30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide50 per cent of all funding for Australia’s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5, 903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over thefive years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Webster.
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:
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, by Senator Tehan.
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 Primmer.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Price Index months after goods and services have risen, and that many medications, formerly a pharmaceutical benefit, must now be paid for.
In addition, State Housing Authority waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners become never less, and funeral costs increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Adjust social security payments instantly and automatically on announcement of increases in the quarterly Consumer Price Index.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
The State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974, eroded by inflation, be updated and increased to overcome the back-log.
The funeral benefit be updated to 60 per cent of a reasonable funeral cost. This benefit, when introduced in 1943 at 200 shillings ($20.00), was seven times the pension at that time of 27 shillings ($2.70) per week, or more than twice the basic wage of 97 shillings ($9.70).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Primmer.
Senator RYAN (Australian Capital Territory) At the request of Senator Wood and on his behalf I give notice that 10 sitting days after today he will move:
That the amendment to the Public Service (Salaries) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1977 No. 35, and made under Public Service Act 1 922, be disallowed.
-I ask the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs whether it is a fact that at the Premiers Conference in April when further discussions were held with the States on the introduction of stage 2 of the new federalism policy the following statements were made, the first I shall quote being made by Premier Court:
One of the problems concerning us today is the fact that we are not negotiating a completely frank statement of the official position between the Commonwealth and the States.
The second was made by Premier Dunstan:
We do not propose to become some device of yours to force the States into an effective reduction in what they purchase from the private sector while you say ‘it is your responsibility to fund it and you can tax your people in order to do so’.
Premier Dunstan went on to say:
So that makes us completely unenthusiastic about stage 2.
Thirdly, Premier Hamer said:
We need to know which specific purpose grants will be dropped, which will be absorbed and which will be the subject of block grants. Until we have that I do not see that you can bring in stage 2 with all its implications.
Fourthly, Premier Wran said:
I agree with both the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of Queensland that what the States are being asked to do is to buy a pig in a poke.
I ask the Minister: Is it not apparent that a clear majority of the States will not be involved in the introduction of State income taxes as part of stage 2 of the policy under the present proposals being put by the Commonwealth? I ask, finally: Will the Minister indicate whether the Government proposes to abandon the introduction of stage 2 and, if not, what alternatives to the policy are envisaged in order to make them acceptable to the States?
– The Senate will appreciate that yesterday Senator Wriedt indicated to the Senate that he himself had no source of knowledge from the transcripts of the Premiers Conference and was seeking those transcripts. I take it that he is today quoting from the transcripts of the Premiers Conference. I should inform the Senate that last night I wrote to him- I trust he has received my letter- saying that inadvertently I had thought that the transcripts were made public after a time but I had discovered that they were not. Nevertheless, I furnished him with a detailed statement of the April Premiers Conference as prepared by Treasury officials, showing in fact what had been decided and indicating what was unanimous and what were the fields of conflict. In the first place, I take it that Senator Wriedt was quoting from the Premiers Conference transcripts. It is vital for this Senate to know whether this is so, he having confessed yesterday that he did not have such access. If he did quote from the transcripts of the Premiers Conference then I say to him and to this Senate that he is quoting entirely selectively. What might be quotations- I neither affirm nor deny that any of them were correct- are part of a journey of dialogue. The only thing that matters is the collective decision making and its unanimity or otherwise.
Having said that, I now say to the Senate that the April Conference reached a number of vital decisions on both the completion of stage 1 of federalism and the commencement and evolution of stage 2.I repeat that in the four or five Premiers Conferences that preceded the one about which we are talking there was a unanimity of agreement in the unfolding of federalism, the like of which had not been seen in Premiers Conferences in years gone by. I repeat that as a result of the introduction of federalism the States have gained great benefits. I now want to pose to the Senate a rhetorical question for Senator Wriedt before I answer his 2 remaining questions. I take it that in his continuous 1 6 months attack on federalism and on the system of federalism- despite the unanimity of the Premiers- what he is saying to the Senate is that the Labor Party not only rejects the policy of federalism but also, if elected to power, would return to the tax reimbursement uniform taxation that it in fact had in government, that it rejects tax sharing and that it favours tax reimbursement. Senator Wriedt and his Party cannot have it both ways. What he should do is to stand and say what he is saying by inference- that he is advocating returning to a system that all States have rejected; he is advocating giving to the States substantially less untied money and giving to local governments substantially less tax revenue supplement and tying them down. Let Senator Wriedt stand and be counted. What is the Labor Party’s policy? Is he in fact saying he rejects federalism? Let him tell the people of Australia and let him tell the Premiers and local governments in Australia that if his Party were in power it would return to the bad old days of Whitlam centralism. We will not abandon tax sharing in the second stage. If the honourable senator had read the document which I gave him he would have got the complete answer to his question today. The document said that the Commonwealth was not seeking to force on the States additional surcharges or the ability to make rebates. They can do so if they desire and we will simply bring in the unilateral mechanism to enable them to do so. There is no need for alternatives because the simple fact is that by any measure at all the States and the local government organisations are immensely better off than they were under Whitlam ‘s centralism. I repeat that in the face of denials, what Senator Wriedt and his Labor Party are now saying is that they reject the great reforms of federalism and they have a platform which is a return to Whitlam ‘s destructive centralism which crippled the States and local government.
-Mr President, I ask the Minister a supplementary question. I have been invited by Senator Carrick to say what the Labor Party policy is.
– What is this?
-This is question time. Let me assure the Minister that as a Bill is coming before the Parliament he will get that answer. I now ask a supplementary question because I anticipated the rhetoric that we have just heard. All we heard was the usual verbose answers that we have had for so long. I ask him now specifically: Does he agree or not agree that the proposals in their present form are not acceptable to the States? If he believes they are acceptable, why are the States not prepared to accept them? If he believes that they are not acceptable, what alternatives to that policy is the Government prepared to make?
-Senator Wriedt ‘s incapacity to study the documents, except selectively, defies description. He must know that 2 StatesVictoria and Western Australia- have indicated in general terms their acceptance of the principle of stage 2 and indeed that Western Australia has indicated its intention of implementing stage 2. So it is quite wrong to say that the proposals are not acceptable. In fact, stage 1 was wholly acceptable to the States with the one question as to the nature of the independent body to undertake the relativities. As to the question of acceptability, it is simply-and Senator Wriedt will continue to misrepresent this-that every State in Australia, Labor-led or otherwise, has asked the Commonwealth over the years for access to 2 things. One is greater access to a growth tax, untied, and Mr Dunstan, the Labor Premier in South Australia, has said that the only solution is to tie the tax revenue of the States to personal income tax by a fixed percentage of revenue. I take it that Senator Wriedt has forgotten that. He now claims that this is an unacceptable policy.
Every State Premier-Labor, Liberal or Country Party- has said that the States cannot survive unless they have a wider access to a wider range of taxes. That is being provided for them under our proposals, so the answer is no, it is not true to say that what the Commonwealth is doing is unacceptable by any measure at all. The success of what the Commonwealth is doing has been overwhelming compared with the destructive conditions and policies of the Whitlam Government.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that it would be of considerable help to any stranded motorist always to be within reasonable distance of a telephone. No doubt he is also aware that I realise that all the highways cannot possibly have emergency telephones installed along them, but in some areas such as in Tasmania between Hobart and Kingston the cost would be minimal. I ask: In view of the profit made by Telecom Australia could it be requested to examine the installation of emergency telephones along the highway that I have mentioned and the establishment of a committee to develop a policy on the installation of telephones in some areas even though there is no prospect of commercial revenue sufficient to pay for such installations?
Sector CARRICK-I will bring the question to the attention of my colleague in another place and seek information by way of response.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I preface the question by referring to the Government’s recently announced decision to allocate only $2m in the 1977-78 Budget although $30m was recommended by the interdepartmental working party on Aboriginal unemployment to help alleviate Aboriginal unemployment in the country. Is it not true that this small amount, which is less than 7 per cent of the recommended allocation, will do very little to solve the problem of high unemployment amongst Aborigines? I remind the Minister that it is quoted as being as high as 90 per cent in some areas. On what grounds did the Government refuse to allocate the $ 15m that was recommended to be spent this year? Does the statement yesterday by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in which he urged top level businessmen to employ Aborigines in a bid to reduce unemployment, indicate that this Government, under its federalism approach to governing, has now abdicated its responsibility to the Aboriginal people of this country and, as with everything else, is leaving it all to so-called private enterprise?
– I was asked a question about the allocation of $2m for Aboriginal unemployment schemes. The money that has been made available by the Federal Government will do a great deal towards assisting Aborigines to gain employment. The statement of the Minister yesterday snowed the attention that has been paid by the Government to methods by which the Government can improve employment opportunities for Aborigines throughout Australia. The amount that has been made available by the Government is $2m and the Government believes that this sum will be helpful in enhancing employment opportunities. I believe a serious study of the Minister’s statement yesterday will show the intention of the Government with regard to the assistance that it will give to Aborigines in devising work opportunities for them.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister.
– I call Senator Keeffe.
– Part of my question was: Why was only $2m allocated when the recommendation was for $ 1 5m.
– The Government’s decision was to allocate $2m to this program this year. The decision was dependent on the factors taken into consideration, some of which would be known to the honourable senator. Others would relate to the overall policy of the Government in respect of these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the announcement by the Treasurer yesterday relating to the changes in savings bank regulations to enable an additional $500m to be made available for housing in the next financial year. Can the Minister give any indication as to the additional employment opportunities this release of funds will create in the building trade? Would the Minister agree with the statement of the National Executive Director of the housing industry that this will permit an additional 14 000 home loans in 1977-78.
-I believe that the assessment of additional homes is very close to being accurate. I note also another comment by Mr Cameron to the Bankers Association that this is a very good thing to do. It will begin to flow through effectively fairly soon. It seems to me that this is a very sensible regulating pattern on the part of the Government as the housing industry was in need of a certain amount of extra stimulation. I think the stimulation was given in a very wise form. I expect that it will expand employment. It also will be very useful in the overall scene of activity well beyond housing and housing construction. Two things that are very important in the Australian economic scene are housing activity and general manufacturing activity. They tend to be interrelated but, equally, they tend to have some separations. They also tend to relate to other things.
-I direct a question to the Leader of the Government. It arises, in part, from a question asked by Senator Jessop yesterday concerning South African sportsmen. Is it not a fact that the Government signed the United Nations resolution No. 316F which includes individual sportsmen as well as teams? Is it not the case that the Government understood its meaning and how it should be implemented prior to agreeing to this resolution? Is it not a fact that although Tony Greig has lived in England for some 14 years, the 5 South Africans named for the Packer circus all play in the South African Currie Cup, which excludes black South Africans and whose spectators are segregated? Is it not the Government’s policy to isolate South African sportsmen and teams from international sport? Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate reaffirm this policy?
-I have said time and time again that I think the Prime Minister has set out quite clearly our attitude on this matter. I have nothing to add to or subtract from it. The other matters about which the honourable senator asks are questions of fact of which I have no personal knowledge. I suggest, therefore, that he places them on notice.
-Does the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs recall a question I asked on the subject of legal representation for ex-servicemen following a Press statement by Mr Alex Hunter of the Ex-Services Action Association indicating that a large number of ex-service organisations were anxious for legal representation for exservicmen appearing before repatriation appeal tribunals which under future arrangements contemplated by the Government are to be chaired by a judge? Has the Minister noted the April edition of the Returned Services League National News Digest which reports on a meeting by Justice Toose with the RSL National Executive in March? The Digest in referring to Mr Justice Toose states:
Members of the Executive were impressed with his frank comments and the logic of the points he made. As a result of his talk to the Executive, the RSL will be looking again at the question of legal representation for appellants when they present their case to Tribunals.
Is the Minister aware of that statement? Has the Minister received any further representation from the RSL on this subject? If not, is the Minister able to ascertain the current attitude of the RSL on this matter?
– I recall the question that Senator Jessop asked me recently about legal representation before repatriation appeal tribunals or before the projected administrative appeal tribunal panels which the Government will be implementing in due course. The fact is that Mr Justice Toose, in his report which was tabled in Parliament on 19 February 1976, advocated that legal representation should be available. However, when the Returned Services League sent its comments to the then Minister for Repatriation in May 1976, it was opposed to that recommendation of the judge. Furthermore, the Australian Services Council, which represents 1 1 important veterans organisations, in its comments on this recommendation informed the Government of its opposition to the proposal.
I understand that there has been some further discussion about the matter to which Senator
Jesop refers. I have had no further representations from the RSL or the Australian Services Council on the matter. Whether I will receive any is a matter for those organisations to decide in their own time. Naturally if I receive any such representations they will be given the closest consideration and discussed further with the organisations. However, the fact is that the Government policy on this matter has been determined taking into account the long consideration that had been given to these recommendations of the Toose report and the official comments which have been made to the Government by these organisations. The proposals for the administrative appeal tribunal hearings provide that legal representation will be available if a panel is chaired by a presidential member of the tribunal and he agrees to legal representation before him on that hearing.
-I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a reply, given on her behalf by Mr Hunt in the other place on 24 May which appears in House of Representatives Hansard at page 1774, to a question asked by Mr Whitlam regarding the Australian Assistance Plan. I was concerned to find that amongst the replies from State Premiers no reply was listed from the Western Australian Premier Sir Charles Court. Is it true that no reply has been received from the Premier of Western Australia to letters sent by the Minister on 7 June and 1 October 1976? What action will be taken by the Minister to have an attitude to the Government’s decision on the Australian Assistance Plan expressed by Western Australia? Would the Minister agree that this silence on the part of Premier Court is an indication of his nonsupport for Australian Assistance Plan decisions? Would she agree also that this is a further indication of a breakdown in Federal-State relations?
– I am not aware whether today, following the answer given, any indication has been given by the Western Australian Government with regard to any future plans it may have for a replacement of the Australian Assistance Plan. The last knowledge that I had of this matter indicated that no reply had been received. However, a meeting of State Ministers is taking place in Canberra today. I believe the Australian Assistance Plan is one item on the agenda. Later today I may have an indication from the Western Australian Government as to any plans which it has for a replacement of the Plan. I would not agree that any decision taken by the Western Australian Government is a breakdown in Federal-State relationships, because at the time of the introduction of the Budget last year the Federal Government stated that it would fund the Plan for one year, which concludes on 30 June this year, to enable any State which wished to do so either to continue the Plan in its present form or to make alternative arrangements. It is precisely in the nature of CommonwealthState relationships that a State government will make its own determination on this matter. I have no knowledge at the moment of the Western Australian Government’s plan but that may be revealed later today.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by referring to figures supplied to me by the Australian Wool Corporation. These figures show that the cost of moving wool from the sheep’s back to an overseas woollen mill has risen from 46.9c per kilogram greasy in November 1973 to 74c in March 1976. An index of prices paid by farmers, using 1972-73 as a base of 100, shows that for the December 1976 quarter wages were 2 10, services/overheads 213, equipment/supplies 191, and market expenses 175, giving an average of 203. These figures graphically illustrate the problems being faced by this great industry. What hope can we give wool producers, particularly those who are unable to diversify into other areas of production?
-The honourable senator was good enough to tell me that he wanted to have answers to this question. In the short time available I have done my best to put together some information. His question illustrates quite clearly that in 5 years the total costs to the industry have doubled. That is the first point to establish. From that one can see clearly the problems of primary producers in general caused by the very severe cost increases over the last 5 years. These have resulted in a transfer of resources from primary producers to other parts of the population, a decline in the living standards of primary producers and an expansion in the living standards of many people who are not in the primary industries. Equally, I think it is well known to all of us- we should observe it again- that farmers are subject to prices determined by overseas markets. They do not have their incomes indexed, as other workers do. They have to meet the increased costs of their inputs, which they tend to meet rather more in isolation than others do.
The Government has a number of priorities, as is well known, to deal with the economic circumstances. First and foremost, we want to get the rate of inflation down. That is the principal key to overcoming this problem. The problem will not be overcome quickly; it will not be overcome overnight. There are areas of specific assistance. I have been able to identify some of them in the short time available. They include: the relaxation of the requirements for farmers to receive unemployment benefit, the new rural adjustment scheme, the income equalisation deposits scheme, and the devaluations in November 1976 to assist the sales of primary products. Attention is being given to the establishment of a national rural bank, which I think the honourable senator knows is under study.
I turn now to the wool industry. The Government raised the floor price for wool for 1 976-77 by some 14 per cent to a whole clip average figure of 234c per kilogram clean. Following the devaluation of the Australian dollar last November, the Government decided that the floor price should be subject to full compensatory adjustment. This decision raised the floor price to 284c per kilogram and the Government announced that the floor would remain at not less than that level throughout the whole of 1977-78. The question of the costs of handling wool has always been of considerable interest to me. As a government we believe there is scope for changes in handling the Australian wool clip directed towards producing cost savings and having those savings passed on to the growers. As a result, in March last the Australian Wool Corporation was authorised to operate a scheme of limited direct purchases up to 1 50 000 bales of wool from growers on a one year trial basis. The Corporation will arrange for the wool to be handled, transported and packed using a variety of modern methods and demonstrating the cost economies which are possible. There is also a substantial amount of research into cost saving methods of wool production and handling. Some of these efforts are beginning to show promising results.
I conclude by saying that some years ago 1 was involved in looking at the number of times a bale of wool was handled from the time it left the back of the shearing shed until it was in the hands of users in a consuming country. It was astounding. It was really unbelievably stupid. In this whole area there must be room for a great improvement.
– My question is addressed to Senator Cotton and follows the one that has just been asked. Did he hear on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM this morning the result of a survey of industry? Did he hear a spokesman whose name I cannot recall say that the survey, involving I think 700 companies, showed that 71 per cent of companies surveyed had no prospects of increasing employment over the next 12 months? Is it a fact that the spokesman said that the Government is placing too much emphasis on reducing inflation at the expense of increasing consumption? Will the Minister table in the Senate details of the amounts which this Government has made available in the form of grants to the rural sector this year as distinct from the loans to the Australian Wool Corporation implemented by the Labor Government so that we can determine just how much this Government in fact is allocating to the rural sector in view of the downturn in market conditions for that sector?
-It does not fall to my fortunate lot always to hear the AM program, but luckily this morning I heard that part of it to which Senator Wriedt referred. If I remember correctly there was comment by a group of people calling themselves Westaff who are engaged in looking for people to work or placing people in jobs. Some of the observations I heard interested me greatly. What these people said in essence is that there has not been much improvement yet in the employment scene. They said that the Government was overconcentrating its intentions on inflation and had no other positive proposals for improvement. We hear from people these sorts of proposals to spend more money, to overcome inflation, to reduce tax and to decrease the deficit.
– The program concerned the result of a survey of industry. Do you say that the employers know nothing about these problems?
-I did not say that. Let me go on with my reply and try to help. I was talking about the Westaff company or group which looks for jobs for people or places people in jobs or engages them for employers. That establishes a clear point. I am saying that these people saidthis is what Senator Wriedt said, and I am repeating what he said- that from their experience they saw little improvement in employment at this stage. I think that is correct. They then said that there was an overconcentration on inflation by the Government. On that I do not agree. I am entitled to take that position. Senator Wriedt also asked me whether I could table in the Senate some comparative figures on rural assistance given by this Government and by the preceding Government. Certainly I will try to do so, but Senator Wriedt does not have to try to help me. I can help myself quite well, thank you.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development aware that forestry interests are continuing to extend roads into the Picton Valley region of south west Tasmania within the proposed boundaries of the inquiry being undertaken by the South- West Advisory Committee? Is the Minister also aware that the option that south west Tasmania should remain a significant wilderness area, with Federation Peak as the centre point, is seriously jeopardised by the continued building of this road? Is the Minister able to take any action to achieve the suspension of the building of this road, at least until the Advisory Committee has reported, in order to preserve south west Tasmania as the significant wilderness area that it currently is?
-I have first hand knowledge of the magnificent wilderness area capacity of south west Tasmania. I appreciate the keen interest that Senator Missen displays in wanting to preserve wilderness areas. I am not aware of the specifics in relation to the road building or the threat that roads may create. However, it is an important matter which concerns the environment. I shall refer Senator Missen ‘s question to my colleague in another place and seek his comment on it.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister been drawn to a report alleging that cuts in Federal Government expenditure have left many departments with inadequate facilities to store classified material and that the Government has decided that all Cabinet decisions and documents should remain in the Prime Minister’s Department instead of being forwarded to the departments affected by such decisions? If that is so and if the departments affected by the decisions do not even know of the decisions taken by the Government, how is the public expected to know what is going on within the Government? Finally I ask: How does this action square with this statement attributed to the Prime Minister last April:
If the Australian electorate is to be able to make valid judgments of government policy it should have the greatest access to information possible.
-Of course we agree that everybody must have the greatest possible access to information. That is why the Government is pressing on with legislation in 2 areas; firstly, for proper archives legislation and, secondly, for a freedom of information Act. We hope that that legislation will be introduced for debate and consideration by the Parliament during the Budget session. That is how we will bring about most of the matters to which the honourable senator has referred. We will also introduce proper rules in relation to the cataloguing and storage of classified information. They will provide for access in relation to a range of matters, including what might be called old information in the archival sense and new information in a current sense. Such access will be made possible under a freedom of information Act. We are actively pursuing these matters. Therefore I suggest that what the honourable senator has heard is basically supposition and speculation and not in accordance with the facts as I know them.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. The Minister in response to Senator Wriedt referred to a document summarising the decisions of the April Premiers Conference. Is that document readily available? If it is not too voluminous could it be incorporated in Hansard for the information of honourable senators and the community?
-When replying to Senator Wriedt I think I said that having discovered that the transcripts of the Premiers Conference were not public property I had attempted to assist Senator Wriedt by giving to him what was an objective summary of the proceedings of the April Premiers Conference prepared by the Commonwealth Treasury. I have the document. It is not essentially voluminous in any way. I would be happy to have it incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Treasurer Parliament House Canberra 2600
PREMIERS’ CONFERENCE APRIL 1977 TAX SHARING AND FEDERALISM ITEMS
This paper examines the outcome of the 12-13 April 1977 Premiers’ Conference in regard to:
Tax sharing between the Commonwealth, State and local governments
Council for inter-government relations
Administrative and financial arrangements for health and welfare programs: Bailey and Holmes reports Education: Shared funding
Housing including the housing inquiry Roads funds
Urban and regional development programs
A summary of State and local government 1976-77 entitlements under the income tax sharing arrangements is at attachment A.
Personal income tax sharing: States
The Conference had before it reports by Commonwealth and State officers on Stage I and Stage II of the tax sharing arrangements. Most of the discussion centred on the issues discussed in these reports.
The majority of the issues arising in connection with Stage I were settled at the April and June 1976 Premiers’ Conferences, thus enabling Stage I to be applied from the beginning of 1976-77.
