adelaide since before the cyclone? I remind the Minister that the installation of these transmitters would bring Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts to all sections of the Top End which are now denied this service. I have previously stressed the value of this service not only for educational purposes and entertainment but also as part of an early warning system in case of cyclones.
– I am not aware whether Mr Green made a tour of Cox Peninsula during the week commencing, I think, 16 May nor, therefore, am I aware of the matters contained in the subsequent questions asked by the honourable senator. I shall seek the comment of the responsible Minister on each of the points raised in the question.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that the Government is seeking to pass to the States the payment of the supporting mothers benefit? Has the Minister requested from the Attorney-General an opinion on the legal status of the supporting mothers benefit? If so, has this been done for the purpose of having the payment of this benefit by the Federal Government declared illegal with the intention of passing it back to the States?
– There is no accuracy in any of the matters that have been raised in the honourable senator’s question. I do not have under consideration any proposal to refer the supporting mothers benefit to the States. It would be understood that under existing arrangements the States are involved in payments during the first 6 months. I have nothing under consideration to change this nor, to my knowledge, has a legal opinion been requested. It certainly has not been requested from the AttorneyGeneral by me. I can only say that none of the matters that have been raised has any basis in fact. Whatever information has been provided to the honourable senator to require him to raise these matters is outside my knowledge. Such a proposal is not under consideration by the Government.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether a decision has been made to grant an FM radio licence to the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology? Further, what criteria were used for granting that licence if it has been granted? In what respect do the criteria differ from the criteria which are being applied to the Macquarie University and the Sydney Technical College?
– I do have some information concerning the issue of a broadcast station licence to the University of Melbourne. I am advised that in a submission to the relevant Minister dated 15 March 1976 a group representing the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne State College applied for a licence under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905 to establish and operate an FM radio broadcasting station. This application for a licence was in addition to the 12 experimental licences for educational institutions offered by the previous Labor Government and which have now been issued. Approval has been given in principle to the issue of an experimental licence under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, subject to the determination of operating conditions of the experiment and to the confirmation of the Minister’s power to grant this licence under this Act and related legislation. Advice is awaited from the Postal and Telecommunications Department and from the Attorney-General’s Department with regard to these matters. If the Minister proceeds with the granting of this licence, the licence period will be to 31 December 1977 only. I have no information with regard to the remainder of the honourable senator’s question which relates to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. I shall seek that information. I am not advised whether the criteria were different from those laid down for other institutions. My instinct is that the licence for the University of Melbourne would be issued on similar grounds to those for other institutions such as the Australian National University.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. If the situation is as the Minister has just stated in reply to the previous question, what is the position concerning the fine music group in Brisbane? Why has there been a continuing delay in the issue of that licence. If it is possible to give a licence to the University of Melbourne on the conditions just stated by the Minister, why has the Brisbane group been denied a licence for so long?
– Information regarding the fine music group is not immediately available to me. I shall seek that information for the honourable senator.
– On 5 May last, Senator Coleman asked me a question without notice relating to facilities provided for the police officers who maintain an external guard on Parliament House. I am informed by the National Capital Development Commission that 4 police guard boxes of a standard design are in store at Fyshwick. These were constructed with a view to their installation at Parliament House but would be available for installation at other sites. The question whether the existing security cover is to be continued or whether some other system is to be used is currently under consideration. The installation of police guard boxes will depend on the decision taken in this regard. The National Capital Development Commission advises that the cost of manufacture and installation of the boxes is expected to be of the order of $25,000. If it is decided to continue with the existing foot patrol, appropriate arrangements for the protection of these men from the elements will be taken. Alternative methods of maintaining surveillance of the exterior of the building are currently under consideration.
-During question time, Senator Keeffe asked a question relating to the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund. The final report of that Fund has not been presented. I am informed that the Minister for the Northern Territory still has to hold meetings with the members of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund before it is wound up. Therefore, it will be some time before a final report is produced and possibly not during this session. The honourable senator will recall that monthly reports have been tabled. On 5 May this year, before the Parliament went into recess, I tabled reports for the months of October, November and December last year and for the months of January, February, March and April this year.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Tertiary Education Commission Bill 1977.
Commonwealth Teaching Service Amendment Bill 1 977.
Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill 1977.
Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill 1977.
Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill 1977.
Bed Sheeting Bounty Bill 1977.
Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill 1 977.
Insurance Amendment Bill 1977.
Life Insurance Amendment Bill 1977.
States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill 1977.
New Zealand Re-Exports (Repeal) Bill 1977.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Committee on Official Establishments April 1977 together with a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) relating to this matter.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Development Assistance Agency Act 1974 I present the annual report of the Australian Development Assistance Agency for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian delegation to the thirtyfirst session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York during the period 22 September 1976 to 22 December 1976 together with a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in the other place.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on intelligence and security services together with the third report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Securityabridged findings and recommendations- April 1977.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956 I present the twentieth annual report on the operation of that Act during the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Education Research Act 1970 I present the sixth annual report of the Education Research and Development Committee 1975-76. Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement relating to this report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This report contains the first major statement on policy and procedure since the appointment of a full time Chairman, and demonstrates both the expanding and the consolidating nature of ERDC activities. It differs from earlier reports in that it contains a large bibliographic section detailing publications and materials arising from research and development projects funded since the Committee’s inception in 1970. This list, which is to be updated in each forthcoming annual report, provides a measure of the scope and emphasis of some aspects of the Committee’s activities. A wide variety of fields, approaches and presentation of findings will be evident. The report also contains indications of the Committee’s efforts to ensure that research is co-ordinated and evaluated and results are effectively disseminated. Programs for the training of research workers are described. The Committee, through its activities as outlined in this report, justifies my confidence that it is making a significant contribution towards improving education in Australia.
The Research Branch of my Department and the National Committee on Social Science Teaching have also funded programs under the
Education Research Act. Details of these activities will be included, and tabled, in the annual reports of the Department and of the Curriculum Development Centre.
– Pursuant to section 125 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, 1 present the report of the Australian Arbitration Inspectorate for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– I present for the information of honourable senators the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on Assistance for the Consumption of Phosphatic Fertilisers 30 October 1976.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the first report from the Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce on its inquiry into the effects of currency alterations and changes to manufacturing industry protection on employment and inflation, including the effects on prices of manufactured goods.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I present the final report and the transcript of evidence from the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on its inquiry into the impact on the Australian environment of the current woodchip industry program.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave to move that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The Senate, on 28 November 1974, resolved that the matter of the impact on the Australian environment of the current woodchip industry program be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment. This Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Keeffe, embarked upon an investigation of the reference during the Autumn session of 1975. Considerable progress had been made, including 2 public hearings, when the inquiry was brought to a halt by the dissolution of the Parliament in November that year. On 2 March 1976 the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment was created and on 25 March the Senate resolved that the matter of the environmental impact of the woodchip industry be referred to the new Committee. As Chairman of the new Committee I was fortunate in having as fellow committee members, 3 senators who had served on the former Social Environment Committee and who accordingly brought a large measure of continuity to the ongoing inquiry. These were Senators Mulvihill, Melzer and Bonner. I am grateful also to the other 2 members of the Committee, Senators Townley and Colston, for their valuable contribution to the work of the Committee.
The Committee has interpreted its term of reference as covering all woodchipping programs in progress in Australia or under current consideration for establishment. Such programs cover production for export and for the domestic market. In conformity with its terms of reference, the Committee concentrated its attention on the immediate environmental impact of woodchip programs, that is to say, the impact on soil, air and water and on forest fauna and flora. The impact on the social environment has received consideration also. During the inquiry evidence was tendered on many other related subjects, such as pulp mill effluent, pine plantings, population growth and the economics of the timber industry. Whilst these matters are of interest to the Committee, they are not touched upon in the report except insofar as may be necessary for proper understanding of the matters falling within the scope of the inquiry. The final report presented today elaborates and carries forward the conclusions and recommendations of the interim report tabled on 9 December 1976. It also sets out in detail the evidence from which the conclusions and recommendations are drawn.
Concern for the environmental consequences of the woodchip industry was evident in 1971 when the first shipment of woodchips to Japan was made from Eden in New South Wales. Signs of public disquiet increased following extension of the woodchip export industry into other States, with strong criticism being directed towards the industry and the various State forestry services.
The industry’s critics, no less than its defenders, include many reputable persons well qualified to speak on the sometimes highly technical matters brought forward. Even so, formulation of an objective opinion on the environmental aspects of the industry is hampered by a general lack of researched knowledge on the nature of Australian forests, their soils, streams, fauna and flora. Meaningful dialogue on the issue has in consequence become increasingly difficult, with protagonists and antagonists tending to become entrenched in their respective positions and with much of the debate characterised by assertion and emotion rather than factually supported rational argument. The Committee would like to think that through the very process of conducting an inquiry at this juncture, the Senate has gone some way towards acting as a catalyst to improve the climate for mutually beneficial dialogue between the parties in the woodchip controversy.
The conclusions and recommendations set out in the report have been made following many inspections and public hearings. I have been impressed with the bipartisan approach of my colleagues and their constructive attitudes to this most interesting if sometimes controversial subject. The general public is often unaware of this aspect of senators’ work which is genuinely applied to the distillation of evidence in order to arrive at conclusions which are of benefit to the community at large.
The Committee has drawn a large number of conclusions from the evidence which was presented. In fact there are no less than 109 conclusions. There are 21 recommendations to the Federal Government and 27 proposals for the attention of State governments. This recognises our limitations in making strong recommendations in this regard.
The most significant of these conclusions were put before the Senate at the tabling of the interim report last December. To recapitulate, the Committee concludes that whilst a number of environmental problems exist, curtailment of the woodchip industry program is not warranted on environmental grounds at this time. Clearfelling for woodchips poses a number of threats to the environment. Some of these are fully recognised and can be acceptably minimised by application of appropriate management techniques. Other environmental threats, notably those relating to soil nutrients, wildlife preservation, and conservation of genetic characteristics, are less well understood and require further research to identify their true nature and magnitude and to determine ways to counter them effectively.
Because of the abovementioned environmental threats, any indiscriminate extension of clearfelling for woodchips outside the boundaries of present concession and licence areas would be viewed with concern. The Committee is not satisfied the forestry authorities are doing all that could reasonably be expected in the way of ensuring that management prescriptions for protection of the environment are being correctly implemented in the forest. It considers that this poor observance is in part a result of the structure, traditional attitudes and limited resources of the forest industry and forestry authorities. The Committee is particularly concerned at the relative lack of professional and research expertise in the harvesting sector of the industry. Schemes to make economic use of sawmill waste and silvicultural residues including thinnings from existing sawlog operations have environmental as well as economic benefits. Approval of any such schemes should however incorporate safeguards to ensure that the material chipped is restricted to genuine wastes and residues and that additional trees are not felled merely to maintain or increase chip supplies.
The Committee is concerned at the potential for environmental damage represented by the present absence of control over felling operations in private forests. It is also disturbed at the small area of private forest to which positive regeneration measures are applied. In Tasmania in particular, a serious problem for the future can be discerned unless appropriate corrective action is taken soon. The total environmental impact of woodchip operations cannot be fully assessed at this time because of the large number of inadequately researched factors to be taken into account. Empirical observations coupled with experience and some research tend to indicate that, in the short term, present operations in relatively restricted areas are acceptable provided environmental prescriptions are observed. However, much less confidence is felt with respect to long term effects. The Committee accordingly considers that no new projects involving the clearfelling of forests specifically for woodchips should be started until such time as the doubts concerning long term effects on the environment can be resolved.
The inquiry has highlighted for the Committee the inadequate recognition given by planning authorities to the full range of factors needed to ensure adequate conservation of Australian fauna and flora in parks and reserves. Detailed examination of these factors is required in the context of the need to set aside areas of forest for wilderness, intensive forestry, and a complete range of community uses. This entails effective multi-disciplinary land use planning on a national scale. The Committee has made a number of recommendations effective in the Federal sphere springing from these and other conclusions. Among other things it recommends that no export licences be issued to new woodchip projects, other than those intending to use only waste from genuine sawlog operations, until such time as the environmental problems outlined in the report are resolved. It further recommends that renewal of existing export licences or requests for an increase in quantities to be exported be conditional upon meeting various criteria, including effective implementation of environmental protection measures, assurance of adequate regeneration, and conservation of soil nutrients.
The Committee recommends the setting up of a working group to determine research needs and priorities, and proposes appropriate research programs together with means for their support. Other recommendations embrace such matters as a review of forest royalty rate systems, redefinition of the functions of the Australian Forestry Council, and formulation of a national land-use policy with particular reference to the development of adequate systems of parks and reserves for the conservation of fauna and flora.
In presenting this report, the Committee fully recognises that its formal recommendations are necessarily limited to matters falling within the Federal sphere. Neverthless, many of the problems it surveys can be tackled effectively only by State governments or, in some instances, by the Australian timber industry itself. The Committee has accordingly taken the liberty, at various points in the report, of advocating action within the ambit of State instrumentalities or the timber industry. That advocacy covers matters such as forest management, land-use policy, and national parks and reserves.
Despite the existence of conflicting views put forward in evidence, the Committee believes that most of the participants in the woodchip debate share the same fundamental aim, namely to ensure wise planning and management in the use of Australia’s land resources for present and future generations. The increasing concern of the community for this aim, particularly with respect to forests, is reflected in the number of symposia and inquiries held in recent years on this theme.
The Committee hopes that its conclusions and recommendations, taken in conjunction with those of other inquiries will help point the way to some fertile ground from which will spring decisions and actions in the best interests of the community.
It would be remiss of me if I did not mention the stirling support that the Committee received from its secretariat. Mr Peter Dawe served the Committee beyond the call of duty. He even offered his services during holiday periods and at weekends. He is available when the Committee requires his services. The same compliment must be paid to Hazel Church and Andrew Snedden. All of them participated in organising inspections, public hearings, transport and accommodation for the Committee. This support was most invaluable to our function. Last but not least, I must pay a very sincere tribute to our stenographer Leonie Petrie who was put to a great deal of work in recent times typing the report. As honourable senators can see, it is in excess of 400 pages. I must pay a very sincere tribute to her for her efforts in support of the Committee’s activities. I commend the report to honourable senators.
– It gives me a good deal of pleasure to endorse the remarks of the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Science and the Environment. I commence where he ended. We had a very fine engine-room crew. All the people whom he named made the Committee a very effective unit. If one looks objectively at this report one finds a challenge to many people to keep faith with the principles underlying all the evidence that was given before us. When we commenced we had a fair idea of the polarisation of the protagonists of development and those from the conservation wings of the community. Each member of the Committee was fairly probing in his questioning. We gained a reputation. Any person who made an assertion had to face up to some fairly solid questioning to prove the point that he was trying to get across. I think that was extremely fair. It did not matter from what quarter it came. Everybody had to face this probing. As a result, the report is detailed.
I suppose the first challenge is to the Australian Government but, more so, to the State governments. Most committee members, including myself, felt that the land management programs suggested in every State provided a reasonable proportion of land for normal forestry requirements while at the same time providing reasonable wildlife national park habitats. As far as I can see, most States are honouring those agreements. It would be regrettable if they were not kept. At this stage I am prepared to say that possibly Committee members will have to take to the public forum in their own States to see that all they seek is achieved. I do not say that from any narrow Party point of view because I notice that some of the recommendations dealing with the Eden region- the part dealing with the expansion of the Nadgee River and Merrica River areas- has been met by the New South Wales Government but some has not. That is something which I think all other governments should consider. The recommendations have to be adopted in full.
We reached a milestone when we adopted the dictum: The polluter pays. We advanced the idea that people who made a profit out of forestry products should pay. The principle applies in the grazing industry where there are levies for research. Shippers pay so much per tonne towards research on oil pollution clean-up. It is only right as a principle, as the Committee suggested, that there should be some form of levy to provide adequate research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The evidence that the CSIRO gave on wood technology and wildlife habitation stressed to the Committee the vital role that CSIRO officers perform. The CSIRO cannot expect to operate on a shoestring. I hope the Commonwealth Government gives early attention to this matter.
There are a few other dangers. If there is a regenerated forest and it is not touched for 50 to 60 years, one could argue that it has multipurpose uses such as tourism and a haven for wildlife. We saw evidence in Tasmania of technological advances in the case of the Tasmanian blue gum. There was abnormal growth indicating that the forest will reach its yield zenith much earlier than forecast. There could be a temptation to come back to that forest in 25 years or less, not 50 years. This is an area in which there needs to be continuous vigilance.
One other point is very important. I mentioned the polarisation of different elements in the community. We have suggested advisory councils. When people meet regularly and there is an early indication of what is contemplated a better appreciation of other people’s ideas results. This Committee is not solely responsible for this attitude. We were lucky that we were following in the footsteps of the United States Senate, which has advocated advisory councils in the interests of better relations between the United States forestry service, conservation groups and the public in general. If we can get unanimity of purpose we will save much of our present environment and avoid mistakes that were made notably at Eden in the early years of the woodchip industry.
I find it satisfying that the new breed of forestry students of both sexes at the Australian National University is perhaps much more receptive to new ideas than the older generation. These people would be more receptive to some of the matters which Senator Jessop mentioned. I do not wish to pre-empt the role of Victorian senators, particularly Senator Melzer, but to show that I am approaching matters on a national angle I wish to make an appeal concerning an area in Victoria. The Committee was impressed by certain Gippsland forests of prime timber that were regenerated after the disastrous 1 939 fires. We know that the Gippsland area is the habitat of the Leadbeater possum. Notwithstanding a period of budget austerity I hope that with the aid of the endangered species legislation we will be able to preserve the enclave for that species. The Committee was a very happy one. As I told other members of the Committee this morning, the nicest compliment I could pay them is to say that the Committee functioned as efficiently as the famous Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. Mr President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I present its one hundred and sixtythird report. I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– As honourable senators are aware, after the close of each financial year the Treasurer submits to the Parliament for its consideration and approval a statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer showing allocations to heads of expenditure made by him from the advance under section 36a of the Audit Act. The Committee carries out the parliamentary scrutiny of this past expenditure by obtaining explanations from departments for each item of expenditure finally charged to the advance and selecting the more notable of these for public inquiry. The one hundred and sixty-third report relates specifically to evidence taken in connection with items of expenditure from the advance to the Treasurer in 1975-76.
In chapter 1 of the report the Committee has stated that, in examining expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, it has sought to ascertain whether expenditure from the advance has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the original and additional estimates. The Committee has also sought to ascertain whether the departments concerned in the inquiry have maintained efficient administration in the expenditure of funds under the items selected for public inquiry. As the report shows, there were cases in relation to the departments of Industry and Commerce, the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Social Security where expenditure from the advance to the Treasurer was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Acts. In other cases, however, there was evidence of clerical errors, inefficient estimating procedures, and delays which caused expenditure to be charged to the advance when provision should properly have been made in the Additional Estimates. For example, in the transfer of responsibilities for the Australian Capital Territory Police from the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs to the Department of the Capital Territory a number of accounts received and registered in the Department of the Capital Territory were inexplicably overlooked when additional estimates were being prepared. Another example occurred in the Department of Education where it failed to consider the financial and accounting implications of the introduction of a new pay cycle for beneficiaries under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. Attention has been drawn to these and other similar inadequacies where they have been discovered.
In the report the Committee has emphasised the serious light in which it viewed the action of the Department of Administrative Services in charging expenditure relating to the purchase of Governor Macquarie ‘s sword and dirk to the wrong appropriation. When it drew a cheque for the purchase against an appropriation that had not been approved by the Parliament for that purpose, the Department knowingly contravened a very important principle embodied in section 83 of the Constitution which states that:
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law.
The Committee also believes that when the cheque was drawn, section 34 (3) of the Audit Act 1901 was breached in that the proposed expenditure was not being charged to the correct head of expenditure. The Committee was concerned that departmental witnesses did not seem to be fully aware of the serious nature of the Department’s illegal actions. The Committee has directed the attention of all departments to the Treasurer’s letter of 2 June 1976 to all Ministers on the subject of delays in the payment of accounts and to Treasury Circular 1976/15 of 8 June 1976 which referred to specific paragraphs of the Committee’s one hundred and fifty-first report which dealt with the same subject. Despite the Treasurer’s letter the Committee was concerned that it is still receiving evidence of delays in the payment of accounts by some government departments. The Committee was dissatisfied with the quality of the submissions presented by the departments of Aboriginal Affairs and the Attorney-General and has invited the specific attention of all departments to the notes relating to evidence that accompany requests for submissions, which clearly state that the committee expects that:
Written submissions and explanations should be carefully prepared and thoroughly checked for adequacy and accuracy of detail and absence of ambiguity.
The Committee has also pointed out that Treasury Circular 1976/10 dated 11 May 1976 also directs the attention of departments to the necessity for evidence tendered to be of the highest quality. I commend the report to honourable senators.
-Mr President, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Act 1964 I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Royal Australian Air Force Base, Point Cook, Victoria.
– I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) concerning allegations of Central Intelligence Agency activity in Australia.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I make this statement on behalf of the Prime Minister and wherever the personal pronoun is used it is to be taken as referring to the Prime Minister and not to me. The statement reads: We have seen over the last 4 weeks efforts to expose some of Australia’s most closely held secrets and to publicise allegations based on hearsay or worse, to the embarrassment of Australia’s relations with the United States, our closest ally. Accordingly, I believe it is important that I make a statement on these matters and attempt to put them in a proper perspective. Any public discussion which disregards Australia’s interest is of serious concern to the Government. Those who are opposed to our alliance with the United States have naturally sought to exploit this issue for their own purposes. The situation I have described has been precipitated by the allegations of one Christopher Boyce, a 23-year-old communications clerk, who was on trial in California and has since been convicted of selling United States secrets to the Soviet Union. His allegations about Central Intelligence Agency activities in Australia were an attempt to rationalise his crimes. The Government has examined relevant parts of the transcript of the Boyce trial which in fact add little or nothing to the allegations which have already appeared in the media. I shall arrange for a copy of this transcript to be placed in the Parliamentary Library for the information of honourable senators.
We have since seen some former members of the CIA making, for their own motives, hearsay allegations, some of which would appear to come within the ambit of what is known as disinformation’ or the attempt to gain political ends through false and misleading information. It has been the Government’s long standing policy to avoid comment on matters involving intelligence and security. There are good reasons for this policy in that the mere act of denying specific allegations can often provide important leads and be damaging to our and our allies’ national security. I do not therefore intend to deal with specific allegations which have been made. As pan of our defence relationship with the United States, there have grown up extensive arrangements for exchanging information and views with a wide range of United States Government agencies including those in the intelligence and security field. Under these arrangements officers from United States agencies are declared to the Australian authorities and work with various Australian agencies. Of course, Ministers with relevant responsibilities know who they are. Australian officers are engaged in similar declared capacities in Washington. These arrangements are long standing and have been, and still are, of great value to Australia. They are an important aspect of the close and intimate relationship which we have with the United States. Through these arrangements we have access to and exchange valuable information with the United States on a wide range of international strategic developments as well as security and intelligence matterssuch as espionage and international terrorism to name 2 examples- which contribute in the broadest terms to the protection of Australia and the Australian community.
There is also a long established convention that close allies do not conduct covert activities within each other’s territories. Such activities are not necessary between friends. In this connection I wish to reassure the nation that I have carefully reviewed the activities of the United States Government in Australia and have found them to be fully consistent with the interests and policies of the Australian Government and people. I am satisfied with the assurances I have received from elements of my own Government and from President Carter personally through his Ambassador that neither the United States Government not its representatives are involved in improper or inappropriate activities here. Our joint activities with them are important to the national security of both countries. Furthermore, we are most happy with the results we are obtaining from these activities.
I appreciate that some honourable gentlemen opposite enjoy deceiving themselves with conspiracy theories, and would like to believe that it was the CIA rather than the Australian electorate which put them out of office. Such views are, however, not merely politically self-serving but naive. They will also be aware that, in recent times, the activities of the CIA, unlike most other foreign intelligence services, have been kept under close scrutiny by the United States Congress; and that allegations of improper activity will be investigated as a matter of routine by the Congress.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has called for a royal commission into the allegations which have been made. I believe that such an inquiry is totally unnecessary. I note that the Leader, when Prime Minister, sought and was advised of the names of representatives of United States intelligence agencies then in Australia. He was apparently then satisfied with the information he received because after detailed inquiry he took no further action in relation to it.
