30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 8 1 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
1 ) that Australia and its land was taken from the original inhabitants, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, by Europeans without any compensation and mineral royalty;
that tens of thousands of our people were killed by guns and poison and by whitemens diseases;
that the present Government is largely responsible because they and their predecessors have held office in this country for a far longer period than any Labor Party Government;
that though there may be more Coloured People in countries such as Africa, India and other places, this land in this country is still ours because not one cent has been paid for one foot of land which for the past 188 years has been, and still is, being withheld by fraud;
that the decision to mine uranium has been taken by the Government without any consultation with the Aboriginal people and that uranium will be exported and probably will be responsible for causing the loss of many lives in other countries;
that this Government and many of its predecessors have been responsible for inflicting poverty, not only on Australian Aborigines but they have contributed also to death and poverty of indigenous people in other Asian countries and in the Pacific.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take all possible steps to alter current policies to compensate Aborigines for deaths inflicted on us and for the loss of our lands.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or pan of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Baume.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. The former Attorney-General stated in his resignation speech that he had had a conversation with the Prime Minister at the Lodge on 3 August and that ‘during that conversation the Prime Minister reiterated his view that the proceedings ought to be taken over and terminated’. Did the former Attorney-General accurately report what the Prime Minister said? Did the Prime Minister give the former Attorney-General any reasons for his view? If so, what reasons were given?
-Even if I were privy, which I was not, to the conversations which took place between the Prime Minister and the former Attorney-General, I would not be prepared to disclose them in this place.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. On Saturday, 27 August, the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, the Honourable E. G. Whitlam, while in Bundaberg said:
The Fraser Government at a time when it was restoring the superphosphate bounty, struck a heavy blow at the Queensland sugar industry by abolishing the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty.
Yet in the Budget Speech delivered in this chamber by the Minister on behalf of the Treasurer, he said, under the heading ‘Assistance to rural industry’, that $ 12m would be provided for the continuation of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy at its present level with the proposed review of that level from 1 January 1978 being postponed. My question is: Does Mr Whitlam know something that the Treasurer does not or is he, by a slip of the tongue, inadvertently letting the rural industries know what will happen to them if by some misfortune Labor is returned to power?
– The rural industries have a lot of worries but one of their great statisfactions must be that Mr Whitlam and his Party will never get back into power. What I ought to do here is quote exactly the situation as it affects this matter which, I think, has been the subject of some very misleading statements. Legislation to amend the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act was passed during the last session of Parliament. The provision of $40m in the Budget will enable payment of a subsidy at the rate of $12 per ton of standard superphosphate produced and sold in Australia. The scope of the bounty is extended to include crushed and calcinated rock and phosphatic materials used in stock foods. Similarly the Government has examined the operation of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act and has agreed that payment of the subsidy should be continued at the same rate as applied during 1977. The sum of $12m will be allocated for 1977-78. I also talked to Mr Sinclair about this matter and he made it clear in discussions with me that this would allow farmers to plan their fertiliser, cropping and pasture programs with some degree of confidence at a time when they were faced with many difficult problems. I think, to say the least, that Mr Whitlam ‘s comments demonstrate above all other things his continuing thirst for inaccuracy.
-My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government, follows a question already directed to him by the Leader of the Opposition. I remind the Minister that in his resignation speech the former Attorney-General said that subsequent to the Cabinet meeting of 26 July he had approached various individuals who had had some connection with the loans affair, including the Permanent Head of the Treasury and the Permanent Head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with a view to obtaining statement or files on the matter. The former Attorney-General went on to say that he was still unable to obtain any information from those individuals. Can the Minister say whether any instructions were given by the Prime Minister or by individual Ministers to those persons in connection with any approaches made to them by the former Attorney-General?
-As far as I am aware no instructions were given. Honourable senators will be well aware of the Government’s stance that governments should not pry into the documents and files of their predecessors, especially concerning those matters where advice was given by members of the Public Service to Ministers. Our attitude is that such advice is given to Ministers who are members of a government for the time being. If this were not the stance, the Government believes that this would destroy the relationship of an independent Public Service in being able to give advice fearlessly and accurately to Ministers for the time being. As far as I am aware no instructions were given to public servants either to give information or to refuse information.
– What was that exercise we had in 1 975 in the Senate?
-Senator Georges is, of course, confusing the situation of the right of the Parliament to demand answers from anybody in the community. Parliament has quite a different role in this regard. Parliament has certain rights and privileges in this matter which have been established for centuries. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no in each case:
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question in relation to the questions already asked. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister used the loans affair to achieve government and in view of the statement apparently made by the former AttorneyGeneral that the Prime Minister wanted the Sankey case to be taken over so as to terminate it, would the Minister not consider that it would be the general public’s thinking that it is rather odd, in view of the Prime Minister’s previous views before the election, that he does not want the matter to be prosecuted to the full, and that if there is nothing wrong this case should proceed in order to prove that the men charged are innocent or to prove that they are guilty if they are guilty? In my own opinion it would be the public’s view that the matter should be prosecuted to the fullest.
-I think it would be fanto say that the Government’s general view is that the matters arising out of not just the loans affair but the whole period of the Whitlam Government were well known to the public. They were tried before a jury of 6,000,000 people, who brought down their verdict on 13 December 1975, and that is the end of the matter. The idea that a government should pursue its predecessors through the courts after the electors have made a judgment just does not appeal to me.
-My question to Senator Withers follows the question asked by Senator Wood. Is he prepared to state why the Government is not prepared to proceed with the Sankey case? Is it a fact that the Government is being extremely wary of any precedent being established that may involve it in litigation under future governments?
-I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition does not quite understand the situation. I am talking about what the Government’s view is. I thought the Prime Minister made it quite clear that whether to take over the case and to prosecute or not to prosecute is a matter for determination by the AttorneyGeneral for the time being, and that it is for him and him alone to make that determination. Of course, that is not to say that the AttorneyGeneral ought not to consult with his colleagues and take into account what their views are. The Prime Minister believes it to be fair enough that the Government’s views be known. It is for the Attorney-General ultimately to make the decision on the case.