Under Stage I the States are entitled to 33.6 per cent of total personal income tax (excluding the Medibank levy) collected by the Commonwealth during the year.
The States’ share for 1976-77 was estimated at the time of the Budget to be $3,7 16.2m; this is 20 per cent more than the financial assistance grants for the previous year.
Although Stage I is in operation there are a few issues remaining to be settled. These were referred by the Premiers’ Conference to Commonwealth and State Treasury officers who had earlier made reports to the April and June 1976 Conferences.
The April 1977 Premiers’ Conference discussed five main matters concerning Stage I, of which three (the first three matters discussed below) were dealt with in the Officers’ Report.
The first matter concerned techniques to meet possible cash flow problems faced by the State to the extent that a deficit may arise in its budget because the State’s Stage I entitlement in respect of a year falls short of the Commonwealth Budget estimate of its entitlement. The States and the Commonwealth agreed on the scheme unanimously recommended by State and Commonwealth officers, which is for the States, within Loan Council arrangements, to have access to Treasury Bills against which they would, except in extreme cases, be expected to lodge counterpart deposits with the Reserve Bank.
The second matter concerns the review of relativities between all States of their Stage I entitlements. There were three aspects to be considered; the nature of the review body constituted to make recommendations, the guidelines for the review body, and the timing of the review.
At earlier Premiers’ Conferences it had been agreed that there would be a periodic review of relativities and that advice in relation to this review would be sought from an independent review body.
At the recent Conference some Premiers pressed for a specially constituted outside group to conduct the review. One did not object to the Grants Commission carrying out the review although preferring an outside group. Another Premier supported the Commonwealth view that the Grants Commission should conduct the review. The Prime Minister undertook that the Commonwealth would give further consideration to this matter.
The States and the Commonwealth have now agreed that the review body’s guidelines should be expressed in relatively broad terms to give the review body the maximum flexibility in carrying out its work and agreed that the guidelines should be along the following lines:
The basic purpose is to review the percentage relationships between the States’ respective per capita entitlements under Stage 1 of the personal income tax sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth and State Governments and to make any recommendations for changes in those relationships considered appropriate.
The review should be on the basis of the principle that each State should be able to provide State Government services of a recurrent kind of the same standard as other States without imposing higher rates of taxes or charges: differences in revenue raising capacities and in the relative costs of providing comparable government services should be taken into account.
The review is to include an examination of the existing relativities, of the factors which have influenced them and of any relevant changes which have occurred in the period since those relativities were established.
It was agreed that the States and the Commonwealth would each have the right to argue before the review body any matters which a State or the Commonwealth regarded as relevant to the review.
As to timing, it was agreed that the review should be commenced as soon as possible and that the review body’s report should be considered at a further Premiers ‘ Conference.
The third matter discussed at the Conference in relation to Stage 1 was the arrangements to govern the provision of information by the Commonwealth to the States, and for consultation, as necessary, between the Commonwealth and the States, in relation to Commonwealth budget decisions as they might affect the States ‘entitlements. While there was a useful exchange of views agreement was not reached and the Conference referred this matter back to State and Commonwealth officers for further examination.
The fourth matter concerned the points of agreement in relation to the tax sharing arrangements a copy which is at attachment B to this paper and which is recorded in the Budget paper:
Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1976-77’. Following some discussion (principally at the initiative of the Premier of New South Wales), officers were requested to consult with a view to a possible need for clarification of some of these points.
Lastly in regard to Stage 1, the meeting noted that, given the per capita system of allocating the States’ entitlements, changes to the estimated populations of the States as determined by the Australian Statistician under the tax sharing legislation may result in changes in a State’s percentage and absolute share though not to its per capita entitlement.
There had been a recent revision of population estimates by the Australian Statistician and this had resulted in changes in the estimated entitlements of the individual States, although the total entitlement of the States as a whole was not affected by the revision of population estimates. In particular the Premier of Tasmania had drawn attention to the above impact on his State’s entitlement of the revised population figures.
Officers are to examine and report to Government urgently on the implications of the revision of population figures.
There was some progress in the discussion of the arrangements for the establishment of Stage II of the tax sharing whereby the States will be enabled at their own discretion to increase their revenues from income tax or reduce them by making a rebate to residents of the State.
A Working Party of Commonwealth and State Treasury, taxation and legal officers was established following the April 1976 Conference to advise on the introduction of Stage
The April Conference had before it the Report of this Working Party.
The report canvassed some fundamental aspects of possible arrangements, including several which raised important and complex legal and policy questions.
The Conference was in broad agreement with the recommendations of the Working Party as to the objectives to be pursued in developing detailed arrangements for Stage II:
there should be complete uniformity as between the States in all respects other than rates of any surcharges or rebates;
the arrangements should be free of any significant Constitutional or other legal doubt;
the scheme should be as simple and inexpensive to administer as practicable consistent with legal requirements and the other broad objectives being followed;
the arrangements should impose the least inconvenience practicable on taxpayers and employers; and
the arrangements should be such as to avoid creating avenues for tax avoidance or evasion.
When discussing possible legislative and administrative arrangements, the Commonwealth representatives stressed that no State would be forced to enter into Stage 2 arrangements but, for the benefit of those States that did so choose and to avoid technical problems, the Commonwealth had suggested that it and all States co-operate to prepare complementary or ‘interlocking’ legislation. This proposal was not agreed to by all States.
The Commonwealth emphasised that it wanted to do its part by introducing enabling legislation as soon as possible, thus providing each State with the option of proceeding to raise or lower income tax within its own borders if it chose. The States could within an enabling framework of legislation make their own decisions, in their own time in accordance with their own priorities, whether or not to utilise the Stage 2 tax sharing arrangements. The arrangements would enable the States to vary their Stage 2 revenues from personal income tax at their own discretion.
Commonwealth officers and officers of the Victorian and Western Australian Governments, are to have discussions regarding the Commonwealth legislation to be drafted. A good deal of work has already been done by Commonwealth officers in preparation for these discussions.
There was an exchange of views regarding the position of local government. A number of Premiers spoke appreciatively of the effect of the Commonwealth Government’s new tax sharing policy towards local government but some pointed out that financial problems still confronted many local government authorities. It was noted that on present best estimates local government authorities could receive in 1977-78 some $168.1 million as their share of net personal income tax collections, i.e. about 20 per cent more than in 1976-77.
Advisory Council for Intergovernmental Relations
It was agreed that the first meeting of the Council would be held in Hobart in early May.
The Conference also approved the following items for reference to the Council for examination and report:
An examination of the appropriate long-term relationships between Commonwealth, State and local government.
A study of the costs and benefits of an interchange of personnel between the three spheres of government, and recommendations for selected implementation of a staff exchange program.
Administrative and Financial Arrangements for Health and
The Bailey and Holmes Reports
The Bailey and Holmes Reports (on co-ordination in Welfare and Health and on Care of the Aged and Infirm respectively) were tabled in Parliament on 17 February 1977 and the Prime Minister then announced the setting-up of a follow-up group of Commonwealth officers concerning the implementation of this part of the Federalism Policy.
It was agreed at the Conference that the Bailey and Holmes Reports should be the subject of Commonwealth/ State discussions at officer level and on a no-commitment basis. These discussions should lead to further reports to Government within the next few months.
Share Funding in Education
The Commonwealth proposed discussions between Commonwealth and State officers with a view to their reporting on possible: means of improving arrangements for the provision of policy advice to the Commonwealth in this area including through making the Education Commission more responsive to differential local needs among the States; improvement in the delineation of the respective functions of the Commonwealth and the States in this area; and changes to the basis of cost sharing in particular areas of education (particularly the tertiary area) but within a context where the present overall balance of cost sharing of education expenditures between the Commonwealth and the States was preserved.
All Premiers agreed to such discussions on a no-commitment basis. The discussions are to be preceded by a meeting shortly between Commonwealth and State Education Ministers that will, inter alia, consider terms of reference for officers.
Housing Including the Housing Inquiry
The Conference discussed possible new arrangements to replace the present Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, and there are to be further discussions at Ministerial level.
In March 1977 the Commonwealth proposed the setting up of an independent inquiry into housing costs.
At the Conference, the Commonwealth proposed that Commonwealth and State officers meet to discuss the terms of reference for this inquiry and the composition of the body to undertake it. Officers’ proposals will initially be submitted to the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers.
The Conference agreed to the proposal to set up the inquiry and to an officers’ meeting to discuss terms of reference.
The Premiers were critical of the overall level of roads assistance announced for 1977-78 and of the particular allocation by the Commonwealth among the various road categories.
In responding the Commonwealth Minister for Transport mentioned: the budgetary and economic problems facing the Commonwealth; the flexibility allowed the States in proposing reallocation of Commonwealth grants between road categories, and the freedom with which they can shift their own road funds around; that the Prime Minister would shortly be writing to the Premier of Western Australia to attempt to resolve the State’s problems on quota expenditures from its own sources.
One Premier raised the question of the treatment of pay-roll tax under the roads arrangements. The Commonwealth accepted that pay-roll tax should be treated as eligible expenditure from Commonwealth funds and as matching expenditure from States’ funds. Commonwealth legislation is to be amended accordingly.
Urban and Regional Development Programs
There was discussion concerning the need for continued funding of these programs having regard to the social benefits which they generate and their important contribution to maintenance of activity in the construction sector. The Commonwealth noted these points but said that decisions on these programs would have to be made in the total budgetary context.
Personal Income Tax Sharing Entitlements in 1976-77
Budget estimates of States’ entitlements and actual entitlements oflocal government authorities.
Personal Income Tax Sharing Between the Commonwealth and State Governments: Points of Understanding
In regard to the possible effects on the States’ Stage 1 entitlements of changes by the Commonwealth in its personal income tax legislation the Commonwealth Government has given a firm assurance to the States that:
Implications for Tax Forms and Assessment Notices
Review of Total Tax Sharing Arrangements
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. It relates to the vast energy field of the north west shelf, the development of which is at present under negotiation between the Government and Woodside-Burmah Oil NL. Is the Minister aware that in his address to the annual general meeting of WoodsideBurmah Oil NL this year the Chairman stated that, if the company was refused permission to export 6.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year, development of the field would be delayed at least 7 years and possibly forever? Does the Minister feel that a just and equitable result can be obtained from these negotiations while they are being conducted in such a climate of blatant blackmail? Is the Minister convinced that the Chairman of Woodside-Burmah Oil NL has the power to carry out his threat to deny the energy benefits of the north west shelf to the people of Australia if his demands are not met?
-I read the address by Mr J. G. Donaldson, the Chairman of that company, which he circulated certainly to all honourable senators from Western Australia. I found a great deal of interest in that report. As to the particular matter to which the honourable senator refers, as I understand it there are no problems between the joint venturers and the Commonwealth Government as to the level of what may be exported. The honourable senator ought to recall that all the negotiations are being carried out by the Western Australian Government with the joint venturers. As I understand the position, there are very few matters in which the Commonwealth Government has been involved which are still unresolved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the so-called settlement of the General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd dispute. It has been reported that one of the terms of the settlement was that employees could take their long service leave and retire at the age of 55 years. I ask: Does this not mean in effect that vehicle builders working for GM-H will be retiring at 55 on unemployment benefit at the expense of the Australian taxpayer? It is reported also that workers being transferred from one plant to another would be compensated in excess of the present legal requirements, and the figure suggested is about $28 a week. Will the Minister find out for us what that is all about in relation to a company threatening to sack 600 people because of a slump in sales?
– I am afraid that I am not familiar with the terms of the agreement that has apparently been reached between General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and its employees, as referred to by Senator Lewis. I will refer the matter and the questions raised by Senator Lewis to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It refers to the work force statistics released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I ask: Is the Minister aware that, according to the ABS survey, 33.9 per cent of young people aged 15 to 19 had been unemployed for some period during 1976? Is the Minister also aware that approximately 40 per cent of all unemployed are young people? In view of the fact that current Government schemes established to redress this problem are inadequate compared with the magnitude of the number of young unemployed, will the Government consider job creating schemes for limiting youth unemployment which have been adopted m nearly all member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development?
-It seems to be the assumption at question time that Ministers are like computers which are programmed every morning with all the statistical detail that has been published in the previous 24 hours. I am afraid I have not seen the Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics either. It is not a matter for which I am directly responsible.
– You read papers, do you not?
-I am fast following my leader in that matter. The Government has been most concerned about youth unemployment and has undertaken in this area some major and highly successful initiatives which have had a significant impact in reducing the level of unemployment. Nevertheless, it is a matter which is of continuing concern to the Government. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations who, I am sure, will be very interested in it and will provide a more detailed reply in the near future.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and refer once again to the disastrous infestation of lucerne crops in New South Wales by the American spotted alfalfa aphid. Following the question I asked on this matter earlier this week expressions of concern continue to come in, particularly from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, where the infestation is very serious. I ask the Minister whether he is able to advise whether the Federal Government is involving itself actively in this problem. Are any new initiatives being taken by the Federal Government in an attempt to assist the growers in New South Wales?
-I think the spotted alfalfa aphid without any doubt will establish a lead over the leaping newt. The honourable senator was good enough to take up this matter with me during the week. I was very worried about it so I did chase it up. I have been told this morning that a working party will be set up almost immediately to deal with the spread and the control of the infestation. I am told that the party will consist of representatives from both the Commonwealth and the States. It will hold its first meeting in Sydney next Wednesday. I am told also that the spotted aphid is spreading rapidly through Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and is now being established in South Australia. Experts in the field believe that the pest has not yet reached the limit of its spread and they are very concerned by reports of any new infestation. I have been asked to request anybody who hears of any spread of the infestation to areas beyond those that I have defined to let the Minister for Primary Industry know.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs but it also involves yourself, Mr President. I refer to an action I took this week in submitting a petition from a large number of Sydney people of Yugoslav origin in which they sought the intervention of the Department of Foreign Affairs to instruct its United Nations representative to be identified with any move that would curb the Austrian Government’s harassment of its Croatian and Slovene minorities, a situation which Senator Withers, in an answer given to an earlier question, confirmed. I should like to know now whether, that petition having been tabled here by the Clerk, Senator Withers will take it direct to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I will subsequently receive an answer, or will it just be filed away in the Senate archives?
-I am trying to recall what the situation is. Perhaps I should leave it for you to answer, Mr President. But I certainly do receive from either one or both of the Presiding Officers petitions which have been tabled in the Parliament. I cannot for the life of me recall whether I received them from Mr Speaker or from you, Mr President. Perhaps I should not intrude upon your area, Mr President.
– After petitions are tabled in the Senate they are referred to certain committees, if the Senate so determines, and of course are referred to the appropriate Ministers.
-By way of supplementary question, Mr President, I am trying to draw a parallel with the Parliament in the United States. I think parliamentarians like Senator Sir Magnus Cormack would appreciate what I am trying to do. Intense agitation was expressed in the United States Senate concerning Americans of Greek origin who were concerned about the Cyprus issue. Senator Eggleston was able to have direct dialogue with the Secretary of State in the United States Government, Dr Kissinger, and his successor. I want to establish whether a senator, when he takes the course I have taken, can expect to receive a written answer from our Foreign Minister.
-I shall seek the information for the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Can she advise what outlets are used by her Department to make available to the public material setting out social security benefits that can be claimed? Is she satisfied that there are sufficient outlets to give proper cover? Is she satisfied that there is sufficient display of material to encourage the community to acquaint itself with the benefits available? Will she consider making this material directly available to concerned groups, such as elderly citizens’ groups?
– A very extensive outflow of material does function through the Department. Millions of leaflets are published, display posters are used, radio is used as are the citizens’ advice bureaus, senior citizens’ centres and other such places. These are all ways in which the Government disseminates material and information relating to pensioner benefits and other programs of the Department. I am always concerned to see that this is as effective as it should be. We are always looking at new ways of doing this. Recently, we have been using radio in a way that we believe is of interest as well as being informative. We are constantly reviewing our information section so as to reach more people with information. We are indebted to voluntary agencies and to many other outlets such as local government to assist us in this way. It is our objective to have information as widely disseminated as possible. Any suggestions as to other ways in which this can be achieved would be seriously considered by the Department’s information section. The Government does already produce material in several languages and it has the support of migrant groups in this dissemination of information. In as many ways as possible we endeavour to see that the information does reach the people.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the vast over supply of potatoes in Victoria this year, is the Minister aware that in January there was an import of 164 568 kilograms of dehydrated potato, equal to more than 1000 tonnes of fresh equivalent, into Victoria at a value of 65c a kilogram? Can the Minister advise who imported this product and how it compares with the Australian product in price and quality? Will the Minister ensure that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs is aware of this position when considering the Industries Assistance Commission submission on the potato industry and the effects that the import of dehydrated potatoes has on the price structure for Australian growers and processors alike.
– I have to declare a personal interest in this matter. I used to be a potato grower myself at one time. I was in Victoria last year in the area of Ballarat when this matter was being discussed. Apparently, one firm is importing a considerable quantity of processed potatoes and dehydrated potatoes from, I believe, the United States. I think the honourable senator’s suggestion is a good one. I shall take it up to see that the Industries Assistance Commission take this into account because the potato crop is of great importance, particularly to Queensland -
– Why do you not eat dehydrated potato?
- Senator Georges might take charge of it along with everything else such as turtles. This industry is important to Victoria and Tasmania. If Senator Georges would like to help by eating more, we shall encourage him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the coalition parties’ November 1975 primary industry policy promise to implement immediately the Industries Assistance Commission report on New Land Farms in Western Australia. I ask: Have any discussions been held between the Federal and State governments as required by the report? If not, when will they be held? Has the Government abandoned its promise? If not, does immediately’ in this Government’s lexicon mean some period longer than 18 months?
– I do not have any knowledge on the subject but I undertake to make inquiries into the matter to try to obtain some information for the honourable senator before the Senate rises this evening.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Minister received reports that the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and the Tasmanian Chamber of Industries have dissociated themselves from a report by the Tasmanian Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Lowe, on a meeting held following the national wage decision? Mr Lowe is reported as stating that it was the unanimous opinion of the meeting that it was not possible to maintain the voluntary pause in prices and wages and that it could only have continued had the Federal Government called a national conference of governments, business and union representatives. A joint statement put out by the meeting following that statement claimed that no such agreement had been reached but in fact the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to grant a 1.9 per cent wage increase had caused the freeze to end. The meeting regretted that the Minister had used his position to misrepresent the decision of the meeting.
– The honourable senator was good enough to give me a newspaper cutting of the report.
– That is the only time you have read a newspaper.
-That is right. I am delighted to see that the commerce and industry representatives corrected Mr Lowe. Maybe Mr Lowe misunderstood the position but it seems strange that he should lead a meeting and attempt to put a view which was not accurate, according to some of the parties there, as to what happened at the meeting. I am also glad to see that the industry groups were not prepared to let Mr Lowe say for political purposes that the blame rested upon the Federal Government when everybody in the community knows where the blame really lies.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware that 2 major fire appliances urgently required for fire protection on the north-west coast of Tasmania are being held under bond in the fire stations and that such action has been taken by a Federal department as duty amounting to many thousands of dollars imposed after the vehicles were ordered has not been paid? Does the Minister agree that fire brigades are in a special category in that they are an essential emergency service? Does he agree that the imposition of duty subsequent to the ordering of the fire appliances should be waived in the interests of fire protection on the north-west coast of Tasmania? Does the Minister also agree that fire brigades are in a different position compared with other organisations in that, in an emergency, under the State Act fire appliances can be commandeered?
-I will agree with Senator Harradine that fire brigades provide essential and emergency services. Apart from that I have not sufficient information or knowledge to agree with any of the other matters on which he seeks my agreement. However, I do appreciate that this could be a serious matter and I will refer it to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and endeavour to have it resolved as soon as possible.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the decision of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd announced yesterday to shelve the sackings of 600 employees. Is the Minister aware of the statement yesterday by South Australian Premier Dunstan in which he said: ‘The Federal Government must now play its part by reducing sales tax on motor vehicles’? Does the Minister agree that such irresponsible statements will only serve to depress car sales as evidenced by past experience due to people holding back in anticipation of a tax cut? Is he aware that such statements have caused and are causing considerable dismay to motor vehicle dealers and manufacturers? In view of this, will the Minister urgently request a further clear statement from the Treasurer as to the future sales tax on motor vehicles?
– I have not seen what Mr Dunstan said but I do not mind commenting on this matter because it is a source of satisfaction to me to discover that General-Motors Holden ‘s and the union, in joint discussions, have reached a situation which overcomes the problem, a fact which we all knew. Without wishing to make great noises, I have been involved quite a lot in these areas. I want to say a couple of other things that bear on what the honourable senator said in his question. There is an Automative Industry Advisory Panel. It is a widely based body which contains manufacturers, importers, consumers, motorist associations, people from the unions and people from both sides of the Parliament. It takes a fairly broad and balanced view of the whole industry. At the meeting to discuss the GMH problem and the total industry, we were concerned about the overall impression that was being created by speculation about sales tax. Everybody concerned in the discussion took the view that such speculation is most unwise and draws the market down.
-Perhaps the honourable senator will lei me say this because I, at least, have talked to someone who knows something about this matter. In addition, I have talked to the major motor vehicle manufacturers of Australia and they have made the same comment. Speculation on sales tax by uninformed people is drawing down the market and should stop. I shall talk to the Treasurer about this matter.
– My question is directed to Senator Carrick in his capacity as Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. No doubt the Minister is aware of the latest report released by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd which insists that the national economic recovery depends largely on recovery in the State of New South Wales because of its huge consumer market and heavy industry. In the light of such comments, will the Government give favourable consideration to granting additional funds to New South Wales for the purpose of public investment to promote economic recovery?
– The first condition of any such question should have been for the honourable senator to satisfy himself that the New South Wales Government had handled and spent its existing funds prudently and towards reemployment. The honourable senator will know that New South Wales, in the course of this financial year, has been able not only to balance its Budget but also to elect to make tax reductions rather than to employ funds for reemployment. That was a value judgment made by the Wran Government. What the honourable senator is saying is that the Wran Government should be freed from its responsibilities. The honourable senator will be aware also of published data which suggests that the Wran Government at this time has substantial surpluses of funds. The first thing for the Wran Government to do is to direct the priorities of its expenditure and the availability of its surpluses to re-employment. It is a noteworthy thing that the New South Wales State Labor Government has a worsened condition of unemployment and nothing has been done which suggests that in the immediate or longer term future there will be any alleviation from it. If there are funds to be directed, let the Wran Government publish, for those interested to observe, what has happened to its promise that, I think, $30m- the figure may be wrong- was to be made available and earmarked above the Budget in that category for special employment purposes. I understand that the people of New South Wales have no clear picture of any such program.
– I wish to ask the Minister a supplementary question.
– I call Senator Sibraa.
– I ask: Is the Minister therefore advocating that the Wran Government run its next year’s Budget on a deficit?