The Royal Commissioner on Security and Intelligence, Mr Justice Hope, who was appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in August 1974, has recently completed a most extensive series of investigations and reports on all aspects of Australian intelligence and security. His investigations included the activities of foreign intelligence services in Australia. There is nothing in the Royal Commissioner’s reports which give any substance to the allegations relating to CIA activity which have occupied so much attention over the last 4 weeks. Mr Justice Hope has made recommendations to increase the effectiveness of our internal security arrangements. These concern the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in particular and are aimed at ensuring that it will be better equipped in the future to meet its responsibilities for investigating and providing intelligence about threats to the internal security of the nation. Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations have already been the subject of detailed study and I shall be making a statement to the House after my return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London about the Government’s decisions.
As I have already said in this House, I look to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to provide timely advice on all matters which might affect the security of this country, including improper activities by any foreign intelligence service in Australia. It is my belief that the Director-General of ASIO, Mr Justice Woodward, carries out this responsibility creditably and faithfully. Similarly, the Leader of the Opposition, whose Government appointed Mr Justice Woodward, has recently re-affirmed in the House his confidence in the DirectorGeneral. Improper activities by the representatives in Australia of any foreign government have in the past and would in the future be regarded just as seriously by my Government as they have been by previous Australian Governments. I present the following paper:
Allegations of Central Intelligence Agency Activity in Australia- Ministerial Statement, 24 May 1977.
– It would not be possible to have a detailed or lengthy debate on the statement which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has just made immediately following the presentation of that statement. I believe that the Leader of the Government would wish the statement to be debated at length some time when it is possible to do so. For that reason I shall confine my remarks.
The statement appears to be something of a mixture. There are parts of it with which one could take issue; there are other parts which I, for one, confess that I am glad to see. I refer especially to the last paragraph of the statement in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gives an assurance concerning improper activities by the representatives in Australia of any foreign government. They would be regarded just as seriously by this Government as they would have been by previous Australian governments. I do not think that is an issue on which one should attempt to score political points; it is too serious. I do not suggest, nor do I believe, that the Government, or any Australian government, would allow any improper activities which would in any way infringe our sovereign rights to take place in this country by the representatives of any other nation. We would be foolish individually as political parties and collectively as a Parliament if we were to permit that.
For that reason I take some exception to one or two comments which are made. I refer, for example, to the references to persons sitting opposite wanting to make political capital out of this issue and to one other reference in the statement about people who are opposed to our alliance with the United States seeking to exploit the issue for their own purposes. I do not believe that a statement made by a Prime Minister on this subject ought to contain those remarks.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has called for a royal commission into these matters. I think that is understandable in the light of references that have been made both here and overseas to events which are alleged to have taken place in this country over the last year or two. I find nothing improper with a former Prime Minister seeking to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of those allegations. If the position were reversed and the present Prime Minister was seeking in similar circumstances to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of such allegations I would support him because it would be the proper thing to do. I do not accept any imputations of political motives on the part of the Opposition or, much less, the Leader of the Opposition in respect of his call for a royal commission.
The Opposition believes- we have made this quite clear in statements issued over the last few days- that we deplore espionage activities in this country, by any foreign nation and we ought not to tolerate such activities. We accept, as we did ourselves in government, that perhaps with certain countries we have arrangements, as spelt out in this statement, for exchanging information and views over a wide range of matters. It is the prerogative of any government to have those arrangements with a foreign power if it so desires. Our concern is with any activities that have taken place which are outside those arrangements. It does not matter what our politics are, we ought to make sure that that does not happen, that we do not tolerate it under any circumstances with any foreign power. I am glad to see that this statement gives assurances by the Prime Minister that he also will not tolerate it and that the Government will not tolerate it. I am sure that the Australian people will be heartened by the fact that the Prime Minister has given such a clear undertaking on behalf of the Parliament. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
1 ) That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the remainder of this period of sittings be as follows:
Tuesday, 24 May-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.
Wednesday, 25 May-2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.
Thursday, 26 May- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1 .00 p.m.
Friday, 27 May-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 5.00 p.m.
Monday, 30 May-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.
Tuesday 31 May-2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.
Wednesday, 1 June- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Thursday, 2 June-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1 .00 p.m.
Friday, 3 June-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1 .00 p.m.
That Government Business take precedence of General Business on Thursdays.
That the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at the terminating time each day.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian National Railways Act 1917. The main provisions of the Bill are necessary to enable the finalisation of the transfers of the South Australian non-metropolitan and Tasmanian railway systems to the Commonwealth. The opportunity has also been taken to make some other amendments of a minor nature. Honourable senators will recall that the present Government, when in opposition, did not oppose the legislation to approve the rail transfer agreements with South Australia and Tasmania on the grounds they were agreements between sovereign governments. This was the correct course of action for us to take. But that does not mean we were happy with the arrangements made. In fact it is very clear that the Whitlam Government was taken to the cleaners, whilst the 2 State Premiers laughed all the way to the bank! We have stated however, that the Government will honour the agreements, and will complete the transfers at the earliest opportunity.
The 2 rail systems were transferred to the Australian National Railways Commission on 1 July 1975. The transfer Acts however provided for an interim’ period during which the rail systems would continue to be operated and administered by the State Authorities, on behalf of and subject to the direction of the ANR Commission. The purpose of the interim period was to enable the terms and conditions of employment that would be applied to all ANR employees to be determined, so that, the State railways employees could transfer to the Commonwealth. Discussions with the unions concerned have now been going on for nearly 2 years, and it is clearly time that the matter be finalised to enable the ANR Commission to manage the total system directly. Honourable senators need to be aware of the difficulties involved. For instance there are 24 unions and associations involved in the discussions, and 26 different awards covering State and Commonwealth employees. In the wages area alone there are about 600 different classifications, many of them unique to the railway service.
The main provisions of this Bill result from agreements already reached with the unions. Because of the urgency the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has asked those involved in the discussions to co-operate to the fullest extent to enable the remaining unresolved matters to be finalised. The ANR Commission was established as a statutory authority to operate along commercial lines. This is important. Australia cannot afford inefficiency or a waste of resources in this very necessary mode of transport. Part of the justification for the transfers was that it would enable rationalisation between the systems leading to an increase in efficiency and a reduction in the deficits being incurred. The combined deficits of the 2 transferred systems amounted to $45m in 1976 and I do not underestimate the task that has been set the ANR Commission.
The Government has taken action already to assist the Commission in its task. Committees of inquiry were established under the Chairmanship of Dr Stewart Joy, Chief Manager, Planning and Marketing of the National Bank of Australasia, to inquire into and report on the Tasmanian rail system and the options available regarding the construction of a standard gauge link between Adelaide and the main east-west standard gauge railway. Reports on these 2 matters have been completed and released to the public. The Minister for Transport has invited the 2 State governments and the ANR Commission to comment on the reports and has given an undertaking that no decisions will be taken with respect to the report’s findings without careful and proper consideration of the various options and their implications.
Rail services must be provided to meet the needs of the States concerned at the least cost to the community and inquiries such as these undertaken by Dr Joy will assist the Government and the Commission to decide how this is to be achieved. The Minister for Transport has indicated to me that he is pleased with the constructive approach taken by his State counterparts towards overcoming the railways problems, and is confident that if the Government can continue to receive the co-operation of the States as well as that of the unions and employees, improvements in operation and the level of deficit will occur.
I now turn to the Bill itself. I have circulated an explanatory memorandum for the information of honourable senators but I will very briefly describe the purpose of the more important amendments in the order they appear in the Bill. Clause 5 removes the necessity for contracts where ANR receives in excess of $100,000 to be approved by the Minister, this having been inadvertently included in the last amendment to the Act. It is inconsistent with the commercial role of the Commission for the approval of the Minister for Transport to be required in this matter. The requirement for the Minister for Transport to approve leases of land exceeding 10 years has also been deleted as this matter is covered in the Lands Acquisition Act. Clause 6 removes the possibility of inconsistency between the setting of rates and charges under this Act and the provisions of the South Australian transfer act and agreement which provide that relative advantages in rates and charges that previously existed are to be retained. Clause 9 amplifies the application of the discipline appeal provisions that occur later in the Bill, and the making of determinations relating to misconduct. A provision has also been included to assist in the proving, in court proceedings, that determinations under section 46 (2) of the ANR Act were validly made and in force at the appropriate time.
Clauses 10, 14 and 19 concern the industrial jurisdiction that will apply to all employees of ANRC. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will replace the Public Service Arbitrator. These provisions are required to apply the jurisdiction of the Commission and include transitional provisions to simplify the change in jurisdiction. Clause 1 1 concerns superannuation. Section 5 1 currently provides that the Act does not authorise superannuation benefits otherwise than under the Superannuation Act 1922. It has been agreed with the South Australian Government that transferring employees will be permitted to remain in their State schemes if they wish, because some employees, particularly those close to retirement, would otherwise be disadvantaged. Transferring employees will have a once only option on the declared date to either remain in the State scheme or commence as new contributors in the Commonwealth scheme. The South Australian Government has enacted legislation to this effect. The same offer was made to the Tasmanian Government, and it is expected that Tasmanian legislation to give effect to this offer will be passed at the earliest apportunity The clause has been drafted on the basis that the same arrangements apply to employees in both States. Clause 12 relates to promotions and disciplinary appeal procedures that are to apply to all employees of ANR when the rail transfers are finalised. The major provisions concerning the protection of rights and functions of the Boards have been included in legislation. Other matters are to be included in regulations and by-laws.
Clause 13 repeals the section in the Act which provides for the retirement age of employees. It is proposed to deal with retiring age under the Commission’s power to make determinations relating to terms and conditions of service, provided for under clause 46 (2). This practice is consistent with that used by the Australian National Line and Trans Australia Airlines. Clause 18 ensures that by-laws, made by the Commission for the purpose of applying State legislation are validly made. This provision is required because uniform operating rules and provisions prescribing rates and charges may not be finalised by the ‘declared’ date under the rail transfer agreements and it will therefore be necessary for the relevant State provisions to remain in force until replaced. Other amendments are either of a minor nature, merely procedural or of a consequential nature. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Motion ( by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages of the passage through the Senate of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1977 and the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Bill 1977 being put in one motion at each stage and consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1977
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act of 1975 gave effect to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, the Kerr Committee, which reported in 1971. It was supported on both sides of the Parliament. The Bill now introduced is intended to make some changes in the structure of the Tribunal to enable it to operate more flexibly in dealing with a much wider range of matters than at present. The Tribunal came into operation on 1 July 1976. It has jurisdiction to review decisions under a number of Acts, some ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory and by-laws made by the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission. Nevertheless, only 24 applications have been made to the Tribunal to 26 April last. Much of the legislation conferring jurisdiction on the Tribunal is not of a kind that requires decisions to be made in a substantial number of cases. So far the Tribunal has no jurisdiction in the welfare field. Plans are now well advanced, however, to enable appeals to be taken to the Tribunal under the Social Services Act. Appeals will also be provided under a large number of Australian Capital Territory ordinances. It has become apparent that the Tribunal should have a different structure if it is to be equipped to hear appeals on a wide range of matters without making excessive demands on the services of presidential members at a judicial level.
The central feature of the amendments is to be found in clause 12 of the Bill. At present, subject to any provision to the contrary contained in an enactment conferring jurisdiction on the Tribunal, the Tribunal must be constituted by a presidential member and 2 non-presidential members. What is now proposed is that the Tribunal may be constituted in any of 4 ways; by a presidential and 2 non-presidential members, by a presidential member alone, by a senior nonpresidential member (a new class of member) and 2 other non-presidential members, or by a senior non-presidential member sitting alone.
Subject to any provision to the contrary in another enactment the President is to be empowered to decide how the Tribunal is to be constituted for a particular matter. The President when constituting a tribunal is to have regard to the degree of public importance or complexity of the matters to which the proceeding relates and to the status of the decision-maker whose decision is to be reviewed. What is intended is that decisions made at ministerial or very senior departmental level would ordinarily be reviewed by the Tribunal constituted by or including a presidential member. So too would a decision in the nature of a test case made at a lower level of government.
Of course, an appeal that begins as a straight forward matter may turn out to be a complex one or one of much public interest, or to involve difficult questions of statutory interpretation. The Bill therefore makes provisions whereby such a case, if it has been set down before a nonpresidential bench of the Tribunal, may be transferred to a presidential bench. These provisions are to be found in clauses 1 1 and 13 of the Bill. The amendments to be made to section 20 of the Act would empower the President to change the composition of a Tribunal where it has not commenced to hear a matter. Again this discretion will be exercisable by reference only to criteria of complexity and public importance of the matter and the status of the decision-maker.
Where the Tribunal has commenced a hearing the matter can be brought before a ‘higher level ‘ of the Tribunal under the proposed new section 2 1A which is inserted by clause 13. In such a case the change can be made only where a party makes an application for this purpose and the President concludes that the public importance of the matter warrants the application being granted. New section 21A also provides for the case where only part of a matter requires to be dealt with at a ‘higher level’ of the Tribunal. For example, where it is necessary to resolve a question of law, proceedings commenced before a non-presidential bench can be brought before a presidential bench for the purpose, and then remitted back to the non-presidential bench. Consequential upon the amendments referred to, section 45 of the Act is amended by clause 30 so that the Tribunal, when it does not include a presidential member, may not refer a question of aw to the Federal Court of Australia without the concurrence of the President. This clause reflects the view that matters should not go to the Court until the resources of the Tribunal have been exhausted.
The creation of the new grade of senior nonpresidential member has required changes to a number of other sections of the Act. Clause 4 amends section 6 of the Act to provide for the appointment of such a member. Section 10 is to be re-made by clause 6, to incorporate provision for appointment of acting senior nonpresidential members. Section 22 is to be remade by clause 13, to provide for a senior nonpresidential member to preside at a hearing of the Tribunal constituted as a non-presidential bench. Although the Bill does not require a senior non-presidential member to have legal qualifications, it is intended that in practice legal training will be required for such an appointment.
Next, the Bill proposes some changes to section 26 of the principal Act. That section enables additional jurisdiction to be given to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal by regulations made under the principal Act. At present, however, jurisdiction can be given only in respect of decisions made after regulations providing for appeals against decisions under a particular statute come into force. This means that, where there is an existing review machinery under a statute, regulations cannot provide for the transfer to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of matters pending before that existing review machinery at the date on which the relevant regulations are made. The purpose of clause 16 of the Bill is to amend section 26 of the Act to facilitate the transfer, by regulations made in accordance with that section, of the jurisdiction of existing appeal bodies to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The other provisions of the Bill that require special mention are those relating to the protection of information that ought not, in the public interest, be publicly disclosed in proceedings before the Tribunal or as a result of having been produced, in confidence, to the Tribunal. Section 36 of the principal Act empowers the AttorneyGeneral to give a certificate that the disclosure of information concerning a specified matter or the disclosure of the contents of a document would be contrary to the public interest. The giving of such a certificate does not prevent the information or documents being made available to the Tribunal, but it may prevent them being disclosed publicly or to parties to proceedings before the Tribunal. Except where the certificate is given on the ground that the disclosure would prejudice security, defence or international relations or would disclose proceedings in Cabinet, an Attorney-General’s certificate may be challenged before the Tribunal and may, if the Tribunal so rules, be set aside.
Section 36 is to be amended in 3 respects. First, the question whether a certificate should be set aside is to be determined by the President of the Tribunal. This is consequential upon the creation of the new class of senior non-presidential members to preside at sittings of the Tribunal. Under the Act as it stands, where a presidential member presides at a sitting of the Tribunal, he would decide the question whether a certificate under section 36 should be set aside. Secondly, it is to be made clear that where a certificate is set aside this may be done on terms that only some of the parties may have access to the document or information concerned. Thirdly, it is to be made clear that members of the staff of the Tribunal may have such access to a document or information the subject of a section 36 certificate as is necessary for them to perform their duties. A similar amendment is to be made to section 46 in relation to the staff of the Federal Court of Australia. The Act does not provide for the Attorney-General to claim a like immunity from disclosure in respect of an answer to a question asked of a witness in proceedings before the Tribunal. New section 36A, to be inserted by clause 23 of the Bill, makes provision for this to be done.
Section 66 of the principal Act makes it an offence for a member of the Tribunal, a former member of the Tribunal, or a member or former member of the staff of the Tribunal to disclose any information acquired by him by reason of his office or employment for the purposes of the Act. This provision goes much too far. It applies whether or not the information concerned is otherwise publicly available. It subjects members of the Tribunal of judicial status to restrictions that do not apply to them in their office as judges. Accordingly, section 66 is to be replaced by a new section, to ensure that documents or information furnished to or given in evidence before the Tribunal cannot be required to be produced or given in evidence in other proceedings if there is a relevant certificate of the Attorney-General in force under section 36 of the Act or the Tribunal itself has ordered that there should be no public disclosure of the material. The proposed new section also provides that a person who is or has been a member of the Tribunal may not be required to give evidence in a court in relation to any proceedings before the Tribunal.
Clause 28 of the Bill proposes the insertion of a new section 43A empowering the Tribunal to return documents lodged with the Tribunal to the person who lodged them. It is considered that proposed new sections 43A and 66, together with the general provisions of the law prohibiting unauthorised disclosure of information, will give adequate protection to confidential information and the privacy of persons appearing before the Tribunal. Regard must also be had to the powers the Tribunal has under section 35 of the Act to prohibit the publication of evidence. Contravention of an order of the Tribunal prohibiting the publication of material is punishable under section 63 of the principal Act. A new provision is to be made, by clause 36 of the Bill, for regulations to fix fees payable in respect of applications to the Tribunal. The regulations may provide for the refund, in whole or part, of any fees paid when the proceedings terminate in a manner favourable to the applicant. The provision is included in the Bill so that, if it appears necessary to do so in any particular class of appeals, fees can be prescribed to deter frivolous applications to the Tribunal.
The remaining provisions of the Bill relate to procedures in proceedings before the Tribunal. They are designed to simplify procedures and to facilitate the hearing of appeals by the Tribunal. Finally, I should mention that the Bill has been very carefully considered by the Administrative Review Council, which was appointed late last year. The Council endorses the changes proposed to be made to the structure of the Tribunal and to the procedures before the Tribunal. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Bill 1977
This is a very significant measure. The purpose of this BUI is to reform the law relating to the review by the courts of administrative actions of Commonwealth Ministers and officials. The Bill is a further step in the on-going review of Commonwealth administrative law that began with the establishment of the Administrative Review Committee- the Kerr Committee-in 1968 by the then Attorney-General. The proposals by that Committee have so far resulted in the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Administrative Review Council and the enactment of the Ombudsman Act. Both the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Administrative Review Council are in operation; the Commonwealth Ombudsman has been appointed and it is expected that he will take up his office about the end of June.
The present law relating to the review by the courts of administrative decisions is in a most unsatisfactory state. A great deal has been written about the shortcomings of the present procedures and it is not, I think, necessary for me to elaborate on these deficiencies in the present context. The law in this area is clearly in need of reform and simplification and to be put into statutory form. What the present Bill seeks to do is to establish a single simple form of proceeding in the Federal Court of Australia for judicial review of Commonwealth administrative actions as an alternative to the present cumbersome and technical procedures for review by way of prerogative writ, or the present actions for a declaration or injunction.
Before I proceed to say something about the details of the Bill, it may be useful to set these proposals in the context of the machinery for review already embodied in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Ombudsman Acts. It is very important that we get this in focus. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal is empowered to review on the merits any decision of a Minister or official acting under a statutory power if, but only if, the relevant legislation provides for an appeal to the Tribunal. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act does not confer a general right of appeal against decisions by Ministers, officials and statutory bodies. Where, however, an appeal lies to the Tribunal, the Tribunal may review on the merits the decision appealed from and substitute its own decision. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is not restricted to the review of decisions taken in the exercise of statutory powers. He is empowered to investigate complaints against decisions of Commonwealth officials and statutory bodies, whether taken under statutory power or in the ordinary course of administration. He is excluded from reviewing actions by Ministers, but he may investigate a recommendation made by a department to a Minister. He will not be concerned directly with reviewing the merits of the decisions or action of officials where no element of maladministration is present and, in particular, he will not be empowered to substitute his own decision for that under review. He may only recommend corrective action where he thinks there has been maladministration. No doubt in many cases his decision will lead to review.
Judicial review by the Federal Court of Australia will not be concerned at all with the merits of the decision or action under review. The only question for the Court will be whether the action is lawful, in the sense that it is within the power conferred on the relevant Minister or official or body, that prescribed procedures have been followed and that general rules of law, such as conformity to the principles of natural justice, have been observed. The Court will not be able to substitute its own decision for that of the person or body whose action is challenged in the court. It will be empowered to enjoin action or to quash a decision it finds unlawful and to direct action to be taken in accordance with the law. It will also be able to compel action by a person or body who has not acted, but who ought to have done so. It will thus be seen that the 3 avenues of review, appeal on the merits to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and judicial review by the Federal Court of Australia, provide different approaches to the remedying of grievances about Commonwealth administrative action. Each has its own place in a comprehensive scheme for the redress of grievances.
Apart from the technical limitations of the present law for judicial review under the prerogative writs, a person who is aggrieved by a decision usually has no means of compelling the decision-maker to give his reasons for the decision or to set out the facts on which the decision is based. Lack of knowledge on these matters will often make it difficult to mount an effective challenge to an administrative decision even though there may be grounds on which that decision can be challenged in law. Accordingly, one of the principal elements of the present Bill is a provision that will require a decision-maker to give to a person who is adversely affected by his decision the reasons for that decision and a statement of findings on material questions of fact, including the evidence or other material on which those findings were based. There is already a like provision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act in respect of decisions from which an appeal lies to the Tribunal. A draft of the present Bill was considered in detail by the Administrative Review Council, and the comments and recommendations of the Council have been embodied in the Bill that is now before the Senate.
I turn now to a description of the contents of the Bill. It provides for review by the Federal Court of Australia of decisions of an administrative character under an Act of the Parliamentother than the Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act 1 970- a Territory ordinance or regulations or rules made under such an Act or ordinance. It also provides for the review of conduct engaged in or proposed to be engaged in for the purpose of making a decision to which the Bill will apply. Decisions made by the GovernorGeneral under statutory authority are to be excluded, and there is provision for regulations to be made excluding classes of decisions from the scope of the Bill. The present law provides only a limited scope for review of the exercise of statutory powers by the Governor-General acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council. Where the exercise of such a power is prima facie ultra vires, the courts can grant appropriate relief. But it appears doubtful whether the courts will inquire into the grounds on which advice is tendered to the Governor-General. It will still be open, in any case where such a decision is made in excess of statutory authority, for the existing remedies to be applied, but it has not been considered appropriate that the Court should be empowered to inquire into the proceedings of the Federal Executive Council in the manner provided for in the present Bill. Specific provision is made in the Bill for the Court to make an order requiring a decision to be made where there has been a breach of duty to make a decision to which the Bill applies.
The grounds of review are set out in clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill. Clause 5 applies to a decision that has been made and clause 6 applies to conduct engaged in or proposed to be engaged in for the purpose of making a decision to which the Bill applies. Conduct includes the taking of evidence or the holding of an inquiry or investigation. The grounds of review specified are those that have been developed by the courts. To avoid stultifying further development of the law by the Federal Court of Australia, each of clauses 5 and 6 contains the comprehensive ground that the decision made or proposed to be made would be otherwise contrary to law. Clause 1 1 of the Bill provides for an application for review to be made in the manner prescribed by rules of court and for the time within which it may be made. An application for review under the Bill may be made by any person who is aggrieved by a decision. This term is defined in clause 3(4) to include a person whose interests are adversely affected by the decision or would be adversely affected by a proposed decision. These provisions relating to the standing of a person to challenge Commonwealth administrative action may need to be reviewed when the Australian Law Reform Commission presents its report on the law of standing. The Commission currently has a reference from the Attorney-General on the subject.