It is not that we fear that we are likely to be prosecuted in the future. I know of no unlawful act, and we have never been accused of committing any unlawful act, for which we might be prosecuted. We have had a certain stance under the Westminster system, namely, that, the electors having changed governments, one gets on with the future.
– You want to forget the past.
-No; it is not a matter of forgetting the past. It is also a matter of fundamental belief, as far as the Prime Minister and his Ministers are.concerned, that this whole matter was judged by the Australian electorate, that the people have made their decision, and there the matter finishes.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Senate to understand that the Government is now conceding that there was absolutely no substance in the allegations that were made in the first place about acts of illegality or impropriety on the part of the Labor Government and that in fact the four persons who were charged are innocent -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. This very question of illegality is before a court at the moment, and I submit that such a question should not be allowed.
– I have a point of order also, Mr President. The ruling on subjudice matters is absolute and quite clear, unless you feel inclined to alter it, sir. The ruling is that a matter is open for discussion in the Senate unless those before the courts will be prejudiced by such debate or questions in the Senate. I believe that there is no substance in Senator Missen ‘s point of order.
- Mr President, I indicate that I am not seeking a legal opinion. Surely it is obvious that I am asking about a policy decision of the Government and seeking the reasons for the adoption of that policy.
– In regard to the point of order raised by Senator Missen, any discussion here which could prejudice a matter is the fundamental aspect involved.
-The short answer to the honourable senator’s queston is that the electors of Australia found that Government guilty.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to the editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 29 August, which defends the role of the Industries Assistance Commission and states that the Government intends to muzzle this independent body due to its controversial reports. Does not the Minister agree that the public should be aware of the actual costs which the community pays in the protection of specific industries? Is the Government in fact under no obligation to accept or implement particular recommendations made by the IAC? Can the Minister assure the Senate that the independence and integrity of this advisory body will not be jeopardised?
-On an earlier occasion I said that some people have a thirst for inaccuracy and for being misleading. That is equally true of the Australian Financial Review. There is no intention to jeopardise the independence of the Commission. It is not in contemplation and never has been. The creation of these straw images for oneself so as to set fire to them later is a useless, unproductive exercise. The Government acknowledges the independent nature of the IAC. It always has done so. So did the previous Government. The Government acknowledges that the IAC ‘s job is to investigate matters, to make public reports on them, which get published, to identify costs and to communicate its views to the Government. The Government can accept them, change them, reject them or send back for more informaton. Past governments, Sir John Crawford himself and the present Government understand that the responsibility of government is to make policy decisions.
-I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I also refer to the Ellicott matter. There now appears to be a sordidness and meanness about the Prime Minister’s handling of this matter. Is the Minister aware that Mr Barnett waited until after the publication of the Canberra Times article before notifying the former Attorney-General’s staff of the discussions held between a journalist and himself? In view of what the Minister said yesterday relating to the relations between Ministers and the Press, does the Minister believe it to be the duty and responsibility of the Prime Minister to inform a Minister of discussions held between a member of the Prime Minister’s staff and the Press relating to that Minister prior to the publication of an article?
– The honourable senator ought to know that on 15 August Mr Ellicott was overseas. I wonder why all these questions are coming forward. One gets the impression that a number of honourable senators opposite are rather worried about the Prime Minister’s attitude on this matter and one wonders whether, merely because they could not topple their parliamentary leader in Caucus, they want him toppled elsewhere- in the courts.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. Is it correct that when in government the Australian Labor Party purchased 41.6 per cent of the Mary Kathleen uranium shares through a governmental instrumentality- the Australian Atomic Energy Commission- using the Australian taxpayers’ money, which percentage represented some 30,764,142 shares in the company, and then appointed Mr Egerton, a senior trade unionist, to the Mary Kathleen board to supervise the Labor Party’s interest in the mining of uranium and the production and sale of uranium oxide- yellowcake? Is it also correct that when the Labor Party was in government it entered into a memorandum of understanding with Peko-EZ to fund 72 Vi per cent of the Ranger development in return for 50 per cent of Ranger’s production of yellowcake? If this is the case, following this commitment of the taxpayers’ money to uranium development, is not the action of the Labor Party completely inexplicable in calling for a moratorium for an indefinite period, which would mean the leaving of all Australian uranium in the ground, after having encouraged production and milling and arranged for the sale of uranium overseas? Finally, what are the people of Australia to think when they see left wing Labor endeavouring -
– I raise a point of order.
– . . . to sabotage the previous efforts of the Labor Party when other countries of the same political philosophies -
– Order! Senator Kilgariff, a point of order has been raised.
– It is fairly obvious that Senator Kilgariff was so involved in making his statement that he did not notice that I was on my feet taking a point of order. The point of order I am raising is that the patience of honourable senators on this side of the chamber is stretched to the point of protest when an honourable senator gives information after information in the nature of a statement rather than asking a question directly of the Minister. I put it to you, Mr President, that far too much information is contained in the question.
-Information must not be given when a question is asked. It is desirable that questions be put in as short a form as possible.
– Thank you, Mr President. The final part of the question is short. As I was saying, what are the people of Australia to think when they see left wing Labor endeavouring to sabotage the previous efforts of the Labor Party when other countries of the same -
– I raise a pertinent point of order. Senator Kilgariff asks: What are the people of Australia to think? Is that not asking for an opinion, which is strictly prohibited by Standing Order 99?
– No point of order is involved.