-That, of course, has nothing at all to do with the question. I am advocating that the Wran Government should use the funds that are available to it for priority purposes so that by proper priority they create re-employment. I advocate also that the Wran Government should stand by its promise that it would have a major program of re-employment and itemise for the public to see the moneys and the programs that it alleged it would provide.
– May I, with leave of the Senate, make a point of explanation?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– During question time today when the Senate Hansard for yesterday was not available, Senator Carrick, in reply to a question from me, implied if he did not in fact say- I can not be specific until I see a copy of today’s Hansard- that I had said yesterday that I did not have a copy of a transcript of the Premiers Conference. I will not enter into debate whether I did or did not. I draw to his attention for reading yesterday’s Hansard which is now available. Perhaps he can direct me next week to where in fact I made such a statement. I cannot see it but perhaps he can draw my attention to it. I will leave the thought with him until next Tuesday.
– by leave- The matter is important. I think the record will show that yesterday Senator Wriedt asked me whether I would obtain for him a transcript of the Premiers Conference. I said that the inference of that request was that he had no such transcript. That could be the only inference since he asked me whether he could have a copy. I think he was in contact with my office to get one. The answer I made today was this: Senator Wriedt today quoted what he said were statements made by, I think, 3 Premiers at the Premiers Conference.
-Four. If in fact he was purporting to quote those statements, quite clearly he was purporting to quote from a transcript of a Premiers Conference which, if he had it, he was not entitled to have and was improperly holding, as the information given to me discloses. I understand on advice from Treasury now- I did not know yesterday- that Premiers Conference transcripts are not for general publication. That, I think, is the fact of the exchange of today.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads on national highways linking Hobart, Launceston and Burnie approaches to Hobart- 1977.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of the Minister for Social Security, I present, for the information of honourable senators, the report of the interdepartmental working party on Aboriginal employment of 3 1 July 1 976, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
-by leave-I hope that, after we have had sufficient time to study this report, the Minister concerned might be able to prevail upon the Government to allow us to have a short debate next week if possible and if that is not possible at not too late a date. I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on valves and a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on umbrellas.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on certain paper and paper board tariff quotas.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement concerning the operations of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I inform the Senate that in considering the reference by the Senate to the Committee concerning the ‘continuing oversight of Australian science policy, and the direction, priorities, efficacy and ultimate application of Australian research and development efforts’, the Committee is of the opinion that an inquiry, within this framework, into industrial research and development would be both valuable and timely at this juncture. This view can be supported by an examination of various reports such as the Background Report on Science and Technology in Australia prepared in March 1974 by the Department of Science; the OECD Examiners Report on Science and Technology in Australia presented in 1974; and, more recently, the report of the Interim Australian Science and Technology Council to the Prime Minister, tabled earlier this year. All these reports point to the need for an assessment of Australian industrial research and development requirements, together with a reappraisal of the arrangements for their promotion and application. The Committee has accordingly resolved to conduct an inquiry into industrial research and development, paying particular regard to the matters set out in its terms of reference, that is to say a comparison with other countries of recent trends and expenditures in Australia; and examination of Federal assistance granted to Australian research and development activities.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I move:
I am aware that honourable senators have a disinclination to grant leave to committees to sit -
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, you have declared this to be a matter of formal business. You cannot debate it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I seek leave to make a short statement arising out of the resolution just carried by the Senate.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenators Bishop, Sibraa and Wheeldon are the Australian Labor Party members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. On their recommendation, the Opposition agreed on this occasion, and on this occasion only, to the request contained in Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s motion. The Opposition emphasises that as a matter of principle it opposes strenuously the sitting of Senate committees or joint committees when the Senate is sitting. Because of the urgency of the matter under consideration by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, we agreed to accept the proposal of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. It was for that reason, and that reason only, on this occasion. We are given to understand that if at any time the Senate does not agree to its members of a committee sitting on the committee while the Senate is sitting, members of the House of Representatives on that committee will sit on it. That was the impression given to us. We think that is not the right thing and that there should always be an insistence that if there is a meeting of a joint committee while the Senate is sitting, and the Senate does not agree to the sitting of the committee taking place while the Senate is sitting, House of Representatives members of the committee should not sit on the committee.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I seek leave of the Senate to make a short statement in regard to the matter raised by Senator Douglas McClelland.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I am aware of the disinclination of the Senate to accord permission for committees to sit when the Senate is sitting. I agree with Senator Douglas McClelland on that general attitude. There is an anomaly in that the House of Representatives Standing Orders permit committees of that House to sit while the House is sitting. I assure the Senate that when the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has not concluded its business before the Senate sits I have terminated the conduct of the business. Members of the House of Representatives wishing to continue a discussion have done so on an informal basis and there has been no formality about any of their proceedings.
Having said that, I go on to make the further observation that with the growth of committees that is developing in the Parliament these joint committees must come under some pretty stringent survey. Unless they do we may have to abolish joint committees. In addition, I think it is fair that I should comment on an observation I made by way of interjection yesterday afternoon when Senator McLaren was speaking. I drew attention by way of interjection, quite disorderly no doubt, to the fact that there are over 70 committees sitting in this Parliament. One of the reasons that we have difficulty in obtaining quorums in the Senate, and I assume in the other place, is that members of Parliament are involved constantly in what in essence are illegal sittings of committees. I terminate my remarks by reminding the Senate that the subject matter of sittings of committees of this Parliament should be examined by the Senate itself at some future date.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill provides for the raising of loan monies amounting to $3m for ware service land settlement in the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
It has been the Government’s custom to introduce a fresh Bill each year or so to seek parliamentary approval for these funds. It is anticipated that the borrowing authority provided by the existing Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Act will be exhausted by 30 June 1977 and accordingly a further $3m is sought. As honourable senators are aware, the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of the whole of the capital monies required for the Scheme in these three States.
The money will, of course, be appropriated in the annual Budget in the ordinary way and the year’s appropriation will represent the sum of the requirements of the three States concerned for these particular purposes. At the present time, South Australia requires about half of the year’s appropriation, Western Australia about one-third and Tasmania the balance.
As has been stated in previous years when similar Bills were introduced to Parliament, the bulk of this money is required to make advances to settlers to provide adequate working capital to cover current working expenses, the purchase of stock and capital funds for replacement of plant. A very small allocation ($10,000) may be required to meet costs, classified broadly as development, relating to fees expected to be incurred in finalising some surveys and in a drainage study in progress at Loxton in South Australia.
Settlers were not required to possess capital resources of their own as a condition of entry to the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. Because of this, their ability to withstand the effects of adverse seasonal conditions or the severe cost/price squeeze to which some have been exposed, by the accumulation of financial reserves and working capital, is greatly reduced. The great majority of settlers are, in fact, viable. However, much publicity has been given to the plight of a small number of settlers on Kangaroo Island who are in financial difficulties and nonviable. However, they are the exception. The Government is introducing this legislation for the purpose of assisting those settlers in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania considered viable but suffering from the disabilities outlined above. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave for the incorporation of the text of the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill has two purposes- to amend the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act by providing an additional $3.2m Commonwealth financial assistance to the State of Western Australia for road works in the current financial year; and to amend these two Acts and the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and the Transport (Planning and Research) Act by making provision for State expenditure on payroll tax to be eligible funding under each of these Acts.
The proposed increase in financial assistance to Western Australia is necessary to ensure that no State receives less financial assistance for roads than in the previous years. The extra amount of $3.2m will bring the total road funds allocated to Western Australia for the year 1976-77 to $58.8m, this being the amount received by that State in 1975-76. Consequent upon this Bill the National Roads Act and Roads Grants Act will provide for a total allocation to the States in 1976-77 of $436.7m after allowing for the additional funds provided for in the Bill.
As honourable senators are aware the Government has consistently acted to ensure that the needs of local government are provided for and the proposed allocations, adopted after consultation with the State Government, will assist local government by providing funds for the improvement of the rural road system in Western Australia. The Senate will be aware that there have been a number of queries regarding the eligibility of payroll tax as State funding under these Acts and the Government has decided to clarify the situation by the proposed amendment.
I now turn to the Bill which comprises four pans. Part I sets out the usual preliminary information; Part II (clause 3 to clause 6) relates to the National Roads Act; Part III (clause 7 to clause 1 1 ) relates to the Roads Grants Act and Pan IV (clause 12) to the payroll tax provisions. The allocations to the different road categories are set out in the detailed schedules included in clause 6 in respect of national roads and export roads and in clause 1 1 in respect of categories for the roads grant Act categories. The Bill provides for the additional amount set out in the schedules to be added to the 1976-77 appropriations. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas
Motion (by Senator Carrick) 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 States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977, and the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment 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 Carrick) 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-
States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977
The main purpose of the Bill is to amend the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Act 1976 to provide, in accordance with the established policy and procedural arrangements, supplementary grants totalling $15,612,080 to cover cost increases which have occurred since the 1976 and 1977 programs in respect of colleges of advanced education were adopted. The supplementary grants being provided for the 1976 program comprise $2,834,000 for recurrent expenditure and $1,489,380 for capital expenditure.
In the case of the 1 977 program, the amounts of cost supplementation being provided for in the Bill comprises $7,661,000 for recurrent expenditure and $3,627,700 for capital expenditure and are based on indices to take account of increases in costs up to December 1976. Adjustments for subsequent cost movements will be required as the relevant indices become available. As the amendments included in the Bill affect the programs detailed in the schedules to the Acts, the opportunity has been taken to include in the revised schedules a number of intra-program transfers of funds which have been approved under the provisions of the Acts. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972, the States Grants (Schools) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1976 to adjust grants to the States for government and non-government schools. The amended schedules will finalise the adjustment of 1976 grants in respect of cost increases to December 1976 and adjust grants for 1977 to December 1976 prices. The funds appropriated will provide for an increase of $3.3m over the allocations in the existing Acts covering the 1976 program. The adjustment of grants for the 1977 program in respect of cost increases involves an additional appropriation of $ 10.9m. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977
This Bill amends the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974 and the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 to adjust the approved programs of grants to the States for technical and further education, to provide for cost supplementation to December 1976 price levels. The Bill maintains the real value of grants approved by the Government in the light of known variations in costs since adjustments were made in the Budget sittings last year. This Bill completes the cost supplementation process for the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974. The additional amount provided is $0.686m. It also adjusts retrospectively the amounts available within the various schedules in the Act to take account of determinations made by the Minister administering the Act in accordance with sections 16 and 24 of the Act. These determinations were taken to meet the wishes of the States in adjusting the flow of funds available under the various schedules of the Act to suit the particular expenditure needs of the States. An additional $2. 762m is being provided for the 1977 program. Further amendments to the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 will be necessary as information becomes available on movements in costs during 1977.I commend the Bill to the Senate.
States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977
This Bill amends the States Grants (Universities) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Act 1976 to adjust the approved programs of grants to State universities for the years 1976 and 1977 respectively. The Bill maintains the real value of grants approved by the Government in the light of known variations in costs since adjustments were made in the Budget sittings last year. The additional amounts to be paid to the States have been calculated on the basis of cost levels for the December quarter 1976 for operating expenses and December 1976 for building expenditure. The additional amounts for 1976 total $7.3m of which $5.3m is for operating expenditure and $2m for building projects. In respect of the year 1977 an additional $ 15.9m is provided of which $ 15.6m is for operating expenditure and $300,000 for building projects.
Further amendments to the States Grants (Universities) Act 1976, in respect of grants for building projects, and to the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Act 1976 will be required as information becomes available on movements in costs during 1977.I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1976-77 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 26 May.
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $40,842,000.
– Last night the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) gave an explanation about some of the questions that I had raised in respect of division 270.4.09, which relates to Aboriginal Study Grants. I wish to refer again to the table on page 14 of the report presented by Estimates Committee C. That table was referred to last night. I do not yet have my copy of yesterday’s Hansard but I think the Minister said that the figures in that table referred to the number of students receiving the study grants at the end of each particular year. The table is entitled: ‘Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme- Numbers in training each year since inception of scheme (total number at some time during year)’. My first question is this: Does the reference to the total number at some time during the year indicate the number of students for that year as at the end of December?
A further query I have relates to the explanatory notes which the Estimates Committee had in front of it when considering the estimates for the Department of Education. In part the explanatory notes say that the original appropriation for 1976-77, $1.5m, was lower than the expenditure in 1975-76, $ 1.72m. It would have required restrictions to be imposed in 1977 on either the number of students or benefits. I ask the Minister whether a policy decision had been made, before the appropriation for 1976-77, that there would be fewer students or lesser benefits for that year. If that did happen, was a subsequent policy decision made to reverse that decision?
– As to the first question, yes, I am advised that it relates to the December figure. I think the honourable senator will find that that was the information I stated last night. As to the second question, there was no policy decision that there would be fewer students. There was an estimation of how many students there would be. It is very hard to estimate the number of students, bearing in mind that social and economic conditions and individual decisions of people are involved in making these determinations. What happened was that when it was discovered that the demand was bigger than the budgetary allocation provided for, a short term device employing the Tertiary Education Allowance Scheme was used and a longer term device to obtain more money was used. This is regarded as a very valuable scheme. There is no way by which any government ever has or ever can put an open ended amount of money on any line in the Budget. But in this case we have been able to resolve the matter by providing places for those who have come forward even though the demand over the period has exceeded our own estimates.
– I know that this matter has been resolved and that apparently the students who applied and who were eligible for a grant under the scheme have received one. Those who were placed on the Tertiary Education Allowances Scheme as a temporary measure have now been taken off it. But let me go back to the explanation that was given in the explanatory notes. It was said that the original appropriation for 1976-77 of $1.5m was lower than the expenditure in 1975-76 of $1. 72m and would have required restrictions to be imposed in 1977 on either the number of students or benefits. Can we take it from what the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has just said that the estimate of students that was used for providing the funds available under this appropriation was less for 1976-77 than for 1975- 76. If that is the case, I think that this is a sound explanation because when the number of students who applied for the grant was noted and when it was found that the Budget appropriation was not sufficient, extra funds were made available. But was it the case that it was estimated that there would be fewer students in 1976- 77.
Let me put the second question that I have. I think that the Minister will be able to explain the matters quite clearly. As one who is not too sure of how government finances are made available when there is a shortfall, as happened in this case, may I ask: In respect of those students who were placed on the Tertiary Education Allowances Scheme because sufficient funds were not available, how has money now been made available to place those students on the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme and payments made retrospective?
– Let me say in answer to the first question, as to what was the attitude of mind in arriving at the figure, that I think that 2 streams of thought were involved. There was a general appreciation of the likely numbers coming forward and, equally, a Budget which in every sense had restraints. But our aim was to meet the demands if we could. I stress that the key thing in this is that it is never thoroughly clear with Aboriginal students what the demand will be. The second part of the honourable senator’s question asks where we got the money from. It turned out that there were surplus funds in the Aboriginal Secondary Educational Grants Scheme, ABSEG, without there being any need for us to restrict ABSEG. So we used those funds. I suppose it could be said that, on the one hand, there was an underestimation of numbers or, on the other hand, there was an overestimation of numbers, even though the ABSEG numbers are moving up each year.
Aboriginal people make decisions to undertake studies from time to time for a variety of reasons. We can only do our best to meet their needs. If we can we try to have flexibility of policy. I think the expedients we used happily have reached the right conclusion. I think the honourable senator acknowledges that. Whether one could have had greater perception at the time of budgeting or whether also one had in one’s mind some sense of the ordinary restraints is a subjective judgment. But the expedients worked, as it turned out.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Science
Proposed expenditure, $4,568,000.
– I take the opportunity of this debate of the Estimates to ask the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) a question that I have been asking for a number of months. It relates to the Great Barrier Reef and the research into the problems the Barrier Reef area faces that a variety of committees have considered to be necessary. I ask the Minister: What research has been undertaken under the estimates for his Department to meet the problems of the Barrier Reef, with specific relationship with pollution from the mainland, over-fishing of the passage between the mainland and the Barrier Reef, and the general ravages inflicted on the Barrier Reef by shell collectors and spear fishermen. I list all the problems now because, although the Minister may not be able to answer these questions now, he may be able to do so at a later stage. I think it is wise that the matter should be raised in the Senate at this stage.
I go from the general to a particular matter and refer to the starfish infestation of the Great Barrier Reef. What progress has been made in this respect; what research moneys have been made available; what assessments of the problem has the Minister received; and when can he provide us with a further statement on this problem? I mention another problem faced by the Great Barrier Reef, although I do not think it concerns the Department of Science as much as possibly the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. In spite of recommendations by a number of committeessome Senate committees and some joint committees of the Parliament- a renewed case for the need to drill the Great Barrier Reef seems to be emerging. I have received a letter from the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) but, if what he says in the letter is correct, this problem does concern the Department of Science. I shall read part of the letter I received from Mr Newman in response to a question I asked about speculation on oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. The second paragraph reads as follows:
You will be aware that the previous government banned oil drilling in the Barrier Reef area pending research into possible effects of oil on the ecosystem of the Reef.
My view at the time of the previous Government- it is still my view- is that the previous Government banned oil drilling in the Barrier Reef area and the ban was not dependent upon research into the possible effects of oil on the ecosystem of the Reef. Oil drilling of the Great Barrier Reef, which is now the responsibility of the Great Barrier Reef Authority, was prohibited under the policy of the previous Government. I was of the opinion that it was the policy of the present Goverment as well. If, however, the ban is dependent upon research into the effect of oil on the ecosystem of the Reef then one must ask whether any research is being undertaken into the effects of oil on the ecosystem of the Reef and, if so, whether the Department of Science is involved in this research.
My view is that research may be necessary to discover what effects oil spills would have on the continental shelf. I am not saying we ought not to be engaged in that research; what I am saying is that the future of the Barrier Reef ought not to be dependent on that research. I thought the Barrier Reef area was excluded from the problem of oil spills and oil drilling. I should like the Minister for Science to take up this matter. I raise it because I think that, if there is a renewed interest in drilling the Great Barrier Reef, the organisations which took such an interest in this matter, those who strongly opposed oil drilling in this area and succeeded in having a prohibition applied, ought now to take a renewed interest in the matter. I repeat that although it may not be possible for the Minister to answer the various questions I have asked, I still believe it necessary to place the questions on record at this stage.
– As the honourable senator will realise, the general problems relating to the Great Barrier Reef do not fall totally within the area of science. The honourable senator mentioned pollution, overfishing of the area and the ravages of shellfish collectors. On several occasions he has expressed his interest in future research into the effects of the starfish. That has been a matter of concern to him over a number of years. All those matters certainly do not fall within the responsibility of the Department of Science. As was suggested by the honourable senator, it may be as well for me to look carefully and at his questions and, so far as I am able, bring forward a co-ordinated response in relation to the general requirement for research into many aspects of that part of Queensland. The honourable senator will know that the Queensland Government has prime responsibility in nearly all the areas he mentioned. The Federal Government in a variety of ways has taken a further interest in matters such as those that were mentioned by the honourable senator, including the crown of thorns starfish. I am unable to say whether the situation is as outlined by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman). My understanding is that research is going on at the present time into the effect of oil on marine life within the Reef area. My understanding is that the prime work is being done in the State area in Queensland. The Federal Government’s interest, of course, has flowed from funding some of the bodies, as I recall it, which were mentioned by Senator Georges. Obviously any information in this area gained by the Institute of Marine Science at Townsville will flow through to my Department. It is not my Department’s prime responsibility to be looking at the effect of oil slick on the Great Barrier Reef itself. The
High Court decision relating to responsibility may place some further responsibility on the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. I understand that this Department is allocating funds for this purpose.
– Are you referring to the submerged lands case or some other High Court decision?
-No. It would be as a result of the submerged lands case that some responsibility is placed on the Commonwealth in these areas. However, I am unable to comment on whether the Government has made a final decision with regard to oil drilling which was banned by the previous Government. I am not able to state exactly what the situation is at the moment because the matter is not within my portfolio or related to these estimates.
– I must persist with this because I do believe that the Minister is not aware of the responsibility that the Commonwealth Government now has. He is still of the opinion that the prime responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef rests with Queensland. I would have thought that because of the legislation which was passed and which was upheld by the High Court the prime responsibility rested with the Australian Government. It is not a matter for the State to determine what research will be carried out and what will be the effects flowing from that research. I believe it is the responsibility of the Australian Government. I know that 2 departments are involved. If the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development has been carrying out research, surely it would be carrying out that research with the assistance of the Minister’s Department. It would be quite unacceptable if the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development set up a whole area of scientific research without the cooperation and full involvement of the Minister’s Department. That is the question that I am putting to him.
Let me make this point clear. As far as the Opposition is concerned because of the legislation for which the Labor Government was responsible, the responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef rests with the Australian Government. The Australian Government has appointed an authority and it has also appointed a consultative committee. I do not doubt that the Department of Science is represented on that consultative committee. I would like to challenge what the Minister has said. The prime responsibility is not that of the State. The prime responsibility lies with the Commonwealth Government and for that reason the Minister has a prime responsibility in this area.
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is studying the effect of oil on fish and other reef life. Its studies are not necessarily concentrated on the Great Barrier Reef. I shall endeavour to obtain a comprehensive response to the honourable senator’s question.
– I seek information from the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) on a different matter. I am conscious of the massive reservoir of scientific know-how that he has in the Department that he controls but I am concerned with the dissemination of that information. In July a biannual meeting of the State Ministers responsible for wild life conservation and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) will be held. Numerous papers are prepared by Dr Frith and his colleagues on a wide variety of marsupials and bird life. Are those reports compulsory reading for State Conservation Ministers? They certainly should be, in view of the utterances that some of them make. I say that seriously. When they meet in July, will their officers be supplied with some of these in-depth studies that have been made by the Minister’s officers?
The second point I want to raise deals with scientific research. We now have a Minister for Productivity. I should like to refer to the wider field of noise- construction workers using jackhammers and that sort of thing. When decibel readings of the noise of such equipment are made is any research carried out by officers of the Minister’s Department? If it is, is the information fed back to the Department of Productivity and to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations? I give the Committee a particular illustration. Many honourable senators are aware of the problems in the Northern Territory when people use jackhammers- dust in the air and potential silicosis and even, in the case of asbestos workers, the possibility of lung cancer. Is pure industrial research carried out by officers of the Minister’s Department or are these problems deemed to be medical problems to be studied by officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health?
– I feel confident that the information that is produced by the Division of Wildlife Research would be sent to all interested parties in the wildlife field and would certainly be sent to State Ministers. I can not say positively whether it is compulsory reading for a particular person.
– I will not name the 2 State Ministers that I had in mind.
-Obviously I would not be able to say whether it was compulsory reading. Senator Mulvihill, in view of his great interest, might write to the 2 appropriate Ministers if he feels that they are not well versed in the research being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. However, I am of the view that for the past 12 months at least the information that has flowed into the media from CSIRO about its activities has been greater than previously. It has been my responsibility to see that information from the many divisions of CSIRO is made available to the public. I believe that this is happening and has happened in greatly increased volume over the past 12 months. If Senator Mulvihill has a suggestion as to how the information that flows from Dr Frith and his Division of Wildlife Research could be circulated more widely, I would be pleased to hear from him. I believe that this information is sent to all bodies that are interested. These papers come across my desk regularly.