Clause 13 provides that a person who is entitled to apply for a review of a decision may obtain from the decision-maker reasons for the decision, including findings on material questions of fact. I have already referred to the importance of this provision. No longer will it be possible for the decision-maker to hide behind a wall of silence. Clause 14 empowers the
Attorney-General to give a certificate that the disclosure of information would be contrary to the public interest on a ground specified in that clause. These grounds cover those under which a claim of Crown privilege may be made before the Court in judicial proceedings. The effect of such a certificate is that the information to which it relates need not be included in a statement under clause 13. Sub-clause (4) of clause 14 specifically provides, however, that the clause is not to affect the power of the Court to make an order for the disclosure of documents or to require the giving of evidence or the production of documents to the Court. The powers that the Court may exercise on an application for an order of review are set out in clause 16. The Court may quash or set aside the decision or part of the decision, refer the matter back to the decision-maker for further consideration subject to such directions as the Court thinks fit, make an order declaring the rights of the parties in respect of which the order relates, or direct any of the parties to do or refrain from doing any act or thing where the Court considers this necessary to do justice between the parties. Where there has been a failure to make a decision, the Court may make an order directing the making of a decision but not, of course, the making of a decision of a particular kind.
The Bill is intended to provide a comprehensive procedure for judicial review of Commonwealth administrative action taken under statutory powers. Clause 9 of the Bill is intended to ensure that this jurisdiction is exclusive of the jurisdiction of State courts. The Judiciary Act has long embodied the policy that actions of Commonwealth officers should not be subject to review by way of mandamus or writ of prohibition in State courts- section 38 of the Judiciary Act. The clause further makes it clear that actions of the federal judiciary are not to be subject to review in State courts. The jurisdiction of State courts to grant habeas corpus is not to be affected. Parliament cannot legislate, of course, to remove the powers of judicial review given to the High Court by the Constitution-section 75 (v). It is expected, however that the procedures provided for by this Bill will make resort to the existing procedures for judicial review unnecessary except where a review is sought of decisions excluded from review under the present Bill or otherwise in special circumstances. Most of the prerogative writs are granted on the discretion of the court and one would imagine that the High Court faced with an application for a prerogative writ under section 75 (v), would give careful consideration to the situation that an application could have been made to the Federal Court under these provisions. Clause 10 of the Bill preserves any other right of review of Commonwealth administrative decisions. In particular, paragraph 10 ( 1 ) (b) provides that the Bill is not to affect the powers of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
The Government also has 2 further measures in hand as part of the program of reform of administrative law. These are a Bill to set down standard procedures for Commonwealth adjudicative tribunals, in line with the recommendations of the Kerr Committee, and a Freedom of Information Bill, which will entitle persons to have access to documents in the possession of Commonwealth agencies, subject, of course, to certain exceptions designed to protect the public interest in the confidentiality of certain documents and proceedings. Both Bills are in the course of drafting. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
– Pursuant to order of the Senate, I bring up the report of Estimates Committee A, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings and the explanatory notes provided by the departments whose estimates the Committee considered. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to order of the Senate, I bring up the report of Estimates Committee B, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings and the explanatory notes provided by the departments whose estimates the Committee considered. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Pursuant to order of the Senate, I bring up the report of Estimates Committee C, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings and the explanatory notes provided by the departments whose estimates the Committee considered. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to order of the Senate, I bring up the report of Estimates Committee D, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings and the explanatory notes provided by the departments whose estimates the Committee considered. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Pursuant to order of the Senate, I bring up the report of Estimates Committee E, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings and the explanatory notes provided by the departments whose estimates the Committee considered. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Pursuant to order of the Senate, I bring up the report of Estimates Committee F, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings and the explanatory notes provided by the departments whose estimates the Committee considered. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a relatively brief statement in relation to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to part of this report which the Committee believed to be most relevant to the consideration by the Senate of the Appropriation Bills, to which it is proceeding. During the Committee ‘s examination of the Additional Estimates its attention was drawn to several items, one of which was an amount of $ 1 1 ,000 for consultants ‘ fees, another was an amount of $50,000 paid in lieu of long leave and unremunerated periods of service as Acting Chief Justice to a former justice of the High Court, and a further amount of $40,500 paid to the former Chief Justice. The details which were sought resulted in the Committee being informed that the former First Parliamentary Counsel, after retiring before the age of 65 years, had been re-engaged under a written agreement for a period of 3 years from 8 February 1977 as a consultant to assist in the drafting of the legislative program at a remuneration of $134.96 for each day worked, based on a Level 4 Second Division officer salary in the Commonwealth Public Service, plus a loading of 15 per cent in lieu of recreation leave, sick leave and public holidays. Approval for the re-engagement of the former first Parliamentary Counsel as a consultant had been obtained from the Public Service Board and the Treasurer.
As a general principle, the Committee considered that a public servant who retired of his own volition before reaching the compulsory retiring age of 65 years and thereby became entitled to superannuation should not be engaged as a consultant at a fee which, taken together with the superannuation entitlement, provided a higher net income for work similar to that which would have been carried out had the public servant remained in the Public Service until reaching the normal retiring age of 65 years. Members of the Committee feared that such a practice could, if not controlled, become the subject of widespread abuse and could be used as a device to obtain an income advantage and also to overcome the restriction imposed on departmental staff ceilings by the Government. The Committee does not suggest that the present case falls into either of those categories, but merely suggests that it demonstrates the possibility of abuse. I take the opportunity to emphasise that attitude of the Committee. Should the necessity arise for such a consultant to be engaged by a department, the Committee firmly believes that any agreement entered into ought not to provide a loading for recreational leave, sick leave and public holidays. The Committee believes that such a consultant should be remunerated only for the task for which he has been engaged.
The second and third items to which we wish strongly to draw attention relate to payment from the Treasurer’s Advance Account to a former justice of the High Court of Australia of $47,500 in lieu of long leave and $2,500 for unremunerated periods of service as Acting Chief Justice, and the payment of $40,500 in lieu of long leave to a former Chief Judge of the Industrial Court. When hearing evidence from the departmental officers in respect of these 2 items the Committee was disturbed to learn- I emphasise this point- that no statutory authority existed to make the payments except for their subsequent inclusion m the Appropriation Bill soon to be debated in this chamber. The Committee was informed that a Cabinet decision made in 1967 did provide for such payments to be made to judges of Federal Courts but did not include justices of the High Court. Whilst the Committee does not quarrel with the principle that justices of the High Court and judges of other Federal courts should be remunerated for long leave, it considers that the arrangements not founded on statutory authority which prevailed in previous years and enabled payments to be made from public funds should forthwith be terminated and that the Government should introduce into the Parliament appropriate legislation to remedy the situation.
Such a course would enable the Parliament to exercise its historical and proper function of openly scrutinising all actions of the Executive. In no circumstances should such payments to justices of the High Court and judges of the various Federal courts be seen to be dependent upon a favourable government decision; rather, they should be based upon statutory authority. The Committee believes this to be of fundamental importance in maintaining the independence of the judiciary. I wish to draw that matter in particular to the attention of the chamber. It forms an important part of the Committee’s report. It involves something which is very fundamental to the principles upon which Parliament and government in Australia have operated in their relationship with the other arm of government, that is, the judiciary. I therefore felt it was important to draw this matter specifically to the attention of honourable senators.
Debate resumed from 5 May, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move the following amendment, which I understand has been circulated:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that-
the slashing of government spending is part of an inept economic strategy which has led to a decline in the standard of living of all Australians; and
b ) there is an urgent need for alternative policies of promoting a consumer led recovery by cuts in indirect taxes and appropriate stimulatory expenditure on job creation and manpower training programs, all done in a context of not increasing inflation by
phasing out the more extravagant business tax concessions,
increasing the money supply but not beyond the rate of inflation plus growth, and
instituting a more vigorous bondselling program.’
Honourable senators will note that the amendment expresses concern about certain government operations. In that context I want to take the opportunity to raise a number of matters which in my opinion show a lack of coordination between various government departments. I refer to an issue that is well known to both the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) and Senator Bishop. Last spring during consideration of the Estimates I asked a simple question about the observance of pay awards at the Kingsford-Smith international airport, which resulted in answers being given early in 1977 which indicated that a sum of $25,000 appeared to be the extent of under-award payments. This case has continued. I have asked several questions of Senator Durack concerning it. The company to which I refer, James Richardson Pty Limited, presently holds the concession at that airport.
– That concession expires in June this year.
– That is right. As the honourable senator has perceived, that makes the situation all the more serious. To bear out the concern expressed by Senator Douglas McClelland, during the recent hearings of the Estimates Committees I asked officers of the Department of Transport whether we were on the verge of making reappointments or calling for fresh tenders and what was the batting record of the current holder of the tender. The answer I received was to the effect that tenders for the duty free concession at the Sydney airport had closed and that the new concessionaire would commence in about June. I was advised that the Department, in its examination of the tender by James Richardson Pty Limited, conferred with the State Department of Industrial Relations, which confirmed that James Richardson Pty Limited under its current contract was observing the appropriate awards. I ask the Senate to relate that response to a communication dated 5 May from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, in which he referred to a telegram from me suggesting that his officers ‘ report was hardly in accordance with the report, to which I referred earlier, which I had received from the Department of Transport. In this letter Mr Street said; referring to James Richardson Pty Limited:
My advice of 23 February 1977 indicated that the company had been requested to provide information about amounts due to individual employees and ex-employees in terms of the Inspectorate’s construction of the award provisions. The company however wrote to the Inspectorate on 4 March 1977 declining to do so on the grounds that this information had already been supplied . . .
In March the company, to say the least, was being exceedingly obstructive. To digress for a moment, readers of the Australian Financial Review might recall that some weeks ago the Secretary of the Public Service segment of the trade union movement, Mr Kidd, was reported to have pointed out that the inspectors felt that the present policy almost bordered on appeasement of certain companies which did not meet their award obligations. I again refer to Mr Street ‘s letter of 5 May in which he said: . . Inspectors are now working in the company’s head office in Melbourne assembling employment records, establishing occupational classifications and determining periods of employment. The company has been requested to provide all outstanding records by 10 May 1977.
The real crunch of my criticism is in the paragraph which stated that it had been established that the task would occupy a total of some 78 man weeks before the officers could assess the extent of the award breaches. To put this matter in its proper perspective, I ask that a communication to me from Mr Street, dated 5 May, and an answer, via the appropriate Senate committee, from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) be incorporated in Hansard. Honourable senators will be able to see the grave discrepancy in relation to James Richardson Pty Ltd. I ask that these documents be incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations 239 Bourke Street Melbourne 5 May 1977
Dear Senator Mulvihill
I refer to your telegram of 29 April, 1977 and your subsequent discussion with an officer of my Department concerning the action being taken by the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate in relation to alleged award breaches by James Richardson Pty Ltd in operating its establishments at Kingsford Smith Airport.
My advice of 23 February 1977 indicated that the company had been requested to provide information about amounts due to individual employees and ex-employees in terms of the Inspectorate’s construction of the award provisions. The company however wrote to the Inspectorate on 4 March 1977 declining to do so on the grounds that this information had already been supplied by an independant accountant who had advised that staff at the Airport had in effect been overpaid. I understand that this advice was conveyed to you by the company in November 1976.
Accordingly, Inspectors are now working in the company’s head office in Melbourne assembling employment records, establishing occupational classifications and determining periods of employment. The company has been requested to provide all outstanding records by 10 May, 1 977.
In addition calculations are being made manually by the Inspectorate in respect of the records which are currently available. It had been estimated that the task will occupy a total of some 78 man weeks and my Department is therefore purchasing programmable calculators with a view to expediting completion of the task.
You may be assured that the Inspectorate is giving priority to this task and you will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible.
Yours sincerely A. A. STREET
Senator J. A. Mulvihill, M.P. Parliament House CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
-Now here is the answer that gives us a different picture-
Was the Department in contact with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to establish whether the irregularities in observing awards have been cleared so that James Richardson Pty. Ltd’s tender will be considered fairly or is the deadline for new tenders going ahead?
Tenders have now closed for the duty free concession at Sydney Airport and the new concessionaire will commence about June.
As part of the examination of James Richardson’s tender, the Department confirmed with the State Department of Industrial Relations that James Richardson, under its current contract was observing the appropriate awards. The new concession contract will be similar to the present contract in requiring the new concessionaire to observe all relevant Commonwealth and State Acts of Parliament and the rules and regulations made thereunder.
Concerning the Senator’s question about the problems last September, these referred to both the awards issue and provision of staff amentities. The former has been covered above. With the amenities, measures were taken to meet these requirements but necessarily of a temporary nature in view of the impending renewal of the contract. The new contract specifically requires that the tenant must provide staff welfare facilities and amenities generally in accord with the N.S.W. Factories, Shops and Industries Act 1962 and the regulations thereunder.
Departmental officers will see that these conditions are met within the bounds of practicability permitted by the space available in the building.
Very shortly an appointment will be made. I feel that it is a grave disservice to the concept of truthfulness before Estimates Committees when I get a statement from one department which states that James Richardson Pty Ltd is observing awards and a report from another department which indicates that since late last year this firm has been indulging in an evasive exercise. This is compounded by the fact that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), who represents Mr Street in this chamber, and I received copies of a letter from the solicitors representing James Richardson Pty Ltd which indicated that we were trying to blackguard the firm.
I say very seriously that this is a matter in which, I believe, in general terms the Australian Government, through its Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, should not waste any more time. The Government should have launched a prosecution against James Richardson Pty Ltd because it is obvious that it is indulging in a massive exercise of procrastination. I do not use those terms lightly. I know that on many occasions there are misunderstandings about award definitions. Usually, as a result of either trade union prompting or intervention by an arbitration inspector, the firm realises that it has made an honest error and it does the right thing. But this firm is not only compounding the problem but also is brazen in its attempt to bludgeon its way out of it. It was almost on the threshold of making a threat to the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs and me in the terms of its letter. However, both Senator Durack and I resisted that threat. I say to the credit of the arbitration inspectors that they are dealing with this matter. What annoys me is that the inspection will involve 78 man weeks. The Australian taxpayer is paying for this inspection.
The point I wish to make was referred to in the Financial Review by Mr Kidd. A ‘tread softly’ approach is all right if it works and is not too costly. I believe that James Richardson Pty Ltd has two strikes against it. First, I shall be astounded if, in the light of these revelations which should have been known to the Minister for Transport, the contract of James Richardson Pty Ltd is considered for renewal. Secondly, whether or not that company’s contract is renewed, it has refused to co-operate and will cost the Australian taxpayer 78 man weeks of investigation and it merits punishment. There is no other word for it. It seems to me that this firm has a charmed life. It must have friends in high places. I understand that one of those dedicated customs officials at the airport in the course of his duty accosted the chief bond master of James Richardson Pty Ltd about certain goods in his possession. That man was under the influence of alcohol and abused the customs official. My information is that no action was taken against James Richardson Pty Ltd but the customs officer was chided for approaching the man.
I hope that by the end of this debate I shall be given an explanation of why the people who prepared this brief for the Estimate Committee that dealt with the Department of Transport were inclined to gild the lily and say that James Richardson Pty Ltd was not breaching awards. The amazing fact is that this award interpretation that is under dispute is similar to the interpretation of another award concerned with the Storemen and Packers Union. I have it on authority from the officials of the New South Wales Branch of the Storemen and Packers Union that its members are being paid under a definition that is being disputed in relation to members of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union. There is difficulty in making restitution. The labour content is substantially female and there is a big turnover in the work force.
I hope that this situation will not occur again in any discussion of an Appropriation Bill or estimates. In considering whether an employer is paying the right amount under a State award one has to examine the Federal award also. This is not a matter about which a senator made a broad allegation. I simply asked out of curiosity whether the time sheets of employees at the airport were checked. From my observation of one girl’s concept of a day worker and a shift worker I felt that she had been underpaid but I did not rise in the Senate and make the assertion. I chose to deal with the matter in a low key by raising it at an Estimates Committee hearing along with Senator Donald Cameron and Senator Bishop. Those initial questions virtually opened up an industrial Pandora’s box. I cannot emphasise too strongly that when we link some misgivings of Commonwealth arbitration inspectors who have been told to go slow on some employers and the time factor- some people who should have received pay adjustments last spring are still waiting- it is not good enough. I hope that before the Senate goes into recess we shall receive some further information on this.
Whilst I am dealing with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, I should like to express some concern about its capacity to move quickly in regard to the broad concept of apprenticeship training. I refer to page 190 of the Hansard report of Estimates Committee F of 28 April 1977. A fairly sizable amount was involved in subdivision 4 which dealt with employment training assistance. Senator Tehan asked a couple of questions in relation to this subdivision. I stated that the system was not as flexible as it should be. I referred in particular to the case of an apprentice electrician in Sydney. His employer had gone to the wall. The apprentice was in his third year but there seemed to be an inability to utilise the skills he had already gained. He was working as a workshop labourer with the New South Wales railways. A ganger, Mr Fred Highfield, who has been known to me for a long period, raised with me the matter that this boy could surely utilise his experience in some area.
As I saw the situation, we were rightly spending a large amount of money on employer subsidies for apprentices. Without taking away any particular government’s credit, I say that originally this was the brainchild of a former Minister for Labour and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron. The principle has been taken up by succeeding governments. I am not playing Party politics on this matter. I do resent the fact that on 28 April I handed to officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations a letter from this boy who felt that society owed him a little more. He had acquired certain skills and he felt he should be given an opportunity to complete his indentures. On the previous occasion when we dealt with apprentices at Estimates Committee hearings- this was last spring- the point was made by the Department that many apprentices feel after 6 months that they are not cut out for that type of apprenticeship, or conversely, there may be a poor relationship between the apprentice and the employer. That is fair enough. We expect some wastage. But I think it would be agreed that if a boy in his third year of his apprenticeship cannot continue it then there is something wrong. I do not intend to canvass the economic factors that caused the employer to cease business. I raised this matter on 28 April and I believe that with the massive apparatus we have we should have been able to upgrade and speed up the tempo of our apprentice training since the Clyde Cameron era. Surely we have learned something. I believe that somebody should have given me some feedback by now. It is wrong to operate this way because obviously if a boy has done two or three years of his apprenticeship it is much easier if he finishes than to go back to square one and have an influx of boys in their first year of apprenticeship. So I repeat that I think something better could be done.
I know that the other aspect of the present link between the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the job assessment criteria for migrants could be improved. The Senate knows of the cases involving the Spanish stonemasons coming to Australia from Madrid. A stonemason skilled in Spanish architecture might employ 4 assistants, so he is the catalyst which attracts additional semiskilled and unskilled labour. I cannot harp too long on this point. I think the Minister will appreciate what I say. When this Government felt that there was a separation between the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs it was considered that it would be all right if there were very effective co-ordinating links, but I do not think we have these links.
I know of another case involving the Australian Journalists Association which, I suppose because it covers an international calling, has always accepted the line. It never jibs about nonAustralian journalists coming to Australia even for permanent residence. Conversely there is generally a reciprocal arrangement with other countries when Australians are involved. Recently I had to deal with the case of a journalist from Malaya who wished to come to Australia. There was considerable delay. As late as this week I got a letter from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, which indicated that an application could be successful where somebody is sponsoring a migrant to come to Australia on the basis of family reunion. There is also the argument of job criteria. The point I am making is that I do not believe the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations is working as effectively as it could work in making joint decisions with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
– Where has this Malaysian journalist got to? He has dropped out of sight.
-There is a happy ending. He is coming here but he is coming here 2 months late. I think the honourable senator and other honourable senators opposite would appreciate that we have to show some solicitude for employers. The employer was on my back because he was keeping the job open and he wanted to know when the applicant would get here. I am trying to be very open-minded in making this point. I want to refer to another area which I call employee injustice. I refer to people employed by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation in the Migrant Information Service. Some of these people have up to 17 years employment but they are still deemed to be temporary employees. I know that the Commonwealth Banking Act at the moment has certain curbs in it. I think they relate to the age at which an employee enters the banking service. I believe that this is a profession in which there has been recent infusion of different skills and occupations but we have not geared ourselves for them. It may well be argued if the Commonwealth Public Service Board seeks wage justice for these people, quite apart from the emoluments which would result from permanency, that it may not have the ability to assess wages, as in the air traffic controllers case.
Although Senator Carrick is not here he would appreciate that since this Government came to power I have been arguing for a continuation of the idea of the former Department of Labour and Immigration to create an authority something like the Institute of Chartered Accountants to ensure adequate recognition of the proficiency of interpreters and translators. I know that this Government sort of backed and filled because originally Senator Carrick was going to be responsible for it, then I believe Senator Guilfoyle was to have it through Social Security and then later I believe there was a tug of war about the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs having it. The point I am making is that the Government should have moved a lot quicker to create this authority to assess and grade the calibre of interpreters and translators- these people who are neither fish nor fowl- in the Commonwealth Banking Corporation because I believe injustices are being done to them. I have a 3-point question which I ask to be incorporated in Hansard as a summary of the grievances of the employees in the Migrant Information Centres.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- Is leave granted?
– I rise to my feet just to recollect to honourable senators that the Senate Standing Orders Committee recommended to the Senate-and my recollection I think is correct that the Senate agreed on this matter- that when an honourable senator sought to have unread matter incorporated into Hansard such senator should make available either to the Leader of the Opposition or to the Minister in charge a copy of what is sought to be incorporated. This was accepted by the Senate on the basis of putting to an end the constant problems that the Presiding Officer was involved in of leave not being granted sometimes because people were testy about this, that and the other. I rise to my feet at this stage only to suggest that this method of presenting matter to the Leader of the Opposition, the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate or the Leader of the Government in the Senate should be followed by honourable senators so that we can get down to a rational method by which matter can be incorporated in Hansard without any of the objectionable practices that have existed in the past. I ask that that be applied.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted for the incorporation?
– I just feel that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack did make a proper objection.
– I am not objecting to the incorporation.
– I know. I am sure that Senator Mulvihill would appreciate that. I have now had a chance to read this matter and it seems to me to be something that we could quite willingly incorporate and accordingly we do not object.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTLeave is granted.
The question read as follows-
Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that the employees of the Commonwealth Banking CorporationMigrant Information Service, the largest and most respected translating organization in the country are still considered Temporary employees and are refused permanency and promotion opportunities by the Bank because of the Commonwealth Banking Act which restricts the Recruitment Age.
Furthermore that some of these employees have been in the employ of the Bank since its inception over 17 years ago and that some of these employees possess very High Translating or Professional Qualifications and that the Advancement within the interpreter/translator grades as set down by the Bank, it appears, depends more on the ability of the interpreter/translator to acquire new business for the Corporation or some other unknown reasons than on their linguistic abilities.
Does the Treasurer consider that this situation is satisfactory and or what changes is he proposing to regulate the status of interpreters/translators particularly having in mind a generally accepted Government Policy that interpreting/ translating is a very specialised field and that there is a well recognised acute shortage of specialists in this field and that the Government was attempting to alleviate this shortage by forming a number of courses to train future interpreters and that the Graduates from these courses attained much inferior knowledge of the Languages comparing to the knowledge of Languages possessed by the Commonwealth Bank Interpreters/Translators.
– Thank you. The next matter I want to proceed on refers to the Department of the Army. Several people have raised this matter with me. I will illustrate it this way. When Australia had forces in South East Asia, members of the British Army came to Australia for jungle training. As Britain was not involved in that war I do not think it was the accepted thing that any of Britain’s troops went to South East Asia to complete their jungle training. On the reverse side,I have been asked what the position is regarding compensation. I do not know whether there are any Australian troops in this position at the moment. I will put forward a hypothetical case. Are there any Australian army personnel serving in West Germany or even in Northern Ireland on a training excursion, on military activities or military tactics? Are personnel involved not so much in civil rights matters but in disputes such as that involving nuclear power stations in West Germany? If British or North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops were used what would be their compensation rights?