– What are the people of Australia to think when they see left wing Labor endeavouring to sabotage the previous efforts of the Labor Party, when other countries of the same political philosophy such as Russia and China are developing and acquiring uranium with a voracious appetite, using it industrially and indeed continuing to develop it -
– The honourable senator is now in conflict with the ruling that you just gave,
Mr President. The honourable senator has continued to defy your ruling by giving further elaborate and questionable information which cannot be subjected to debate because it is being given at question time. I submit to you, Mr President, that the honourable senator should abide by your ruling.
Thr PRESIDENT- I reiterate my former statement. I call upon the Minister to reply.
- Mr President -
– Have you a prepared answer?
-I have a very good answer. A feature of the uranium development policy of the Whitlam Government was direct Commonwealth participation. The Whitlam Government obtained a 42 per cent shareholding in Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. On the basis of these arrangements re-commissioning of the mine commenced in 1974, and production commenced early in 1976. Production and export of uranium is continuing at Mary Kathleen and to date 690 short tons of uranium oxide have been exported for electric power generation in Japan, the United States and West Germany. Following its decision on the Mary Kathleen project, the Whitlam Government tabled in the Parliament on 31 October 1974 a statement announcing a program of large scale uranium development in the Northern Territory of Australia commencing with exploitation of the Ranger deposit to be followed by development of the Narbarlek, Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits. Together with the Whitlam Government’s statement on 31 October 1974 there was also tabled in the Parliament an agreement with Peko-EZ for joint development of the Ranger deposit by the Commonwealth and those companies. The agreement was signed by the then Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam; the then Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns; the then Minister for Minerals and Energy, the late Mr Connor; the Chairman of Peko Mines , Mr Proud; and the Managing Director of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Ltd, Mr Mackay. That agreement was elaborated further in a memorandum of understanding dated 28 October 1975 which also was tabled in the Parliament. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the then Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, and Mr Proud and Mr Mackay of Peko-EZ.
The Whitlam Government also announced in its uranium development policy statement of 3 1 October 1 974 that the Government stockpile of uranium remaining from the earlier operations at Rum Jungle would be available to Peko-EZ and
Queensland Mines Ltd to allow early delivery to be made under the approved export contracts of those companies prior to the mines at Ranger and Nabarlek coming into production. It should be recalled that central considerations in the Whitlam Government’s policy of uranium development were the economic benefits to Australia which would accrue and the responsibility Australia had as an energy-rich nation in meeting the energy needs of other countries.
The Whitlam Government statement on uranium development, which was tabled in Parliament on 3 1 October 1974, opened with the following words: . . this statement is to outline the Government’s program for the rational development of uranium resources in the Northern Territory; a program which will return substantial economic benefits to Australia from our supply of this vital energy resource to our overseas trading partners who face such grave difficulties in securing their energy requirements . . .
The Whitlam Government’s commitment of Australia, and Australian companies, to meeting the uranium requirements of our trading partners continued and reached the very substantial amount of 100,000 tonnes of uranium. The then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Les Johnson, said on 16 October 1975 in the second reading speech on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill:
International assurances have been provided-
- Mr President, could I have the temerity to raise another point of order? I wonder whether, in a similar way, you could rule against the Leader of the Government. We had a very lengthy question from Senator Kilgariff which gave a tremendous amount of informationdebatable information. We now have -
– One of the left wing members ashamed of what he is saying.
– It is not a matter of being ashamed, Senator. That is the sort of remark one could expect from Senator Webster. But if we are to have another debate on uranium we would welcome it. If the Minister wants to put down a statement, he is welcome to do so. But in answer to a question surely he could confine himself to two or three paragraphs and at a later stage put down a statement. We have seen a misuse of question time by Senator Kilgariff and now by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– Please continue with your reply, Senator Withers.
-I am almost finished, Senator Georges. Do not get excited. The then
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Les Johnson, said:
International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners, which could amount to a total of about 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990.
Very clearly the Whitlam Government recognisedand responded most positively to- the urgent and legitimate energy requirements of other countries. Like our Government, the Whitlam Government recognised the interdependence between Australia and other countries and our responsibilities as a nation rich in energy resources to supply these resources to others.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it not a fact that in 1966 the Liberal Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, described China as a threat to the whole of South East Asia and that the Liberal Government of the day and for many years after continually refused to recognise Communist China? I ask: What is this Government’s policy on Communist China and what is the reason for the change?
-If we are going to go back to the past, I refer the honourable senator -
Opposition senators- Oh!
– I was just going to say that if we are going back into the past I refer the Leader of the Opposition to the speech of, I think, the late John Curtin in the Budget debate in 1939 when he said that there was no foreseeable threat to Australia. So I do not think we ought to dredge up speeches of past Prime Ministers.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to a report in the Canberra Times concerning the administration of justice in the Australian Capital Territory. I quote from a report of a statement by the Chief Magistrate, Mr Kilduff:
The Attorney-General’s Department’s attitude to the administration of justice in the Australian Capital Territory was criticised strongly by the Chief Magistrate, Mr Kilduff, in Canberra Petty Sessions yesterday.
He said that delays in getting matters on for hearing were inordinate, serious and unacceptable’ and that there had been a number of failures within ‘.he administration in recent limes which he could describe only as inefficiency and ineptitude’.
The Chief Magistrate went on to refer to a number of particular aspects of the administration of justice and the role of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. 1 ask the AttorneyGeneral whether these matters will be examined by him and his Department and what action might be taken to overcome the problems referred to by the Chief Magistrate.