Several instrumentalities are carrying out research into the problem of noise. It is of immense importance. The CSIRO, despite the light resources it has at the moment, has allocated people to this study. They even go into industry and attempt to identify the original sources of noise in high revolution machinery which may be objectionable to those working in the area or those nearby. It has been brought to my attention that after such studies have been carried out it has been possible to reduce the noise greatly to the benefit of the environment. The National Standards Commission funds a number of bodies which take unto themselves the requirement of setting standards for noise. There are some groups of people involved in industry who voluntarily, with some assistance in their secretarial work, attempt to assist in this research field, so establishing for the Australian Government some standard relating to the decibel level that we are able to stand within the community. So in respect of the 2 areas that the honourable senator mentioned, he can be assured that research is being done. I will attempt to get more information and supply it to him.
– As a postscript to this dialogue and with all due deference to my colleague Senator Cavanagh, it is possible that there are papers in existence- and I am prompted by the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australia in this regard- showing decibel readings in heavy engineering shops and the effect the noise has on the eardrums of overhead crane drivers. There may be such a paper. There is no comment from Senator Cavanagh. I am curious to know whether there are any such papers that I could study. Perhaps the FED&FA and other unions that cover overhead crane drivers could use them in future arbitration award hearings. I think some research has been done on the noise in boiler shops and places like that where the noise goes up from the shop floor but not on decibel readings for crane drivers working say, 50 feet or 70 feet above the floor. Perhaps the Minister’s officers can tell me whether there are any papers in existence on that type of research.
– I take note of the honourable senator’s question and I will attempt to ensure that his interest in overhead crane drivers is rewarded. Obviously noise generated in industry is an important subject to all employees and indeed has a bearing in workers’ compensation hearings these days.
– The crane driver never listens, that is the trouble.
-Both honourable senators who addressed me were deeply involved in union activity in their earlier days and they know of the problems relating to noise and the interest that the plasterers’ union and the union covering heavy crane drivers have in this subject. I will attempt to answer their queries.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of the Northern Territory
Proposed expenditure, $795,000.
-There are two or three matters I wish to raise briefly. The first relates to loans for the encouragement of primary production as referred to in the report of Estimates Committee E at page 3.
– I will get some guidance. I believe this comes under Appropriation Bill (No. 4), division 857.
– No. I am on Appropriation Bill (No. 3), I understand.
– I do understand because I am proposing to address comment on this myself.
-I bow to your ruling.
-Let me be certain of my ruling first. What you have put comes under Appropriation Bill (No. 4) which will follow the disposal of Appropriation Bill (No. 3).
– Thank you. There was another matter which relates to the strength of the Northern Territory Police Force. I think this falls under the same division.
– I believe that it does. The appropriation for the Northern Territory Police Force does in fact come under division 459 in the Bill that we are dealing with at the moment, so you are in order.
-Thank you. Perhaps I could commence with an apology. I raise these matters at the insistence of my colleague Senator Kilgariff who is unable to be in the Senate this morning. I wish to direct attention to the figures which are disclosed at page 1 7 of the report of Senate Estimates Committee E. I think it is an appendix arising from a letter from the Department of the Northern Territory to the Secretary of the Committee. On page 5 of the letter certain figures are given as to the approved strength and the actual strength of the Northern Territory Police Force. The approved establishment is shown as 468, the approved ceiling as 448 and the actual strength as at 30 April 1977 as 438. So the force is under strength and having regard to the crime rate in the Territory I ask the Minister whether some action can be taken to bring the force up to strength.
– I am advised that a paper has been circulated- this is on page 1 7- in the form of a letter from the Minister for the Northern Territory to the Secretary of Estimates Committee E. As the honourable senator has indicated, it is quite a lengthy letter which dealt with many things. It dealt with the strength of the Northern Territory Police Force. I agree that the force is under strength at the present time. I am advised that 22 police trainees have graduated in recent times, that is, since this letter was forwarded, and this would boost the strength of the force. My recollection of the evidence that was given to Estimates Committee E is to the effect that there was difficulty in recruiting suitable people for the force. It is an excellent force and because of the standards which are required it has not always been possible for the administration to keep the force at full strength.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Construction
Proposed expenditure, $3,862,000.
– There are 2 matters on which I would like an explanation. One is the payment of workers’ compensation under subdivision 2.05.I am much concerned with the increased appropriations which are sought each year for workers’ compensation. I would like to know whether anything has been done within the Department of Construction for the purpose of trying to avoid accidents rather than the Parliament appropriating each year increased amounts of money because of the number of accidents that have happened. In the Budget the appropriation for workers compensation is $135,000. An extra $55,000 is sought so obviously there was a shortfall of the estimated requirements up to June. This Department is apparently paying out about $190,000 a year in workers’ compensation. I think many of the accidents that happen at work and which justify the payment of workers’ compensation are avoidable. I very much doubt that all safety precautions are taken on construction jobs for employees within this Department. What is the reason for the additional appropriation of $55,000 which is being sought? Has there been an increase in the number of accidents above that which was anticipated at Budget time? Expenditure for the year 1975-76 was $125,000 on workers compensation. It is nearly $200,000 today. This is a big increase. I wonder whether some accidents could be avoided with more housekeeping on job sites and more care being taken to protect employees. I would also like to know the additional expenditure for furniture and fittings supplied to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for which there was no appropriation in the last Budget.
-My understanding is that this matter of compensation was raised originally at the estimates committee hearing. I think it was decided there that if one looked at the figure, it would be realised that the Department of Construction, with its very large body of employees, had an excellent safety record and had a low application rate for workers compensation. One must recognise that some the awards of a court in relation to compensation for individual people may be extremely high. The honourable senator would know that the requirement for employers to insure those employees engaged in the construction industry means that they must pay one of the highest insurance premium levels because of the very great risks associated with working in that type of industry. My recollection is that either at the last estimates committee hearing or at the one previous to it, officers of the Department of Construction described the committee that had been set up and the way in which it attempted to reduce the incidence of accidents on all work which is now within the purview of the Department. I think I would be correct in saying that the transcript of evidence of the estimates committee either for this year or for the previous year would show that. I can only say that I am unable to comment on the amount of $55,000. If that is the figure, I can only suggest to the honourable senator that in view of the very large area of employment of this Department, it appears to me, at least, to be a very low figure. The honourable senator can be assured that this Department has a specific committee whose work is related to the reduction of incidence of injury to employees of the Department.
The honourable senator asked a question relating to the furniture referred to in a particular item. There is no officer with me who is able to give me a list of that furniture. If it will suit the honourable senator I will ensure that a letter is forwarded to him outlining the actual equipment which was supplied under that particular item. I will study the honourable senator’s question in Hansard to find out his actual requirements.
– I accept the Minister’s reply concerning furniture and fittings for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I would greatly appreciate the information at some future date. I want to point out that the Department of Construction does not have a large force on construction sites. It has a large work force employed mostly in the clerical or supervisory area which attracts a low risk insurance premium. The forces on construction sites mainly are provided by contractors and are not covered by this appropriation as these contractors supply their own workers compensation. The Department has a maintenance force in the field of construction but there has been a reduction in staff in that area. Whether their overall record is good or bad, with a reduced work force at this time in this area of risk on construction sites- that is, the overall work force- the point is that there is a big increase over the appropriation for 1 975-76. This seems to me to indicate some lack of safety precautions.
I have taken up with the Minister the question of the operation of the Department in Adelaide where there seemed to be a club system of promotion. The most efficient construction expert, the most efficient tradesman, the one with the greatest ability to organise is not, of necessity, obtaining promotion. Promotion seems to be given to someone in the group favoured by the management in Adelaide. Is this a cause? Is the reduced manpower in the maintenance area today one cause? Is it due to the fact that there is not a gang, a group, which seems to give some protection, or is it due to the fact that the individual working on his own today is not supplied with sufficient scaffolding or has less time to clean up a job? The main cause of injury on construction sites is the rubbish that is left hanging around the job. Is this a cause? In a period in which there has been a reduction in staff there has been an increase in compensation. I want to find out why this is so. It is no use saying that the Department has a good safety record. The record is getting bad if compensation payments are increasing at a time when the staff is being reduced.
– In my opinion one of the great benefits of the system of estimates committees which has been developed by the Senate is the ability of senators to come along to an estimates committee- in this case Estimates Committee E under the chairmanship of Senator Wright- and ask the most intensive and direct questions, through the Minister, of the officer who is most appropriate to answer that question. At Estimates Committee E, when the Department of Construction was being examined, it probably would have been possible to obtain a direct answer to the direct question asked by Senator Cavanagh. He has raised matters such as higher compensation payments this year whilst there is a reduction in staff. I would need to check my answer but my understanding is that the Department is responsible for a very large work force. The figure in my mind is of the order of 1 2 000.
– Overall in administration.
– I know of the honourable senator’s interest in this matter. I do not know whether Senator Wright, as a former Minister for Works, would agree that at one stage the figure was 17 000, if I remember correctly. That figure depends on whether there is day labour or contract labour. The senator mentioned that on many large jobs, where the role of the staff of the Department of Construction is purely supervisory, there is not a great number of staff engaged in actual construction. Nevertheless, the day labour force requires compensation cover by the Commonwealth.
– There is only a maintenance force on construction sites.
-The Department of Science calls on the Department of Construction for some jobs which run into many thousands of dollars. The Department must do the work itself.
– No, it does not. It lets out the job to a contractor.
-Well, Senator, your knowledge may be correct in that regard.
– The Department of Construction’s labour force is practically entirely given over to maintenance and repair.
-That depends on the limits of what is considered to be maintenance and repair.
– It includes regions where contractors cannot be procured.
– With the expert advice of Senator Wright I am able to answer the question that Senator Cavanagh asks. With regard to what is the normal level of compensation, obviously it would be agreed that in no year could one predict that the figure required for compensation will be at a particular level or whether it should be extremely high to cover compensation for such things as loss of life or loss of limb. One accident may require very high compensation compared with that for a thousand other accidents. I remember the question about rubbish on sites being raised at the estimates committee. It would be my view that this Government Department is perhaps more alert of the need to keep sites clean, whether for efficiency of access or for the ideal of keeping the accident rate as low as possible, than many private firms are. I have heard the honourable senator ask questions in this place relating to South Australia. He has some knowledge of what the Department does there. If there is anything particularly relating to that State which he would wish me to take up with the Minister on studying the request in Hansard I will do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in relation to the appropriation of $57,000 for works on Parliament House. Who is responsible for the maintenance of the roof of Parliament House? Is it the Department of Construction or is it the people who are employed permanently at Parliament House in the carpenter’s shop? I have a further question to ask when I get that answer.
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question as to who is responsible for the maintenance of the roof of Parliament House. If one looked at responsibilities -
– Any maintenance for the building; let me put it that way.
– I would imagine that, where maintenance to the building is required, the Department of Construction would be called in. Whether it would be given a blanket requirement to keep all the leaks out of Parliament House itself I do not know.
– You have a security service for that.
– If the Department was, I imagine that a number of Ministers would have called it in before now.
– May I give the Committee some guidance on this matter? Items of expenditure relating to Parliament House are covered in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) which we will be dealing with after we have disposed of Appropriation Bill (No. 3 ). I think it would be more appropriate and more correct- I do not want to stop what the Minister is saying now- if we were to deal with such expenditure later.
– I bow to your wisdom, Mr Temporary Chairman. I have not a lot to contribute on the question which I thought was quite appropriate because it asked whether the Commonwealth’s main maintenance and construction authority had responsibility for the maintenance of the roof of Parliament House. I think instructions to that authority would come from within Parliament House. I understand that it is not the prime responsibility of the Department of Construction to look after the roof of Parliament House. That is my understanding. If there is any amendment to that comment, I will give it to the honourable senator in writing.
Let me just refer to the 2 questions that Senator Cavanagh raised. These matters were dealt with by Estimates Committee E on 3 May 1977.I refer the honourable senator, perhaps without taking up too much time of the Committee, to pages 238 and 239 of the Hansard report. The matter of the payments under the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act is dealt with in questions by Committee members and in answers by officers. Senator Cavanagh queried the matter of furniture and fittings for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. That matter was raised and answered on page 239.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, you have said that perhaps I should raise the matter of repairs to Parliament House in debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 4).
– Yes. Let me guide the honourable senator. Division 83 1 on page 4 of Appropriation Bill (No. 4) specifically states: ‘Capital Works and ServicesBuildings and Works- Departmental . . . Parliament House’. However the honourable senator may have some comment appropriate to Appropriation Bill (No. 3).
– I take the opportunity to make a comment in the Committee stage because I believe honourable senators are allowed some latitude in their remarks. There is a major leak in Parliament House. It is only rain coming in it is not a leak of information about which I am concerned at present. Perhaps Senator Webster might be able to get some information before we finish consideration of this appropriation.
During the last fortnight’s recess rain poured in on the Senate side firstly through the roof into Senator Button’s office. When that office soaked up as much as it could, the water came down the wall into my office. When I returned to Parliament House my office was like a musty old dungeon. In the course of trying to get the resultant odour out of my office by drying out the carpet, the carpenters who work in the building on a permanent basis had to remove the windows which were stuck and would not go up and down. I find from talking to the carpenters that they have great difficulty in getting equipment and parts to do any work around Parliament House. There is a whole chain of procedures to go through including the writing of orders and dockets. They should have some latitude if a part such as nails, screws or items of that nature are required so as to enable them to carry out their work expeditiously. They ought to be able to get these parts immediately without having to wait a week. I have a cracked window pane in my office. I understand that new glass cannot be obtained for some days and probably will not be available until next week. Therefore, it is patched up with sticky tape. This is not the way to run a parliament house. In my view it is an example of penny pinching. I think that whoever is responsible ought immediately to take steps to rectify the situation so that people working in the carpenters’ shop here have the necessary authority to be able to get the equipment they need immediately it is required.
– I acknowledge the honourable senator’s question. I do not think that it falls within the purview of the Department of Construction. There is an authority for Parliament House. Obviously the on-going maintenance of the House basically would be the responsibility of the President and the Speaker. If there is information that I can bring to the honourable senator I will do so.
– The reason I thought the responsibility would be with the Department of Construction is that in the report of the Committee mention is made of the expenditure involved in updating the Speaker’s suite. Quite a bit ofrenovation was carried out there. I thought that, if the Department of Construction has responsibility for making the Speaker’s suite more livable, surely the Department is responsible for making the offices of the members of this Parliament more livable.
– Taking up this matter, I point out that the responsibility for all repairs and maintenance to Parliament House is vested in the Speaker and the President. I do not know that those who from time to time occupy the positions of Speaker and President have a great knowledge of the building trade, so they call on some agency for the purpose of doing repairs. The maintenance staff in the House comprises I believe painters, electricians and carpenters. Anything of a major alteration or maintenance character is carried out by the Department of Construction. That is the authority which attends mainly to the maintenance and any additional construction in Parliament House. The Speaker and the President are clients of the Department.
Many difficulties are involved with respect to Parliament House. There will not be a solution to the problems arising from the flat type roof because of its age. Whether it can be completely reroofed or re-flushed or whether the joints will hold the flushing I do not know. Ever since I have been here we have had the problem of a leaking roof. I think we can attribute this problem to the flat type roof. It is not only the roof but the whole of Parliament House which needs examination. Parliament House has been assessed as one of the greatest fire hazards in Canberra. Whether we will go up in smoke I do not know. The floorboards down the passageways, which are in 1 2 foot joints from joist to joist, are full of services cables. Electricity cables are everywhere and continual repairs are being carried out. The Department of Construction admits that the fire dangers in Parliament House are terrific. It may be that the water from the leaks will help to quench a fire if a fire occurs. We are living daily in unsatisfactory conditions with very little hope of solution.
We are told that in 1988 we might get another Parliament House. Let us hope that the doors to this Parliament House are open so that we can escape if the need arises. Parliament House has been neglected. The Department of Construction possibly does have a responsibility when it lets a contract for certain work and the workmanship maybe is unsatisfactory. There is a lot to consider, including the age of the building and, I think, the preparedness of the Parliament to authorise massive repairs and maintenance to the House. It was built for a temporary purpose. Now there is demolition of the building inside.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of the Capital Territory
Proposed expenditure, $1,645,000.
– First I seek from the Minister information as to whether this sum includes any money for restocking the Molonglo River with trout, having regard to the joint New South WalesCommonwealth project that is rehabilitating or stabilising the outflow of tailings into that river from the Captains Flat mining shaft. Secondly, as the Minister would know, successive Ministers for the Capital Territory visualised the gradual absorption of private land in the Gudgenby Creek national park or, in broader terms, the catchment area. I do not expect an answer off the cuff now. Could I have a table showing the current acreages of Australian Capital Territory land designated as national parks and park reserves, with particular reference to any land reverting to the Crown? Thirdly, some of the earlier industrial projects visualised for Jervis Bay were not proceeded with, such as the steel works and a few other things. I have not been there recently. Are any holes in the ground left from those projects? Who is responsible for filling them? They are the 3 matters in which I am interested.
– I doubt whether I could add very much detail to the 3 questions raised by the honourable senator. They are matters on which I shall have to seek written advice for him. I am sure he would require that. The Estimates Committee system is a wonderful system by which we are able to bring from a department the person who is directly responsible for the putting of estimates to a government to adopt. He knows the projects. He knows the work. Through the Minister, he is available to answer directly particular questions. I recognise the difficulty that some members have in attending committee meetings to ask questions when other committees are sitting. The method that we have instituted gives us an opportunity to deal efficiently with the estimates and to get full information at first hand. However, within a few days I shall get this answer for the honourable senator.
– I respond to that speech in a very gentle fashion. As the Minister comes from a rural area, he would know that the best kelpie dog has its limitations as to the size of the flock that it can control. Senators are mobile, but even I cannot attend 3 committees simultaneously. That is what is boils down to.
– I wish to say a few words on this matter because I am concerned at the Minister’s remarks on this occasion and on a previous occasion when we were discussing the estimates for the Department of Construction. The establishment of the wonderful system of Estimates Committees was opposed by the Opposition because we had some doubts about taking from the Committee of the Whole the right to ask the questions that we did ask before the Estimates Committees came into operation. We were assured that questions could be asked in the Committee of the Whole. Those who did not attend Estimates Committee meetings or could not attend them had the right to ask questions in the Committee of the Whole. The Estimates Committee system was never intended to be a substitute for the Committee of the Whole. Now we are told that the departmental officers who can supply the information attend the Estimates Committees but not the Committee of the Whole. The Committee of the Whole is now taking a secondary role to the Estimates Committees, contrary to what was promised at the time of their establishment. That was never intended. That should not apply. The Committee of the Whole is the major place where these things should be discussed. Because more intimate answers can be obtained at the Estimates Committees they have continued. While they are an established fact at present, they should not seek to impose themselves upon the Committee of the Whole. The right to ask questions and get an answer remains with the Committee of the Whole.
– I hasten to add that the honourable senator is right. That is certainly the situation. Senators are entitled to ask questions. Senator Cavanagh may have been put at a disadvantage because the 2 questions which he asked me earlier had already been asked at the Estimates Committee. I referred him to the pages of Hansard where the written replies were available. I did that only in the interests of efficiency. If the honourable senator had an interest in the matter, a study of Hansard would have revealed the replies which he wanted.
– I want to make a few comments along the same lines as Senator Cavanagh.
– Before you do, I am wondering whether I am in order in allowing this philosophical discussion to take place when we are dealing with precise items of expenditure. I am in some doubt. I hope that any comments you make will relate to the matter with which we are dealing.
– I relate my remarks to the answer given by the Minister, although he clarified it after Senator Cavanagh spoke. Great difficulties are imposed on senators who attend diligently committees to which they are appointed. I was appointed a member of Estimates Committee A. Senators appointed to a committee are unable to attend other committees to ask questions. A view seems to be developing in this place that if in the Committee of the Whole a senator asks questions to get answers to matters which were dealt with by committees which he was unable to attend, he is holding up the business of the Committee of the Whole. I do not take very kindly to those charges being laid against senators. Senators who attend diligently the Estimates Committee to which they have been appointed are prevented from attending other committees. Senator Harradine said yesterday that he did not seek appointment to any committee because he wanted to flit from one to another, pursuing points of interest here and there. That is not good enough, in my view. A senator must be strong and attach himself to one or two committees and carry out the work he is elected to do. If a senator does that and wants to pursue other avenues at other committees, surely he should not be upbraided for asking questions in the Committee of the Whole about matters discussed by other committees. Surely a senator should not be told that he is holding up the work of the Committee of the Whole. I reserve my right to ask questions in the Committee of the Whole.
– I take up the point raised by Senator Cavanagh because I think it is an important one. While I recognise that the Minister has agreed with the general complaint, I remind him, as I remind you, Mr Temporary Chairman, of the discussions held in this chamber in relation to the setting up of the Estimates Committees. Quite a broad section of senators felt that the main forum for discussion of the business of the Parliament and the expenditure of the Government was the Committee of the Whole. We were divided in that view. Those who supported the setting up of the Estimates Committees felt that those committees could play a very valuable role. Others disagreed. Senator Cavanagh was one. He had his reasons. He advanced his reasons today. Most of us agree that an honourable senator it entitled to receive information during the sitting of the Committee of the Whole even if it is a repetition of what might have been supplied to an Estimates Committee. Senator McLaren and other honourable senators have pointed out that it is impossible for senators to apply themselves to all the committees. Most senators have a number of interests. I had to direct myself to one committee, but I was interested in 3 subjects being considered by 3 different committees. Everybody would agree that nowadays the Senate is involved more in committee work. All of us are involved in committees of the Parliament and party committees. Consequently, it is impossible to keep track of all the replies which are recorded in Hansard. Sometimes replies are not adequate.
When the Estimates Committees were set up originally at the time when Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was Leader of the Government in the Senate everybody agreed that no honourable senator should be inhibited in discussing points in the Committee of the Whole even though the details sough may have been provided to an Estimates Committee. It would be a bad thing if we took the view that because a matter was partly answered before the Estimates Committees the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole directed that it could not be followed up. We want to keep this place broadly advised about the workings of all committees. I hope that the initial arrangements agreed upon when we set up these committees are adhered to. At one time there was a move to disband the Estimates Committees. I hope that they continue on the original basis.
– I have been prompted to enter this discussion by the thoughtless remarks recently made by Senator McLaren. He seemed to accuse me of flitting from committee to committee and implied that that was not good enough; that I ought to be elected to one committee, do my job on that committee, and then perhaps raise other matters in the Committee of the Whole. It was only out of deference to the Australian Labor Party that I did not put my name forward for nomination to any of the committees, because had I done so, under standing orders, I would have taken one of its places on a committee.