This is just a small matter but it has been put to me. What is the situation if any Australian armed forces personnel overseas not in an expeditionary force but on a training expedition in Britain were airlifted to West Germany with a British regiment, or for that matter to Northern Ireland? What compensation cover would they have? I imagine this is only a hypothetical question but it was put to me and I think it merits an answer.
The other matter that I want to refer to deals with the question of immigration. It has to do with staffing. Perhaps at a later stage I will be able to get some idea of the backlog and the delay in processing citizenship applications in the capital cities. In general terms I have been told that people get their citizenship over a span of three to six months. I raise this matter for a number of reasons. In the latter period of the Whitlam Government I did on one occasion speak somewhat harshly about the slowness of the Public Service Board in recruiting staff in this area. I know that additional staff was provided. But I am not satisfied now whether we are still keeping up with the demand. I think this is one aspect that should be stated.
I take this point a little further. I speak now for the New South Wales branch of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association concerning a case which I have ventilated twice during the adjournment debate. It concerns a man named Joseph Costanzo, a member of the FEDFA, who has been in Australia for 39 years. I would say that he was 3 years old when he came to Australia. Due to a mixup in his early teenage years, when his mother acquired citizenship, he discovered only recently that he did not have Australian citizenship. He was in a cleft stick as to his actual birth date. We were able to obtain the P & 0 shipping invoice of 1937 which gave his age at that time as approximately 2 years and 9 months. His mother is now in her seventies and is in a nursing home. Naturally, it is very hard to get a clear answer from her. The question now is whether he is 41 years of age or 42lA years of age.
We were told that the next step was for him to get the information from the Italian authorities. I spoke to the Italian Consul-General in Sydney who rightly said to me: ‘Well, it is obvious that this man is seeking Australian citizenship. He has been here for 40 years. He is one of your people. We are not disposed to try to do anything special to find out this information. We doubt whether you will get the records’. I was back to square one. I raised the matter with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, via Senator Guilfoyle. We were told that action would be taken.
This story has a very sad ending. In the meantime, the Sydney officials of the Department kept strictly to the Act. I was told by one officer that if they made a mistake, when Mr Costanzo reached 64 years of age, due to this error he might be thought to be 65 years of age and he would receive an old age pension a year too early. Of course, that is 20 years ahead and I thought that that was rather negative thinking. I said: ‘What are you going to do?’ The officers said: ‘We will send a message to Italy. We will get an officer to go from the Australian Embassy in Rome to Naples to find out any details about his birth’.
A fortnight ago Joseph Costanzo, who is an overhead crane driver at the port of Sydney, was walking across from his crane and was crushed between 2 motor trucks. He is lying in a hospital now with crushed ribs and injured lungs and spleen. I make the point that the bureaucrats who thought that by playing strictly to the rules they would make sure that he would not receive a pension a year too early carried their view to an extreme. I believe that such an approach is not good enough. There should be flexibility in such cases. This man could produce income tax vouchers and evidence of 20-odd years of membership of various trade unions. I believe that he should have obtained citizenship. I appeal now to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I have written already to him today to the effect that I believe that our society should take some appropriate action regarding the case of that man who is lying close to death. In fact, up to 3 days ago he was being fed intravenously. He probably will not work in his normal occupation again. He is not aiming for any highly paid job. He will get the same wages whether or not he receives citizenship. These are only small matters but I know that on a citizenship day every honourable senator will exhort people to obtain citizenship. There are large segments of the population who do not have citizenship. I believe this is an area where there is a too rigid application as far as the law is concerned.
While I am on the subject, there have been numerous Press releases from the Minister on the attitude of the Government to political refugees. I do not intend to say much on that subject because I understand that there will be a statement on this matter tonight. It will be competent for me at that time to make further comment as far as that part of the statement is concerned. But I do make one appeal. It deals with the attitude of trade unions to migrant membership. I have mentioned already to the Senate the position of the FEDFA with regard to members seeking citizenship. But I wish to take this point a little further. I refer to a case which was drawn to my attention by the State President of the Australian Railways Union in Sydney, Mr Walsh, and by one of the younger officials, Mr Roger Law. It concerns the question of those people remaining in Lebanon. I know that with refugees from every country from which Australia has taken refugees-whether it be Chile, Lebanon, Cyprus, Timor or South Vietnam-the great dilemma is what is the cut-off point. I would like to believe that when a person has become an Australian citizen, is respected in his trade union or business association, and is engaged in permanent work, such as the New South Wales Railways, and a case in relation to this difficult question is put up, there will be some flexibility and that when a trade union goes in to bat for him, he will receive some attention.
I do so for this reason. I have never adopted a Utopian attitude to these cases. I have known cases- without going into the ethnic groups concernedwhere a man has a wife and a large family of eight or nine children. He might then want to bring out a mother or father from overseas. His income is probably virtually on a par with the basic wage. I know that there is always concern in such cases whether the added expense will be too much for him. Sometimes economically it can be. But in a case where it can be proved that a person is in government employsuch as in the case to which I am referring- I believe that the Minister, in seeking good relations with the trade union movement, could be a little more flexible. I refer to the Nathala family. In this case I believe that it would be much better if the Minister held a seminar type meeting with the trade unions in Melbourne and Sydney to clear up doubts on some of these guidelines. Numerous papers have been put out about lack of dialogue. Of course, in some areas, particularly in some small factories, there have been difficulties. I believe that when the trade unions themselves become involved in some of these cases they should get a better response than they are receiving.
The other matter to which I refer concerns the clearing house on migration issues. I have received a letter from an organisation concerned with this matter in which it expresses concern about the framing of the August Budget and just how much its activities will be curbed by its provisions. The Minister has advanced theories about the immigration intake and certain categories in which it would appear there is a lack of certain skills. If that is the case, I believe that many of these ancillary activities must be maintained. I say this for another reason. In many of these low wage groups the wife works to help the family to get out of the inner suburbs of Sydney. Parents must put their children into child minding centres and kindergartens for a greater part of the period between Monday to Friday. These matters are interrelated. It is essential that something be done.
Another matter that I raise concerns questions that are asked without notice and the slow feed back. I refer to 2 questions which I directed to Senator Carrick. I do not criticise him directly but my remarks are aimed at his colleagues in the other place. One matter about which honourable senators know I have been very concerned is whether we have kept abreast of the most effective methods of combating oil tanker mishaps and even small fires. A marine court of inquiry was conducted concerning a Gore Bay fire in Sydney harbour. That marine court laid down that all tanker crews must be better trained to handle petroleum originating fires. I asked that question of the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, through Senator Carrick before the Parliament began the last fortnight’s break. I do not think that it takes very long to get such an answer. I think that senators who were members of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution well know that there used to be fragmentation between the various oil companies and the oil tankers, all of which had their own idea of doing their own thing. When we read reports from the United States Coast Guard and speeches by Senator Edmund Muskie we see that the general idea to standardise safety equipment and safety techniques is of paramount importance. I would like to believe that we do not leave this matter to the oil companies to do it their way, but that we issue stringent conditions along the lines suggested by the judicial inquiry which I think was controlled by Mr Justice Evatt, a very illustrious name in the judicial field. I would like to know how long it will be before that decision is implemented.
I make these remarks for another reason. We all know that the only major oil spillage disaster in Australia- it was not of the magnitude of spillages which have occurred overseas- was the Oceanic Grandeur disaster in the Torres Strait. Fortunately for Australia the current took the oil away from our country. The Queensland Harbours and Marine Department, which played a small role, was not very enamoured of the Australian Department of Shipping and Transport. I know from later Estimates Committees that the
Department of Transport, which involved the shipping ministry in earlier days, has claimed that it has more effective liaison. Two seamen were burnt to death in the Gore Bay incident so we can realise the seriousness of that fire. I would like to know whether the Minister for Transport, using the Navigation Act as an instrument, has directed all oil tankers to make sure that their crews are more effectively trained or whether this matter has been left to the respective State marine authorities. I think that in the Sydney connotation the Maritime Services Board would be the relevant authority.
The only other matter concerning what I call slow feed back was one that I raised with Senator Carrick. It related to the present policy of this Government to more or less wind up the vision of former Ministers for the Environment, Dr Moss Cass and Mr Berinson, about the Australian Government having its own national parks and wildlife service. I relate this to Towra Point where the Whitlam Government acquired certain land. I understood from Senator Carrick initially that the previous New South Wales Liberal Government was seeking to contest the validity of that acquisition. Subsequently, with the advent of the Wran Labor Government, the action did not proceed. Senator Carrick felt finality had still not been reached. I understood that the matter was under discussion. I am not arguing whether the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service should control the areas concerned or whether the Federal Government should but I think it is time we got an answer.
Another matter which I think is not very edifying- I think agreement should have been reached before now- is our failure to get effective Federal-State relationship on the utilisation of land or perhaps in some instances on the handing back of land to the States. Let me go back to the era when Mr Barnard was the Minister for Defence. I know that New South Wales members will appreciate this point. We were told that the Moore Park engineers depot was to be phased out. The vacuum created could have been used for the merger of the Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2 and the Sydney Sports Ground to give Sydney a modern sports stadium that would meet a capacity of a minimum of 100 000 people. I feel like Aneurin Bevan when he left the coal pits of Wales and moved up into local government and further. Everywhere he went he wanted to know where the power was. He could not find where it was even when he became a Minister in the Atlee Government. I find from successive State and Federal Ministers that nobody can tell me when and why this land transfer will occur. I spoke even to officers of Eastern Command. My relations with them are very good. They said: ‘We may be going to Singleton or we may be going to Holdsworthy ‘. We have to consider all these things. After all the Federal Government or the State government is only the custodian of the people’s lands. I believe that we should know in clearcut terms just what are the points of argument about these land transfers.
– If it were not for the Defence Department there would be no open areas at all in Sydney.
-I agree with the honourable senator. I do not want to hand the areas over to the developers. I give credit to the fact that some of this land has been retained as open space. I believe that provided there are strong safeguards the areas should be maintained as open space land. There is no argument about it at all. I believe that rather than leaving the matter in limbo a decision has to be made one way or the other.
I think I have ventilated a number of grievances. I end where I commenced. I believe I have cast some serious aspersions on why the Department of Transport appears to have covered up in relation to the concession at the Kingsford-Smith Airport. I would like to know why it nas not come clean on the matter. I hope that I will receive something clear cut. I would like to know why the firm concerned, James Richardson Pty Ltd, has been more or less, to quote a former Queensland senator, simply flogged with a feather.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– We meet in a rather grizzly atmosphere after an ineffectual fortnight when an assault upon this chamber was defeated fortunately by constitutional means which provided for the people of the 3 small States to have the chance by individual votes to defend themselves. From some of the comments that we hear one would think that this is the first time that the people of Australia exercised in a referenda a discriminating and discerning judgment. I want to recall to the Senate- or at least to those few honourable senators who are here- that as long ago as 1 946 the people of Australia were able to select one out of three proposals put to them. They accepted the social service proposal and rejected the marketing and industrial power proposals.
I want to recall that in 1 967 when all three political parties propounded with unanimous voice a proposal to break the nexus between this House and the other place, the people of Australia in nearly all States- I think in 5 States if not six- by a vote approximating 70 per cent renounced the overtures of the trinity, the 3 parties, and under persuasion of some 10 senators, again from 3 parties, they rejected the nexus but overwhelmingly accepted the proposal relating to Aborigines. I take just these few minutes to pay tribute to the constitution of this chamber which provides as it does for protection of the representation here of the small States and which provides as it does for its defence in case of need for matters to be referred to the people where the small States have the decisive right of defeating any such assault. This assault, this proposal for simultaneous dissolutions of the Senate along with the House of Representatives, was deservedly, and with demonstration in the small States and particularly my State, defeated.
This leads me to consider, in the atmosphere of the Appropriation Bill, something which I would have thought would signal up the alert who have considered anything about the crisis of the Parliament which occurred as recently as December 1975. In that atmosphere I will indulge in some consideration as to where this Parliament is drifting. I suggest that inside the Parliament there is no will to preserve the Parliament itself. The only determination is by members of the Executive with the thrust from behind of the Public Service to exert power. There is no inclination or purpose discernible in relation to engaging in consultative deliberations with members of Parliament and in relation to having their products reviewed by this chamber.
Within the chamber we live mainly by disregarding the fundamental that ensures genuine purpose for our existence. Section 22 of the Constitution provides:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of the senators shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the Senate for the exercise of its powers.
My submission is that it is simply an abuse or exploitation of the authority given to us that we sit here without a quorum. Usually the membership in the chamber is 6, 7, 8 or 10 senators. That connotes in my submission, respectful but nevertheless firm, that the disregard of that provision is not excused by the fact that an individual senator refrains from calling attention to the fact. This chamber should not sit as a constituted chamber unless one-third of its members are present. We escape with the excuse that its proceedings are immune from scrutiny by the judicial power. Any company, municipal corporation or other subordinate institution would have everything invalidated once non-compliance with its quorum were established.
Also, from within the chamber is withering. There is a provision in the Constitution which discriminates severely between those Appropriation Bills which we may amend and those which we may not. It is very rarely that any of the Bills for ordinary annual services are scrutinised to guarantee compliance with that category so as to ensure to this chamber the proper ambit of amendment. Three items in these Bills were referred to by the Estimates Committee of which Senator Rae is Chairman. One item, a consultancy fee to a retired public servant, can in no way be called an ordinary annual service. Gratuities to 2 judges for so-called long service leave can, under no description, be called ordinary annual services. It is required, I submit, of this chamber to exercise a vigilance to preserve its jurisdiction as to the proper scope of amendment.
Outside the processes are continuing, with formidable challenge to the very constitution of parliamentary government and, much more importantly, to the effective exercise of any power of parliamentary government. The first week of this last ineffectual fortnight was taken up by the sterilisation of air services throughout the Commonwealth. Government servants, air traffic controllers, on strike grounded all the civilian air services. Parliament was adjourned. Members were struggling about from place to place in Service aircraft, not exercising the power of Parliament. They were like fledglings, feathers in the wind, attracting the ridicule of a few people on strike. The laws of the country apparently- I think there are laws that could have been enforced- are so imported in their exercise as to allow that debacle. I take up the journal of the Public Service Association of May 1977. There is a good deal of expostulation on the part of the President at the thought that public servants should be bound to serve. Already public servants have passed resolutions expressing their abhorrence of boycott legislation in the trade practices area. We know that members of the Department of Foreign Affairs, bless my soul, have been denying communication to outside countries. We know that the Australian Post Office engages in assistance for the Fairfax strikers. Bless me, today it is announced in the public Press that the Post Office is proceeding with an appeal to the High Court against an order which a court in New South Wales directed to it to get on with its job. The Post Office is appealing for the right to be immune from a court order to work. Therefore, if parliamentary government is to mean anything, the public servants on the Industrial Relations Bureau and the Trade Practices Commission must do Parliament’s bidding as expressed properly in Parliament.
My concern does not derive from my consideration but out of my contemplation that the IRB Bill would promote a parliamentary contest of the utmost gravity. It seems now, in circumstances yet to be explained, to have collapsed. In preparing for it, I was provided by a very learned master in this field with an article by a Lord George-Brown in the Telegraph of August 1 975. He was formerly the deputy of Harold Wilson. He is a most astute man, an intellectual man and a man of judgment. One failing or one frailty lost him the Prime Ministership. He said:
Before we can sensibly and usefully discuss the question of the trade unions, the extent of their power and the use they make of it, we must identify the real basic sickness in our society. lt seems to me unquestionably to be a collapse in the authority of our democratic, parliamentary and governmental institutions. Successive governments- and I think this holds good irrespective of Party complexion- have been seen so frequently to back away from major issues, international as well as domestic. Parliamentary procedures, notably in the Commons, let me say- have really become pretty farcial.
They are not my words but the words of an experienced House of Commons man. I apply them to this Senate. Farcical! He continued:
Laws are being pushed through . . .
In the Senate second reading speeches are incorporated in Hansard with readiness. Honourable senators know that. How grumpy a man would be accused of being if he vetoed that. I do not make myself articulate, but I grump. He went on:
Laws are being pushed through almost totally undigested and largely unexamined and inevitably badly drafted-
In parenthesis let me cite as an eternal example the recent provision amending section 1 5 of the Constitution on casual Senate vacancies, a piece of draftsmanship which will go down in history as the most ridiculous and short-sighted piece of draftsmanship in the Constitution. He continued:
And so one could go on with the dreadful catalogue. Mere survival in office is now accepted as the mark of an ‘astute politician.’ Leadership in all parties is surely at something approaching an all-time low. We are living through, politically speaking, the age of mediocrity. Not to fall out with anyone is statemanship. Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ and Doublespeak ‘ are with us a decade before his prediction. In such a situation, of course, cynicism nourishes. Respect for and acceptance of authority and law diminish.
And since parliamentary democracy is-and can only be by definition (rather like what I was taught in the
Catechism)- ‘something you may believe though not understand,’ then from cynicism flows disbelief and from that flows disregard. And at that point individuals and organisations of individuals feel entitled to fill the vacuum. Power passes from the shaking, nerveless hands at the centre to stronger and power-hungry hands elsewhere . . . Industrialists, professional bodies, ail kinds of vested interests are among the new barons imposing a later and much less worthy Magna Carta upon a spineless Executive and a debilitated Parliament.
When last I addressed this chamber on a motion a fortnight ago I referred to Roscoe Pound, that world famous jurist who likened the trade unions today to the vested interests of the church, the state, aristocrats, landlords and mercantile barons of old. I quote now Mr Justice Brandeis, notorious for his understanding of the needs of the ordinary trade union and the working man who wants to work and earn in a prosperous society. He said in 1972:
The unions should take the position squarely that they are amenable to law prepared to take the consequences if they transgress -
I think the use of the word ‘consequences’ there is a mere coincidence- and thus show they are in full sympathy with the spirit of our people whose political system rests upon the proposition that this is a government of law, and not of men.
That is taken from the Yale Law Journal of 8 July 1972.
Then we come to the Appropriation Bill. If Parliament means anything it is the parliamentary control of money that gives it its meaning and potency. It is understandable that the House of Commons should first debunk the House of Lords because it is only a mass of people who have been born by chance to that House. As late as 1911 when the 700 Lords were summoned ordinarily only thirty or forty would be present. It was natural that the House of Lords should be deprived of its power over money as early as perhaps the middle of the last century and finally in 1911. But this chamber is of an entirely different constitution. Its authority comes from an adult suffrage right through the Commonwealth which is identical to that of the other House. The distinction is that we represent States and members of the other House represent electorates. The Constitution gives the 2 Houses their appropriately defined right of appropriation. So well may it be that the Executive, which prides itself upon its exclusive monopolistic right to control money and appropriation, will demand unflinching compliance from members in the other place who support it. That is the business of those members. But if we in this chamber are to discharge the right of review that we won and on Saturday retained for the States, the right of amendment of appropriation of ordinary annual services is a real right to be exercised in practical circumstances. It is certainly not contemplated that there be a rejection of a whole Appropriation Bill except on occasions of crisis such as occurred clearly in November 1975. But putting that aside, the right of amendment or to request an amendment of particular items is just a piece of meaningless imagination unless the Senate adopts a practice whereby after examination in Estimates Committee we say that an item is unjustified, never should have appeared, or is contrary to anything that the Parliament would authorise if it came under a special Bill. Those who say that we wish to take the Government of the country out of the Government’s hands forget the fact that the Government with our assent has already provided its underground channel not to be dismayed by that sort of thing.
Like the rumour in Virgil growing apace, that spurious little item, the Advance to the Treasurer, is every night increasing in the dark. It has grown from $10,000 to $400m. The judges’ gratuity and the consultancy fee amounting together to about $90,000 have been paid. The contract has been entered into. Our vote would probably need the Bills to be recalled, but that would not shatter the Government. The suggestion that it would is simply a myth. All I am saying is that unless Ministers realise the true power of this House and exercise it for the good of the Parliament, as one sometimes takes distasteful medicine for one’s own good, we will wither. Our power will be meaningless. We go through this exercise of criticising civil servants who have put through these items and trundled them up to Ministers sometimes unobserved. It is an exercise in futility unless the judgment of this House is to be accorded proper responsibility. Of course that responsibility means that we exercise a judgment as to the propriety of each item in the Appropriation Bill.
Far be it from me to be understood as advocating a revolutionary campaign proposing that we take the finances of the country out of the hands of the Government. That is not my purpose at all. But we do not exist in this chamber as people who do not have the slightest authority in matters of corrective detail, in matters of glaring error, to make amendments or requests appropriate to the Appropriation Bills. There are those who say that, if the Government refused such amendments, there would be a deadlock. Of course, in the last futile fortnight we heard no reference to section 57 of the Constitution, which is the most famous section of the Constitution and which requires a rejection twice repeated after an interval of 3 months. There would be no difficulty whatever for the Government out of a Budget of, say, $2 billion to pull out items to the value of $200,000, reintroduce the Bill with those items deleted, have the $200,000 dealt with in a special Bill, and then to see whether it would be rejected twice after an interval of 3 months. In that event, let the people decide.
So, in the last year of my existence in this place, I am putting forward this proposition in the hope that we will be able to formulate a new sense of purpose to enable parliamentary government to be the reality that people believe it is and in the hope that we will not yield to the assaults from both inside and outside to which I have referred and to which Mr Justice Brandeis and Lord George-Brown most purposefully referred.
– I rise to support the amendment moved to the Appropriation Bills by Senator Mulvihill. Before dealing with those Appropriation Bills, I feel that I should say something about some of the remarks that Senator Wright has just made. Whilst I realise that he holds very strong views in relation to the referendum questions that were put last Saturday, I think all of us should remember that an overwhelmingly percentage of the Australian people voted as a nation to change the Constitution in relation to all issues and not just the 3 issues that were carried.
Senator Wright also raised the matter of quorums in this chamber. Senator Wright has been in this place for a long time. But I must say that as a new member, or a newer member, in this chamber I have noticed that the lack of a quorum does not seem to worry the majority of honourable senators. It certainly does not worry me. One of the factors that I have found frustrating in this place is that, in spite of the fact that my work on the Senate Committees- I am a member of 2 such committees- has been perhaps the most important role that I have found I have been able to fill since I have been a member of this Senate, the Standing Orders of the Senate prevent the Senate committees from meeting while the Senate is in session. I hope that at sometime in the future we will look at the situation to try to overcome that problem. Whether it means in fact that there will be fewer members in the chamber is, I believe, irrelevant.
Senator Wright also made some points about the air traffic controllers strike. I say at the outset that I did not agree 100 per cent with what the air traffic controllers did and I did not agree completely with the claim they were making. I ask Senator Wright: What would any government have done? What could have been done? Who was going to bring in those aircraft? I think one of the best statements that was made about the air traffic controllers strike was when somebody wrote that it was presenting the Government with a very difficult decision. The author of the statement likened it to a strike of brain surgeons, because it did not matter what was done, whether people were gaoled or whatever they were threatened with, as there was nobody else in the community sufficiently qualified to keep bringing in the aircraft and to take the place of the air traffic controllers at the airports.
Senator Wright also made some remarks about the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation. I hope that I have not misinterpreted his remarks but I took them to mean that he was hoping that the Government would go ahead with its legislation. I know that honourable senators on this side of the chamber consider that legislation to be very harsh indeed and believe that it would have led to a confrontation not only in this place but also between the trade union movement and the Parliament. I believe that the fact that this Industrial Relations Bureau Bill now looks as though it will be passed without that confrontation is a victory for compromise and not a victory for confrontation.
Senator Wright quoted Lord GeorgeBrown at length. I have a great deal of respect for Lord George-Brown also. Lord George-Brown might have known that in the United Kingdom 10 per cent of the population own 73 per cent of the wealth. Perhaps that explains why the trade union movement in Britain has been so tough in its attitude and has been so much more militant than has been the trade union movement in this country.