– My attention has been drawn to statements made by Mr Kilduff, a stipendiary magistrate in the Australian Capital Territory, as reported in the Canberra Times this morning. He has drawn his complaints with a fairly wide brush and has covered quite a bit of ground. I have not had the opportunity to consider the details fully. However, it seems that the main complaint is that the number of magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory is inadequate. The situation in regard to the appointment of magistrates is that my predecessor had hoped to announce the appointment of another stipendiary magistrate within the next couple of weeks. Applicants for the position have been interviewed, and I understand that my predecessor had formed an opinion as to the recommendation he would make. Naturally, in view of the change, I will have to reconsider the matter, but I will do it as speedily as possible. However, one of the reasons for the delay and perhaps the reason for my predecessor not actually making an appointment was that one of the applicants who had been favourably considered had apparently declined the appointment, and that rather threw the question into the melting pot again. However, I will certainly look at the matter as quickly as possible. There seems to be some view abroad that 1 have only one matter on my mind at the present moment. I can assure the Senate, particularly the honourable senator who asked the question, that I have many other matters on my mind, including not only the appointment of magistrates but also the question of additional assistance to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I direct his attention to page one of the Melbourne Herald of 18 April 1977, which carried an article entitled ‘Nuclear Dump Plan ‘ by Peter Costigan. Among other things he said:
Australia, the US and Canada are considering a plan to make Australia the dumping ground for the western world ‘s nuclear wastes.
By-product* of nuclear reactors-including plutonium a vital ingredient of nuclear bombs- would be stored in a remote area like the Gibson desert.
He went on to say:
Talks on the pact, which began last year, are well advanced. i am told that Mr Costigan said he was absolutely certain of his information. Had he not been certain he would noi have written the article. Will the Minister tell the Senate whether this allegation is true or false? If it is not true, why has the Government not repudiated such an outrageous suggestion and thus laid to rest the understandable concern every Australian citizen is entitled to have at the frightening prospect of our country becoming a dumping ground ibr the Western world ‘s nuclear waste?
-I think the honourable senator said that the article appeared on 18 April. That was some live months ago, and it seems strange that an article of that vintage should be raised by way of question at this time, especially as the Government’s policy on the mining and sale of uranium and the various safeguards was put down in a very full statement in this place some seven days ago.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Would the Minister be good enough to inform the Senate- if noi today, then in due course- whether there is any substance at all in the allegation that there is a proposal that Australia enter into an agreement with the United States and Canada for the purpose of dumping the Western world’s nuclear wastes in this country?
-I know of no such arrangement being entered into. To my knowledge, the article would not bc factual; but to satisfy the honourable senator I will seek confirmation of that from my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister noted the reported estimate by W. D. Scott and Co. that inflation in Australia will fall to about 6’^ per cent this financial year, and that interest rates this week have fallen significantly? ls he aware that the British Trades Union Congress has agreed to Prime Minister Callaghan ‘s plan to limit pay claims to once a year? Would such a proposal if adopted in this country assist a further reduction in the rate of inflation and bring further beneficial moves in interest rates? In the light of the success of the Fraser Government’s anti-inflation policy, will the Minister continue his best efforts to obtain agreement from the Australian Council of Trade
Unions on moderation in wage claims along the lines of the United Kingdom agreement?
-Yes, I certainly will. The honourable senator referred to the Scott comments. That firm made some comments at an earlier stage, as did Phillip Shrapnel. They both were very optimistic about the economy in 1978. In fact. Shrapnel was even more optimistic than Scott. Shrapnel believes that the Government has done extremely well and has behaved very courageously and has not received the credit it is duc to get. I quite agree with him.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact, that Aboriginal juvenile offenders from the central Australian region have been sent to an island off the coast of Arnhem Land as a form of punishment? J.t is also a fact that there are very few facilities on the island and no trained staff? If these are facts, will the Minister not agree that sending a young Aboriginal into what amounts to alien country under these conditions could not be classified as a sound rehabilitative program and that it could actually promote further ami-social behaviour? Will the Minister indicate whether banishment of this sort is to become part of Government policy for Aboriginal offenders?
– I am unaware of the facts as stated in the question, but I do recall answering a question of this nature some months ago. At that time it was pointed out that it was the tribal elders or leaders who had decided on this form of treatment for younger members of the tribe. As far as my knowledge goes, it is not Government policy but rather a method of dealing within the tribal situation with offences by younger Aboriginals. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to ascertain what information he can give now.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General, either in that capacity or as Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Can the Minister say what action, if any, can be taken against groups advertising false information in the course of the uranium debate? I am referring in particular to the advertisement in the Hobart Mercury last week headed ‘Uranium- More Tasmanians say No’. The signatories arc headed by Mr Doug Lowe, the Labor Minister for Health in Tasmania. There are eight sentences, each attributed to the Fox report, but in point of fact this is untrue. For example, the first sentence, which reads . . that the world-wide distribution of uranium - ‘
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I hate to be so persistent, but this is another example of an honourable senator not asking a question, but making a statement, giving too much information and, further than that, giving an opinion on the information that she is providing to the Minister. How much longer do we have to put up with this sort of performance at question time?
- Senator Walters will ask her question directly.
– Thank you, Mr President. As I said, the first sentence reads:’. . . that the world-wide distribution of uranium and its fission by-product constitutes an unacceptable hazard for future life on earth’. Then it says: ‘See page 376, Fox report 2 When we examine this page of the Fox report we see that it is a page of Appendix 5 and has nothing to do with the sentence I have read. I repeat: Can any action be taken about this type of false and misleading advertisement?
– I have been asked a question recently along similar lines to that asked by Senator Walters when I did quote a section of the Trade Practices Act. I do not have it with me at the moment but I refer the Senate to the answer I gave then. I think it is sufficient to say that the right to take proceedings in regard to false and misleading advertisements is restricted under the Act in certain cases and I do not think, broadly speaking, that the sort of advertisement to which Senator Walters has referred is covered under the Act. However, I do not want to give a firm opinion on that matter. Indeed, I suppose I should not be giving legal opinions at all. Senator Walters asked what redress can be taken. The redress that can be taken on matters of this kind is in the political arena. Redress is taken by the strength of the Government’s case on this matter which is being so firmly promoted and which I am sure the electorate will understand. That is the best form of redress that can be taken against this sort of misleading advertisement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security in that capacity and also in her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to representations which have been made in most States-certainly in South Australia -on behalf of those who suffer from coeliac disease and who, although working, are required to incur quite extensive extra costs in performing their duties because of the special foods needed. The position is that although they are not completely handicapped they face a great deal of hardship and so do the families which have children who have the disease. I have made representations to the Minister on particular cases. I ask the Minister whether there is any way in which these people- I am not referring to the totally handicapped- might be given assistance in the special cases I have mentioned? I also ask whether any special consideration can be given to school children affected with this disease who need special consideration from their superiors?