– That is what I objected to the other day at question time.
-Of course you object to it and then you object to my refusing to go on to a committee and being able to go from committee to committee, giving adequate notice to the secretaries of the various committees. Senator McLaren cannot have it both ways. He now says that he objects. What then am I supposed to do?
– I am not on a committee.
-Of course. You are another one.
-(Senator Devitte) - Order! I ask Senator Harradine to resume his seat. When the subject came up earlier I expressed concern that we were entering into a philosophical discussion when in fact our responsibility is to deal with the items of proposed expenditure. I think I would be in order in asking the Committee to proceed with the examination of those items now. If the honourable senators engaged in the present discussion wish to continue their debate, they might do so more appropriately at a later time. I ask for co-operation and assistance to let us get on with the job.
– I accept that.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $18,904,000.
– I refer to repatriation benefits under division 527.I wish to question whether the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is meeting all the requirements. The case of Mr Skowronski has come to my notice. He was a member of the Polish Air Force. He fought for the allied forces until Poland was occupied. He then became a member of the Polish Air Force of the Free Government of Poland in exile under the command of the Royal Air Force. After the war he migrated to
Australia and became an Australian citizen. During his service to the allied cause he suffered an injury. He was granted a repatriation pension in Adelaide in 1972. Because of his income I believe the pension was only $ 1 1 a fortnight. It was paid until 7 June 1 976, when he received a letter from Mr J. Marshall on behalf of the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation. It reads:
It has been necessary to give further consideration to your eligibility for a service pension which was granted because you had produced a statement of service and certificate of discharge issued by the Royal Air Force.
Briefly, to be eligible for a service pension you would need to have served as a member of the naval, military or air forces of a country (other than Australia) that is, or was, during that person’s service, a part of the dominions of the Crown.
It has been confirmed from Army Records Centre (Polish ) that your service was as follows:
Polish Air Force under British Command- 1 1.6.42 to 30.6.43
Polish Air Force ( RAF)- 1 . 7.43 to 8. 1 . 47
Polish Resettlement Corps (RAF)-9. 1.47 to 1 7.3.47
His service under the British command first and then in the Polish Air Force under the RAF entitled him to a discharge certificate from the RAF. The letter continued:
Information has been received from the British authorities that shortly after Dunkirk a Free Polish Government in exile was formed. With effect from 6.8.40 all Polish Air Force personnel were reformed as the Free Polish Air Force under the nominal jurisdiction of the Free Polish Government in exile. They were not then regarded as part of the RAF -
This is despite the fact that he worked under the RAF all the time. The British command did not regard them as part of the RAF but as a separate allied force and their service pay was made available from funds held by the Free Polish Government in exile. The letter went on:
Although you served under British Command it is now clear that you were a member of the Polish Air Force and that you are not eligible for a service pension.
This is after the pension had been paid for some 5 years. The letter continued:
Payment of your pension has therefore been stopped from 17 June. However, enquiries are being made as to what further action should be taken and I will let you know when a reply is received. In the meantime it is suggested that you apply to the Department of Social Security if you are unable to work.
I am sorry for the inconvenience which has occurred.
He is unable to work at present because of an injury. He has applied to the Department of Social Security and is ineligible for benefit because his wife is working. That is the position of this individual who suffered war caused injury under British command. Because it was found that he had been under the jurisdiction of the Free Polish Government in Exile his pension payments were stopped after having been paid for 5 years. On a date in October 1976-1 think, according to my copy, the date is 17 October- Mr Marshall again wrote to Mr Skowronski. He said:
Further to my letter of 7 June 1 976, it has been confirmed that your service as a member of the Polish Forces does not entitle you to a service pension.
Although the pension has been cancelled, it is not proposed to take any action about the payments you did receive.
– I was going to ask you about that. It is a wonder they did not.
-It is not proposed to take any action. Therefore I suppose he must be grateful. I wonder whether that action is the correct interpretation of the provisions of the Act in the case of a person who has had service with the RAF. I wonder whether in serving the Free Polish Government in Exile this man, in terms of the Act as it is drawn, qualifies for a benefit. I wonder whether Nelson’s blind eye cannot be turned, in repatriation matters at any rate, to many of the claims that are made. I believe that in the case of this particular claim consideration should be given to his service and that some compensation should be made for an acute disability which he suffered while serving with the British Air Force.
- Senator Cavanagh has raised an individual case involving a rather complicated set of facts. He raised a number of problems as to eligibility for various types of pension. Probably I should not endeavour to answer the matter raised in the Committee of the Whole without conducting a full investigation into all the details. Senator Cavanagh has already given us enough information to allow the matter to be fully investigated. Perhaps he might like to give in writing supplementary information to that which he has already given or perhaps he might like to see me about the matter. However, he has given sufficient in his remarks to enable me to say that he has raised the problem of eligibility for the service pension of people who served in allied forces during the war. That matter has been the subject of quite a lot of discussion in the last year or more. I recently answered some questions in the Senate in relation to it. Senator Harradine in particular asked me some questions about it.
Broadly, the position is that eligibility for the service pension was extended by the Labor Government to those who served in the forces of Commonwealth countries; but it has not been extended to those who served with allied forces generally. A good deal of argument and many submissions have been put up to the effect that it should be so extended. If that were done it would comprehend a person such as the man mentioned by Senator Cavanagh who served under British command but as part of the Polish Air Force. Other Polish forces served under British command.
– Under General Anders’ command.
-The best known were those who served in Tobruk. I have said that the Government is sympathetic to the claims made by those people. In fact, it is the policy of the Liberal and National Country parties to consider extending eligibility for the service pension to include those people. I am looking at the matter again in the Budget context. At this stage no decision has been made or can be made. Of course, the major problem is to keep government expenditure under restraint. One of the problems is that it is very difficult to ascertain the cost to revenue of such an extension.
As regards the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh, it would appear that consideration has to be given to the question of whether the former Polish airman received a disability pension from the British Government. The British Government does pay a pension for disability, but not a service pension. I understand from what Senator Cavanagh said that this man suffered some disability. It may be that he had been receiving a disability pension. However, that is something that we would have to check out in detail.
The only other point that occurs to me in relation to what Senator Cavanagh has said is that the gentleman apparently is not eligible under the means test for an age pension because his wife is working. Of course, the service pension also is subject to a means test, almost the same means test that is applied to the age pension. It would be unlikely, therefore, that he would be eligible to receive a service pension if he were not eligible to receive the age pension on the ground of means.
– If the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) agrees to look into the matter I can give him no further particulars than those I have read into the Hansard record and which are contained in the 2 letters written by Mr Marshall. As the Minister would know, Mr Marshall is the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs. Apparently he decided to terminate the payment of the pension after determining that this man does not qualify. So whoever was paying the pension, obviously it was being paid through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I do not know whether the Department was acting as an agent for the British Government or whether the pension was granted by the Australian Government, and I do not think the man concerned knows who was actually paying it. However, a pension was paid. The Minister has just suggested in his reply and Mr Marshall suggested in his letter that the Act provides for the payment of the pension only to citizens of a dominion of the British Crown. Therefore the judgment was made on the basis of the Australian Act. If that was the justification for refusing to continue to pay the pension, it looks as though the payment was made by Australia. However, the Department would have records to show that.
I wish to clear up the matter. The Department of Social Security has determined that he is not entitled to an age pension because he is not yet 65 years of age. His inability to work would qualify him to receive an invalid pension but the payment of that pension is subject to a means test. He can receive an invalid pension only if his wife gives up work. As he said, he is not destitute at the present time. His occupation was an aircraft welder, for which one has to have high qualifications in the welding field. He has said also that he has always been highly paid in his work. For the first time he does not have an income of his own and he has to ask his wife for the money to buy a packet of cigarettes. That is a humiliating experience for a man who has provided for his family all his life. I can do no more than ask the Minister to examine the details of the matter that I have read into Hansard.
– I want to ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) whether he is having any trouble in his Department because of the staff ceilings. I ask him whether there is any problem in processing the pension applications lodged with his Department and whether, when an application is granted, he has sufficient staff to enable him to notify other departments that a pension has been granted by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and thus prevent from happening what occurred in relation to a case that has been brought to my attention. This person, who was in receipt of a social security benefit and was then accepted under the wing of the Minister’s Department and received a Service pension, was still receiving cheques from the Department of
Social Security. He then received a letter from the Department of Social Security asking for the repayment of $ 1 , 000 and he is unable to find the money.
This situation has been brought about because the Department of Veterans’ Affairs did not notify the Department of Social Security in time to stop the payment of these cheques. It might not be all the fault of the Minister’s Department. No doubt some fault lies with the Department of Social Security which may be running into troubles with staff ceilings. I would like the Minister to say whether his Department is having any problems in that area. In conclusion, I hope that the Department of Social Security will take the same action as that mentioned by Senator Cavanagh and will waive any claims for the recovery of money that has been overpaid through no fault of the pensioner.
– I am trying to ascertain how many pensions are paid by my Department. Obviously, the number is very large. On the clerical and administrative side, the Department has a staff of something like 3500 people in the various regional offices in Australia. So some mistakes are bound to occur. These are rectified as well and as quickly as is possible. The honourable senator asked whether staff ceilings are causing any trouble in this regard. It has not been brought to my attention that there is any problem in the Department as a result ofstaff ceilings.
– What about in hospitals?
-I am talking about the administrative and clerical side with which the question is concerned. Senator Bishop mentions the hospitals. Pockets of difficulty have been created in implementing some of the changes associated with staff ceilings. They have not been major difficulties. We have been able to rearrange the staff and move them from places where there have been more than enough to p laces where there has been a temporary prob- lem. There was some industrial problem at the end of last year with the Hospital Employees Federation but that was resolved and I am not aware of any further difficulties which have occurred.
As to the general question of staff ceilings, this is a matter to which the Government attaches the highest importance and priority. The Government has said that where any pockets of difficulties arise these will be considered and, if really necessary, changes can be made in individual ceilings in a particular area. No major problem of that kind has arisen in my Department but, as I have said, where some minor difficulties have arisen in one place or another these have been attended to as quickly as possible. However, it must be understood that with a very large staffing as there is throughout the repatriation institutions- I think that in excess of 7000 people are employed in those institutions around Australiasome problems naturally arise. The Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs has escaped very lightly as far as staff ceilings are concerned. Of course, that is due to the recognition by the Government of the most important and direct services in the health and welfare field, particularly in the institutions, rendered by the Department.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations
Proposed expenditure, $8,574,000.
– I refer to page 28 of the report of Estimates Committee F which contains a letter from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, to me concerning the long drawn out proceedings in regard to award breaches by James Richardson Pty Ltd which holds a concession at the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport. I have traversed this matter in the second reading debate but I want to relate my remarks to the appeasement policy that has been followed in trying to reach agreement with the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate. Senator Douglas McClelland has spoken about the laxity in presenting up to date reports, and that structure can be applied in the case of the report of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate for the period 1 July 1 975 to 30 June 1 976. The Inspectorate, drawing attention to government policy, said:
In December 1975 the Government decided that the more rigorous award enforcement policy introduced by the former Government in 1973 should be reviewed in the light of the experience gained by the Inspectorate in applying that policy.
It went on to say that the outcome of the review was unknown at 30 June 1976. That was the case when this report was completed. To sum up, I think that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Durack, and I have been under duress as we received a letter from the solicitors for James Richardson Pty Ltd claiming that we were unfair. It was late last year that this matter was first ventilated. I would like to know when an answer will be received on it. The Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate report contains a hall of fame setting out the names of people who have been prosecuted. This firm has not been prosecuted. I believe, as Senator Bishop believes, that we should get around the table and try to reach agreement.
In my mind it is inconceivable that the matter was discussed with the company late last year, and it is now the fifth month of 1977, and we are no further advanced. In the meantime the nomadic female workers from the company have scattered all over Australia and it will be an insurmountable task to provide them with their back pay. I would like the Minister to indicate whether the Government will act as Bismark did and adopt a tougher policy in the future because its policy of being fair and talking to these people in this case has cost the taxpayer 78-man weeks in going through the time sheets. Surely we should be able to computerise the time sheets for the last 3 years. These facts simply cry out for a tougher policy towards firms like James Richardson Pty Ltd. Senator Bishop, like me, was stunned by the easy going manner in which this firm has been handled.
– I take the opportunity of supporting what Senator Mulvihill has stated. Later on, I will ask other questions in regard to the matter. I am concerned generally of the policy on staff ceilings in the Department generally. It seems to me extraordinary that a case which was raised first in September last year, which concerned whether employees of a firm were correctly paid, has not been settled. As Senator Mulvihill has said, the reply from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) indicates- I know that Senator Durack is not the Minister responsible but he knows about it- that an examination is being conducted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate. A paragraph of the Minister’s letter to Senator Mulvihill states:
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.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Honourable senators will recall that before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was referring to a case which had been drawn to the attention of the Senate and of the Estimates Committee on a number of occasions concerning claims by employees of an establishment operated at Kingsford-Smith Airport which had developed into an inquiry by the Department of Employment and Industrial
Relations inspectorate and had been very slow moving. Senator Mulvihill raised the matter in September and in March he received some part answers from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). More recently he received another letter from the Minister, dated 5 May, which included the following paragraph:
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.
It is a long standing complaint on the part of the employees concerned. It certainly has taken too long to respond to the complaints and to determine whether they were correct. I should have thought that in the circumstance that representations have continually been made by Senator Mulvihill some attention would have been given to speeding up the inquiries.
A more important question is whether, in the circumstances, the Department of Transport and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) might have considered holding the particular establishment under review. Senator Mulvihill was advised that tenders were being called for the concession which this company holds. I do not think we know yet whether tenders have been closed or whether a tender has been accepted. Senator Mulvihill might correct me if I am wrong, but I think the amount being claimed by the employees and the union is something like $25,000.
– That is so.
– So it is a substantial claim. As honourable senators will realise, the compilation of records is taking the Department quite a long time. I therefore respectfully ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) whether he will discuss with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether the claims of those employees have been determined and whether there have been breaches. It would appear that in some respects there have been breaches and that in other respects things are being determined.
I refer also to a matter which has been raised with the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs before, that is, the general services provided by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. I am not just talking about the counter services provided by the Commonwealth Employment Service, but about all that Department’s activities. As the Minister would know, that Department’s activities have been widely extended these days into areas including youth programs, increased apprenticeship coverage and things like that. This raises the question of whether existing staff is sufficient to provide the services. We know that we have a very serious unemployment problem. We know that because of representations made by the unions and honourable senators efforts have been made to encourage the introduction of programs for apprentices, youth community groups and, of equal importance, the establishment of services for unemployed people who have applied for jobs to provide co-ordination between those who are registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service and employer groups to enable those unemployed people to secure jobs which are available on the labour market.
The Senate will recall that over a period of 12 months honourable senators here, including myself, have raised from time to time with the Minister the question of staff ceilings, particularly in respect of this Department. As a result of representations from the Public Service unions and, I would hope, as a result of our representations, an examination was made. An inquiry is obtaining. But I understand that there has been a temporary addition to the staff of some 300 persons. I understand from the staff associations that there are still problems in the areas I have mentioned. The matter Senator Mulvihill has raised encourages me to think that additional staff might still be needed in the Department to carry out all its activities, as well as in all its agencies which are located at places approved by the Department. In the general situation of unemployment I should hope that a review would be made of the agencies to see whether they are a satisfactory substitute for permanent offices.
I should like to know from the Minister whether, as a result of representations from the staff associations, agreement has been reached concerning the staffing of all departments. I know an inquiry is continuing. I should like to be informed whether that inquiry covers the matters I have raised. A number of employer organisations in my State have added their criticisms to those I have mentioned. It would appear that there is a need for adequate staff for first stage consultations by officers of the Department. There is a need also for adequate training staff. There is a need for improvement in all areas servicing the employment and labour market. I hope the Minister can inform me whether the Norgard inquiry is inquiring into these matters.
– To save the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs from having to reply twice. I should like to add to a postscript to my earlier submissions. The matter that is worrying Senator Bishop and myself is that we received written information from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) indicating that his departmental officers said that they were unaware of the failure by James Richardson Company Pty Ltd to observe an award. With respect, I should like to see more liaison between the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate so that the Department would know the track record of a tenderer who was up for review. I say this for another reason. As recently as last week I had a discussion with Mr Brian O’Neill, the senior officer of the New South Wales Branch of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union. It would appear, unfortunately, that James Richardson Company Pty Ltd is like the Bourbons of old- it has never forgotten anything and it has never learned anything.
We all know that not so long ago when we had that very difficult air traffic controllers dispute in the aviation industry a lot of unions and government departments showed commendable restraint by not enlarging that dispute; but in its typically bucaneer style, James Richardson Company Pty Ltd within a day of that dispute commencing, was trying to have everybody stood down. I think it ill behoves a firm to do that when a reasonable means of getting out of things was being sought.
– Why should not a firm have an immediate right to stand down personnel rendered inoperative?
-I shall tell the honourable senator why. In the first instance, this company has duped people for $25,000. Secondly, the honourable senator and I and everyone else in this chamber as taxpayers are having to pay for the inspectors to do a job which would not be necessary and therefore would not cost the taxpayers money if that company were taken to court and prosecuted. The name of that company would then appear on the back of the Arbitration Inspectorate report, where it ought to appear. All I am saying is that this company has made a mistake. The honourable senator who interjected believes in penalty clauses, so he should agree that James Richardson Company Pty Ltd ought not to have its tender renewed.
– I wish to make a brief inquiry and comment in relation to sub-division 3.10, dealing with the Regional Employment Development scheme. I note that the additional amount appropriated is $120,000.
I should be grateful for an indication from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs of what that additional appropriation relates to. I want to express some general concern about the question of the Regional Employment Development scheme in the light of the Government’s election promise of December 1975 that the Scheme, which the Labor Government in the Budget of 1975 had announced would be phased out, would be restored by this Government.
I notice that the Minister is frowning. There is no need to frown. That was an election promise made by this Government in 1975. It was made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as part of a 7-point plan to deal with the question of unemployment in Australia. It followed from a comment which was made by the then Leader of the Opposition about unemployment being a most unsatisfactory method of” dealing with industrial relations problems and a repudiation by the Liberal Party of the suggestion that unemployment would ever be used as a method of trying to solve both economic and industrial relations problems. Mr Street then went on to promise that the reintroduction of the Regional Employment Development scheme would be part of a 7-point plan to deal with unemployment in Australia. The Minister will probably recall that it was a part of the package which was going to reduce unemployment by 200 000 within 12 months. In the light of problems of that sort I am concerned to find out whether the additional appropriation of $ 1 20,000 is seen in some way as a fulfilment of those election promises or for what other purpose that additional amount is being appropriated. I would also be grateful for any comment the Minister has to make about the Government’s current attitude towards the RED scheme, as it was called.
– I shall leave aside for the moment the point that Senator Button raised. The details that he seeks are in fact in the departmental notes on the estimates. I shall deal with the question raised by Senator Mulvihill and Senator Bishop. It certainly is a fact that the investigation of the under award payments by James Richardson Pty Limited is taking a very long time. A number of questions have been asked by Senator Mulvihill on this matter since the Estimates Committee hearings in October last year.
– We received a letter from a solicitor warning us.
-That is so, but after some of the comments that Senator Mulvihill made today about James Richardson Pty Limited, I do not suppose that the Committee will be surprised to learn that Senator Mulvihill received a letter from the solicitors of James Richardson Pty Limited which was rather critical of the approach that he has taken to this matter. The fact is that James Richardson Pty Limited claims that it has not made under award payments. It claims that it had an accountant go through its books to check on the allegations that were made. The accountant has given that company a clean bill of health on the matter. I have not had a look at those letters that I, as well as Senator Mulvihill, received. I think that is broadly what they say, subject to further detailed examination. That being the case, of course, the inspectorate is then left with the task of proving the case against that company. That is where the problem has arisen. As far as I can see the inspectorate is getting no cooperation. The inspectorate’s request to obtain information was met with the answer that the company had asked an independent accountant to examine its books and so on. That is what has led now to this very lengthy investigation by the officers of the inspectorate.
Senator Bishop already has read out the paragraph in the letter from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to Senator Mulvihill which shows that it is estimated that the task will occupy some 78 man weeks. That is why the officers are seeking to get calculators with a view to expediting the task. That letter was written on 5 May. Perhaps the matter has progressed a little further; I do not know. That is my explanation of the problems. I do not know what else can be done. James Richardson Pty Limited is denying any liability. The case has to be proved. I was also rather surprised to hear a suggestion that the Department of Transport should be taking any action against James Richardson Pty Limited and convicting it by refusing to give it a concession before it has in fact been proved to be guilty.
– What is its business?
– It is an airport concessionare. I do not think that anything further can be done. I suppose that the only criticism that can be levelled is one that has been levelled, namely, that there is a long delay but, as I have indicated and as Senator Bishop has recognised, the delay is due to the very great difficulty in going through all these records when the company is simply sitting back and saying: ‘You prove your case’. That is virtually what the position is.
I turn now to staffing arrangements. The Norgard inquiry was given a very wide brief to look at all aspects of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I understand that it certainly would cover agents as well as permanent staff. The inquiry is at an advanced stage although the Minister has not as yet received a report. Today I have made inquiries of the Minister about the matter. He expects to receive Mr Norgard ‘s report quite soon but he cannot give a specific date. Staff requirements are certainly a matter which Mr Norgard has examined. He has already given interim advice to the Government on which the Government acted in increasing the ceilings in the CES by 300, although a large proportion of those appointments are to be in Sydney. I understand that all the youth employment schemes are in fact administered by the CES. It may well be that in the final report from Mr Norgard further matters will be raised which the Government will have to consider.
As I said earlier in relation to staff ceilings, the Government has always said that where problems are clearly established in a particular department as a result of ceilings the matter will be looked at again. The fact that we have increased already the numbers in the CES by 300 indicates that we are in fact doing what we said we would do in these matters.
– Offering employment.
– It is doing that as well. I think that is about as far as I can take at this stage the matter that was raised by Senator Bishop and Senator Mulvihill. In relation to the matter raised by Senator Button, the details of the additional appropriation of $120,000 are set out at page 8 of the departmental explanatory notes. The Department states:
The scheme was discontinued in 1975-76. The 1976-77 appropriation provided payments for projects approved in 1 975-76 but not completed until 1 976-77.
Final examination in all States of the 9000 REDS project files during the process of dismantling the scheme revealed a number of claims for reimbursement lodged before 30 June 1976 which had not been taken into account in the estimates for 1976-77.
An additional $98,000 is required for that purpose. The explanatory notes continue:
The 1975-76 appropriation provided for payment of $495,508 against approved total funding of $793,564 for the Ipswich Humanities Building REDS project
The balance of $298,056 was to be paid in 1976-77 and was included in the appropriation of $350,000 for that year. However, payments made in 1975-76 total only $473,000 leaving a carryover into 1976-77 of $22,000 . . .