As I said earlier, I support the amendment moved by Senator Mulvihill. This debate on the appropriation legislation gives us all an opportunity to review the Government’s progress or its lack of progress in the intervening months since the Budget was brought down in August 1976. Looking at the Government’s present performance, it would be fair to say that it has a fairly dismal record. If we look at the economic situation, we find we have a continuing high rate of inflation, a continually unacceptable high rate of unemployment, an increasing deficit, a lack of business confidence and a lack of consumer confidence. As someone who comes from Sydney in New South Wales, I know that in that city it is not enough to look just at unemployment. One has to look at youth unemployment. The situation has reached very serious proportions in Sydney and right throughout the State of New
South Wales. That is something which will have to be looked at by this Government as a issue separate from that of unemployment generally. Let me deal with consumer confidence. I saw some statistics recently which showed that the average person in Australia has through the usual channels- through savings bank accounts, through buildings societies or through credit unions- a record amount of money deposited and available at the moment. I think we must ask ourselves why they are not spending that money. It is not that they do not have the funds, the funds are available. The Government will have to do something about the lack of consumer confidence at the moment. If one were to look at all the economic indicators at the moment one could not predict anything but a gloomy future.
For a long time now we have seen the Government trying to blame all of the economic difficulties on the previous Labor Government. How many times have we sat in this chamber and heard honourable senators opposite say that is is all the fault of the previous Labor Government. Surely that excuse has now worn out. Surely that cannot now be said following devaluation. I think that the Government has to live up to its responsibilities and acknowledge from now on that its policies are directly responsible for the economic crisis with which we are currently faced. We have seen devaluation of the Australian dollar. We have seen continual cutbacks in public sector spending. We have seen continual uncertainty with respect to tariff policies. We have seen continuing high interest rates. All of those factors have contributed to an Australian economic picture which is probably the worst in the postwar period. I think that the Government’s incapacity to deal adequately with the situation is not confined specifically to the economy only; I think it can be said of virtually any area of public activity which comes under the national Government s jurisdiction. It goes right across from the area of foreign affairs to health and social welfare and Federal-State relations. These are some of the matters to which I hope to refer later in my remarks.
In the area of foreign affairs, we have seen continuing procrastination in relation to the situation in East Timor. The Government parties are split on that issue. We have heard some of the speeches that have been made already in this chamber on East Timor. Yet the Government has been unable to come to grips with that issue which undoubtedly is of fundamental importance to all of us. It is important to our future foreign policy, especially our policy towards the nation of Indonesia. The question of Indonesia is a crucial one. Our relations with countries such as Indonesia, which is our nearest neighbour bar one, are of critical importance to Australia in the last part of the 20th century. I believe that an Australian parliamentary committee rather than the United States Congress should be looking at that situation. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to nuclear safeguards.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The statement is made on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). As it is a long statement I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. It is identical with the one made by the Prime Minister in the other place.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
The future course of world nuclear development and the regime of international controls which should apply to such development are currently subjects of great international interest. In the past few weeks for example, there has been an important statement by President Carter on nuclear energy in which he emphasised the need to restrain the spread of nuclear weapons or explosive capabilities without forgoing the tangible benefits of nuclear power. Again, at their recent summit meeting, the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, West Germany, France, Japan and Italy committed themselves to increasing nuclear energy to help meet the world’s energy requirements while reducing the risks of nuclear proliferation. They launched an urgent study to determine how best to fulfil these objectives. At the conclusion of the recent Salzburg Conference, the most important international conference held in recent years on all aspects of nuclear power, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency referred to the agreement of the meeting that nuclear power was a necessary and irreplaceable source of the future energy supply to mankind for both the short and the longer term.
It is clear that there is widespread international concern to establish a framework of control within which the benefits which many countries see in the peaceful use of nuclear energy can be safely realised. These are issues of major international importance in their own right, but they have an added significance for Australia because of our potential as a supplier of uranium. They are issues on which I have already written to President Carter and Prime Minister Trudeau and on which the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and Australian officials have held detailed consultations with the United States, Canada and other countries. They are issues which have been under the closest and most careful consideration from the moment the Government took office. In the present period of international reappraisal of these issues the Government is determined that Australia should play an active role with other countries in the search for, and achievement of, joint solutions.
A proliferation of nuclear facilities without adequate protection against diversion of material to nuclear weapons production of nuclear explosives would pose serious threats to international stability and peace, obviously inimical to Australia’s interests and to global and regional security. It was for this reason that in his address to the United Nations General Assembly last September, the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) described the strengthening of measures to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons as a central and fundamental area in which Australia looks and hopes for early progress. This will remain the case whether or not Australia is ultimately to become a major exporter of uranium. The safeguards policy which we will follow is, in our view, appropriate for any country to follow whether it be a uranium supplier or consumer. I make clear from the outset that the term safeguards is used here to denote the whole range of measures used to provide assurance that nuclear material supplied for peaceful purposes is not misused for non-peaceful or explosive purposes.
The Government fully accepts that if it were in future to permit new uranium export from Australia, this would carry with it added responsibilities. Against the background of these international responsibilities the Government accepts that uranium is a special commodity, the export of which would involve important considerations of a kind not involved in the export of other commodities. This implies a requirement for selectivity in the choice of customer countries and the closest attention to ensuring adequate safeguards. It is not the Government’s view that safeguards should be regarded as something to be balanced against commercial considerations. We view adequate safeguards as a fundamental prerequisite of any uranium export which we would also expect responsible customer countries for Australian uranium readily to accept.
It will be recalled that, following the release of the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Government announced in the House on 1 1 November 1 976 that it supported the Inquiry’s view on the need for the fullest and most effective safeguards on uranium exports. The Government also stated that is was carrying forward more detailed consideration of safeguards in order to further develop a national policy on this subject.
The announcement of a policy at this stage, of course, in no way pre-empts a decision on the question whether any such new contracts for the export of uranium will be permitted. As the Government has repeatedly emphasised, this remains a matter for consideration following receipt of the final report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. However, as the Foreign Minister said in the Government’s foreign policy statement in the Parliament on 15 March 1977 the Government would be remiss if it did not address itself to safeguards questions in the meantime. That the Government has taken certain decisions on safeguards policy at this stage reflects its determination to ensure that an established frame-work of policy exists so that any new uranium exports take place under the most carefully considered and responsible conditions possible. The Government wishes to avoid a situation in which decisions may be required on new uranium marketing at some point in the future without the benefit of a clear policy on the ground rules to apply so far as safeguards are concerned.
The Government has long recognised the desirability of defining a comprehensive policy on safeguards. It would not be desirable for safeguards requirements to be left to ad hoc decision as this would not afford the strong and clear support for international efforts to strengthen controls against nuclear weapons proliferation to which the Government attaches major importance. Australia is a potentially significant supplier of uranium, but if we are to play the part which this potential gives us the opportunity to play of contributing effectively to international efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, it is desirable that uranium importing countries and other nuclear supplier countries alike know where Australia stands on the matter of safeguards.
In the narrow sense, safeguards are systems of containment, surveillance, accounting and inspection of nuclear materials and facilities designed to verify that diversion does not take place from peaceful to non-peaceful or explosive purposes. The major systems of international safeguards are administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a broader sense, safeguards for future Australian uranium exports would comprise, as well as the application of international safeguards in this strict sense, the securing from importing countries of adequate assurances regarding the use and control of supplied nuclear material and the conclusion of binding arrangements to give effect to such assurances. In both senses- as mechanisms for verification and as controls and conditions for nuclear exports- safeguards arrangements are an evolving structure, continually being strengthened, refined and improved.
Against this background, I would like to announce the following specific components of the comprehensive safeguards policy which the Government has adopted. These cover: The need to keep policy under review; careful selection of eligible customers for uranium; the application of effective International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards; bilateral agreements with customer countries; fallback safeguards; prior Australian Government consent in relation to reexport, enrichment and reprocessing; physical security; safeguards provisions in contracts; and international and multilateral efforts to strengthen safeguards.
First, it will be a basic feature of our approach to recognise that the process of strengthening and improving international safeguards arrangements is an ongoing one. Our policy and safeguards arrangements must be kept closely under review to take account of the future evolution of international thinking on safeguards. In this regard the Government is pleased that, as recently announced, Mr Justice Fox has agreed to become an adviser to me on policy matters relating to nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards.
Second, should the Government approve further development of the Australian uranium industry it will retain the right to be selective in the countries to whom uranium export will be permitted. The following minimum criteria for eligibility to receive Australian uranium will apply. The Government emphasises that these represent minimum conditions for countries to be eligible to receive Australian uranium. The
Government makes clear that wider foreign policy considerations may also be taken into account, and that it reserves the right to refrain from permitting export should this be appropriate in the light of such considerations. It does not, therefore, follow that the Government would necessarily permit export to a country meeting these minimum safeguards criteria.
In the case of non-nuclear weapon states- that is to say all countries other than the 5 existing nuclear weapons powers recognised by the NonProliferation Treaty- sales will be made only to countries which are parties to the NonProliferation Treaty.
Because of these countries’ safeguards obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty this policy will ensure that the entire civil nuclear industry in such customer countries is subject to effective safeguards to verify that nuclear material, whether of Australian or any other origin, is not diverted from peaceful uses. The Government is aware that work has recently been underway within the International Atomic Energy Agency on a new system of equality stringent safeguards to cover the entire nuclear industry in non-nuclear weapon states which are not parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It will be following progress on this matter and the implications which it may have for our policy.
Regarding existing nuclear weapon states, they are not obliged under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to renounce nuclear weapons or accept international safeguards. They retain the right to use nuclear material for weapons as well as peaceful purposes. Even so, Australia would want to have assurance that nuclear material we may supply for peaceful purposes is not diverted to military or explosive purposes. We will therefore export only to nuclear weapon states which give Australia this assurance and accept that the uranium we supply be covered by International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In this respect the Government’s policy introduces a requirement additional to those recommended by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in its first report.
Third, the Government wishes to ensure that if a decision is taken to permit new uranium export, the uranium will be covered by International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards from the time it leaves Australian ownership. As matters stand, while safeguards applied under the NonProliferation Treaty require notification of transfers of yellowcake, the full intensity of such safeguards only commences to apply later in the fuel cycle. Accordingly it will be the Government’s policy that any future sales arrangements for exports of Australian uranium should be such that the uranium will be in a form which attracts full International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards by the time it leaves Australian ownership.
Fourth, Australia will require the prior conclusion of bilateral agreements between the Australian Government and countries wishing to import Australian uranium under any future contracts. These bilateral agreements will provide a framework for direct and binding assurances by importing countries to the Australian Government in relation to the use and control of uranium supplied by Australia or nuclear material derived from its use. The fundamental undertakings the Government will wish to obtain from uranium importing countries in such bilateral agreements are that nuclear material supplied by Australia for peaceful purposes or nuclear material derived from its use will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes and that International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards will apply to verify compliance with this undertaking. Australia would seek to arrange with uranium importing countries regular expertlevel consultations to satisfy ourselves of the implementation of the provisions of bilateral agreements. In line with the positions taken by the United States and Canada Australia would retain the right to cease supply of uranium to any country which breached safeguards undertakings.
Fifth, the Government takes the view that nuclear material supplied by Australia or nuclear material derived from its use should remain under safeguards for the full life of the material in question or until it is legitimately removed from safeguards.
In line with this basic principle the Government has decided that bilateral agreements with non-nuclear weapon states should make provision for so-called fallback safeguards. I have already made clear that Australia would not be prepared to export uranium to such countries in the absence of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards applied under the NonProliferation Treaty. However, the question arises of ensuring the continued safeguarding of material already present in an importing country should safeguards under the Non-Proliferation Treaty at some stage cease to apply in that country. There should be provision under the bilateral agreements for the continued application of international safeguards in such circumstances. Further, the bilateral agreements should provide for Australia to make alternative arrangements for the safeguarding of nuclear material supplied by us in the event of international safeguards as such ceasing to operate.
Moreover, the Government feels it is reasonable to ask importing countries who will already accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards of comprehensive scope under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to accept that, at the first fallback level also, international safeguards should apply to all nuclear material, not just that portion supplied by Australia.
Sixth, the Government considers that it would be an unsatisfactory situation for uranium supplied by Australia to one country, or nuclear material derived from its use, to be able to be reexported to a third country without the opportunity for Australia to satisfy itself that adequate controls would apply to the transferred material and that the ultimate destination is acceptable to us. For this reason the Government has decided that bilateral agreements with uranium importing countries should make any transfer of supplied material to a third party contingent on the prior consent of the Australian Government. This provision will give Australia the means of ensuring that our safeguards requirements are met despite any onward transfers of the uranium we supply or nuclear material derived from it.
Seventh, we would require that Australian uranium supplied to other countries for peaceful uses not be enriched beyond 20 per cent uranium-235 without prior Australian consent. This provision is in line with the practice adopted by other nuclear supplier countries The figure of 20 per cent has been chosen as representing a level of enrichment below the practical requirements fora nuclear explosive, while being above the enrichment level required for most peaceful uses, excepting, for example, some research and radioisotope production reactors, for which approval to enrich to the necessary level would need to be obtained. In respect of this requirement also, the Government’s policy extends beyond the recommendations made by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in its first report.
Eighth, the Government is aware of the interest of some countries in the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to meet their anticipated future fuel requirements, and to facilitate the management of nuclear material following its use in nuclear reactors. At the present time the need for reprocessing and the details of an effective control regime for this area of the nuclear fuel cycle are the subject of close study internationally. This is an area in which there are a number of new ideas and initiatives. The United States has proposed an International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation Program to consider various nuclear fuel cycles in terms of their implications for proliferation control. There are also such ideas as various schemes for multinational control of reprocessing facilities and for the management of spent fuel and plutonium. The Government welcomes these studies and consultations and will seek to contribute actively and constructively to relevant aspects of them such as fuel supply assurances and waste management.
The Government’s view is that, prior to a clearer outcome emerging from this current international activity it would be premature for Australia to adopt a unilateral position on the detailed conditions under which we might be prepared to agree to reprocessing, if any, of nuclear material supplied by Australia. In order to effectively reserve Australia’s position on this matter for the time being we would wish to make provision in bilateral agreements with countries importing Australian uranium that any reprocessing of nuclear material supplied by Australia may only take place with the prior consent of the Australian Government. This requirement is additional to those recommended by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in its first report and reflects similar concerns to those expressed by the Inquiry in relation to reprocessing.
Ninth, the Government would require in future bilateral agreements the assurance from uranium importing countries that adequate physical security will be maintained on their nuclear industries. In addition, we believe the agreements should specify compliance with standards of physical security based, at a minimum, on International Atomic Energy Agency recommendations as presently defined and as updated from time to time. They should also make provision for expert level consultations as necessary on physical security arrangements. These requirements also translate into concrete policy measures concerns expressed by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
The incorporation of these provisions in the Government ‘s safeguards policy reflects our concern that total nuclear control should encompass not just safeguards to verify that nuclear material is not illicitly diverted from peaceful uses by national governments or national authorities, but also to protect nuclear material from illegal use by groups or individuals.
Tenth, the establishment of effective arrangements for safeguards is essentially a matter for governments and for inter-governmental agreements, either bilateral or multilateral. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that the actual parties to commercial contracts, which may be private organisations, are also aware of the safeguards obligations to which their transaction is subject. For this reason, although the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in its first report did not make a recommendation on this matter, the Government has decided that it is desirable that, as a standard practice, a clause should be included in any future contracts for the export of uranium from Australia noting that the transaction is subject to safeguards as agreed between the importing country and the Australian Government.
Finally, as an important complement to the measures I have outlined so far, the Government recognises the importance of Australia contributing to constructive multilateral efforts to strengthen safeguards. There is a need for what President Carter has described as systematic and thorough consultations in this area. We too consider that it is highly desirable that there should be the widest possible consensus amongst both nuclear supplier countries and nuclear importing countries on the controls to apply to the world nuclear industry. The wider the consensus, the more effective these controls will be as a barrier to nuclear proliferation. The more uniform the views of the countries concerned, the easier it will be to implement a properly effective regime of controls. It will be an integral part of Australia’s approach to safeguards to seek to promote such a consensus.
In particular, we will seek to co-ordinate policy on safeguards with other like-minded countries. As I noted at the outset, I have already initiated an exchange of correspondence with the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada expressing this wish, and extremely valuable consultations have already taken place. The policy I am now announcing incorporates the Government’s consideration of these consultations and represents a very similar approach to safeguards to that adopted by the United States and Canada. More generally, nuclear supplier countries have a special role and responsibility in the ongoing development of safeguards and Australia will be prepared to participate with them in any constructive efforts to develop a co-ordinated approach.
We will also continue to attach major importance to the effective application of safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency. We will investigate if there are specific areas in which Australia could usefully assist the Agency’s capacity to apply increasingly effective safeguards.
At the present time the Government sees a multilateral approach towards safeguards questions as being especially desirable in one specific area as well as the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation Program already mentioned; we would wish to lend support to the development of an international convention on the physical protection of nuclear material in international transit. Also, we would wish to explore with other countries a common approach to sanctions in the event of a breach of supply conditions.
The essential ingredients of the policy I have outlined are careful selection of customer countries, the application of international safeguards to verify that material supplied for peaceful purposes is not misused, the establishment of additional safeguards through bilateral agreements, and an active involvement by Australia in international efforts to upgrade safeguards. The policy is the result of full, careful and detailed consideration of safeguards by the Government. It builds on the preliminary thinking of the Government described in testimony to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry last year, as well as the recommendations of the first report of the Inquiry itself. The policy has been the subject of detailed exchanges of views with other countries- both uranium importers and major nuclear exporters- and relevant international organisations including the International Atomic Energy Agency.
As a result the Government is satisfied that the policy it has decided upon represents a practical, reasonable and effective package of safeguards measures to seek from countries wishing to import uranium from Australia under any future contracts. It is fully in step with current international efforts to strengthen safeguards. The policy goes beyond a mere acceptance by Australian of our international obligations as a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and constitutes a policy as stringent as that adopted to date by any nuclear supplier country.
– I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I understand that Mr Justice Fox will be putting down his report tomorrow. I assume that it will be tabled here either tomorrow or the next day. For the information of honourable senators, I have spoken with both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland). I am suggesting that the Whips have a discussion and, after honourable senators have had time to study both this statement and the Fox report, an evening be set aside next week for debate on both these matters.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a White Paper on Manufacturing Industry. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Our policy statement on manufacturing and industrial development stated that the Jackson Committee Green Paper would be taken further by the development of a White Paper. The Government has devoted considerable time and effort to obtaining the widest possible range of views for consideration in the preparation of the White Paper. The Government attaches great importance to the role which manufacturing industry has played and will continue to play in the Australian economy. We are mindful of the need to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that manufacturing industry will develop on a sound basis, taking full advantage of Australia’s endowment, particularly in regard to our wealth of energy and other resources. There would be little point in having a White Paper rushed through without proper consideration of all the relevant issues. A White Paper must be a well thought out, sensible and realistic document which industry and the community generally can appreciate as being a sound approach for the future.
Industry policy, by its nature, must be concerned with the long term allocation of economic resources and patterns of investment, in terms of both capital equipment and human skills. Unpredictable or excessively rapid changes in these patterns can result in unacceptable economic and social disruption. A clearly stated and widely accepted approach to industry policy is therefore desirable, indeed required, if necessary long term investment in equipment and skills is not to be deterred by unpredictability of Government policies. The changing environment for manufacturing in Australia is in part an aspect of the world-wide process of change. Thus for a variety of economic, social and international reasons the structure of Australian manufacturing industry, derived from the national needs of the past, is changing in response to new circumstances. Whilst recently, in some cases, this response may have been faster and more extensive than desirable, the process of change is bound to continue over the longer term and it is in the national interest that it do so.
A major part of the White Paper is devoted to ways of generating a wider and fuller understanding in the community of the significance of the changing environment for Australian manufacturing industry and to means of establishing through consultation a general acceptance of how to respond to these changes. The White Paper sets out the Government’s approach to industry policy both to ensure steady progress towards the stronger and more viable manufacturing sector in the longer term and to meet short term problems. This does not imply that manufacturing is to be given a preferred position apart from other economic activities. There is a strong and complex interdependence between manufacturing and other sectors of the economy. These relationships must be reflected in the manner in which policies for manufacturing industry are integrated with the nation’s overall economic and social policies, and with policies bearing specifically on other sectors with strong ties with manufacturing. We have taken these considerations fully into account in the preparation of the White Paper.
Manufacturing industry constitutes an important part of the Australian economy. The manufacturing sector accounts for about a quarter of national production, and about a fifth of Australian exports and employs almost 1 300 000 people. There have, however, been significant changes in the position and outlook of manufacturing industry in recent years. Since the mid-1960s the development of newly identified mineral resources and growth in international demand for these resources have brought a changed balance of payments outlook. Inflationary pressures, lower birth rates, reduced immigration, changing patterns of consumption expenditure as incomes rise and industrial development of other countries in our region, have all contributed to a major change in outlook for manufacturing industry in Australia.
The importance of these factors has been heightened by rapid wage increases in recent years and, in the absence of clearly stated and widely accepted policies, uncertainty as to the substantive direction of Government policy has been a disturbing influence on industry’s ability to plan ahead.
In recent years, some manufacturing activities have faced a decline in international competitiveness, with the loss of export markets and increasing competition from imports in the home market. Consequently, businesses have been making decisions which are bringing about changes in the structure of Australian industry. Faced with rising wages and other costs, many enterprises have reduced their work forces, lowered their levels of Australian content and in some cases have set up manufacture overseas. Investment in new manufacturing facilities in some sectors in Australia has been at low levels. Naturally, we must expect that from time to time there will be some degree of conflict between our objectives in the range of areas affected by decisions in regard to manufacturing industry, and, in such circumstances, there will be a need to achieve an appropriate overall balance in our policies which will best serve the national interest.
The Government has already taken several initiatives to assist manufacturing industry. A major investment incentive program, with substantial benefits, has been introduced and will be continued. The effect of inflation on company tax has been partially offset by trading stock valuation adjustments. Distribution requirements for private companies under Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act have been eased. Temporary assistance has been provided for those areas of industry most seriously affected by import competition. The Temporary Assistance Authority legislation is to be amended to allow greater flexibility in dealing with questions of temporary assistance. New reporting requirements have been given to the Industries Assistance Commission and the order and timing of references in the tariff review program was reviewed. The Australian dollar was devalued on 29 November 1976 to assist, amongst other things, in improving the competitiveness of Australian industry. Market sharing arrangements between local production and imports will be considered where necessary as a special measure of short term policy to assist in stabilising activity in sensitive industry sectors, pending full reviews of longer term policies.
Such arrangements will only be introduced after appropriate public inquiry and where such action is in line with our obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or other international treaty commitments. Where market sharing arrangements are applied, the Government considers that, where practicable, the companies benefiting from such action should accept appropriate commitments on pricing policy to be followed during the duration of such assistance. The Government will continue to place proper emphasis on short term policies so as to alleviate economic and social disruption and minimise the erosion of employment opportunities.
Short term policies will be directed at minimising any disruptive effects which might otherwise arise from changes in the structure of industry. The Government is, however, conscious of the problems which short term measures directed towards a particular industry can create elsewhere in the economy and will exercise the closest possible control over such policies, including limitations as to their duration, consistent with the objective of minimising disruption. The Government will pay close attention to the need to reconcile short term and long term policy measures. The change in the pattern of industrial activities in Australia which has been occurring is, however, not just a short term phenomenon. It will have effects through and beyond the period of economic recovery. The White Paper therefore addresses the longer term issues of manufacturing industry in Australia. Our policy guidelines, principles and general approach to longer term industry policy are set out in the White Paper.
In terms of the future growth of manufacturing industry, Australia’s endowment in capital, labour, skills, natural resources and market opportunities would seem to indicate that the best prospects for manufacturing industry development in Australia in the long term lie in activities which are based on Australia’s natural resources, which are innovative in terms of skill or design, which meet specialised local needs, or which have a high degree of natural protection. In today’s circumstances and in the changing environment now being encountered, Australian manufacturing industry, over a reasonable period of time, needs to adjust towards a greater degree of specialisation. As a longer term objective the community will be best served by a manufacturing industry with a structure which requires minimum levels of government support. But future industry policy needs to take account of the existing structure of Australian industry.