– With regard to adults who incur continuing medical expenditure, there is no real assistance that I am able to mention. As far as children are concerned, the eligibility for the handicapped child’s allowance is dependent on medical evidence. Each claim must be considered on its merits. The Department of Health takes into account the seventy of the handicap and any secondary disability and the ability of the child to cope with his handicap. As I announced in August, the Government has decided to extend the eligibility for the handicapped child’s allowance to low income families who have the care, custody and control of the substantially handicapped child. This new eligibility will apply in respect of a child whose handicap does not fully meet the medical criteria currently applying where, because of continuing substantial expenditure associated with the child’s disability, the parent or guardian is, in the opinion of the Director-General of Social Services, suffering severe financial hardship. That would cover the matter that has been raised by Senator Bishop. Where there is a case of a disease, particularly the disease mentioned by Senator Bishop, and continuing expenditure is involved and the medical criteria for eligibility are not established, the Director-General may consider that case to see whether he will allow a handicapped child’s allowance to be paid to that person.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. On 18 August I asked a question concerning the tabling of the Callaghan report and was informed that it has been sent to the Tasmanian Premier for information and comment. Has that comment been received? When does the Minister expect to present the report?
– I have not seen the comments of the Tasmanian Premier. They may have arrived in the last few days. When I checked this matter yesterday the comments of the Tasmanian Premier had not been received. The Prime Minister may have received it, of course, in which case it will come from him to me. I was hoping to table the report in the Senate today, but there are insufficient copies available to do that properly. Therefore, I cannot table it until next week. That is where the matter sits at the moment.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Given the fact that the former Attorney-General resigned because Cabinet’s interference prevented him from performing his duties as the first law officer, are we to assume that the new Attorney-General has no such scruples or has the Government given him a guarantee that it will not prevent him from performing his duties as the first law officer?
– Order! Any improper imputation must not be included in any statement in the Senate. I call the Attorney-General.
– I am very pleased to have the opportunity to answer a question of this type. The Prime Minister made it very clear in his statement in the House, and I can assure the Senate that he has made it very clear in the conversations I had with him, that he recognises and fully endorses the fact that a decision of the character which has been the subject of such great discussion in recent days is one for the Attorney-General himself to make. There is absolutely no question of that in my mind, in the mind of the Prime Minister or in the minds of my colleagues.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. No doubt the Minister has noticed that the Hamer Government in Victoria has now joined Queensland in abolishing probate duty. Is this not partly due to the healthy condition of State revenues under the new and generous Commonwealth tax sharing scheme? Is it not also due to the final and expanding view of probate as a destructive tax, a tax on initiative, and one which militates against long term capital investment and job opportunities which follow? Will the Minister seek to maintain pressure for its early abolition in the federal arena?
-Yes, I think that all those things can be fairly said to be true. Of course, in politics one is always accountable for one’s past record and for having spoken publicly on certain issues. I, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle and Senator Ellis Lawrie, as he then was, together worked on a Senate committee in this area with other honourable senators. We were then of the view as back bench senators that probate duty would be usefully abolished by the Commonwealth. We said so and I think we would not resile from that position. We were concerned as a committee that if the Commonwealth did this and the States were to move in and pick up the revenue, nobody would be any better off. So one is naturally very pleased to see, because of the Commonwealth’s advanced financial policies towards the States under the new federalism, that the States are now in a buoyant position and can begin to move accordingly to abolish probate. What we now see is Queensland abolishing probate duty, Victoria abolishing probate duty and a massive tug of war for people, buildings and resources between those two eminent States.
-On 19 August I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government had investigated whether any safeguards covered the uranium then awaiting export from Brisbane and was told that the information would be sought. Can I now ask him what information has been obtained and what safeguards cover the shipments now being made and those that the Government hopes will be made in the near future?
-I apologise to the honourable senator that I have not yet received a reply to that question. I will chase up the reply and make certain that I have it for her next Tuesday.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can the Minister confirm that the Australian Council of Trade Unions, unlike the Australian Labor Party, does not oppose outright the development of a uranium industry in Australia? Is this so in spite of attempts by the Australian Labor Party to enforce on all members, including those in the ACTU executive, an extreme partisan view on uranium and its problems? Can the Minister resolve from the statements of the President of the ACTU and the ALP just what the real policies of these bodies are on uranium? Does Mr Hawke in fact reject instructions that he abandon his own capacity to think and adhere blindly to a party line laid down by the ALP?
- Mr President, thank goodness I do not bear any sort of ministerial responsibility for this sort of dichotomy of responsibility or schizophrenia of Mr Hawke in the dual roles that he occupies in this country.
-Therefore, the question is out of order.
-Senator Cavanagh is quite right but as he has now tempted me I will go a little further because the answer is not out of order. This just points up the great dilemma, both within the Labor Party and the trade union movement, when one person, who is the head of both those bodies, cannot quite make up his mind what he wants. In fact, it ought to be remembered that the decision in Perth by the Australian Labor Party was arrived at without -as the Press said at the time- any of the heavies of the Labor Party participating. All the lightweights and the fringe lunatics evidently took part in that debate and none of the real heavies ever had any real participation in the decisionmaking of that conference.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Department established a scheme known as the community development employment project scheme? Has the scheme been established to enable communities to employ Aboriginal people doing what work the community decides and at what wages the community decides? Would any decision to employ such personnel at below award wages be in breach of a State industrial law or, in Queensland, in breach of the Queensland Racial Discrimination Act? Further, are such employees covered by workers’ compensation?