So the $120,000 is made up of those amounts of $98,000 and $22,000 and certainly this does not indicate any new project by the Government in this area. I would like to have shown to me by Senator Button the particular document in which he says the present Government promised to reinstate the Regional Employment Development scheme. It has certainly been the policy of this Government as far as I am aware that it is opposed to the reintroduction of the RED scheme or any similar scheme.
– I will be delighted to show the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs the document in due course. I find it an occasion for great regret that a Minister of the Government does not know what his Party was promising in December 1975 and what his Leader was promising in December 1975 in relation to this matter. I repeat, I will be delighted to show him the document.
– I want to make 2 further observations. When this matter was first raised by me last spring I did not pluck a figure out of the air. The figure came from a written response by the Department which said that $25,000 was outstanding. I know that in Public Service responses there is generally a conservative answer. The fact that the Department committed itself to a figure of $25,000 was a fair indication to the union and to me that something was wrong. I take it a little bit further. It is unfortunate that relations in this area were not helped because of some internal union conflict. I think the employer was able to play, to a degree anyway, the Victorian Secretary Maher against the New South Wales officers which was not good for unionism, nor was it good for the whole of the industry. It was not as though I plucked this figure out of the air and said $25,000 was owed. This figure was given by the Department.
As to what Senator Durack said about the delay and the accountants, it becomes almost a James Bond novel because we know 2 different accountants were employed. There have been stories that one of the accountants left because his conscience was such that he felt the law was being broken. I do not know whether that is right, but it is something to look at. The other matter is much more serious. As far as the 78 man weeks are concerned, I think that if the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate had had access instantly to time sheets for the 3 years it could have completed the inquiry, but my information is that time sheets had to be sent from Sydney to Melbourne in dribs and drabs so that the whole thing has been prolonged.
My final point- and I want this clear in Senator Wright’s mind- is that there is nothing vindictive about whose tender is accepted. I say respectfully that a tender should be held up until the firm is given a clean bill of health because Senator Wright would know as an advocate of senators having certain watch-dog responsibilities that in the United States there is much closer supervision by senators on committees over tenders for government contracts. They have to meet minimum industrial labour codes. As a matter of fact, the rural workers of the United States are not strongly organised. I am talking about certain areas in California. The only protection they have is in the codes which the United States Senate polices to ensure that the code on minimum wages is observed. We are not suggesting bonuses or anything like that. We are suggesting that the minimum award rates should apply. I want to see justice done and I know that Senator Wright does too.
– I do not want to take up a lot more time but I would like to put to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs the position as we see it. He does not have to reply at the present time. It seems to me that the issue is that last year Senator Mulvihill raised the claims of the people who work for a particular firm. I do not want to mention names. Finally the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations made the estimate to him- and the union took this up too- that there seemed to be underpayment of $25,000. When the Arbitration Inspectorate followed up the case it seemed it was frustrated because on 5 May Mr Street wrote:
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 independent accountant who had advised that staff at the Airport had in effect been overpaid.
The letter continues:
I understand that this advice was conveyed to you -
That is, to Senator Mulvihill- by the company in November 1 976.
Today in the other place the Government has brought on a Bill, which was first introduced on 1 8 March, to strengthen the Inspectorate and to convert it into an industrial relations bureau with stronger powers designed in fact to enforce action against employees, not against employers.
– That is not so. You know that under the Bill it is completely even.
– You are not listening to me, senator. Obviously you are not getting on to the current of my argument. I am saying that at the present time there is a Bill before the Parliament- which will be passed in both places- to strengthen the bureau in respect of the powers designed, and reported by the Minister, to be aimed at employees in particular.
– That is wrong.
-Of course it is right. You cannot deny it. The fact is that the record shows the last Labor Government took more action against employers for breaches of awards than at any other time in the history of the Inspectorate. What concerns both of us I think, and I suggest should concern the Minister, is that there is the possibility that the Inspectorate will be able to check time books week by week. That is the Inspectorate’s job and that is what it often does. I cannot understand why the ordinary processes of the Inspectorate were not used from the time when the claim was first made by the union and the employees. That is the position I put to you. I cannot understand why the matter has been so complex as to warrant a 78 man weeks investigation. So I am raising what seems to be an important need to strengthen the Inspectorate in respect of the processes which are available to it. I asked this question earlier: Is the delay and procrastination due to a lack of staff? I hope that the Minister in considering the matter further will look at that question. If the circumstances are as Senator Mulvihill and I consider them to be, because originally the Department said it considered that people had been underpaid by $25,000, surely when it comes to proper accounting of government money there should be some consideration by the Department in respect of the establishment. To me that seems eminently sensible.
– I hesitated to rise because I was waiting for the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) to respond to Senator Bishop and Senator Mulvihill but obviously he is not going to respond. My question deals actually with 2 departments. I refer firstly to the Department of Social Security. Although we are not discussing the additional estimates for that Department this matter is interwoven. I refer to the registration of school leavers for the unemployment benefit. It is well known that before a person can qualify for the unemployment benefit he must go to the Commonwealth Employment Service and fill in a registration form. I understand that the Director-General of the Department of Social Security has issued a statement today but as yet it has not been tabled in the Parliament so I am not aware of what it contains. I am concerned about the answer given by Senator Guilfoyle because the Government’s policy, which was announced, prevented school leavers going to CES offices and registering for the unemployment benefit. I would like the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, who is in charge of the matter before the chamber, to inform me at what time the direction was given to Commonwealth Employment Offices, regional offices and the central offices in the capital cities. On what date were they instructed to advise school leavers that the Department could not accept registration from them for unemployment benefits until after the school leaving period had expired and the students had all gone back to school? That is the first question I want to ask. I may follow it up with another one later, depending on the answer that is given.
The other matter that I want to query concerns the Youth Employment Scheme which comes under the jurisdiction of this Department. I am reliably informed that officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations have spent a considerable amount of time conducting surveys in country and suburban areas to ascertain the need to put this scheme into operation. We now find that the Government has frozen funds for this scheme as from late April. I want some clarification of that point. A great amount of time and money has been expended in going around and talking to local councils and service clubs to find out what they have been able to do, on a voluntary basis and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, to try to put this youth scheme into operation. After all the data has been compiled and requests made for certain projects to put this scheme into operation, we find now that the Government has frozen funds. It has created quite an embarrassing situation for a lot of the service clubs. They are very worried, so much so that we find in the Murray Valley Standard of 1 9 May the headline ‘ Youth Scheme criticised’. This was because of a debate in a Murray Bridge District Council meeting. The Murray Valley Standard hid this to say:
The Commonwealth Government’s Community Youth Support Scheme was ‘slammed ‘ at Tuesday ‘s Murray Bridge District Council meeting by a Councillor who described it as airy-fairy’ . . .
I agree with him on that point. The article went on to say:
No one in their right mind would claim that this Government is typical of the welfare state. It is just the opposite. This same Councillor, Councillor Mason, was reported as having said:
I think this whole scheme is an absolute duplication of facilities we have available for unemployed young people in the community.
I agree with him in that respect in view of the fact that the Government got the service clubs to act as its agents on a voluntary basis and, then, when they found work for the youth to be engaged in, we find that there is no money to carry out the schemes. Councillor Mason went on to say:
Organisations like the Commonwealth Employment Service, which, Vh years ago was run by paying one man $50 a week are now costing the Federal Government a tremendous sum of money, with a full-time officer, housed, and a suite of offices to pay for.
Of course, Councillor Mason was referring to the regional office in Murray Bridge. For those honourable senators who do not know, the person who was running the agency at $50 a week was none other than Councillor Mason. That, of course, is why he is very critical. But I disagree with him violently in saying that there was no need to open a regional office in Murray Bridge. When the Labor Party was in government I was the person who made strong representations to the then Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Clyde Cameron) to open a regional office in Murray Bridge. This office has done a wonderful job for the unemployed people of the district and also for people who want to change their vocation and obtain some guidance on the jobs that are available. When Councillor Mason, who is an estate agent, was running the agency all that one could do was to go in and register for employment. There was no counselling because he would not have had time to give it, even if he was qualified which he is not.
I dispute his claim that agencies gave a better service. Many years ago agencies in country towns were run, in the main, by the clerk of the local district council. In the town of Murray Bridge, where I live, this function was transferred to Councillor Mason who is now being very critical of the fact that there is a full-time officer and staff there with a suite of offices. The only reason I can think of for why he is criticising the office is that he has lost the $50 a week. The office has been a great benefit to the town. I hope that Mr Norgard, in his inquiry, will not advise the Government that it should close down some of these regional offices and again open district agencies and hand them over to people like Councillor Mason who can give only a very small portion of their time to looking after the welfare of the people who are in need of unemployment benefits. I refer particularly to young school leavers who want some vocational guidance as to the type of job they should enter into in accordance with the educational qualifications that they have. I hope that the Minister has taken note of the couple of questions that I have asked him and that he can give me an answer.
– The matter I want to raise concerns a question I asked during an Estimates Committees hearing towards the end of April. One of the answers that I was given appears on page 29 of the report of the Estimates Committee F to the Senate. The question that I asked on that occasion concerned the application and payment of an allowance under the Relocation Assistance Scheme. I do not want to go fully into the issue again because it was put forward fully during an adjournment debate in this place about 3 weeks ago. Since that time I have not received any reply from the Department as to how the Scheme should apply, how it is applying and if there will be any correction to it unless, of course, there has been a reply since yesterday. During the Estimates Committee hearing I asked whether a person relocating to take up part-time employment would be eligible for assistance under the Relocation Assistance Scheme. The reply that was given was:
The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has been administering the Relocation Assistance Scheme on the basis that persons seeking to move to a new location to take up less than full-time employment have not been eligible. As the Government’s decision is not explicit on the matter the Department is seeking a definite ruling and will inform the senator when the issue nas been clarified.
It is nearly 4 weeks since I asked this question during the Estimates Committee hearing. It seems to me that there is a fairly clear interpretation of the application of the Relocation Assistance Scheme. To me the Scheme is explicit inasmuch as such people are entitled to payment. It does not need to be full-time employment provided it is work on a permanent basis and the worker is not an itinerant worker or seasonal worker. The case that I raised on the adjournment debate some 3 weeks ago was fully covered. The individual concerned had been unemployed for 5 months, was sharing accommodation with his brother-in-law and was living with his wife and 4 children in one room. He had a permanent job to go to. It was not a part-time job, or a seasonal job, nor was he an itinerant worker. He was told by an officer of one of the regional offices on applying for the benefits available under the Relocation Assistance Scheme that he was not entitled to it.
The full discussion on this matter concerning the events before, after, and in the meantime appear in the Hansard record of that debate. It seems to me now, 4 weeks since this matter was raised before the Estimates Committee, that the
Department still does not know whether he was entitled to a payment under the Relocation Assistance Scheme. Because the Parliament probably will go into the winter recess after next week, it is possible that we might not get the answer to this question until well into the Budget session. I would like to know how many other unemployed persons who are genuinely seeking employment and who have obtained employment do not have the finance to transport their families and belongings to the location of that employment? The Assistant Director of the Commonwealth Employment Service could not advise me at the time I raised the matter with him some 3 or 4 weeks ago. The officer who told the unemployed person that he was not entitled to the assistance told me that the reason the unemployed person was not paid was that he did not have a definite job to go to. The officer told the unemployed person one story and he told me another. When I challenged him and said that he had already told conflicting stories regarding why the unemployed person was not entitled to any relocation assistance, he accepted that he had informed the unemployed person that he would not be paid because he was not going to full time employment.
The conditions of the relocation assistance scheme do not specify that employment has to be full time. As I mentioned in the debate, the employee had a permanent job to go to which would give him 3 or 4 days work a week. Because the job did not entail working 5 days a week he was deprived of getting the assistance that would have enabled him to start the job. As a result of that mistake as I think it was by officers of the Department the man was left on unemployment benefits for a further 8 weeks. As a family man with 4 children he was being paid $107 a week unemployment benefits. It would have cost the Department only $ 1 84.50 to transport him and his family and belongings to the place of permanent employment. I hope that I can get an answer to this matter before Parliament rises probably next Friday for the winter recess. If it is to be left in limbo other people in similar circumstances will not know their entitlements.
I do not think it is good enough. The Government introduced the relocation scheme some time in November 1976, I think, and seven or eight months afterwards it still does not know how to apply the scheme. In this case the Government pretends to be giving assistance and trying to help unemployed people find employment in other areas, but when an application is received the Government makes up an excuse and denies the person the right to assistance. I think this should have been sorted out when the scheme was introduced late last year. We should not have to wait seven or eight months. The matter has been raised on two or three occasions and we still do not have a decision. It is for those reasons that I raise these matters today in the hope that I will get this information before Friday of next week.
– I will deal firstly with the 2 points raised by Senator McLaren. The first point related to whether some instructions had been given by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, whose Minister I represent here, that it was not to accept school leavers- I use the honourable senator’s phrase - ‘ registered for unemployment’.
– Registered for employment.
– I think the honourable senator said unemployment. That is the point I was going to clear up. People do not register for unemployment; they register for employment.
– It was a slip of the tongue.
– Yes, but it is an important factor in answering the honourable senator’s question. In point of fact the Commonwealth Employment Service seeks to assist people to obtain employment. It was just as prepared and anxious to obtain work for school leavers as for anybody else. No instructions at all were given not to accept registration for employment. It would not be in any way within its charter to take a line of that kind. I well remember at the end of the Budget session when the question of payment of the unemployment benefit to school leavers was a live issue Senator Brown I think- I am not quite sure- asked me specifically whether a school leaver who sought to register for employment could do so. The answer I gave is the best answer I have ever given. It was yes, and nothing else. That is and always has been the position.
The honourable senator also referred to the community youth support scheme. I was asked a similar question the other day. I think Senator Missen asked me about the 20-odd projects in Victoria. It may have been on projects throughout Australia; I am not quite sure.
– It was Victoria.
– It was only Victoria. The scheme has proved to be highly successful. There have already been 116 approvals. Some 14 000 young people have been provided with some worthwhile activity under the scheme. The fact of the matter is that money in a sense has not been frozen for the scheme. The projects that have been approved are continuing and the funds are available for them. In this financial year no further funds are available for new schemes. The question of the funding of new schemes is a question for the next Budget and will be of course part of the Budget discussions.
The matter raised by Senator Donald Cameron is fully set out at page 29 of the Estimates Committee’s report. Unfortunately there is yet no decision on this question. It will be referred to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). It is a matter of policy whether the relocation assistance scheme was intended to apply to people other than those obtaining full time employment. I will draw to the attention of the Minister’s Department the fact that the honourable senator has pressed strongly for a decision to be given by the end of next week. I agree that the earlier a decision can be made the better. I should point out that the 236 people who already have been assisted under the relocation assistance scheme have been clearly eligible as they were seeking assistance for relocation for full time work. The case raised by Senator Donald Cameron is the only one that has been raised in relation to part time work. It is an important matter which has to be resolved. I will draw the Minister’s attention to the concern that has been expressed in the Committee on the matter.
Finally I will deal with the matter raised by Senator Bishop. I know that he did not ask me to respond in detail to the points he made. He referred to the Government’s proposal for an Industrial Relations Bureau which is the subject of debate in another place today. He seemed to suggest that the legislation was aimed at employees only. The fact of the matter is that the Industrial Relations Bureau has been and always was designed to provide for the observance of industrial laws by employers and employees. It is now, under the new arrangements which have come about as the result of discussions between the Minister, Mr Hawke and leaders of trade unions, to take over the powers, no more or no less of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate. Those powers have always been available in relation to breaches of awards whether by employers or employees.
– Following the reply of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) I am concerned with one issue. When a person is unemployed he goes along to the Commonwealth Employment Service and registers for work.
Accordingly he makes application for social security benefits. I believe that the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security decides by a number of criteria whether unemployment benefits will be paid. One is the work criteria, whether the applicant has taken reasonable steps to obtain employment. The only instrumentality which has a record of what an applicant has done to find employment is the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Does it decide whether the applicant has taken reasonable steps to find employment, or does it report to the Department of Social Security? If it reports to the Department of Social Security, does it state that in its opinion the applicant has taken reasonable steps to find employment?
– I wish to follow up the Minister’s answer to me that no instructions were given to officers of his Department to refuse any person the right to register for employment. I find that statement very strange. We have been arguing about this matter for some weeks now. How could any person qualify for unemployment benefit if he was not allowed to register for employment? How could a person prove that he was unemployed? The Minister said that there were no instructions. We know that many school leavers were told that they could not register for employment, to qualify for unemployment benefit, until after the school vacation. We had to tell people who came to our office to insist on registering. Some were registered; some were not. How could school leavers prove that they wanted to register? Because of the publicity given to the fact that no employment benefit would be paid if they could not find a job, some did not register. This is the question which I would like answered.
The other question which I pose relates to the Minister’s answer to me in which he admitted that funds for the youth employment scheme had run out.
-I did not say that funds had run out for schemes that had been approved. That is wrong.
-You said that funds had not run out for schemes which had been approved. Nothing was said about any limitation. Officers of the Department were sent to all the centres, to local government bodies and to the service clubs, seeking particulars of worthwhile projects and seeking the assistance of local councils and service bodies such as Apex, Rotary and other organisations which were interested. A public meeting was called in my home town of
Murray Bridge and addressed by the local member, Mr Giles, who called on the local service clubs to help the Government to find projects on which the youth could be employed. He said that the Government would fund the projects. Officers from the Department were sent to this town and to other towns to talk to the service clubs, to find out the projects which the Department could fund. When the organisations went to the trouble of getting all the data, compiling it and giving it to the Department, there was insufficient money. When the Government has not the money, it cannot approve the projects.
Can the Minister give any undertaking that the applications now in the hands of the Department that cannot be proceeded with because of the lack of funds will be given priority if and when money is available? We know that the funds are exhausted. The Minister said that there can be no funds until the Budget. The applicants might find themselves in the same situation as that in which many elderly citizens’ organisations found themselves. I refer to one case which I raised in this Parliament. The organisation had been funded for architects’ fees to build an elderly citizens’ home. Then the organisation could not go on with it because the Government reneged. It altered its program from a yearly program to a 3- yearly program. Will the same situation apply to the youth employment scheme? These are the questions that service clubs and local government bodies want answered. They have used a lot of their time, particularly local councils, and the time of paid employees. Ratepayers’ money has been used to get all the data required by the Department to try to overcome unemployment among the youth. The fact that the Government contemplated that scheme is an admission of a grave problem in relation to youth unemployment in Australia.
– I shall deal first with the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh. I think the answer, as far as I can give it to him anyway, is that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations informed the Department of Social Security that an offer of employment which my Department considered reasonable for the applicant had been rejected. From there the matter rests with the Department of Social Security as to the action which it takeswhether the person is eligible for unemployment benefit. As to the matters raised by Senator McLaren, I do not know that I can add to what I have said already. The fact is that the Commonwealth Employment Service or the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations never gave instructions to any of their officers that they were not to accept registrations for employment by school leavers. The fact that Senator McLaren may have told people- it is very interesting to hear him say this- not to register for employment -
– I did not say that. I told them to register.
-I thought you said that you told people that they could not register. It seems obvious that many of them were told that. That was quite wrong. The Government cannot be responsible for wrong advice that people give. Before the end of the Budget session I answered perfectly clearly a question on the matter. The other matter with which he persists is the question of the community youth support scheme. In view of the way in which he has put the matter, I make it quite clear that funds for approved schemes have not run out and are not frozen. Those schemes are continuing. The question of funding new schemes will be a matter for the forthcoming Budget. These schemes are determined on their merits. I cannot give any further undertakings.
– I want to correct one thing said by way of interjection to the Minister a few moments ago. It relates to a question which I asked a few days ago about 20 schemes which, according to a newspaper article, are awaiting funding. I said by way of interjection that all of them were in Victoria. I do not think that is right. The matter goes further than that. I want to correct that statement because I think that 20 new schemes are proposed. I hope money will be made available quickly for these schemes because they are the result of voluntary efforts by other people. The fact that they may not start does not mean that action cannot be taken. We will not be able to spend money before the beginning of the next financial year. I hope they will be got under way quickly because they are the result of excellent voluntary efforts by organisations.
– I want to clear up a misunderstanding on the part of the Minister about my remarks. I hope I did not say that I told people that they were unable to register and advised them not to register. I think the Minister said that I advised them not to register. When school leavers spoke to me I advised them to register. On Tuesday Senator Guilfoyle said that it was government policy that unemployment benefit would not be paid to school leavers. The question which I posed to the Minister was this: How could they qualify for unemployment benefit if they did not register in the first place? There was a clear statement by the Minister for Social Security that they would not be paid. Many school leavers did not endeavour to register because of government policy. Now we have the decision of the High Court. I hope the Minister will table today the statement which has been put out by the Director-General of the Department of Social Security on his interpretation of the High Court judgment. Many children would not have endeavoured to register because of announced government policy. Until we read the statement we do not know the outcome for those who were successful in registering.
The Minister said that no instructions were given to his officers to refuse registration to any person, irrespective of age. That is something which I will have to pursue further because I was under impression that those instructions were given. I was under the impression that school leavers were told that they could not register and it was useless their going into the offices. Departmental officers have told me that. I will not name them, but I will check the matter out further. If officers told people that, I am sure they did not do it off their own bat. They must have had a direction from some person of higher authority. This matter is of great concern to me.
The other answer the Minister gave was that the youth employment schemes going ahead had been authorised. I would like to know the cut-off point for authorisation. I want to ascertain whether officers of the Department were still interviewing organisations such as I have mentionedlocal councils and service clubs- seeking particulars for applications for funding, after the cut-off point for authorisation. I am of a different opinion from the Minister because of what I have been told by some people in the Department. Perhaps the Minister can tell me when the cut-off was actually notified to the officers of the Department, particularly those in South Australia. That is a crucial point to me.
– I cannot provide any further information to the Committee about the community youth scheme. The fact that there may have been a cut-off of funds for new projects does not mean that it is not worth people’s while looking at new projects. New projects may well be approved if further funds can be made available for them. The mere fact that there are no funds at the moment for new projects is no reason why new projects should not be considered.
Senator McLaren keeps raising the question of school leavers registering for unemployment benefits. I think he devalues Australian youth very greatly by the implication of his remarks. He asks how they could get unemployment benefit if they did not register. Of course they could not unless they registered, passed the work test and could not get employment. I ask Senator McLaren and the Committee how serious school leavers are about getting employment if they did not register simply because they could not get unemployment benefit. I would have thought that those who genuinely wanted employment would have registered.
– That is not the point. The Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs (Senator Durack) deliberately has misrepresented me. He has done a great disservice to the young people of this country who are leaving school by saying that the only reason they wanted to register for employment was to receive unemployment benefit.
– I did not say that; you said that.