The Government’s future approach to longer term industry policy therefore will be concerned principally with dealing with long term changes in the structure of Australian manufacturing industry. Timing and the rate of such change will be important, indeed critical, if disruption caused by the process of change is to be minimised. We are prepared to take special measures, of a recognised temporary nature, to support employment if major changes in the industrial structure threaten unacceptable disruption in times of generally slow economic activity. We shall seek to pursue stable policies which will allow future developments in manufacturing to flow into activities which have good long term prospects for growth. Policies will be needed to meet the special problems of certain industries, within the Government’s overall objective of providing a general climate for economic growth. In recognising the possible need for policies for a small number of sectors, however, the Government is not setting out to establish a list of ‘key industries’ which would be accorded special treatment of an ongoing nature in order to insulate them from pressures of change. Rather the approach envisaged is one of providing support for a sector for a defined period during which real efforts should be made by industry itself to improve its structure and efficiency, thereby helping it to achieve a better and more certain long term outlook.
The Government recognises that protection policies can affect the rate of change in industry and cannot be determined in isolation from the ability of the community to absorb change or accommodate the social consequences of any prospective change. A time of lower economic activity, such as the present, is generally not an appropriate time for reducing protection. In such circumstances a cautious approach to tariff reductions is warranted. Temporary assistance measures may be necessary to avoid disruption and contribute to economic recovery. The Government will also pursue longer term policies which will encourage efficient manufacturing firms to develop and take advantage of new opportunities for growth. Continuing attention will be given to development and extension policies in fields such as research and development, and the Government will continue to monitor the adequacy of existing programs in the areas of export development, investment incentives, small business policies, management efficiency, productivity improvement and industrial financing. These policies will form part of a broader framework of policies aimed at fostering the growth of the economy as a whole so as to create a climate in which new opportunities will exist for business initiatives and employment.
The problems likely to be faced by manufacturing industry in the future will be properly dealt with only if they are understood and appreciated within the community. This will require a greater degree of consultation between the Commonwealth and the State governments and with the many centres of influence and decision making within the community, including management, the trade unions and consumers. New consultation arrangements will be set up by way of the establishment of an Australian Manufacturing Council, extension to industry advisory councils and there will be continued consultations with State governments. A major national conference will be convened at an early date at which governments, industries, trade unions, consumers and others will be invited to take part in presenting and discussing papers on new long term directions for manufacturing industry. To contribute to an increased awareness in the community of the problems of industry, the Department of Industry and Commerce will prepare an annual review of manufacturing industry to report on major developments in industry. The Australian Manufacturing Council will assist in the preparation of this annual review.
The challenges ahead represent a task with which we must all be concerned. Government will play its part in meeting these challenges. We look to management and labour to play their part in a genuine partnership. Productivity must be improved through a greater effort on the part of management and labour to improve their overall efficiency and performance. Wage and price restraint must be pursued because unrealistic increases in wages and prices, especially in those areas of manufacturing most subject to competition from imports will threaten job security. We should not allow short term difficulties to obscure the great long term opportunities ahead of us. If we tackle the present problems with vigour and persistence manufacturing industry will be better placed to help realise these opportunities in the longer term. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of the organisations, companies, individuals, governments and departments which presented submissions for consideration in the preparation of the White Paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– The document which the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Senator Cotton) has circulated is a precis of the actual White Paper. He was good enough earlier this afternoon to give me a copy of the White Paper so that I could look at its contents in a little more depth. I do not claim, of course, to have read the whole document but I have seen sufficient of it to make the comments I propose to make. I note that in the last paragraph of the speech Senator Cotton has just delivered he stated:
If we tackle the present problems with vigour and persistence manufacturing industry will be better placed to help realise these opportunities in the longer term.
Without casting any reflection on Senator Cotton, who I know has a real interest in this subject and who has had a fairly long battle with some of his colleagues to bring forward this White Paper- probably it is not in the form he would have liked -I hope that the White Paper is not representative of just how vigorous and persistent this Government will be with the prob lems facing manufacturing industry. We have waited a long time for this White Paper. The build-up given to it after the very extensive work done by the Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry- the Jackson Committeewhich, of course, was initiated by the Labor Government, has led manufacturing industry and other sectors of the economy to expect a well reasoned document containing some substantial and specific recommendations about the future of Australian manufacturing industry and about the policies which the present Government will devise for that industry. Apparently the delay has resulted in our getting what we originally thought to be a policy elephant; we now really have what might be termed a squeaking mouse.
I regret to say that in reading the White Paper I observed that the Government has avoided making any firm recommendations that would be of substantial use to the manufacturing sector, which is seeking to make investments or is planning for future change. Manufacturing industry had a right to expect relatively firm guidelines in a series of very contentious areas. These areas are structural change especially, what the Government proposes to do specifically about protection and tariff policies, and of course the allocation of resources generally. These issues appear to be dealt with between pages 48 and 54 of the White Paper under the heading ‘Policies and Policy Instruments’. We find that on the one hand the Government purports to have a commitment to efficient resources allocation but, on the other hand, it still wants to pursue some of the policies of short term protection which, as we know from past experience, had some very dubious consequences. On the subject of uncertainty, it was the Minister himself and some of his colleagues who only 2 years ago, when in opposition, said that one of the real problems of the Labor Party in government was that it failed to set out specific recommendations or specific policies on manufacturing industry. We recall that despite those criticisms it was the Labor Government that initiated the Jackson report. It was necessary for that Green Paper to be prepared before we could even commence to think about a White Paper and specific Government policies. At page 33 of the report under the heading ‘The Government ‘s Approach’ ‘Policy Guidelines’ the most specific thing that I can find is what would almost appear to be a lift out of a Party political platform. The White Paper states:
The Government will develop and apply policies on the basis of the general statement of purposes and basic goals formulated by the Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry:
This is what it said:
To improve and promote the well-being of the people of Australia -
Nobody will argue with that- with: equality of opportunity so that all persons, without discrimination, may live a full and satisfying life; full employment; rising and generally enjoyed standards of living, with stability in costs and prices;
I will not go through all the points. The point, I think, is obvious: A White Paper ought to be more specific. Generalisations of that sort read well in a Party’s platform but they are hardly good enough for a White Paper for which we have waited so long. I understand the difficulties that the Minister has had in drafting this report. I appreciate his interest and, I believe, his commitment in this area. But he has been monkeyed around by colleagues in his own government who apparently have been afraid to see the Government make some specific commitment in this area. I regret that having waited so long we see a White Paper which in fact is a great disappointment. It may be that in time the Government will see fit to revise it. Until such time as we have had the opportunity to look at it in more detail, we will have to accept the fact that this is the Government’s statement of policy on the manufacturing industry. I have no doubt that this is not only a disappointment to the Parliament but is also an even bigger disappointment to a very large section of industry in this country which has been holding off, waiting for something specific so that it would know where this Government is taking it. I am afraid we do not see those guidelines spelt out in this White Paper as they should be.
– I think I might forbear from replying to that because a lot of it was a tirade, a farrago of nonsense, and we should resume the debate at a later date.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– I wish to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) nominating Senator Tehan to fill the vacancy now existing on the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Motion (by Senator Cotton)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Tehan, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Orders, be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
– On behalf of the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, I seek leave to make a statement relating to Refugee Policy and Mechanisms.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
This statement deals with refugee policy and new arrangements to enable refugee and analogous situations to be dealt with promptly, equitably and effectively. Many of our citizens were once refugees or displaced persons. They have found security and prosperity here and have made a valuable contribution to our country. When we welcomed them, it was hoped that refugees and disabled persons were a temporary post-war phenomenon. Now we have to recognise that this was not so.
There still are many people in many parts of the world who can be called refugees. Unfortunately, crises which lead to the endangering and displacement of human beings have become commonplace and it is only the more catastrophic or immediate of such situations which now make the headlines. Despite the best efforts of people of goodwill and of the international community, we must expect that there will continue to be refugees. Apart from all other considerations, we cannot control the forces of nature. In the past year we have seen the force of natural disasters and their effects for people with associations with Australia.
As a matter of humanity, and in accord with international obligations freely entered into, Australia has accepted a responsibility to contribute toward the solution of world refugee problems. To this end: it has ratified the Convention on the Status of Refugees, it is a member of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR and contributes to the resettlement funds of the UNHCR it recognises the need through its immigration policy to fulfil the legal obligations required by the Convention and to develop special humanitarian programmes for the resettlement of the displaced and/or the persecuted.
These steps, taken as an involved member of the international community, must now be complemented by the adoption and application of an ongoing refugee policy and refugee mechanism. We do injustice to previous Governments if we do not give tribute to Australia’s contribution in resettlement of refugees in the past. We have done this partly to develop our country, partly to respond to situations demanding a humanitarian response. We have done this without an articulated policy. Such a policy is needed.
If we are to seek to act in the interests of refugees themselves and the Australian community, it is necessary to face up to many practical difficulties. Many refugees are not simply migrants beset by a few additional problems. They are often persons who are distressed and disoriented and who need specialised settlement assistance. Uprooted from their familiar surroundings, they may face the shock of cultural dissimilarities, a language barrier and perhaps the trauma of the discovery that their skills or the occupation they followed in their country of origin are not recognised or have no parallel in their country of refuge.
Those who have in the recent past exhorted the Government to accept greater numbers of refugees must take into account the need to coordinate and develop such Government and community resources as will assist not only in the acceptance, but also in the responsible settlement, of refugees.
A fact often forgotten is that many refugees do not want to come to Australia or, at least, they prefer to go to another country where, for instance, they have close relatives or their language is spoken. Moreover, our own capacity to accept refugees is not unlimited. Australia’s present and future capacity to resettle refugees successfully depends on many factors including: the prevailing economic situation, the level of unemployment, the locations within Australia to which refugees wish to go, the background of refugees to be acceptedtheir capacity for early integration or otherwise, the availability of special post arrival serviceslanguage instruction, education, training, accommodation, health and welfare, the numbers of refugees for which voluntary agencies can care.
The Government’s approach to refugees is based on the following four principles:
It is the Government’s view that the acceptance and settlement of refugees should be a continuum beginning with a quick and decisive response to international crises and concluding, after what may be a long and difficult path for the refugee, with successful integration into the Australian community. We have to recognise, however, that there can be refugees with the sort of background, education and skills enabling them to fit readily into the Australian scene. It may be a disservice to them to continue to single them out for special treatment as ‘refugees’ after they have arrived in Australia. There are others who may not wish to be labelled as ‘refugees’ over a period.
In situations where refugees are under immediate and dire personal threat, acceptance of people who will face settlement difficulties in Australia is justified. More generally, we have to keep in mind that it may not be in the interests of refugees not under immediate personal threat to accept them for entry to Australia if they will face major long-term settlement problems here. It may be preferable for them to be resettled in another country or to be sustained in a more suitable environment, through the UNHCR. This is the responsible approach based on the long view which takes account not only of the problem but also of the best solution.
Within the range of people who are forced by events to become refugees there will be many variations of circumstances and conditions. Needs will differ. The Government recognises that:
To enable Australia to respond quickly to designated refugee situations the Government has decided that new mechanisms will be introduced. These are as follows:
This Committee will: advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the capacity for accepting refugees, consult annually, and otherwise as necessary, with voluntary agencies regarding the numbers they would accept for resettlement, recommend co-ordination for arrival and immediate resettlement, regularly review the intake of refugees against the capacity of resources in this country to ensure successful resettlement.
It is clear from the foregoing that the object of the Government’s initiative is a declaration of a comprehensive refugee policy and the establishment of adminstrative machinery needed to put it into effect. It will enable us to respond to the needs of those who are displaced, without the constraint of technical definition.
The comprehensive nature of this overall approach should not be seen as limiting Australia’s options in particular situations. A refugee policy must be capable of coping with crises which arise suddenly and often unexpectedly. It must be cognisant of the fact that in such situations human beings have human needs which are intensified by conditions of danger and distress.
Over the past 30 years, Australia has developed an international reputation for resettlement. It reacted to the plight of displaced persons in Europe immediately after World War II and to the consequences of various events in Eastern Europe, of which the most notable were the Soviet repression of movements towards national independence in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Australia has played, and is continuing to play, a responsible part in the resettlement of distressed persons and refugees from the Lebanon and Indo-China.
I believe that there would be few in this House who would not support a commitment for Australia to play the most effective role possible in refugee settlement. The Government is committed to this view.
It is in the belief that there is a community willingness to assist the dispossessed and displaced from overseas in a sensible and realistic way to seek sanctuary and a new life in Australia, that I commend this statement to the Parliament and the people of Australia.
Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales)by leave- Anybody who has read the Minister’s statement and related it to chapter 5 of the Green Paper on immigration would realise the complexities involved. The statement leaves a number of questions unanswered. In the first instance, it does not refer to our capacity to take political refugees and whether they will affect our overall annual intake of migrants in a given year. It is equally true that concern has been expressed by the ethnic communities as to the number of people designated as political refugees and as to whether the number of people allowed into Australia in a year for family reunions will be affected. This will be borne out in chapter 5 of the Green Paper. There are other areas in which the Government and the Minister have to be firm. I say this with no carping attitude. We may have a South East Asian fixation on what are termed ‘political refugees’. Some Asians who have been dispossessed by African governments have the choice, with a British passport, of going to Britain. Some Vietnamese have the choice of going to the United States of America. When they insist on coming here with other members of their family they reduce the opportunity for people who have no avenue to come to Australia except as strictly political refugees.
Whatever our policy is for the future we cannot afford to keep looking at new areas. We have to look back at areas which have suffered political oppression. Although we have done a reasonably good job in a number of areas, as yet we have not taken up the slack this year on the rising number of people in Latin America, Uruguay, Chile and the Argentine who have come out of gaols and have been denied employment. If we are to be mercenary about it, let us remember that many of them have considerable trade skills. The Minister refers at page 7 to a standing committee of departmental experts. I am not cavilling at that but I should like to feel that some of the Latin American clubs, the Cypriot Brotherhood and Lebanese groups would be consulted. We have improved our methods. I know that when the Turkish invasion of Cyprus occurred the Cypriot Brotherhood was a valuable link between what the Government wanted to do and the actual situation in Australia.
I feel that I should refer to some of the officers concerned. I was pleased that Mr Brian Murray was given a high position. I pay tribute to his role and to the role of some of his younger colleagues. On one occasion when Senator James McClelland was the Minister, a seminar was conducted with the World Council of Churches, the Catholic Church, the Quakers and other people. Officers who had flown in from distant places were dedicated enough to be there the next day after a minimum of sleep to give us reports so that we could make decisions. I believe that while we have people of such high calibre in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and other offices the Government will make reasonable decisions.
I simply strike a note of warning. First, I should like to know at an early date how we relate the ratio of political refugees to our overall total of migrants on an annual basis. Secondly, I make a very strong plea that our brothers in Latin American countries who have been going through a vicious political oppression are not neglected and that we do not keep looking ahead. We have to look back at some of those countries. It is not good enough to say: ‘We took 600 Chileans last year, let the rest of them battle on’. In turn, if Australia and Canada are bearing the major responsibility in this humanitarian area I should like to see some European countries which have a fairly high standard of living make even higher donations for the sustenance of refugee organisations than they are making at present. This is not the time for the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to answer the points I have raised but 1 have no doubt that the Minister will read these statements.
I notice that the Minister refers in the statement to the situation of people who desert a ship and to a committee to assess whether they are technically political refugees. Some years agoand my colleague Senator Georges hammered this effectively- when there was a military junta in Greece there was a very high number of Greek seamen seeking political asylum. That was one instance. In fairness I think it may have been the late Senator Greenwood or a Liberal Government of that era that ratified the Refugee Seamen’s Convention. I just question the verbiage on page 6 of the statement. It is as though the Government implies that every seaman wants to stay in Australia. A lot of them want to continue their calling as seamen. Under the Refugee Seamen ‘s Convention they can be given papers to permit them to continue on another ship under another flag. I feel the wording in this statement is not quite correct.
The Refugee Seamen’s Convention, to which Australia was a signatory, was not merely a sort of blotting paper to absorb people coming into the country. It was to let seamen continue their calling should they run foul of the country of their birth and we would give them papers, probably akin to United Nations citizenship, to enable them to carry on as seamen. I hope that these observations will be noted by the Government. Perhaps we could have quarterly reports instead of having to wait for an Estimates Committee report. Sometimes there is a preponderance of one ethnic group, with certain rivalry and jealousy from other groups. I repeat that the watchword may be open-handedness and I hope that that will be adhered to.
– It is always my wish to pay courtesy to my colleagues in the Senate but I think that sometimes these limitations are rather heavily stretched. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Income Tax
Assessment Amendment Bill 1977 and the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Amendment Bill 1977 being put in the one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1977
I will first read the second reading speech on the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1977. This Bill will amend the income tax law in several important respects and, in so doing, will give effect to the first stage of company tax indexation. The major proposal contained in the Bill is the introduction of a special deduction which in effect adjusts the value at which the cost of trading stocks is brought to account for income tax purposes. As the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) foreshadowed in the Budget Speech, and explained at greater length in his statement of 9 December 1976, the Government has decided that the impact of inflation on trading stock financing should be taken into account in assessing the income tax liabilities of business enterprises. The new deduction proposed in the Bill will provide very significant income tax relief for firms and companies carrying trading stocks for business purposes. The estimated cost to revenue next financial year of the new deduction is around $360m- equivalent to an across the board rate reduction for all companies of 5 ‘A percentage points.
It is important to understand that the deduction will have a differential impact on businesses according to the degree to which they are adversely affected by inflation and this is, of course, the principal reason why the scheme contained in the Bill is far more equitable than an across the board rate reduction. Under existing income tax rules, businesses are paying taxes out of what amounts to no more than paper profits and this has limited, and in many cases depressed, the general level of business activity within the economy. To put it another way, existing legislation has led to a substantial erosion of the capital base of the free enterprise sector.
The changes being made by the Governmentchanges that our predecessors in office refused to make- will give to the business sector, for the first time, a significant measure of protection against the effects of inflation. The provisions contained in the Bill are in line with the comprehensive description given in the Treasurer’s statement of 9 December 1976 and are explained in detail in a memorandum I have arranged to be circulated for the information of honourable senators. In this introductory speech I will, therefore, refer only to the principal features of the scheme.
For a continuing business, a special deduction related to the taxation value of specified trading stocks on hand at the beginning of the year of income is to be allowed, commencing with assessments based on income derived during the 1976-77 income year. The deduction in assessments will be ascertained by applying to the value of the trading stock- not being a value higher than the cost of the stock- one-half of the percentage increase in the goods component of the consumer price index measured from the June quarter of the year preceding the year of income to the June quarter of the year of income. For 1 976-77, therefore, the relevant increase will be that occurring from the June quarter of 1 976 to the June quarter of 1977. Most classes of trading stock, including livestock, required to be brought to account under the general trading stock provisions of the income tax law will be eligible for the deduction. The deduction will not, however, be available in respect of land, buildings, construction work in progress, consumable stores, spare parts, shares, debentures, public securities or other choses in action or animals for use in sporting or recreational activities or for domestic purposes.
Special arrangements are to apply where a new business is commenced during an income year or where a business changes hands during an income year. A proportionate deduction will be allowable for the part of the first year in which a new business is carried on. As there will be no trading stock on hand at the commencement of this first year, the deduction for the year is to be calculated in respect of two-thirds of the value of stock on hand at the end of the year. Where a business changes hands during a year of income, the deduction allowable will be apportioned between the vendor and the purchaser according to the period of the year in which each carried on the business. In such a case, the deduction will generally be measured by reference to the value of the trading stock at the beginning of the year in which the change of ownership occurs or the value at the date of sale, whichever is the less. Where, as in the case of a reorganisation of a company group, a business is transferred from one company to an associated company, the latter company will, if both companies elect, be entitled to the deduction otherwise allowable to the vendor company in addition to any entitlement of its own. As a general rule, a deduction will not be available for an income year in which a business ceases operations. However, where a business is terminated on the death or bankruptcy of a proprietor, an appropriate part year deduction will be allowable.
To prevent the use of the deduction to obtain unwarranted tax advantages, safeguarding provisions will apply to reduce deductions otherwise available where there is a permanent reduction in the scale of operations of a business or a business is holding an unnecessarily high level of stocks. Where a permanent reduction in the level of business operations occurs, the deduction will be based on the closing instead of the opening stock. Where the Commissioner of Taxation considers that, with a view to maximising the stock valuation deduction, a business is holding an unnecessarily high level of stocks, he will be empowered, subject to the usual objections and appeals provisions, to base the deduction on a lower value of trading stock. As foreshadowed in the Treasurer’s statement of 9 December 1976, the Bill also contains other provisions to ensure that the new stock adjustment deduction is not deliberately exploited for tax avoidance purposes. To this end, special provisions are being enacted to combat arrangements between parties not acting at arm’s length for the acquisition by one from the other of trading stocks at inflated prices. Contrived arrangements of this kind can, of course, result in overstatement of deductions properly allowable for trading stock purposes as well as of the new deductions in respect of opening stock values. For this reason, the safeguarding provisions will have effect both for purposes of the new deduction and for the general purposes of the income tax law. The provisions will enable an arm’s length price to be ascribed to the trading stock for the income tax purposes in the assessments of both the purchaser and the vendor.
An associated measure, directed to the same end, will qualify the circumstances in which parties may elect under sub-section 36a (2) of the Income Tax Assessment Act to have trading stock transferred between them at cost price instead of market price where, as in the case of partnership formations, there is a partial change in the ownership of stock. Since the Bill was introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in another place on 2 1 April 1 977 it has been put to the Government from a number of sources that these measures, as the Bill then stood, would have involved an unfairly retrospective change in the law as the measures were to have applied from the commencement of the 1976-77 income year. It has been argued that the new provisions should not be permitted to upset arrangements entered into before the introduction of the legislation. The Government has decided that, in order to remove any element of retrospectivity, the measures I have referred to are to apply only to arrangements entered into on or after 2 1 April 1977. This decision will in no way inhibit the Commissioner of Taxation in contesting the validity under existing law of tax avoidance schemes entered into prior to 2 1 April.
I take this opportunity to foreshadow an amendment to the Bill that the Government will be moving at a later stage to overcome some new and boldly advertised tax avoidance arrangements that have been devised to circumvent the limitation being placed on sub-section 36a (2) to which I have referred. Under those arrangements, all the issued shares in a number of private companies holding accumulated profits are acquired, ostensibly for share-trading purposes, by a partnership of which some members are individuals in receipt of high incomes. The accumulated profits are then paid by way of dividend to a separate company, the shares in which are later sold by the partnership for full value. Section 36a is then invoked to ensure that no taxable profit arises on the sale of the company. Meanwhile the shares in the other private companies are also sold. Since these companies have already been stripped of their profits, a taxdeductible loss is created, with the end result that substantial amounts of other income earned by individual members of the partnership are wholly freed from tax.
The amendment will preclude an election being made under the section in respect of transfers of interests in company shares and securities or other choses in action. The amendment proposed will not, however, withdraw any rights to lodge elections under section 36a in relation to transfers of interests in such property that took place before today. Before going on to other aspects of the Bill, I wish to refer to other representations that have been made to the Government since the release of the Treasurer’s statement of 9 December last on the new deduction in respect of trading stock. Without exception, these representations have been on matters that were canvassed thoroughly by the Government before the Treasurer’s statement was made. The Government has carefully reexamined its proposals in the light of the representations and is convinced that there should be no substantial departure from the lines of action set out in the 1976-77 Budget Speech and the December statement.
I turn now to other provisions of the Bill that cover several proposals, most of which have already been announced. The new CRAFT scheme- the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-Time Training- provides rebates for employers in respect of wage costs incurred in respect of apprentices who undertake full time off-the-job training. The Bill provides that these rebates are to be exempt from income tax. The Bill provides also that the payment of special allowances to apprentices under the scheme are to be subject to pay-as-you-earn deductions in the same way as similar allowances in the nature of income.
Another matter dealt with in the Bill is the system for the collection of company tax by instalments. The temporary suspension of the system from early in 1976, a time when the corporate sector faced serious liquidity and cash flow problems, relieved companies from obligations to pay the third quarterly instalment in 1975-76 and all 3 instalments that otherwise would have been payable in 1976-77. The improvement in company profitability, and business conditions generally, has diminished substantially the need for this kind of interim assistance.