– I will seek the information sought by the question. It is a fact that employment schemes have been developed in a small number of communities. I will seek information with regard to wage levels, workers’ compensation and the other matters raised in the question.
– I direct my question either to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources or the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Government prepared to investigate the hardship faced by some fuel retailers in Perth and other capital cities where the wholesale price of fuel charged to them is higher than the retail price charged by other retailers?
-I think this matter comes within the scope of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and, in particular, of the Trade Practices Commission. The Trade Practices Commission has been aware of this matter for some time and has been closely involved in consideration of it. However I do not have any details with me at the moment. I will pass this question to the Minister whom I represent and endeavour to obtain further information for the honourable senator.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry follows a question asked earlier by Senator Collard relating to primary industry. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that despite repeated complaints and protests by primary producers regarding the adverse effects of the 1977-78 Budget on the rural sector, the Treasurer has now announced that there will be no additional assistance for primary producers in the form of a mini-budget? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Farmers Federation, as a result of the Government’s lack of decision to alleviate the problems of the farmers, is now urging its members to use their votes against the Liberal Party and the National Country Party? Does the Government propose to review the plight of the primary sector as a result of the widespread discontent now evident within the farming community?
-I suppose if the primary industries ever took a solid thrashing, it was during the time of the Labor Government. If honourable senators opposite looked at the increase in interest rates brought about by that Government and the inflation rate brought about by that Government they would know who did the primary industries the real harm. Perhaps honourable senators opposite should note that.
-I ask a supplementary question. Having put over that propaganda, will the Minister now answer the question that I asked him?
-I will reply with a little more propaganda. The primary industries really suffered under the administration of the Labor Party. The sensible leaders in the industries know that. This Government has done more for them than any other government ever did. That is known by the leaders of the industries. We will help as best we can, when we can fix the economy that the Labour Government made such a mess of.
- Mr President, I am bound to persist with my question. I will ask the Minister just the final part of my question. I am concerned about this matter, as is primary industry throughout Australia. I think it is time we got an answer on it. Does the Government propose to review the plight of the primary sector as a result of the widespread discontent now evident within the farming community?
-The Government is always reviewing the problems of the Australian people in the primary, secondary, tertiary or public sector, or wherever they may be, who have difficulties.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. For the edification of Senator Webster and the Government senator for the Northern Territory, I mention that it concerns that right wing- I emphasise right wing’- body, the National Australian Association. On 23 August the Minister said that in view of this organisation’s defamation of Australians of Latin American origin we were asking our embassy in Buenos Aires to have a look at what sort of newspaper vilification had been carried out by that organisation on the Latin American continent. I am asking the Minister now whether we have had a feedback from our ambassador there as to the effect of the manifestation of right wing extremism.
– I recall the earlier question and the statements that I made as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on that occasion. I have further information. I am able to advise that a report has been received from the Australian Embassy which has advised that reaction in Uruguay to the Press articles has been confined principally to letters to the editor from readers relating to alleged problems of elderly people in Sydney. Apart from an earlier inquiry at the Embassy regarding social security entitlements for migrants, no further matters have been raised with the Embassy. The Australian Ambassador in Buenos Aires has been authorised to write to the editor of El Diario in the following terms:
The Australian Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has asked me to write to you concerning alleged problems being experienced by elderly South Amercian migrants living in Sydney and, in particular, the comments of Mr N. Maina Secretary of the National Australian Association.
Australia’s immigration policy which is nondiscriminatory on grounds of race or nationality gives priority to the reunion of close family relatives with Australian residents. It includes provision for the admission of aged parents sponsored by their children who are required to give guarantees that they will accept responsibility for the maintenance of their parents.
Not many aged parents have gone to Australia from South America. In 1976-77, 107 arrived in Australia-40 of these were from Uruguay. Most of these aged parents have encountered few problems in settling into the Australian community.
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has requested that your readers be assured that the views of Mr Maina and his organisation are not representative of Australian opinion. He and his organisation have no official status and their comments should be regarded as reflecting the views of a small, eccentric and isolated group in the Australian community.
I believe that Senator Mulvihill would share those sentiments.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, refers to the year that the United Nations observes about every second year. In 1979 it is to be the United Nations International Year of the Child. Are the ministries of Education and Health effectively involved in the planning for the Year? Can the Minister give the reason why the planning for this Year has been allocated to the ministry of Social Security?
-Mr President, it might be appropriate if I were to answer the question for Senator Harradine and to tell him mat the Prime Minister asked the Department of Social Security to co-ordinate the Federal Government’s efforts in relation to the Internation Year of the Child. We have decided- I will be making an early announcement of this-that an interdepartmental committee and a committee of Ministers for a number of departments, including Education, Health, Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs and my own department- maybe others as well- will work towards the observance of this Year. Further I will be announcing that we will be working with the voluntary organisations in the community and providing funds to enable a secretariat to be established. This decision of the Government has not yet been announced. I hope to be able to make such an announcement in the very near future. But it is not a year that will be observed only through the work of the Department of Social Security, but that Department is the one that will co-ordinate the efforts of all other Federal Government departments.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It relates to a question I asked in the Senate on 27 May this year. I asked whether it would be possible for some emergency telephones to be installed along highways such as the one in Tasmania between Hobart and Kingston. My question really was whether, in view of the profit made by Telecom Australia, it could be requested to examine the installation of emergency telephones along the highway 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. It has been quite a while since that question was asked. I am wondering whether the Minister yet has any information on it for me and, if not, whether he could have it for me by next Monday, which is when I believe the Estimates Committee concerned with the subject will be meeting.