-I did not say that at all. I asked how they could qualify to receive unemployment benefit when they could not obtain a job if first they were not allowed to register for employment. That is the whole crux of the argument I have been putting forward. In many cases they were not allowed to register. This is the whole crux of the argument that has been going on in this Parliament for many weeks past. It is no good the Minister trying to blame me for misrepresenting the youth of the country or trying to put a wrong interpretation on the desires of the youth of this country by saying that they do not want a job and that all they want to do is register so that they can get the unemployment benefit. Of course the kids want to work. The Government admits that there is a grave crisis in youth unemployment. Otherwise it would not have set up these schemes about which I have been asking the Minister.
When the Minister says that so many projects have been approved and so many have not been approved but might be approved, it is an admission by the Government that there is a crisis in youth unemployment. Of course most of the kids want a job. There might be some young people who do not want to work, but there are plenty of others who do not want to work. I can name many in the blue blood area or the silk department who have never done a day’s work in their life. Nobody criticises those people. All the Government wants to criticise is the legitimate unemployed youth of the country, who of course want a job. The Minister cannot blame the majority for the deeds of the minority. I hope that I have put the record straight.
– I want to get one point straight about the Brisbane area. I take a great objection to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) implying that young people leaving school did not register for unemployment benefit because they showed no real interest. They were discouraged from registering. In many cases that came to my notice in the early weeks they were turned away from the counters at the Commonwealth Employment Service offices. They were told that they could not register. They were told that it was of no use for them to register. Many hundreds of young people were misled in this way. Now they will be disadvantaged in making any approach for some compensation for non-payment of unemployment benefit during the school vacation. I make a plea to the Minister. There was no lack of initiative on the part of the youngsters. They were discouraged by statements being made in this place. They were being discouraged by officers at the counters of the various Commonwealth Employment Service offices. So please let there be no slur on the youngsters. They were entitled to register. They were being given wrong information. They were declared not to be school leavers. They were to be judged not to be school leavers until the end of the vacation period.
I find this whole exercise quite immoral. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), for whom we have a great respect, is in a very difficult situation because the Government has not had the guts to advise the Department of Social Security that it was wrong in the first place and that it should correct the wrong. I would say that the Minister has revealed in her answers that she has been going against her better judgment. It is my impression that it has been quite unfair for her to be forced into the situation in which she finds herself. Why does the Government not admit that it was wrong, and why is it not prepared to pay out the $5m or $6m that it should be paying out to these people and their families?
– I have not been following this debate because I have been at a committee meeting, but when I came into the chamber and heard Senator McLaren and Senator Georges I felt duty bound to make some statement on the matters they raised. I support Senator Georges’ remarks about what happened in Brisbane in the early pan of this year, in particular in January. There was a great deal of confusion amongst the young people at the time about whether they could register. This happened not only in Brisbane but in the provincial cities I visited in January. Young people came to my office complaining that they had been to an office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Brisbane and had been allowed to register for employment but had not been allowed to fill in a form to claim unemployment benefit. At that stage there was confusion about whether the case to be heard by the High Court would be successful or not. Young people were not allowed to fill out a form to claim for unemployment benefit before the school vacation ended. A lot of them contended that they should be allowed the opportunity to fill out a claim for unemployment benefit.
Of course, normally claims for unemployment benefit are filled out at the offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service, which acts as an agent for the Department of Social Security. The forms are sent to the Department. But these young people were not even provided with a form. They were not allowed to fill out a form at the office of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I believe that this was not the policy of the Government but there was confusion within the offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service. When I insisted through the relevant person in Brisbane that they be allowed to fill out a form and they went back they were given a form to fill out to claim the unemployment benefit. I presume the forms were then forwarded to the Department of Social Security.
I raise this matter because it is important to understand that whilst there may have been a policy directive or a policy that was understood, that youngsters could fill out forms and that a decision would be made subsequently with regard to their unemployment benefit entitlement, some people within the Department were not getting that message or were quite confused about it. At this stage I raise another matter which I have not raised before because I have had it resolved quite successfully. I presume that the matter will not occur again. It gives an illustration of how mistakes can be made by departmental officersmistakes which probably never come to the Minister’s attention- which disadvantage people who are seeking benefits.
– If it is not going to happen again, why waste the time of the Senate?
-I hope that it will not happen again. However, I think it is important to point out that these things have happened. My attention was drawn to the case of a man who had been attending an office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in the near Brisbane area. He was a person for whom it was difficult to find employment- we know that there are many such people- but he was genuinely looking for work. His unemployment benefit was terminated. When we tried to find out why it had been terminated, it transpired that the reason was that he had been removed from the register of the Commonwealth Employment Service of those who were unemployed. He had been taken off the list of those unemployed and the Commonwealth Employment Service just refused to register him any longer. That situation was not acceptable, and certainly the Queensland State Director in Brisbane said that it was not acceptable. The man was put back on the register. If any decision is to be made as to whether such a person should continue to receive the unemployment benefit it should be done through the Department of Social Security and not the Commonwealth Employment Service.
I reiterate that I support the comments made by Senator Georges about the situation in the Brisbane area and in provincial cities in Queensland. There was a great deal of confusion at that time- confusion not only amongst the youngsters but also, regrettably but understandably, amongst some of the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditure, $2,233,000.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to division 166.2.03, Consultants’ fees, $11,000. That item raises a unique point of principle and it is illustrated by the actual transaction for which the appropriation provides. I believe it gives a wrong direction to the whole thrust of Commonwealth employment. It concerns the situation in which the First Parliamentary Counsel, who is a statutory officer, resigned prematurely and then was party to a contract for re-engagement as a consultant for 3 years, such contract terminable on a month’s notice, with a right of private practice, and an expectation of a 4-day working week. He was receiving a salary of approximately $37,000 or $39,000, plus $2,000 in allowances. Subject to some adjustment, the remuneration for the consultancy, allowing for a 15 per cent loading, was about $35,000. That can be compared with the previous remuneration of $39,000. I take those figures from an answer provided on page 1 97 of the transcript of evidence given before Estimates Committee F. That figure, together with the superannuation payment, would give the officer a very much enhanced total emolument, by reason of retirement, of accrual of superannuation and continuance of employment with the Commonwealth.
Under the Parliamentary Counsel Act it is specifically provided that no re-engagement of the Parliamentary Counsel, First or Second, shall be undertaken which will extend his office beyond the date on which he attains 65 years of age. How that comes into the transaction, I do not quite know, but I point it out because involved in this case is the payment of accrued superannuation on retirement as well as reengagement on an individual contract. This leads to all sorts of loopholes, I suggest, in relation to the ordinary security of engagement, performance and promotion within the Public Service. This is an illustration of advantage accruing to an individual by reason of the generous superannuation provisions applicable on premature retirement and when the retiree is then engaged by individual contract to the detriment, I submit, of the Public Service.
I believe it is a matter to which we should call attention because of its anomalous situation. I believe that it is so anomalous that in more ample circumstances I would query the appropriateness of its inclusion in a Bill which is not amendable and the purpose of which is to provide finances for ordinary annual services. I believe it is so unique a provision, although it pertains to current service by way of consultancy- it provides an office for a retired servant- that I doubt whether it is appropriately included in those appropriations which pertain to ordinary annual services. I wish to quote just one very brief passage from the Fifth Edition of Mr Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice. On page 375 of his book Mr Odgers quotes the words of Mr Isaac Isaacs in giving an illustration of what is not an ordinary annual service in the Federation debates. Mr Isaacs later became Chief Justice Isaacs and Sir Isaac Isaacs. He said:
Supposing that some compensation were being paid to a discharged public servant. That would not come within the ordinary annual services. … It would not be a payment for services rendered in the future, but for services in the past. We all know that in connection with the ordinary annual Appropriation Bills questions arise that make it very difficult to say what is and what is not an ordinary annual service.
The appropriation under this item is not exactly compensation for past service. By reason of the superannuation element of that part of the appropriation which provides for payment for past service, and by reason of the compensation for that established superannuation, an individual contract for consultancy could put into the whole structure a thrust whereby service has to be guaranteed for everybody who is willing to be recruited to it and work according to the remuneration provided, with the ultimate accrual of superannuation. I think that this is a remarkable situation where the processes, by reason of insight, have been so manipulated that private advantage has accrued and public detriment has resulted in the sense that I have mentioned. I bring it to the attention of the Committee, as I did to the Estimates Committee, for an exchange of views.
-I advert briefly to a couple of other matters, in particular to division 170- High Court, subdivision 1 dealing with a payments in lieu of long leave and unremunerated periods of service to Sir Edward McTiernan on his retirement from the Court.
– I am very sorry to interrupt but I wonder whether we might dispose of the matter of consultants first. There is likely to be quite a debate about it. There is reference to it in the report. It would assist me in dealing with these matters if we could deal with them separately. Senator James McClelland is now putting in his claim to speak on another matter. I would like to deal with the consultancy matter first.
– I call the Minister.
– There may be some other speakers on the consultancy issue.
– I previously drew the attention of honourable senators to the report from Estimates Committee F in which certain comments were made. For purposes of continuity and simplicity it may be as well if I refer again to those comments which were made in the report to the Senate a few days ago. The Committee said:
With regard to the first item -
That is the one to which Senator Wright has referred- . . on which the Committee sought additional information, members were 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 daily remuneration of $134.96 for each day worked based on a Level 4, Second Division salary in the Commonwealth Public Service, plus a loading of 1 5 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.
I pause there to point out that some correspondence was provided to the Committee, which is attached as an annexure, both about this matter and about the other matter that was raised by the Committee and that has been raised by Senator Wright before the Estimates Committee and here. That relates to certain payments to judges. We will deal with that a little later. The report goes on to say:
As a general principle, the Committee considers that a public servant who has 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 provides a higher net income for similar work 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 fear that such a practice could, if not controlled, become the subject of widespread abuse and 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 demonstrates the possibilities of abuse.
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 provide a loading for recreational leave, sick leave and public holidays. The consultant should only be remunerated for the task for which he was engaged.
Whilst it is not suggested that there was anything undesirable or improper in relation to this particular case -
– There was something undesirable.
– I am sorry. Whilst there was nothing improper in relation to this particular question it points up a practice which, if it expands, could become subject to abuse and have a continuing undesirable aspect. I would like to hear from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) something of the explanation which was given for the particular circumstance and also if possible the reaction to the comments of the Committee that care should be taken in future to refrain from permitting this sort of practice to grow in this way.
– There was very lengthy discussion in the Estimates Committee on this matter and lengthy explanations were given by departmental officers at the Committee, all of which appear in the Hansard report of the proceedings of the Committee. The only matter that has occurred since, on which I think I need comment, is the report of Estimates Committee F which devoted a great deal of attention to this item. I think that about half the report is devoted to it. I simply inform the Committee that the comments of Estimates Committee F in relation to this matter have been given serious consideration, as they deserve and as any committee report deserves, by me in the first place, by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) whom I represent, and by officers of his Department with whom I have discussed the matter.
I say at the outset that the Government would have been very sorry to have lost entirely the services of such a distinguished public servant as Mr Comans, the former First Parliamentary Counsel. Honourable senators who are interested might like to have a look at the proceedings in another place- reported at page 105 and succeeding pages of the House of Representatives Hansard for 16 February 1977- when the AttorneyGeneral reported to the House of Representatives the retirement of Mr Comans. Very high tributes were paid to Mr Comans. I do not think that anybody is reflecting on him in any way. Although my close association with him after I joined the Government was short I would certainly like to be associated with those tributes. As Mr Comans wished to retire, the AttorneyGeneral was most anxious to retain as much of his valuable assistance as possible. Mr Comans was determined to retire. He was fully entitled to retire. This is the next point that should be made. Senator Wright referred to premature retirement. Senator Wright was obviously thinking of retirement at 65. Whether that is a common age for retirement or not I do not know, but a public servant is entitled to retire, and has rights under superannuation, from the age of 60. Therefore it is not correct to say that there was any premature retirement. He was perfectly entitled to retire. He had all his rights to retire. He had them under Acts which have been the subject of a great deal of discussion and debate in this Parliament in recent years. When Mr Comans retired, as when anybody else retireseven when we retire on the somewhat lesser pensions than perhaps senior public servants receive- he had certain rights and was entitled to earn income in other ways.
– But not in the same position; not for the same employment.
– That is another matter and that is the honourable senator’s opinion. The fact of the matter is that when people retire they have their rights and they may earn other income. The question raised here- it is a very narrow question indeed- is whether a public servant who retires should be re-engaged as a consultant doing the same work as he was doing when he was in his permanent position. I find this a difficult objection to understand. I read very closely the views expressed by the Estimates Committee and the arguments that have been advanced. I note that the Estimates Committee in its report mentioned retiring before the age of 65 years. It seems to be implied that if a person retired at the age of 65 years the Committee would not object to his being re-engaged as a consultant. I do not know whether that is what is intended.
– No, that was not the Committee’s opinion.
– I am only reading the Committee’s report literally. There have been a number of precedents for this, although there have not been a great number. I suppose the most notable example in this area would be that of Mr Ewens, a former First Parliamentary Counsel who retired. He was re-engaged as a consultant. Indeed, he gave some magnificent assistance to a Senate Committee.
– At a magnificent remuneration.
-I do not know about that. You cannot have it both ways.
– That is what we are saying. It is either one or the other.
– Apparently, if the views expressed by the Committee were adopted, the magnificent service that he gave would not have been available. There are other examples. They are not great in number but to save the time of the Committee it might be better for me to seek leave to incorporate the examples in Hansard. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard particulars of retired former officers of the Public Service who have been engaged as consultants. The cases may not all be exactly the same as that raised by the Committee, but they provide a general precedent to which I have referred.
– Is leave granted?
– I raise a point of order. I am not refusing leave to incorporate the document in Hansard. I suggest that the Minister should seek leave to table the document at the same time so that any honourable senator who wishes to examine it may do so.
– You are suggesting the Minister should seek leave both to table and incorporate the document?
-I am quite happy to do that.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted for both the tabling and incorporation of the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
EMPLOYMENT OF CONSULTANTS-RETIRED FORMER OFFICERS OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE
Prior to the recent appointment of Mr C. K. Comans, Q.C., as a Consultant to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, there have been a number of recent examples of the employment of retired former top Public Servants as Consultants and the Operations Division of the Public Service Board has responsibility for the examining of proposals of this nature. The Board applies such tests as the needs evidenced in the particular case for the work to be done and the scarcity of the skills provided by the former officer under consideration for the consultancy.
Some recent examples of Consultants include Mr F. Grey, formerly Public Service Inspector, Sydney, as the initial Commissioner of the Northern Territory Public Service; Mr B. Fleming, formerly of the Treasury, for a review of financial institutions with which the Commonwealth is involved in loan activities; a former officer of the Department of National Resources was employed on the preparation of a revised study of overseas accounting directions; Mr E. Collings, formerly a Commissioner of the Public Service Board, gave short term assistance to the Bland Committee and Sir Henry Bland himself, as a former Permanent Head, was retained as a Consultant to review the operations of the Public Service generally.
It is apparent that whilst there are not a large number of these types of cases, the consultancy arrangements made in respect of Mr Comans were not an isolated instance of the employment of a former senior Public Servant as a Consultant.
– The Committee expresses concern that this could lead to widespread abuse and be used as a device to obtain income advantage and also to overcome the restriction imposed upon departmental staff ceilings by the Government. The Committee does not suggest the present case falls into either of those categories. There are some other matters which I shall mention later. As far as the suggested abuses are concerned, I am not sure whether it would be an abuse by the Government or by the officer concerned.
– Would you like me to obtain leave to explain? Would that help?
-I might just finish what I was saying. As far as the Government is concerned, the strictest possible rules are applied in the engagement of consultants. If there is concern that consultants may be used to overcome staff restrictions, I think that would not be possible because under the rules applying to the engagement of consultants Public Service Board approval and, in certain cases, the approval of the Treasurer has to be obtained. I seek leave to table and to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the rules for the engagement of consultants.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
ENGAGEMENT OF CONSULTANTS
Established procedures provide that the use of Consultants is to be limited to those whose employment is strictly essential to efficient and economical operation.
Proposals for the engagement of Consultants arc u> resubmitted to the Public Service Board for approval before commitment in any way. The following details are to be provided: specific purpose and nature of the work to be undertaken extent to which the work is similar to work done by departmental staff or other contractors and extent to which it would be shared end product or result sought from the contract including quality and timing evidence that the work makes an essential contribution to the achievement of Government objectives and has explicit Ministerial, Cabinet or Parliamentary authorisation; or evidence including Permanent Head endorsement, as appropriate, that the work is essential to administrative efficiency and is likely to achieve a significant tangible result, e.g. cost savings, improved performance basis used to determine that there is no more efficient and economical way to perform the work than to use Consultants method by which a contractor will be selected (where competition for a contract is not proposed or an overseas Consultant is being considered, full details ure to bc considered ) finance to pay the Consultant or other contractor is available (identify specific Budget provision or forward commitment approval ) proposed conditions of contract, including estimate of total cost showing the amounts (e.g. breakdown of fees, travel, accommodation, special allowance) payable to the contractor in relation to the contract, and the amounts to be borne by the Department in support of” the contract any discussions on costs which have taken place or arc proposed.
In addition the prior approval of the Treasurer is required except in cases where professional and independent expert advice is obtained for an agreed fee and in cases which have the effect of extending the labour resource capability of the Department.
It is understood that the Public Service Board is currently giving consideration to the establishment of guidelines and fee structures within which the prior approval of the Board to the consultancy would not be required.
-As I have said, in this case- I know the Committee is not alleging there was any abuse in this case- there were very strong reasons indeed for the re-engagement of Mr Comans as a consultant. As far as other cases are concerned, as I have said, the persons concerned could only have been re-engaged by the Minister under the strictest rules, a copy of which I have tabled.
The Committee also raised the matter of the fee that is paid to consultants. It is said that the fee should not provide a loading for recreation leave, sick leave and public holidays and that the consultant should be remunerated only for the task for which he was engaged. The fee Mr Comans is being paid is only for the task for which he was engaged. The only question is how much that fee should be. The fee of $134.96 a day that Mr Comans is being paid was arrived at in the manner explained to the Committee and it did have these loadings added to it. I suggest to the Committee that the proper way of looking at this issue is to ask not so much how the fee was arrived at but whether it is a fair fee for the work that is being done. A number of lawyers are present in the Committee this afternoon. Surely none of them would challenge the payment of $134.96 a day as being an improper fee for a man of Mr Comans ‘ eminence as a lawyer and in his special field as a Queen’s Counsel. I have some details of fees being charged by counsel at present. The current Supreme Court scale in New South Wales provides for a fee on brief to senior counsel of $375 to $525 a day and refreshers of $250 to $350 a day. That is just for the ordinary run of the mill counsel fees.
– You cannot get many for that.
-I do not think many could be obtained for that. I have some details which will underline what Senator James McClelland said. In one case the Commonwealth is currently paying a senior counsel with specialist experience $750 a day. Of course, Mr Comans would come within that category. In another case recently the Commonwealth paid senior counsel $540 a day, and currently is paying senior counsel in litigation $550 a day.
-I have been muttering by way of interjection so I had better make my interjections aloud. Briefly, the abuses that have been creeping into the system are as I shall indicate. We pay substantial pensions by way of superannuation to public servants and members of the Defence Force. They make a decision to retire from the Defence Force or from the Public Service and go onto superannuation. No one is arguing about their right to do that. However, it becomes questionable and undesirable when members who have resigned on full pensions then seek and obtain employment in government agencies and government corporations at substantial remuneration. Within this Parliament we possibly have people who are on full defence pensions and who are also engaged either as research assistants or secretaries to committees and receive substantial salaries. My point is that if they are going to come back into government service either directly or indirectly the pension which they then receive as a result of their government employment should be reduced to prevent the abuses that are now starting to creep in. Not only in this particular case should this question be raised. The matter, having been raised, ought to be taken further.
We ought to be now looking at the situation where people retire early according to their entitlement, receive substantial government pensions and then add to this government pension by employment within the government itself or a government agency. What they do in private enterprise is their own business. If they come back into the government there should be some sort of limitation, as there was in the past, as I recall. If a person receiving a government pension came back into government service his pension was reduced to 50 per cent. Because of the apparent abuse of the system it may be necessary for the Government to reconsider and go back to the old formula. That is all I am saying. There seem to be people now on a pension of some $15,000 or $16,000 a year coming back into government employment, either directly or indirectly, and receiving another $16,000 or $ 1 7,000 a year. They are in a far better economic position if they retire early and take advantage of the situation.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (3.57)- I intrude into the debate merely to make an observation in the context of the argument advanced by Senator Georges when he referred to members of the defence forces. Members of the defence forces are not in the same situation as the average run of government employee. They are in a special category. Let me give the Committee an illustration to make the matter clear. I am not referring in any way to any person who is employed or attached to a parliamentary committee. A naval officer, for example, who is fixed in the promotion zone at the rank of a lieutenant-commander, which has an age relationship in peace time, has the option of either being forcibly retired at the age of 45 or retiring voluntarily at the age of 41 or 42, realising that he is embedded in a promotion zone and he cannot go any further as the result of confidential reports on him which he has signed.
He opts at that age, when he still has an earning capacity, to take the benefits that accrue to him from the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Fund and then seek to pursue further an incomeearning career. If at that stage he happens, for reasons that are proper to the Parliament, to be employed, for example, in the House of Representatives secretariat in a certain area, that is not analogous to the problem we are discussing at the moment. I merely rise at this juncture to make clear to the Committee that Senator Georges’ argument is not valid in the context of defence force members who retire at a certain age.
– Many are retiring before their time and before they need to.
-But they know what is going to happen. Perhaps they are in the highest zone of promotion and they cannot go any further. Constant confidential reports are made on these officers and no confidential report, as I recollect, is made on a defence officer unless the officer has seen the report and has signed it. He knows quite clearly, probably, at the age of 41 that he is embedded in a promotion zone above which he cannot rise. This is quite appropriate. It enables him to go out into the civil field and begin to apply such energies and talents as he possesses to augment his pension rights. I do not think that the analogy is a fair one in this context.
– I am not sure that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) quite understood the point which Estimates Committee F was making and I would like to clarify it. What was said was to draw attention to the situation where a member of the Public Service retires before reaching the compulsory retirement age. Perhaps I should explain it in terms of example. Somebody in receipt of an income of-to use an easy figure- $20,000 a year as a senior public servant- not so senior these days at that rate-could at the age of 60 opt to resign from the Public Service; be entitled to superannuation which, we will say, is a minimum of $10,000 a year; be re-engaged as a consultant to do the same work for the remaining 5 years for which he would normally have worked; and be in receipt of a total income of about $30,000 for doing the work for which, if he had stayed in the Public Service, he would have been paid $20,000 a year. That is the point which I am endeavouring to explain to the Minister for his benefit. The point was misunderstood by him. If the Minister’s attention has been distracted, I will restate it.
– I am sorry.