In January, the Treasurer announced a number of fiscal policy decisions, including a decision that, in accordance with the Government’s intention when company instalments were temporarily suspended, the system of collection by instalments would come back into operation in 1977-78. Re-introduction of the instalment system will contribute towards evening out swings in liquidity in the economy within any financial year and thereby add to the effectiveness of monetary management.
An associated Bill-the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Amendment Bill 1 977- will provide authority for the resumption of instalment collections in that year on the basis laid down in the Income Tax Assessment Act. In its present form, the Assessment Act authorises the Commissioner of Taxation to call upon a company to pay 3 instalments of tax plus a balancing payment in 1977-78 and each subsequent year in respect of tax on its income of the preceding year. Amendments proposed by this Bill will reduce to two the number of instalments that a company may be called upon to pay in 1977-78 and set the earliest due dates for payment of the instalments as 15 November 1977 and 15 February 1978, respectively. The amount of the instalments will be determined on the same basis that applied before the temporary suspension of the scheme, and any company obliged to pay one or both of them will not be required to pay the balance of tax assessed on 1976-77 income before 30 April 1978.
The Bill also proposes to make an amendment to the averaging system applying to primary producers. At present, taxable income in excess of $ 16,000 is taxed at general rates and is also taken in as part of the average income calculations for the year in which it is so taxed and the next 4 years. Commencing with assessments of tax based on 1976-77 incomes, it is proposed to exclude from the averaging calculations any amount by which the taxable income of any year within the averaging period exceeds $16,000. Another provision of the Bill will amend the income tax law to ensure that all pensions paid under the superannuation arrangements for members of the Defence Force are liable to tax.
The need for the amendment, which was announced on 15 April 1977, arises from a recent decision by the High Court involving an invalidity pension paid under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme to a former officer of the Navy who was prematurely retired as the result of an accident sustained in the course of duty. The High Court held that the pension concerned fell within the scope of provisions of the law which exempt from tax pensions similar in nature to exempt repatriation disability pensions. In a setting where tax is levied on pensions paid under other occupational superannuation schemes, the Government thinks it only equitable that all DFRB and DFRDB pensions be taxed and the Bill contains provisions to this effect. An amendment is also proposed to the gift provisions of the income tax law to provide for the deductibility of gifts to the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Trust for Young Australians.
Finally a technical amendment is being made in connection with the rights of a tax agent to apply for a review of cancellation of registration as a tax agent. The amendment will reflect the changed review arrangements that have applied since 1 July 1976 under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. Detailed explanations of the provisions of this and the related Bill are given in the explanatory memorandum of which I spoke earlier.
Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Amendment Bill 1977
I turn now to the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Amendment Bill 1977. Technical provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which govern the system for collection of company tax by instalments, authorise collections in a particular financial year only if a rating Act provides that instalments of tax are payable by a company in respect of its income of the preceding year. This Bill will amend the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Act 1976, which declared rates of tax payable for the 1976-77 financial year, by including a new section to provide that instalments of tax are payable by a company in respect of its 1976-77 income.
The amendment will implement the Government’s decision to resume collection of company tax by instalments in the 1977-78 financial year, on the basis that I explained when introducing the associated Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Mulvihill had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that-
the slashing of government spending is part of an inept economic strategy which has led to a decline in the standard of living of all Australians; and
there is an urgent need for alternative policies of promoting a consumer led recovery by cuts in indirect taxes and appropriate stimulatory expenditure on job creation and manpower training programs, all done in a context of not increasing inflation by
phasing out the more extravagant business tax concessions,
increasing the money supply but not beyond the rate of inflation plus growth, and
instituting a more vigorous bond selling program.’
Senator SIBRAA (New South Wales) (8.49- Before the suspension of the sitting, I was speaking on some matters of foreign policy. I was talking about Indonesia, our nearest neighbour bar one. I said that relations with Indonesia will be of critical importance to Australia in the last part of the 20th century. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Witners, has promised that we will finish the debate on East Timor before the Parliament rises for the winter recess, I do not think it is too late for the Senate to refer the matter to a parliamentary committee, or, alternatively, to go along with the proposition that has been put forward by Senators Missen and Bonner and refer the matter to the Senate Standing Committee on foreign Affairs and Defence. I think that that would be a much better attitude. The Australian Parliament would be dealing with the matter and we would not be getting our information from a United States Congressional inquiry.
I wish now to turn to some domestic matters. Firstly I will deal with education. Apparently the appropriation for education coming down in the August Budget will be less than even the Government’s harshest critics could have imagined. Not only will there be no real growth in spending on education but apparently spending will be cut back even further than last year’s figures.
– We will see, senator. I am prepared to wait until the Budget. In the field of social security, the Government’s attitude continues to be one of niggardly begrudging handouts. Australians no longer seem t01 have the right to social security. With the passing of time it is becoming more like charity. While we are on these issues I think we ought to look at health services. Spending on public hospitals has been continually cut back. I note that there is uncertainty as to the Government’s policy on private health care in the immediate future and in the long term, there are threats of withdrawal of subsidies to private hospitals.
– There is talk of many private hospitals being forced to close. The honourable senator just said: ‘What rot’! I think it was on AM this morning that a representative of private hospitals was asked what would happen if the funds to private hospitals were cut. I pose this question now: What would happen if funds to private hospitals were cut? The spokesman said that 25 per cent more patients would have to attend public hospitals. Public hospitals just could not cope with an increase of 25 per cent. Apparently the spokesman for the private hospitals thinks that there is a possibility that this will occur.
I also want to deal with the question of federalism. This was the area in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Senator Carrick promised us a new era. Federal-State relations, it was said, would never be better than under the Fraser administration. Instead, what have we got? Federal-State relations at the moment are nothing short of disastrous. In transport we have seen continual wrangling between State and federal authorities and State and federal Ministers. The States are continuously presented with a fait accompli. Local governments are also upset with federal decisions such as the recent decision to merge the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. We have to look at the cut-back of growth areas such as Albury-Wodonga and Bathurst-Orange. This was one of the Government’s first economy measures. The growth centres were promised additional funds. Now the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) has virtually said that the growth centre program is at an end. He has blamed the State governments. Surely the State governmentsI refer to Victoria and New South Wales- are not the people to blame. These governments have been carrying on this program for the last 12 or 18 months. Without federal funding these governments will not be able to carry on these programs. The growth centres will die through lack of federal funding. I think that we could go on and look through a whole number of federal activities and find many examples of this Government’s lack of compassion.
If the Budget is as predicted I think it might be able to be said that this Government has proven to be one of the most disastrous in our short national history in the field of social welfare. I hope that statement is wrong but all the indications we have been given so far seem to be leading that way.
I want now to deal specifically with a couple of areas in which the national Government has responsibility. The first one came before Estimates Committee A, of which I am a member, which dealt with the Department of Administrative Services. I refer to electoral matters. Recently Professor Don Aitken, Professor of Politics at Macquarie University, suggested a national referendum day for Australia. I think this proposal merits some scrutiny. Some attention should be given to the process by which the Australian Constitution can be changed. I think that Professor Aitken ‘s proposal should be welcomed at the very least because it breathes fresh air into one of the most vital areas of the democratic process. I think this is especially true at a time when we have seen all the referendum issues supported by a large majority of Australians. A national referendum day for consideration of a proposal or proposals on which both major parties agree would be something that would benefit the Australian community.
Just on 12 months ago in debate on Appropriation Bills I raised the matter of electoral reform. I think that we, as a Senate, should be looking at a number of things. I think that we should be looking at improved methods of voting. We should be looking at machinery matters. We should be looking at computerised voting as happens in western Europe. We should be looking at voting by means of machines as in the United States. All these things would lead to improved methods of counting. We would get earlier results and the elimination of doubts and uncertainties over a period of weeks about what sort of national or State government we would have. I think one has to look only at the United States, Great Britain or western Europe to see how quickly results are able to be obtained. In most cases the results are usually obtained within 24 hours. Considering the large numbers of people voting in those countries it is easy to realise that our electoral system is archaic and out of date.
We have to look back only to 1 975 when many of the House of Representatives and Senate seats were in doubt to see how long the count took. I know that in New South Wales the Senate count for the position with which I was involved took approximately 2 months from the date of the ballot. I think that everybody here would agree that that was too long. I think that most people in this chamber would agree on some of the methods with which we could get over this situation. I am referring to increased deposits to take into account the inflation that has occurred. I think that probably we would all agree that we need more nominators from different federal electorates or all federal electorates within a State to really prove that a Senate candidate has support throughout the State. I think we would all agree that perhaps we should be voting for a lower number of people in a Senate ballot. The situation which we have had twice now in New South Wales, where people have had to fill in 70-odd squares the first time and 50-odd squares the next time, has turned the method of election into somewhat of a lottery. 1 think that when an election for the Senate is turned into some sort of lottery the end result is a downgrading of the standard of this chamber. We have also seen the election in New South Wales that went through May and June 1976 and the Tasmanian election that took place in December 1976. These are examples of ballots that took weeks and weeks to finalise.
There are pressing reasons, therefore, on the basis of this evidence, for overhauling the methods by which Australian cast their ballots. I know that in New South Wales, under a Liberal Government, there already have been some improvements. In the last State election in New South Wales we saw some of these improvements. One was that the polls closed at 6 o’clock. I do not know whether any honourable senators here worked on the referendum last Saturday. Any who did would agree that there is a very good case for the polling places to close at 6 o’clock, especially for elections held in the winter months.
I think there are also pressing reasons, best evidenced recently by allegations of Central Intelligence Agency money coming into Australian political parties and into Australian political organisations, for this national Parliament to take a long and serious look at public funding of political parties. As a former State official of a party I have seen State and Federal officials of all parties go on television and deny allegations about where money came from. It always amuses me. I defy any State or Federal official of any party to be able to work out where every donation comes from. Of course there are ways to launder money, to make it impossible to know where donations come from, especially during the rush of an election campaign. Virtually every western industrial democracy has some form of public funding for political party campaigning and/or administration of the party. This ranges from sophisticated systems like that in West Germany, to a developing system like that in the United States, or the more elementary system that is just beginning to be evolved in the United Kingdom.
As I said, in the United States this system is just starting. People are able to go into the election commission office in Washington- I went there myself- and for 10c a copy get a list of all the donations being made to any of the candidates who are running in the primary elections for the Presidency of the United States. For 10c a copy I was able to learn of donations as small as $10. The lists were being printed every day. The electoral commission office in Washington was filled with members of the Press and members of the public who were perusing the information to find out from where campaign donations were coming. I know that people will say that it is only for the presidency of the United States; it is a separate question. I believe that in time there will be public funding throughout the electoral system in the United States. Virtually every advanced industrial nation acknowledges the importance of political parties to the democratic system. Those countries provide financial support to enable parties to go about their normal affairs and meet their campaign requirements. I think it is high time that this country did the same. Certainly one of the things that we can do for a start is to set up a committee such as the Houghton committee in Great Britain. Such a committee could begin examining what we could do.
It is important to note- and it is pleasing to note- that the conditions for parliamentarians and the staff of parliamentarians are being looked at by the Remuneration Tribunal at the moment. I hope- I think most members of my Party hope- the Tribunal will come down with realistic assessments of the salary which national parliamentarians should receive and of their working conditions. Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out to me tonight that section 8 ( 1 ) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act provides that the Tribunal should report to this Parliament by 29 June. I hope that we can get that report before us shortly. When one compares the situation which confronts our parliamentarians with, for example, the situation in the United States, one would say that there is a great need for rethinking our attitudes to parliamentarians, their duties, their obligations and the work loads that they are expected to carry. I commend to all honourable senators that they read again a speech made in this chamber not very long ago by Senator Baume on the work load now being placed on members of the national Parliament. I believe it was an excellent speech. I hope the Remuneration Tribunal has a copy of that speech and has read it. I think that our conditions and what we are expected to do are summed up extremely well in that speech. I believe it is essential that the entire system under which the national Parliament functions- the simple mechanics of it- should be subject to continual review.
I wish to make some comment on the matter of industrial relations, because this is a perennial subject of debate in Australian politics. Now it seems that the issue will intrude into our foreign relations, particularly with countries such as Japan. We have seen statements about this recently. I believe that there is no doubt that the present Government is attempting to use the Australian trade union movement as a scapegoat for some of its failures in the economic sphere. Union bashing has become quite the thing. We do not find any Red bogies or phoney threats from our north any more as diversionary tactics. We see constant union bashing. This has been said in the chamber before. No doubt it will be said subsequent to my speech tonight. There is no doubt that this Government has embarked on a conscious campaign, through the trade practices legislation, through mooted amendments to the Public Service Act and through amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to shackle the trade union movement in Australia. I believe that the trade union movement has served Australia well for generations. It has been in the forefront of democracy in Australia. It has fought long and assiduously to improve the conditions of the average working man and woman.
This Government, in its campaign of vilification of the unions, has been caught on the wrong foot, especially in recent weeks, because it has been seen to be provoking and prolonging disputes in which representatives of the labour movement, especially the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the executives of the State Trades and Labor Councils, I believe, have acted in the role of industrial peacemakers. I think this was best demonstrated in recent disputes such as the petrol tanker drivers dispute in Melbourne and the air traffic controllers dispute. I referred to those earlier in my remarks when I replied to Senator Wright. I do not believe that threats of gaol, threats of bringing in the Royal Australian Air Force or threats of a strong Industrial Relations Bureau Bill would have had any effect on the air traffic controllers dispute. It is obvious from the comments of the Arbitration Commission and the national employer bodies that people in these institutions realise that the country does not need or want industrial warfare at this time.
The Government attempted to freeze wages while letting prices continually spiral. This was rejected by the Arbitration Commission. The ACTU put a plan for a national economic conference to discuss tax cuts as a trade off for wage restraint. It received a sympathetic hearing from the Commission, but that was all. Therefore this Government’s uncompromising attitude to wage freezing is rejected. I ask: Why should not it be rejected in these circumstances? In recent months it has been the trade union movement that has sought to reach industrial peace. It has been the trade union movement that has continually made concessions. It has been the trade union movement that has continually sought negotiation. This is best evidenced by the negotiations that took place about the IRB. Yet earlier tonight in this debate Senator Wright virtually said that it was a pity that the Government did not go ahead with the IRB in its original form so we could have had a showdown. That showdown would have been at the cost of all Australians, whether or not they were members of a trade union. I believe that it has been through common sense, firstly by the trade unions and, I must say, by the Minister concerned, Mr Street, that we have had this series of negotiations and compromises. I believe it has become readily apparent that the Australian public is growing disenchanted with this Government. The people will reject it at the earliest available opportunity, as the results of Saturday have proven. That could be at a half Senate election which must be held before June of next year.
– I am not a crystal ball gazer, as Senator Sibraa seems to be. I will not pre-empt what the Budget may hold for us. Senator Sibraa seems to know more than I do about the Government’s intentions in respect of education. I can assure him that the Government certainly appreciates the importance of allocating sufficient funds for education. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has given assurances that it is not his intention to reduce in that area to any extent. On the contrary, he has shown that his interest in education is such that there has been an increase in funds since this Government came to office.
I was interested in Senator Sibraa ‘s remarks about the Government’s ‘union bashing’. I reject completely that term. I believe that this Government recognised immediately it same to office that it was necessary to restore the credibility of the trade union movement in Australia to a level which it ought to hold in the community. I think the trade union movement in Australia had sunk to a very low ebb. One of the first things we did when we came to office was to introduce legislation requiring compulsory secret ballots for the election of union officials, because we believed that this would encourage trade unionists to take a greater interest in their union leadership and would ensure that more responsible leaders were brought into a position in which they could protect the interests of trade union members throughout Australia. I am afraid that officials in some unions seem to delight in militant action rather than in being prepared to undertake sensible negotiations, particularly at a time when Australia cannot afford the luxury of strikes which disrupt industry generally and which overflow into areas that affect innocent trade unionists. As far as I am concerned, the sooner we do what the people expect us to do- that is to continue our efforts to restore the credibility of the trade union movement- the better it will be for all Australians.
– The air traffic controllers had a secret ballot.
– I must say that I had some sympathy with the air traffic controllers because of their protracted negotiations with the Public Service Board. I think there is room for examination of the Public Service Board in an attempt to accelerate such negotiations. I have no hesitation in making that recommendation because the public was certainly not completely happy about the speed with which those negotiations were conducted. So I am not absolving the Public Service Board from some responsibility in that matter. It seems to me that the people of Australia are very anxious that the Government take action to protect their interests, particularly in areas of national concern. Those areas would be fairly easy to define. I would suggest that we could establish that energy is an area of national interest. The oil refineries throughout Australia seem to be plagued with wildcat strikes. In areas of national interest we ought to be looking at the introduction of compulsory secret ballots as a condition of a legal strike. Reverting to the air traffic controllers, I wonder whether it was a mistakeI thought it was at the time- to absorb into the Department of Transport the former Department of Civil Aviation. That in many ways was a retrograde step. The Government ought to be considering whether it would be advisable to establish a statutory authority to deal with civil aviation in Australia. I think that would be preferable to the present system.
I want to mention one or two other matters. I refer to the Appropriation Bill, and particularly to the Attorney-General’s Department. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) will remember that I asked a question of him some weeks ago concerning the possibility of introducing uniform firearms legislation throughout Australia. I asked the question because I was very concerned about the increase in crimes involving the use of firearms. It followed an incident in Adelaide in which 2 young policemen were shot. One was critically injured and I think he is still in the intensive care ward of the Adelaide Hospital. The other young policeman was also badly injured. The incident revived my interest in this subject. I had raised the matter when Senator Murphy was Attorney-General in the former Labor Government. I believe that police throughout Australia ought to be afforded the protection of laws that would prevent irresponsible people from possessing firearms or that would at least minimise the chances of irresponsible people being able to purchase firearms.
I have been told about the situation in other countries. For example, in West Germany I think the law still requires that a person be given an oral or written examination designed to assess his capacity and to discover whether he is a fit person to own a firearm. A member of the Australian Clay Target Association has suggested to me that it might be a good idea to test people who wish to own firearms in the recognition of birds and animals in order to prevent the slaughter of some of our protected fauna. I would even go further and suggest that it might be a good idea to apply a psychological test as a further precaution before a person is permitted to buy a firearm. I say that quite seriously because it was drawn to my attention not long ago that a young lad of 16 years of age purchased a firearm and committed suicide about an hour later. These are very serious matters and I believe they ought to be given very serious thought by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott).
I wrote to the Attorney-General in South Australia and also to the Police Commissioner in that State. The reply I received from Mr Harold Salisbury, Commissioner of Police in South Australia, stated:
Thank you for your letter of 2 May 1977 letting me know of the question you raised in the Senate about the need for uniform fire-arm legislation.
This same subject has come up for discussion at annual conferences of Commissioners of Police on a number of occasions over the years. However, nothing very concrete has so far emerged from these discussions.
At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for police held in Sydney on 21 August 1970, a sub-committee was formed to draw up a draft Bill for consideration by the various States. I believe that this subcommittee was allowed to lapse because ‘difficulty was experienced in settling in detail principles which might reasonably be expected to be acceptable to all States’.
At the recent Commissioners Conference in April 1977, the question of uniformity was raised again. It was decided that the Conference Secretariat would summarise all the sentiments that were expressed and send the summary to all Commissioners who would then agree on a line to present at the next conference between State Police Ministers and Police Commissioners in the hope that some constructive argument and plan could be put forward to the Federal Government.
From our point of view, we accept the need for uniform fire-arm laws throughout Australia, but we do not believe that this will ever be achieved through independent action by the various States without a model Bill from which to work.
We share your concern for the regulation of fire-arms in the community and support any action you take to bring about uniformity.
I think that highlights the importance of my suggestion. I hope that the Attorney-General will renew his efforts in perhaps providing the State Ministers with model legislation for their consideration at the next conference of police ministers and commissioners.
I mention one other matter. The Stuart Highway has been the subject of comment in South Australia and the Northern Territory over a number of years. It has been of particular concern to the member for the Northern Territory, Mr Sam Calder. Senator Kilgariff also since he came into the Senate has been very active in his representations. You, Mr Acting Deputy President, have also expressed interest in this subject. As a result of efforts that were made in South Australia not long ago a report was presented to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) containing certain conclusions with respect to the sealing of that highway. It is one of 2 national highways that have yet to be sealed. Of course it is of great significance to the development of both South Australia and the Northern Territory. The following was submitted to the Minister
From the considerable amount of material studied by the sub-committee in respect of the Stuart Highway between Port Augusta and the South Australian-Northern Territory border, the sub-committee concluded that:
The existing route of the National Highway is considerably longer than is necessary or desirable.
Through traffic to the Northern Territory makes up the great bulk of its use.
Then, in our conclusions, we suggest that Route 3 would have advantages because it traverses the alignment of the East- West Railway before veering north to run parallel to the new railway alignment from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. Of course, recently the Federal and State Transport Minister agreed that Route 3 is the route to be followed. Route 3 generally follows the corridor of the existing highway but with a more direct route which crosses the Trans-Australian Railway at Coondambo, bypasses Kingoonya by 20 kilometres, then crosses the existing highway at Gosses and at Hawks Nest Bore before joining Route 2 some 70 kilometres south-east of Coober Pedy. From there to the border Route 3 is identical with Route 2, with a total length of 755 kilometres between Wirrappa and the border.
These various routes were the subject of a report made to the Government not many months ago. Kingoonya is a very small centre but it has quite a few familities which depend upon tourism. It is a small centre which services the surrounding station homesteads. Some concern has been expressed that Kingoonya will be bypassed by the current proposals which have been described as Route 3. My colleagues from the Northern Territory and South Australia who have been studing this matter carefully believe that, at a very small additional cost, Kingoonya ought to be included in the Route 3 proposals because, after all, the town provides facilities such as water. It has an hotel. In our view it would be most important that that town be included in the route. It would involve a diversion of only 20 kilometres. I think that the cost of that would be minimal in the context of the overall cost of the project.
The recommendations go on to say that there is an expectation that the sealing of the Stuart Highway would immediately increase traffic volume by more than 70 per cent. We refer to the due consideration that has been given to the impact that a new highway may have upon Aborigines living in the vicinity. Private contractors tendering for construction work and sealing is most desirable. The original report presented to the Minister suggested that the planning and survey work on the highway would take from 1 8 months to 2 years. I do not think I would agree with that assessment. If private contractors were employed to do that work it could be carried out in stages. The survey work could be done and after a 6 months survey and planning period the road construction work could commence. The maximum co-operation and understanding between the State and Federal governments, which has characterised the negotiations so far, is commended and encouraged. The study carried out by the steering committee appointed to report to the Federal and State Transport Ministers on alternative routes is a very creditable effort and worthy of high commendation.
The funds necessary to implement the conclusion that we arrived at- that is, that the planning and survey work should be commenced as soon as possible- we believe ought to be provided in the 1977-78 Budget. We believe that funds to enable the sealing of a 50- kilometre section of the highway between Port Augusta and Woomera should be provided in the 1977-78 Budget also. That work could be proceeded with immediately because the survey and planning work has been done. Our final 3 conclusions are these: That the Stuart Highway is essential to the success of tourism, defence, commerce and industry. We have had evidence which shows that the fact that the roads from Alice Springs to Brisbane have been sealed has cost those conducting business between South
Australia and the Northern Territory approximately $70m to $80m a year.
We believe that the development of viable enterprises connected with mining, secondary industry, tourism and finance are closely allied to a national highway of prescribed standards. It is certainly necessary that the Federal Government should be prepared to provide future access for people who could be disadvantaged as a result of the new route. I say that particularly in view of the fact that in the vicinity of Roxby Downs, which is not far from Woomera, there are quite considerable deposits of uranium and copper. I understand that there is some gold there as well. It seems to me that in the future it could well be that Woomera, far from disappearing as an establishment of considerable importance, could become another Kalgoorlie, that is, the northern mining centre of South Australia. It is very important that the Government recognises the development potential of minerals in that area and recognises that it might be necessary, in the interests of the development of South Australia and in the provision of further job opportunities and the other benefits that flow from that, it might be wise to set aside some finances for the future to provide access to areas such as Roxby Downs.