-The Senate is certainly aware and I am certainly aware of Senator Townley ‘s interest in these matters. I was not aware that the question remained unanswered. I regret very much that that should be the case. I appreciate his desire to have this information before the Estimates Committee meets. I will seek the information urgently for him.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He may remember that several weeks ago I asked him whether it was a fact that separate passports had been issued to members of an Australian parliamentary delegation visiting the Middle East- one to each of them for use in Israel and another for use on entering the Arab countries- and, if that was the case, why it was done. As I do not appear to have received an answer to this question, which the Minister told me he would obtain for me, I am wondering whether he could find out from the Minister for Foreign Affairs what is the position in regard to this subject.
-I will certainly chase it up. My colleague Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is also very interested in the subject matter of the question. The position raised is not very unusual. I remember that in 1975, when our predecessors were in office, I went to both Japan and Taiwan and the then Government issued me with two passports-a green one for entry to Japan and a blue one for entry to Taiwan. So it is evidently a practice of some standing within the Department of Foreign Affairs, perhaps to satisfy relations with other countries. I will ask about this matter as a matter of urgency and provide the honourable senator with information on it next week.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It refers to the safety of seat belts in aircraft. I understand that it is now a general rule that seat belts in motor vehicles should fasten at the side of a passenger rather than in the middle of the body. Can the Minister state whether any investigations have been made as to the safety of aircraft seat belts which fasten in the middle? Is it not a fact that investigations have shown on occasions that significant injuries have been suffered in aircraft accidents as a result of an impact between a passenger’s body and the heavy buckle of a seat belt? Will the Minister have this matter examined to see whether aircraft seat belts should fasten at the side, as is now generally the case in motor vehicles? Will the Minister also examine whether the narrow, unpadded seat belts currently in use are effective or whether some other form of belt might be of greater benefit to the safety of air passengers?
-I think the matter is an important one. I think that the whole question of increased safety provisions in aircraft or motor vehicles is one that should be given keen attention. I do not know of a specific study of particular safety belts in aircraft and whether ones with centre buckles or side buckles or ones that are padded or unpadded have advantages. I will certainly bring the whole of the question to the attention of my colleague in another place and seek his comments.
– I address my question to Senator Durack in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, which is the portfolio that he held until a few days ago. Is the Minister aware that- many branches of the Returned Services League are claiming that standards at the Repatriation Hospital at Greenslopes have deteriorated as a result of staff reductions? Will the Minister look at the staff establishment at the Greenslopes Hospital with a view to restoring previous standards and relieving the concern of the inmates and the RSL branches which look after the inmates’ welfare?
– Until a few days ago, as the honourable senator said, I was the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Up to that time I had not been aware of any general complaints about the standards of treatment and care at Greenslopes. There are always individual complaints about care at any hospital- that does crop up from time to time- but I am not aware of any general complaint of that kind about Greenslopes. I have been asked questions in the Senate about the effect of staff ceilings in hospitals. The honourable senator will recall some industrial problems at Heidelberg Hospital arising out of some complaints from the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia. The problems were all resolved. I assured the Senate then and I assure it now that there has not been any deterioration in the standard of treatment anywhere as a result of any staff ceilings. Indeed, the repatriation hospitals were treated very favourably in regard to staff ceilings. Priority at all times has been given to the need to deliver health care and medical care at the hospitals.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act 1922 I present the annual report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966 I present the annual report of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Pig Industry Research Act 1971 I present the annual reports of the Pig Industry Research Committee for the years ended 30 June 1974, 30 June 1975 and 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to sections 13 and 14 of the Schools Commission Act 1973 I present the Schools Commission report for 1978. Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to this report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– There are two essential features of the Commission’s report. These concern the impact of the issue of guidelines by the Government on the Commission’s operations, and the availability of funds to meet essential requirements for schools in the States in 1978, more particularly for government schools.
I deal first with guidelines. Guidelines are not new. The Whitlam Government first issued them in 1975 for all of the Education Commissions when it set aside the reports of the four Commissions for the 1976-78 triennium, suspended the triennial principle and directed the Commissions to present recommendations for 1976 within stipulated financial limits. The 1975 guidelines for schools specified areas to receive priority treatment. The program adopted by the Whitlam Government for 1 976 constituted a cut iri real terms in the funds available for government schools in the States and an increase in the funds available for non-government schools.
For the program year 1977, the present Government, in the process of applying appreciable restraint to Commonwealth Government expenditure, also found it necessary to provide guidelines with financial limits and priority areas to the Schools Commission. However, we gave a 2 per cent real growth in funds for schools over the 1976 levels and in doing so provided for a real increase in expenditure for both government and non-government schools.
In the context of current and prospective economic circumstances, our Government has issued guidelines for the 1978 program year which provide for grants for schools in the States totalling $5 71m, in December 1976 prices, as the base level for the programs of the Schools Commission during 1978. This total amount is the same in real terms as was provided in 1977, subject to a modification of the cost supplementation procedures.
The guidelines for 1978 contain a number of specifications, including the continuation of special purpose programs for disadvantaged groups, the retention of the automatic link between recurrent grants to non-government schools and expenditure in government schools, together with the first step towards the restoration of the principle cf a basic per capita grant to ail non-government schools equal to 20 per cent of running costs per pupil in government schools and an increase in capital funds for nongovernment schools to assist building programs in newly expanding areas of population. Within the no-growth situation for direct grants for schools, the Government proposed that approximately $4m of the amount of about SI 4m needed to meet the specifications in respect of non-government schools, should be found by reductions in the programs for services and development and ibr special projects, which apply to both government and non-government schools.
In its report, the Schools Commission has acknowledged that under its Act it is obliged to carryout tasks referred to it by the Minister and to report in a way consistent with the guidelines. It sees the Schools Commission Act as giving it also a continuing obligation to report on the needs of schools for buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those needs. I have no quarrel with that point of view. However, the action taken by the Government has in no way impeded the Commission in discharging its responsibilities under the Schools Commission Act. 1 believe it is important to keep clearly in mind the essential role and responsiblity of the Schools Commission. lt operates as an advisory body to the Government to assist it with measures of financial assistance for the benefit of schools and school systems in the States, and also in the Territories. The obligation under its charter to report on the needs of schools and of priorities within those needs cannot be discharged in isolation from the issue of financial resources likely to be available to the Commonwealth, and indeed to the States and the non-government school authorities. Experience since the days of the Interim Committee, and also with other advisory commissions in education, demonstrates this fact.