– I was trying to explain the importance of the point which the Minister appeared not to understand -retirement before the compulsory retiring age of 65. Someone can be financially much better off by retiring early and going back into the same job. If they go back after they have reached 65 years of age, we are not worried about that. We are not worried about somebody who retires before 60 years of age and is therefore not entitled to the superannuation entitlements which become available during his optional period from 60 to 65 years of age. That is why it was important to make reference to somebody who retires before reaching the compulsory retiring age of 65, becomes entitled to superannuation, and is then reengaged at a fee equivalent to the income he would have received had he stayed on the job, over and above which he is receiving superannuation as a result of his having elected to retire. That was the point that was being made. I think it is both clear and valid. I would have hoped that we might have obtained a response from the Minister indicating that it has been taken up with the Public Service Board.
– That it is acknowledged.
– I would have hoped that we would have a response that the point is understood and acknowledged and that the attention of the Public Service Board has been drawn to it or that there has been some discussion in relation to it. I would still hope that we might get that response.
– I should like to say something on this matter. Although I do not agree with some of the remarks that have been made, certainly I agree with the latter remarks that Senator Rae has made. It is important that the point is raised. It is important that it be taken into account when re-engaging people as consultants. I do disagree with some of the things that have been said today about this. In the first place I deal with what Senator Georges has said. He apparently would consider it suitable if someone retired early and was re-engaged in private enterprise, that it could use the services of such a person. Of course, that person might be earning more than he was before he retired, having retired as he was entitled to do, and receiving the income in retirement that he is entitled to receive. Apparently that is all right for private enterprise but it is no good for a government.
In my opinion, that is not a sound argument. In fact, if a government desires to re-engage as consultants people who have retired, as they are entitled to do, then it ought to do so. I cite the example to which the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) referred today. The examination which a committee of this Parliament carried out in regard to national compensation benefitted greatly from the services of someone who was engaged as a consultant. As has been pointed out, consultants are appointed at fees which very often are much less than would have been paid to someone who went to the Bar and received high fees to which senior counsel are entitled.
We could also take the example of retired judges. Both here and in the States they are reengaged to carry out inquiries and other work or to take such employment as with the Press Council. I have examples in mind. There is no reason why their services should not be used. There is no reason why if the result of that is that their incomes are higher in that period of retirement than it was before they retired, this should be regarded as in any way undesirable. They are entitled to their payment by way of superannuation. If they choose to earn more and to continue to work, they are entitled to do that. Whilst I am in disagreement with the Estimates Committee on this matter, I am not saying that other points raised by the Committee are not of considerable substance. I believe that so far as this matter is concerned we have had the argument. We have decided that people can retire from the Public Service between the ages of 60 and 65 years. That has been long since decided. In recent years we have debated the terms under which they can retire. I believe that where senior public servants are able to come back and act in consultancy positions, part time or full time, and earn additional fees, the most that can be saidand this is what the Committee does say- is that there may be the possibilities of abuse, but I do not believe they are high. I believe that if in fact the Public Service Board and the Government are concerned and are aware of this fact, the probabilities are not great at all. They are just possibilities of some abuse because somebody does this work just to earn extra money.
Taking in view the type of people who are likely to come back to the Service as consultants, I think abuse is unlikely. I think there is every reason the Commonwealth Government should be able to gain the benefit of the knowledge of these public servants who have retired and should have them working in the same area as they worked in before they retired. Why should they just come back to work in some other area in which they are not specialists and in which they are of not much advantage to the Government? For this reason I do not agree with the basic point which the Committee makes on this aspect. I believe there is no more than a mere possibility of abuse. At the same time I think it is desirable that the matter should be well in the Government’s mind and the Board’s mind so that the possibility does not ever become a probability.
– I would like to turn briefly to another matter and to add my remarks to those that are contained in the report of the Committee on division 1 70. 1 and division 172.1. Division 170 relates to salaries and payments in the nature of salary in lieu of long leave and unremunerated periods of service as Acting Chief Justice. This refers to Sir Edward McTiernan on his retirement from the Bench. Division 172 relates to a similar payment to Sir John Spicer of $40,500 on his retirement from the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The Committee has made some remarks on this but I would like to add a few of my own. When the matter came before the Committee I was not at first particularly disturbed by it because I had always assumed that judges whose daily task is the interpretation of the most abstruse niceties of laws purporting to confer rights and privileges on others would have exercised the utmost punctilio in ensuring that any rights or privileges enjoyed by members of that same court would have a firm statutory base. For that reason I did not think at first that any questions should be asked about it, but to his great credit Senator Wright made no such assumptions and it was due to his probing that the fact was elicited that the payment of these sums in relation to the High Court had no statutory basis other than their inclusion in an Appropriation Bill; and in relation to other Federal judges the only basis for payment was a decision made by Federal Cabinet in 1 967 which I would suggest is not a sufficient basis for such a payment.
I would like to make it clear at the outset that I am not attacking the proposition that judges who work at the tempo and with the application of High Court judges are not entitled to such a benefit. Any man who has practised law knows that High Court judges earn their keep. Not only do they have to deal with the most difficult matters and a great work load, but they are also compelledand this is not the case with the judges of State courts- to move from city to city for the convenience largely of the practitioners in the various cities. I do not for one moment suggest that they are not entitled at the end of their period of service on the Bench to the sort of benefit that they have been getting. But I was astonished and, as I say, it was due to the assiduous probing of Senator Wright that this matter was elicited, to find that there is no statutory basis for such payments. It has just grown up as a custom and at the end of their service or when a judge dies in service it has become the custom to make such payments to them or to the widow.
Another matter disturbed members of the Committee in relation to Mr Justice McTiernan, and that was the amount that was paid to him- a neat $50,000. On examination of the various officials who were acquainted with the facts it emerged that the way the sum of $50,000 was computed was to allow a yearly salary of $47,500 and to add to that an amount to compensate Sir Edward McTiernan for the periods in which he acted as Chief Justice in the absence of the Chief Justice himself. There was no basis for that payment either. The correct amount, for the periods during which Sir Edward had acted in that position, came to something like $4,782. So the correct amount on those computations should have been a couple of thousand dollars more than he was actually paid, leading to, I think, a strongly based suspicion that the reason he was given $50,000 was just to make it a nice round sum. Justification was later found in the form of these periods when he had acted in a higher position. Although I am not suggesting there is anything improper in it and I am not suggesting that a puisne judge who acts as Chief Justice is not entitled to some compensation for the added responsibility involved, it was sloppy and a careless way of going about such a task.
Once again the Committee was of the view that if such payments are to be made, both for long service leave and for acting in a higher position, they should have a firm statutory basis and not be left merely to the discretion of the judges themselves, no matter how worthy they may be of such remuneration. I would like an assurance from the Minister in charge of this matter that the recommendation of the Committee will be seriously considered by the Government and that the matter will be put on a proper basis for the future.
-We are dealing with an additional appropriation of $50,000 for payment to Sir Edward McTiernan. It is expressed in the particulars of proposed additional expenditure as ‘payments in lieu of long leave and unremunerated periods of service as Acting Chief Justice’. We are dealing also with the additional appropriation of $40,500 shown in the particulars as ‘Chief Judge- Payment in lieu of long leave’. I take the view that it is cardinal to the principle of the independence of the judges that their emoluments are stated in statute passed through the Parliament and that they are paid not one cent more nor one cent less than their statutory entitlement. In no other way can we insist or guarantee that the judges will be independent of the executive neither upon their appointment, during their service nor on their termination of service.
It is not proper for any Executive to pay one cent more or to seek to deny them one cent of their statutory emolument. For instance, if you are going to have differences between the standing of people appropriate for appointment, are you then going to offer a bonus to a gentleman who will take his seat on the court? Are you going to make a favourable trip available or some payment for leave not provided by law after the conclusion of an arduous case; or on retirement whether the discussions begin before or after the decision is made as to the amount? What Executive has the right, the temerity to offer a judge anything other than his statutory entitlement?
I refer to the former High Court Judge, Sir Edward McTiernan. At the time of his retirement his salary was $47,500 a year, plus a statutory allowance. On retirement the Judges Pension Act provided that he immediately had accruing to him a pension at the rate of, I think, 60 per cent of that salary. Had long service leave been taken salary would have accrued during that year and been taxed at the rate of $47,500. Had it not been taken and some provision for deferral been applied between the termination of salary and the commencement of pension, there would have been a period of said long service leave taxed at the appropriate level of remuneration. Long service leave is based solely upon a Cabinet decision, which has been referred to from time to time but which has no force in law at all. As a result of that Cabinet decision long service leave is to be taken every 10 years. If not taken, at retirement or death it will be recompensated in one year’s salary. There is no statutory entitlement to it. The indirect effect of deferring the leave is that one becomes entitled to a capital sum- I have invited honourable senators to correct me- taxed only to the extent of 5 per cent. That is taxed at the same time as the taxpayer is paying either the salary or pension.
I may be well and truly behind the times. I listened though to Senator Durack who said that senior counsel are being paid $750 a day. If he implies, as he has done, that they are getting fees of that sort day in and day out, it is an enormous imposition on the public. It is an outrageous illustration of why this Parliament can never allow legel aid to accrue until it takes control of professional fees. If judges are to receive, by Executive action, a capital sum in lieu of long service leave and are not to be subject to the ordinary idea that after a certain period of service they are entitled to some leave on taxed salary, I protest. I think this situation does great damage to the judiciary.
The vice of it can be illustrated in this way. The last Chief Justice who retired 2 years ago, Sir Richard Kirby, by a mere gratuitous act of the Executive, was given twice the annual salary just as an act of grace. The $2,500 that is added to Sir Edward McTiernan’s long service leave at the equivalent of a year’s salary, is called ex-gratia. I have looked at the reply of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) which is contained in the proceedings of the estimates committee. Much of it gives me satisfaction. It is a recognition, I think, of the imperative need to consider this position urgently. But I am not satisfied with the very close language used when the Attorney-General said:
I wish to make it quite clear that the decision to make this payment was not made until after the resignation, which is dated 5 September, had been delivered. It would be wrong to suggest that the payment was agreed to prior to or in order to induce his retirement.
I make no implication whatsoever except to say that I note that what is referred to is ‘decision’ and ‘agreement’. There is no denial that references or discussions or anticipations were referred to or fostered before retirement. I make no insinuation but one must be particularly careful in this regard because the law would never be where it is in its independence and security and respect unless judges refused anything that was not their lawful entitlement, either on assumption of office, performance of office or quitting or office. Otherwise, the inferences are not palatable.
I conclude by saying that I always thought that even before a judge ascended the bench it was the cardinal principle of the legal profession that from a client whom you have served you receive nothing more and, only out of your own individual grace, less than the professional fee you charge. I remember a distinguished chief justice of the High Court who, in practice, in 1921, by tradition having performed notable national service for the Wool Board had delivered to him a cheque for £10,000. He returned it saying: ‘It is a principle of our profession that we do not accept ex-gratia payments from clients’. He was following in the tradition of Murray before he became Lord Mansfield who told his celebrated
Duchess client exactly the same thing. He was a true son of the weatherbeaten Orkney Isles.
I raise this matter with the utmost reluctance but the utmost firmness. I insist, so far as I have any energy, that it will be fully recognised that when special legislation is introduced I will fight to the utmost to prevent a salary being turned into a pension overnight and, in the mystery of the midnight, a long service capital payment being given which should be a salary for the period of service.
– I wish to support what has been said, first by Senator James McClelland and then by Senator Wright. I refer again to the fact that I believe that the estimates committee and the Senate is indebted to Senator Wright. This is an important matter. I have a letter, a response from the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) addressed to me as chairman of that estimates committee, setting out certain matters in relation to the subject matter of the speeches of Senator Wright and Senator James McClelland. It concludes with this paragraph:
I note the concern expressed by some members of the Committee that the provision as to payments to be made to retired judges should be contained in legislation. I agree that in principle this should be so and I will be giving the matter early consideration with a view to recommending in due course appropriate amendments to the relevant legislation.
I hope that that is an undertaking that the legislation will be introduced. I had hoped that this matter could have been dealt with by the withdrawal from the appropriations of an amount which is sought and that instead it could have been appropriated by specific legislation providing, in the manner that has been described by Senator Wright as being necessary, for these particular payments. In all of the circumstances perhaps that cannot be done in this case. We trust that the Attorney-General means that it will never happen again in this way and that in future it will be provided for specifically and openly by legislation. I hope that we may be able to receive such an undertaking from the Minister.
– Before I deal with the matters that have been raised in relation to the items concerning payments made to judges, I would like to add- I was going to say conclude but I suppose that is a bit presumptuous; one cannot conclude anything in committees of the Senate- a comment on the question of Mr Comans. I was somewhat chastised by Senator Rae, I think, because I was not more amenable to the Estimates Committee’s comments in relation to Mr Comans. I informed the
Committee that I had given the matter serious consideration and had discussed it with the Attorney-General and with officers of his Department. We had formed views on the matter which I thought the Committee would have expected me to give. I do not know whether the Committee wants more namby-pamby answers from Ministers. I thought it was only fair to the committee to be able to say exactly what the views were as formed on the matter. My officers have advised me that the Committee’s comments on this matter have been referred to the Public Service Board so that it will be kept fully apprised of the Committee ‘s views.
– Are you speaking on the judges?
– No, I am speaking on Mr Comans. The Committee I did not think would expect a considered reply from the Public Service Board on such a matter. The report was tabled in the Senate only on Tuesday, but the Public Service Board will be taking note of what has been said. However, I must reiterate that the Public Service Board had approved the arrangements made with Mr Comans. I do not know whether the Board had in mind the points made by the Committee in relation to Mr Comans’ appointment but certainly if the matter comes up again the views of the Committee will be noted by the Public Service Board.
I refer now to the matters raised in relation to the payment of judges. The Committee has before it a letter from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) which appears on pages 31 and 32 of the Estimate Committee’s report. I will read the last paragraph of that letter. It reads:
I note the concern expressed by some members of the Committee -
I think it is the Committee and not actually some members.
– That is taken from what appeared in Hansard. Since the letter was drafted the whole Committee has unanimously agreed.
– The paragraph reads:
I note the concern expressed by some members of the Committee that the provisions as to payments to be made to retired judges should be contained in legislation. I agree that in principle this should be so and I will be giving the matter early consideration with a view to recommending in due course appropriate amendments to the relevant legislation.
I have discussed this matter further with the Attorney-General. I emphasised to him the strong views of the Committee. I emphasise that the Attorney-General agrees with the views that have been expressed by the Committee. I hope I may be permitted a personal view although I am representing the Attorney-General in this matter. I also agree with the views of the Committee. So that there can be no doubt about it, I now quote from page 3 of the report:
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, but rather upon statutory authority.
The Attorney-General and I fully agree with that statement. The question is: What can be done about it? The Attorney-General has said that he will be giving it early consideration. He has some amendments in mind on the Judges Pensions Act for introduction in the Budget session. He will be putting them forward with the amendments he already has in hand for consideration by the Cabinet. I cannot give any greater undertaking than that. As honourable senators know, the matter must be determined by the Government and indeed by other processes in this chamber. I need say no more. The fact is that that is the most the Attorney-General and I could do in relation to this matter. I can only conclude by expressing the earnest hope of all those associated that this very vexed important matter can be resolved hopefully in the Budget session but certainly as soon as possible.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditure- Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, $ 1 , 594,000- passed.
Proposed expenditure- Department of Productivity, $ 15,505,000-passed.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 4) 1976-1977 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 5 May, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to raise a matter relating to the Department of the Northern Territory. I refer to page 2 of the report of Estimates Committee E which deals with loan encouragement to primary producers. The particular matter to which I refer is the critical state of the beef industry in the Northern Territory caused by the depressed state of the market and the termination of the freight subsidy scheme which assisted producers to get their stock to market. This was disclosed in the report. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee of the Whole. The plight of the beef industry in Australia, particularly in the Northern Territory, is generally well known at the moment. That industry is one of the Territory’s major industries. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a report on the Northern Territory pastoral industry. This report has been shown to the Minister who is in charge of the Bill and to the Opposition Whip. No objection has been raised. The report sets out in detail the present situation of the beef industry in the Territory. I ask the Minister to give some consideration to the restoration of the freight subsidy scheme as a measure to assist this industry.
– Is leave granted for the incorporation of the report? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The report read as follows-
REPORT ON NORTHERN TERRITORY PASTORAL INDUSTRY
The current cattle population of the Alice Springs district is reckoned to be 5 17 000 (43 1 000) head, of which between 320 000-3S0 000 head are estimated to be females over 12 months. Taking the lower figure of 320 000 and a conservative calving rate of SO per cent, we can expect an increase of 160000 head through calving before the end of the next summer.
Last calendar year the district turned off:
Approximately 75 per cent of this turnoff was male cattle.
The inescapable conclusion is that, unless more female cattle are turned off, the Centralian herd will continue to increase until that year when the summer rains fail.
The Barkly Tableland district turned off 76 000 (43 000) head in the 1975-76 financial year from a population estimated to be 459 000 (400 000). The population increase has not been so dramatic here because:
A survey of the Victoria River district estimated the cattle population to be 498 000 (398 000) head. In the 1975-76 year, 28 000 head were turned off to Western Australia. Katherine Abattoir and overseas. This turnoff is far less than the natural increase and the district is thought to have a population excess of about 100 000 head.
The live stock returns for 1976 for the Darwin and Gulf Districts indicated a population of 319 000 head. Turnoff in 1 975-76 was only 1 1 000 head. There were heavy mortalities of breeders in the prolonged ‘Dry’ of 1976, but the extent of these losses is not known.
In summary the population is:
This is an increase of some 688 000 head (62 per cent) over the population of 4 years ago, brought about by inability to sell cattle and the good seasons. While these figures indicate a large surplus of cattle that should go to the abattoirs, it is cautionary to note that many of these cattle are unbranded and not readily mustered.
– I noted the remarks of the honourable senator. I was a little involved in this matter, when we were discussing the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry, and its application in the Northern Territory. We discussed the problems of the cattle industry in the Northern Territory, as I think Senator Tehan will remember. I noted what he had to say. It would not be possible to provide a definitive answer this afternoon. I think he wants his remarks noted and referred to the Department of the Northern Territory. I undertake that that will be done.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
The Senate adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1976:
What contact did the Queensland Premier have with Australia ‘s diplomatic representatives in each country visited by the Premier during his recent trip to the Middle East.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Queensland Premier, accompanied by the Queensland Minister for Mines, the Queensland CoOrdinatorGeneral, and Mr Lang Hancock, visited Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain between IS and 26 February. In Iran the Ambassador met the Premier on arrival. He subsequently accompanied him to an audience with the Shah and on calls on the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industries and Mines. The Ambassador had informal discussions and lunch with the Premier. In Kuwait the Australian Consul-General from Bahrain, who was in Kuwait on other business, met the Premier at the airport and returned with him on his aircraft to Bahrain. In Bahrain, the ConsulGeneral accompanied the Premier on calls on the Prime Minister and the Minister for Development and Industry and gave a luncheon at his residence for the Premier to which Ministers and leading businessmen in Bahrain were invited. In Saudi Arabia the Premier was met in Riyadh, in the absence from Saudi Arabia of the Ambassador, by the Counsellor (Commercial), who made introductions at all the Premier’s meetings and attended a meeting with the Minister of Industry and Electricity. In Jeddah the Premier was met by the Charge d ‘Affaires and assisted in making appointments.
Commonwealth Employment Service: Assistance Sought by Mr Jack Diamond (Question No. 109)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
In view of the contents of the article entitled ‘Unemployment “myths”, says manufacturer’, which appeared in the Brisbane Sunday Mail dated 20 February 1977, has the Brisbane furniture merchant, Mr Jack Diamond, sought assistance from the Commonwealth Employment Service in the past year in his attempt to obtain staff for his Newmarket store. If so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. The details are: 4.2.1976- One truck offsider for 1 day’s casual workvacancy filled by Alderley CES Office. 16.2.1976- One labourer for 1 day’s casual workvacancy filled by Fortitude Valley CES Office. 7.9.1976- One truck driver for permanent positionvacancy lodged with Alderley and Chermside CES Offices. One applicant was referred from both these offices on the date of lodgement and a further applicant was referred by the Brisbane CES Office on 8.9.76; however, the vacancy was filled by the employer.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 17 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 20 April 1 977:
With reference to the Minister’s reply to a question asked without notice by Senator Colston on 23 February 1977 (vide Senate Hansard, page 291 ), concerning stolen pension and social security cheques, has the investigation referred to by the Minister been completed. If so, (a) when was the investigation completed, (b) who carried out the investigation, (c) is there evidence to suggest that a group of Aboriginals in Brisbane has formed a co-operative to steal pension and social security cheques from letter boxes; if so, what are the details and what action has been taken against the group concerned, (d) will the Minister provide detailed information on (i) the number of cheques reported as stolen in Brisbane since 1 July 1976, (ii) the face value of the cheques, (iii) the Brisbane suburbs from which cheques have been reported as stolen, (iv) the number of prosecutions launched since 1 July 1976 over stolen cheques, (v) the number of successful prosecutions since 1 July 1976, (vi) the number of replacement cheques issued, (vii) how many of the stolen cheques referred to in (i) were reported as stolen from letter boxes and (viii) with reference to the reply to part (iv), how many prosecutions against Aboriginals were launched, and (e) what further action does the Minister intend taking following the investigation that has been carried out.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (a), (b) and (c) The investigations, which have not yet been completed, are being carried out by the Commonwealth Police. It is understood that six persons acting in concert have been arrested on charges of theft and fraudulent negotiation of Government cheques. The charges were laid by the Commonwealth Police under the Crimes Act.
Environmental Impact Statements (Question No. SOO)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 26 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Individuals and organisations who have made a written submission to the Inquiry, will wherever possible, be given the opportunity to discuss their submissions with the Inquiry. Similarly, opportunity will exist for members of the public to make an oral submission to the Inquiry.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 4 May 1977:
What applications for financial or other assistance under the Australian Assistance Plan have been made in New South Wales and have not been approved in each of the present Federal electorates.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
During the three year experimental period of the Australian Assistance Plan ended 30 June 1976, two applications for financial assistance, lodged by Regional Councils for Social Development in New South Wales with access to a community welfare grant, were rejected.
The first of these was in 1 974-75 when the Riverina Council for Social Development Ltd, applied for $5,000 to SUPplement the salary subsidy already being provided under the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act to the Waratah Industries Sheltered Workshop, Wagga Wagga. The workshop is located in the electorate of Farrer.
The second was in 1975-76 when the South West Sydney Regional Social Development Council Ltd, which has its office in the electorate of St George, sought $500 to facilitate communication among Regional Councils for Social Development.
Several applications from Regional Councils with access to a community welfare grant were referred back to Councils for additional information. In these cases the Regional Councils either provided the information concerned and the respective projects were then approved or the Councils did not resubmit the projects for funding.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 May 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770527_senate_30_s73/>.