That is all I wish to say at the present time. I request that the Ministers concerned recognise the important aspects to which I have alluded tonight. I ask Senator Durack in particular to take note again of my request to the AttorneyGeneral with respect to uniform firearms legislation. I ask Senator Carrick to convey to the Minister for Transport my thoughts concerning the Stuart Highway.
– I enter this debate at this stage in order to avoid a long discussion at the Committee of the Whole stage. I want to make a number of points. I had intended to confine my remarks to Aboriginal Affairs, but my colleague on the other side of the chamber has inspired me to make further remarks in relation to the Northern Territory. I think Senator Jessop will remember that while his leader was leader of the caretaker government in 1975 for the period between 11 November and 13 December he visited the Northern Territory. Among the many promises he made was to construct the highway referred to, encourage shipping and, finally, statehood to the Northern Territory. That, of course, was contrary to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory which said that Statelike powers ought to be transferred over a period in order to ensure the most effective form of government in the Northern Territory. Since then the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has indicated that he is in fact the Minister for confrontation, particularly with trade unions and minority groups in the community.
Amongst the other promises made for the Northern Territory was a new wharf for the port of Darwin. That prospect is further away now than it was 5 or 6 years ago. A guarantee was given for shipping both from the east and from the west to ensure that freight charges would be reasonable. Over the last 1 8 months I have had a continual confrontation with the Government in order to find out whether the Australian National Line ships are to be taken off the route or whether the Western Australian shipping company will suffer that fate. At the moment the companies are just surviving. The only method of bringing in goods apart from by road or ship is by air. Anyone who lives in the Northern Territory knows precisely the amount that that adds even to those types of goods which are needed just to survive.
The government decision to close down the railway line south of Darwin was one of the first magnificent’ decisions. Over a long period the railway had shown profits, small losses or had cut even, but there was a grim determination to close it down. It was closed down. It has been put into mothballs. I am told that a lot of the rollingstock and other material will be taken away for storage. In other words, there will be no attempt by this Government to reopen that line. A major dispute over road freights is now in progress. One of the great problems is that there are so many subcontractors employed carrying freight into Darwin and other centres of the Northern Territory that their situation is very serious and there is likely to be a total stoppage over a long period. When this happens it is possible that shipping will not be fast enough to overcome the sudden stoppage, and most of the perishables in particular will have to be carried by air. Who will lose out? It will be the people of the Northern Territory.
Senator Jessop, who was railing us a few moments ago, has disappeared from the chamber. I think that honourable senators ought to hear both sides of these questions. Senator Jessop tried to make an apologetic statement for the Government but, quite frankly, it did not work. The transport operators, who are mostly subcontractors, operate under big companies. The big companies are very much like Fagin in Oliver Twist. They are the people who make the decisions and they are the people who get the rake-off. This is like the ‘labour only’ jobs in the building trades where people frequently have to put up with substandard work because the master builder, the man whom controls all the subcontractors, is the man who makes the rake-off. I remember that some years ago, after a change of government in Queensland, we had a very good railway system from Brisbane to Coolangatta, to the Gold Coast as it is now known. Goods and all the necessities of life were carried by rail at a comparatively cheap freight rate. The then Country Party member for the area had a very big interest in one of the local carrying companies. He is now deceased; God rest his soul. He and others became involved in the road transport system and decided that that was the sort of system that ought to operate. The Government co-operated and closed down the south coast railway. It is significant that in 1976 and 1977 the present Minister for Local Government has been shouting from the rooftops for the reconstruction of that railway in order to reduce transport costs. In those days many friends of the State government were able to buy the railway land, buildings, rolling-stock, railway lines- just about everything that went with it- on the cheap, from the bargain basement.
I would hate to see this sort of thing happen in the Northern Territory, but all the signs are there that precisely the same thing will happen. For the price of some sort of political support from the big operators, this Government is selling out the Northern Territory. It will be sold out because the Government will make it too expensive for people to live there. The Northern Territory is already in a serious situation because of the economic difficulties this Government is facing. The Government was going to solve the economic problems in a matter of months. After 18 months it has solved nothing. Everything has become worse. I was interested in Senator Jessop’s remark that Woomera would become the Kalgoorlie of South Australia. I am not aware of any vast riches under the ground at Woomera but there is some nuclear waste buried there. Perhaps selling that somewhere is Senator Jessop’s idea of mining for profit.
During the sitting of Estimates Committee D a couple of weeks ago I raised a number of points and I want to go through them again in order to refute the attitude at that time of the Government’s spokesman to some aspects of Aboriginal affairs. Senate Estimates Committee D, or that part of its deliberations with which I was concerned, sat in this chamber on 28 April. I made a number of statements concerning the effect that the Government’s Aboriginal policy and Budget cuts was having on Aboriginal employment and morale. At the time we were assured by a senior departmental officer- supported, of course, by the Minister handling that Department- that Budget cuts had not contributed to Aboriginal unemployment. I now want to go into some detail and I will need to read a couple of notes because they are relevant to my argument. On page 126 of the Hansard report of Estimates Committee D on 28 April 1977 I asked how many people had lost their jobs on town management and other community projects over the last year as a result of the 1976-77 Budget cuts. The officer replied:
I would hope none. Our instructions to regional directors were that there was to be no retrenchment as a result of this. They were asked to ensure that employment would be maintained at about the same level as last year.
That is a little confusing because in the previous year- the Government based its budget for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on the last financial year- it had already cut back the Hayden Budget by several million dollars. So when the Government says that in this financial year only so much money has been spent in a particular area, or that a cut back has been only so much, the figures are not related to the 1975- 76 Budget, or to the 1976-77 Budget in comparison with it; what it means is that there were cut backs to the 1975-76 Budget. This is where we have to be factual. If the Government says that, it does not look nearly as bad, but if one takes the original 1975-76 Budget and the total allocation for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, one sees that the slash back in the 1976- 77 Budget is rather catastrophic. Later, after further questions about these matters, the senior officer stated:
All I can say is that that is the position. Some employment could have ceased because projects finished. That is not unemployment as a result of cuts.
That is not true either, because if money is withdrawn from a project and the work on that project ceases that is precisely the same as if money is withdrawn from a community. So the resulting unemployment comes from the fact that the Government has ceased to fund a particular project. One should not play with words and twist them around in that way. I am not blaming the officer. He has to defend the policy of his Government. What I am saying is that what he said is wrong. He went on to say:
All I can indicate is that there was no intentional unemployment as a result of the cuts in funds.
I can go out, get into my car and bash into a car coming from the opposite direction. I can say: My tyre blew out; I had no intention of having a car smash’. I can run over 3 pedestrians and say: My brakes failed; I had no intention of killing the 3 pedestrians’. The same sort of political reasoning has been used in this case. I repeat what the officer said:
AH I can indicate is that there was no intentional unemployment as a result of the cuts in funds.
But if funds are cut back and unemployment results, whether or not that is the intention, the end result is the same. Later he said that it might have been accidental unemployment and added:
That is what happened; it is a factual statement. But to say there is no unemployment as a result is quite crazy. Amoonguna is a prime example, with houses that have remained unfinished for 1 8 months. Jay Creek is another prime example. An area on Palm Island is a perfect example, and that is funded quite differently. To accept this situation just because somebody finished up on a job is a wrong attitude to take. That is covering over the real responsibility of the Government. The officer went on to say:
But this was not as a result of reduction in funds because there was a clear direction from the Government that there was to be no unemployment as a result of unavailability of funds.
Very interesting. To reiterate what the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Government have told us already regarding this matter, I shall indicate the response I received from the senior officer to the following question:
From what has been said, I take it that as a result of this massive cutback in funds, nobody has become unemployed.
The officer’s answer was that nobody had become unemployed. In a moment I shall produce figures that totally rebut that sort of argument. During the past 2 weeks I have been in contact with a number of Aboriginal communities throughout Australia not only in my own State but in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and other States. I suppose that overall I contacted less than 2 per cent- probably only one per cent- of the total number of Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. In a moment I shall point out the details contained in answers I received. If this represents only one per cent or two per cent of the whole story, what a tragedy it must be for the other 99 per cent or 98 per cent.
The Government and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs through its officers have indicated that there is no unemployment as a result of Government cutbacks. I think this is a misrepresentation of the real facts behind the whole issue. I shall outline some of the details contained in replies I received. At Haasts Bluff in the
Northern Territory at least 12 people are now unemployed as a direct result of Budget cuts. Four of these people were involved in council work, another four were involved in Department of Aboriginal Affairs community projects and another four were involved in housing projects- 12 breadwinners. If one puts the number of dependants at a minimum of 4 each, one sees that the best part of 50 people are without an income. I shall put both sides of the story because I did receive a couple of favourable replies. At Areyonga, although the 1976-77 community employment level was not affected, the community has not been advised of the 1 977-78 Budget claims and is worried.
I think that, when we were discussing these matters in the Estimates Committees, in response to questions we asked of the departmental officers and the Minister we ought to have been given some indication of what was to happen in the next year. Only a few days ago I received a letter from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). As a result of representations I had received from many Aboriginal communities who wanted to know what the Government was going to do in the next financial year- whether the funds for those communities would be ongoing, whether their projects would be ongoing and whether they would be able to make forward planning arrangements- I asked the Minister for relevant information. In effect, the Minister said: I will not tell you. You can find that out when the Budget comes out’. The people of Areyonga want to know this; they want to know what they can plan for the next year.
The Shire Clerk for the Shire of Burke in the Gulf country in the far north of Queensland has informed me that approximately 90 per cent of the people in the shire are unemployed. The percentage of Aboriginal people there would probably be between 80 per cent and 90 per cent. A few people of European descent would be included in that figure. Nevertheless, this level of unemployment is a result of Government cutbacks. There are no more special projects in that Shire. Honourable senators will recall that in the days of the Labor Government and, to a lesser extent in the early days of this Government, special funds were made available to reduce Aboriginal unemployment. Those funds are not made available any more. A dressed up version gives benefit to a minimum of Aboriginal people. In the old days not very many people at all were unemployed in the Burke Shire, because the Government of the day was sympathetic and there was progress in that Shire.
At Papunya over 70 per cent of the Aboriginal people are unemployed. Over the past two or three months Papunya has received a lot of adverse publicity, and I regret to say that a lot of it is very true. When I was at Papunya a couple of weeks ago, because of a disputation between the canteen manager and others on the settlement the canteen was closed down. Nobody had given authority to any departmental officer to open what is known as the ‘soup kitchen system’. So at that point of time there were kiddies there who had been without food for three or four days. I understand further problems have occurred there over the past few days, and this also is the subject of representations from my office to the Minister’s office. It was only as a result of strong action by the Papunya Council, and not as a result of any concern shown by the Government, that this figure did not go any higher. I think I indicated in the situation I mentioned a moment ago, that the Government is unconcerned about Papunya. The people now are having their livelihood threatened. This is an area in which not much bush tucker is available unless people have transport and are able to go deeply into the bush to look for it.
There is a threat over the heads of everybody in the Northern Territory that if the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly goes ahead with a particular ordinance people will be classified in little groups- whether they are traditional Aborigines, to whether they are allowed to use modern-day transport to go hunting for bush tucker, whether they are able to use rifles, or whether they must be confined to the use of spears. I hope that ordinance is never implemented.
– It has been rescinded.
-Actually, it has been put into cold storage. I hope that is where it stays.
– It will never become law.
-Senator Cavanagh has more faith in Mr Letts than some of the people up there and I have. I reckon that the first night the moon goes down early the Legislative Assembly will introduce any of those measures. The Aboriginal Advancement League in Victoria estimates that between 40 per cent and 45 per cent of Aborigines in that State are unemployed. This figure is away in front of the average rate of unemployment, but the Government keeps on saying that unemployment is a myth. It is all very well for people who own properties like Nareen, who have vast mining shares and who have investments in real estate, to say that unemployment is a myth because they are not going to be hungry; they are able to live very well indeed. The new Victorian figures we have received today show that the appointments of 10 people to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service were terminated from last Wednesday. They are 10 more people who have been thrown onto the bread line. At this point in time they are not even receiving unemployment benefit. I know there have been some problems in relation to funds. I know, too, that the Minister was down there quite recently and said he would give them so much money; but that money did not go anywhere near covering the requirements of that particular service until the end of June.
In my home city of Townsville the Iris Clay Hostel, which provides accommodation, shelter and meals for a lot of transient people and others, has an almost total population at the moment of unemployed persons. In the local area there are 197 applications for homes alone. Yet money has been withdrawn from both the local housing associations. I know there were problems in bookkeeping and so on, but this comes back to the Department’s claim that no unemployment was caused by Budget cuts. Again in this particular instance dozens and dozens of people have been displaced from work. Some 170 people are unemployed in the Townsville area. These are black people- Islanders and Aborigines- who are forced to live in parks and around the river banks, other than the 40 people approximately who are living in the Iris Clay Hostel. There is a State hostel which is usually about 90 per cent unoccupied because the State department, which built the hostel with Commonwealth money, will not let people stay in it. That department would rather see the people go to the river banks or to the Green Motel or somewhere else and not provide them with accommodation. We are told, of course, that the Government’s cutbacks did not cause any of these problems.
I should like to refer now to the Stradbroke Housing Association on Stradbroke Island. There are 20 unemployed young boys and girls on the Island and, in addition to this problem, 12 families in that area are in desperate need of homes. At Borroloola in the Northern Territory there are at least 10 unemployed as a result of this Government’s cutback in funds. But an overseas controlled mining company was able to pay $800,000 for McArthur River Station in the Borroloola area, despite the fact that the local Aboriginal people had for a long period an application for restoration of their tribal lands and purchase of the Station. A question has been placed on the notice paper concerning this matter so I do not propose to canvass it. The mining company was able to take this action. This is a valuable asset for the mining company because in the future it will not have to pay royalties to the local Aboriginal people; it will have access to the Aboriginal sacred sites; it will be able to dig them up and do what it likes. I might say also that the Government, in allowing that company to purchase McArthur River Station, has broken its own guidelines in relation to selling properties to overseas controlled companies.
At Yuendumu, which was discussed during the Estimates Committee’s hearing, the mining company lost 5 positions, the Housing Association lost 5 positions and if it were not for the activities of the community council it would have suffered likewise. The council, of course, was able to gain a few positions which saved the situation to some degree. I refer now to the situation at Wiluna in Western Australia. This is one of the great farming ventures that was initiated during the days of the Labor Government. I received a telegram from the community at Wiluna only a few days ago, couched in these terms:
Replying your telegram, approximately 150 adult Aboriginals employed on the desert farm project. In course of the year operational funding been cut to extent we may not be able to harvest our present crop of citrus, approximately 15 000 cases -
I digress to state that because of the cutback in funding it is possible that this crop which might have made the financial year economic for the Wiluna orange growing project may not be economically viable. The telegram continues: which are now ready for harvest unless we get immediate funding. There are no houses at present in Wiluna for Aboriginals. They live in tents and humpies. Present grant of $105,000 for the erection of four prototype houses is insufficient to meet the needs of the community of plus or minus 596 people, and as there is no further funding for 1977-78 -
This particular community has already been told that it will not receive any money next year- this will obviously cause discontent and hardship. We are at present training through adult education a team cf bricklayers, carpenters and masons with the aim of employing these people to build their own township complex. Due now to the lack of funding this effort will be aimless and will create further unemployment and hardship to the community.
That is signed by the chairman of the local community council. It gives a further lie to the explanations that have been given by this Government as a result of questioning during the Estimates Committee discussions.
In relation to the employment situation in Rockhampton. I have been informed that it impossible to estimate the number of Aborigines unemployed through lack of community projects. Local opinion is that unemployment for various reasons is estimated at 70 per cent for males and 95 per cent for females. That comes at a time in the Rockhampton area when the meatworks provide a fairly large amount of casual employment. The unemployment rate stays at that height when, in fact, the Queensland average is running at about 7 per cent. I turn now to the Doomadgee mission in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I have been advised that it is extremely difficult to separate the figures for unemployment and the reasons for that employment. However, there are 121 males in this community who do not have a job. Part of the reason for that is possibly the responsibility of the Queensland Government but certainly it is also the overall responsibility of this Government because of its cutback in funds.
An interesting reply to a question asked by my colleague, Senator McLaren, was given during the Estimates Committee hearings. The Department indicated that the precise number of Aborigines retrenched at Gerard in South Australia was not known. We all know that 7 people or more are to be displaced from employment in this particular project. When I asked a further question in relation to grants-in-aid fund cutbacks, I was informed:
There have been no significant retrenchments or Abroiginal unemployment as a result of fund restraints.
I do not mind if the Government comes out and states: ‘We know we have thrown massive numbers of people onto the unemployment market. We are sorry about it but we are bankrupt. We have not got Wiley Fancher to go around and raise money for us. We do not have Khemlani to come in and eat his potato chips at the Wellington Hotel. We have none of these people to help us any more. We are bankrupt’. For God ‘s sake, tell us the truth. Do not tell us any more untruths. I do not know what we will do about this in the future but I hope that the Government will pull up its socks and realise that between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the Aboriginal population in Australia does not have a job. 1 have referred to figures tonight that can be verified- every one of them. None of the figures are a hoax. None of them have been dreamed up. They have all been verified by the communities. If those figures are indicative of what is happening in the community generally, then Australia so far as its Aboriginal and Island population is concerned is in a very serious situation indeed. In the days of the Labor Governmentwe can find examples of this from previous Estimates Committee debates during those 3 harassed years- it set out to soak up the unemployment in the Aboriginal community. Suddenly people had jobs. Jobs were created by special grants to local government, the introduction of housing associations, community welfare jobs, and loans to people to purchase businesses, farms and so on. A new feeling of dignity arose within the Aboriginal community.
The present Government is always criticising Aboriginals because they drink too much. If 95 per cent of politicians on the other side of the chamber had to live on the same income as Aboriginal people they would be the greatest mob of drunks- I am referring to Liberal Party and National Country Party members- that this country has ever seen. Once human dignity has been broken down, once hope has been broken down and once all those things for which we strive in life have been broken down there is nowhere else to go. When one is in the situation one comforts oneself with whatever distractions can be found- whether it be a bottle of methylated spirits or some other way of trying to take one’s mind off problems. Just about every Australian, regardless of colour, has at some time been confronted with personal worries but when it is a continuing saga, when one does not know how one is going to clothe one’s kids, feed one’s kids, educate one’s kids and house one’s kids, this is the greatest morale breakdown that a human family can face. We faced it in the days of the great Depression. Up to 40 per cent of the community had to face these morale destroying conditions. We are about to face them again in the general community because of the inability of the Government to rectify the economic situation. We have a responsibility to the less privileged in the community to see that some of their problems are overcome. Those problems will not be overcome if we have Estimates Committee hearings in which less of the truth is told, when the truth is glossed over and when the Government forces its Public Service officers to do that. I do not blame the Public Service. It has a rotten policy to carry out. It has to protect the Government somehow or other. It is a sad thing that it has to do it that way.
– It is perhaps worth recalling at this stage of the debate that we are examining 2 Bills which provide for additional appropriations for the 1 976-77 financial year of $326m. It is also perhaps worth comparing this with the additional appropriations for 1975-76 of $506m and the additional appropriations for 1 974-75 of $l,241m. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has confirmed that outlays in 1976-77 ‘will not vary significantly from the figure of $24,32 1 m that was contained in the last Commonwealth Budget’. To that extent the additional appropriations reflect the Government’s success in restraining its own expenditure as a fundamental aspect of its economic policies. I note particularly that the additional appropriations include almost $llm for the Department of the Capital Territory and the National Capital Development Commission. Most of that is in fact additional estimates for the important development programs in the Capital Territory of the NCDC and it amounts to a significant part of the total of $326m provided for in the 2 Appropriation Bills before the Senate.
It is in this context of the development of the Capital Territory and the very important role of the Commonwealth Government expenditure and policies in the Capital Territory that I would like to take the opportunity of this debate to discuss the questions of small business enterprise in the Capital Territory. It is well known that small business employs approximately 40 per cent of the Australian work force. It is a vital source of initiative and enterprise within the private sector and though definitions can vary there are at least 200 000 small businesses in Australia. I think it is also important to note in the White Paper that was presented to the Senate tonight by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) a statement in respect of the importance of small business, and I will quote from that report.
Small business occupies a significant place in the structure of Australian industry. Denning a small firm as an enterprise which employs less than one hundred people, there were about 30 400 small manufacturing firms in 1968-69, the latest year for which data are available. They accounted for 94 per cent of the total number of firms engaged in manufacturing, 32 per cent of total employment and 26 per cent of value adding by manufacturing. Small businesses also make up important segments of other sectors of the economy, particularly in the commerce area.
The Government indicated during the last election campaign and has confirmed since its intention of encouraging the private sector in Canberra, in the Capital Territory and the adjacent region to provide balance for the existing dominance of the public sector in this national capital. It is recognised generally that the overall economic situation is fundamental to the future of small business and that general economic recovery will of course be beneficial to small businesses. But there are some special measures which have been taken by the Government to encourage and to support small business within the community in recognition of its very important role in the private sector. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard some factual notes which have been prepared by the Treasurer on these measures.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Young)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
THE INVESTMENT ALLOWANCE SCHEME
During the first phase of its operations, the scheme provides a special income tax deduction of 40 per cent of the capital cost of eligible new plant and certain eligible improvements erected on primary production land. In its second phase, plant etc. acquired or constructed after 30 June 1978 will attract a special deduction at an investment allowance rate of 20 per cent. The investment allowance deduction is available in addition to taxation deductions allowable by way of depreciation for the full cost of the plant.
THE TSVA SCHEME
This provides a special deduction in respect of most classes of trading stock, including livestock. The 1976-77 deduction is ascertained by applying to the taxation value of trading stock on hand at the beginning of the year of income- not being a value higher than the cost of the stock- one-half of the percentage increase in the goods component of the CPI measured from the June quarter of 1976 to the June quarter of 1977.
UNDISTRIBUTED INCOME TAX
With the needs of small businesses particularly in mind, the proportion of after-tax business income that a private company may retain free of undistributed income tax has been increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent.
INCOME EQUALIZATION DEPOSITS
As a means of avoiding any disadvantageous tax consequences in respect of fluctuating incomes of primary producers, this scheme provides for the allowance of special income tax deductions for deposits lodged with the Commissioner of Taxation and for the inclusion in assessable income of proceeds received on withdrawal of deposits.
AVERAGING SYSTEM APPLYING TO PRIMARY PRODUCERS
This system has recently been modified so as to exclude from the calculations of average income (used for rating purposes) any amount by which the taxable income of any year within the averaging period exceeds $16,000. The modified average system has the effect of lowering the amount of personal income tax payable by primary producers in cases to which the amendment is directed.
PERSONAL INCOME TAX INDEXATION
Provision has been made for the general rates of income tax, the general concessional rebate, sole parent rebate and rebates for maintenance of eligible dependants to be automatically indexed each year by reference to movements in the Consumer Price Index. The indexation percentage for 1976-77 purposes was 13 per cent. The changes in the rate scales as a result of this are as follows:
This shows that indexation avoids the situation where inflationary increases push people into higher tax brackets. For example, a person with a taxable income of $10,000 in 1975- 76 stays in the same tax bracket in 1976-77 if his 1976- 77 income is $11,300.
The increases in rebates for 1976-77 over 1975-76 are as follows:
HOW THE CONCESSIONS ADD TO SMALL BUSINESS PROFITS: EXAMPLES
The level of tax savings and benefits that could accrue to private companies and primary producers as a result of these taxation initiatives is indicated in examples set out in Annexures A and B.
The level of tax savings and benefits actually derived by small businesses would, of course, depend on the particular circumstances (e.g. the level of investment in plant eligible for the investment allowance, the value of opening stocks, the extent to which the primary producer invests in income equalization deposits and so on) and could therefore be significantly greater than that shown in the examples used.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 May 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770524_senate_30_s73/>.