I turn now to the second essential feature of the Schools Commission report; that is, the availability of funds for government schools in the States in 1978. In my view, the Commission has ignored the very real capacity the States have to continue to maintain the level of resources in their own schools. It has not taken proper account of all the financial resources available to the State governments. The States obtain funds ibr their schools from their own revenues and from general purpose grants from the Commonwealth, as well as from the specific purposegrants under the Schools Commission program. A significant factor in the increased efforts the States have made in respect of their own schools in recent years has been the increasing genera! financial assistance grants from the Commonwealth. Since it came into office our Government, in pursuance of its federalism policy, has responded to the demands of all States by giving them increased resources and therefore greater capacity for the exercise of discretion and determination of priorities under the revised income tax sharing arrangements. I remind the Senate that in the current financial ye.tr the Commonwealth will be making available to the States $4.336m under the tax sharing arrangements, which is an increase of more than $600 m over 1976-77 and at least $10Om more than their estimated entitlement under the former uniform tax formula. This represents an increase of nearly 17 per cent over the last financial year, significantly larger than the expected rate of inflation, and will permit the States to further increase their spending on schools if they wish.
At a number of places in its report the Commission has acknowledged the facts of the substantially improved position of government schools, and I illustrate: ‘Resources in most government school systems are about to reach or have already reached the improvement targets set’- see paragraph 3.15; and “States have continued to impove their own allocations for recurrent purposes in recent years and if the trend continues reductions in Commonwealth grants would slow down rather than halt that improvement’- see paragraph 3.9. These comments are supported by statistical material in Appendix B to the Commission’s report, including evidence that between 1972 and 1976 recurrent resource usage for primary students increased by 37 per cent in government schools compared with 27 per cent in non-government schools, and for secondary students by 29 per cent in government schools compared with 26 per cent in non-government schools. Furthermore, the percentage of total budget devoted to schools for all States increased from 26.3 per cent in 197 1-72 to 28.4 per cent in 1975-76 and to an estimated 29.4 per cent in 1976-77 for recurrent expenditure, and on a three-year average basis from 18.6 per cent for the period ending 1971-72 to an estimated 22.9 per cent for the period ending 1976-77 for capital expenditure (Table B.8). Against this background it would have been reasonable for the Commission to assume a further expansion of effort in the year ahead on the part of the States for government schools.
The Commission has also noted that the Commonwealth’s direct contribution to government schools in the States constitutes about 7 per cent of the total recurrent resources used and about 30 per cent of total capital programs- see paragraph 3.7. This fact emphasises the importance for state schools of the continued flow of general purpose funds from the Commonwealth to the States, and these in fact have been increased as previously noted. The Commission has acknowledged that in the light of the events since 1972 the assumption of the Interim Committee for the Schools Commission in 1973 that resource improvements in government schools would bc met increasingly from specific purpose Commonwealth grants is no longer tenable- see paragraph 3.16.
The Commission appears to have ignored these facts about the position of state schools in reaching the conclusion that ‘it would be unwise to rely on continuance of past trends, particularly in relation to reduction in grants without reasonable notice’- see paragraph 3.9- and in recommending a rephrasing of the guidelines to avoid the transfer of $5m out of a total of $342m for government schools- see paragraph 5.4. Nor has the Commission appeared to have taken any account of the specific statement in the guidelines that the Government expects the States to continue to discharge their own financial responsibilities to both government and nongovernment schools and has noted their significantly improved financial capacity to do so- see Appendix A, paragraph 4. The burden of the States will be further eased by relatively small projected increases in school enrolments. Overall government enrolments are unlikely to rise by more than one-half of one per cent next, year, and will fall steadily from 1978 on for at least the next five years.
In view of the substantial improvement in States’ revenues, a reduction of $5m in Schools Commission funds ought to be reasonably capable of being absorbed. It is important to keep the impact of the Government’s guidelines in perspective. Of the $57 1m available for 1978, $566m is for programs which continue established patterns, including close to $9m for the additional cost of automatically linking grants to the non-government schools to per capita expenditure in government schools. This particular policy was introduced for 1977 following a recommendation from the Schools Commission and will be continued. It should be noted also that in its present report the Schools Commission has stated that even without a direction from the Government it would have recommended a continuation of this linking arrangement, notwithstanding the overall no-growth situation.
Within the relatively small reallocations made necessary by the guidelines, the Commission recommended that savings of $3. 5m be found from the joint programs for services and development and for special projects. The Government made the suggestion that an amount of the order of $4m be found there in the belief that it would assist in maintaining at very close to existing levels those programs- in particular the general recurrent program for government schoolswhich were relatively inflexible. The Commission has also found a saving of $300,000 in the fund for emergency assistance to nongovernment schools suffering a drop in country enrolments.
It is the marginal sum of $5m-$3m as a contribution towards the long identified problem of non-government schools in providing places for newly expanding areas of population and $2m as the first step in bringing the per pupil grants from the Commonwealth to non-government schools in the States back to 20 per cent of running costs per pupil in government schools- which has presented difficulties for the Commission and has caused it to recommend a reconsideration of the guidelines. As to the first of these measures, the Commission has acknowledged the severe shortage of capital funds for both government and non-government schools and also the pressure to make non-government schooling available in newly developed areas, but in its judgment gives a higher priority to maintaining the Commonwealth contribution to both general recurrent and general capital programs in government schools. In doing so it has ignored the financial position of the States.
As to the 20 per cent principle as a minimum contribution to the running costs of all nongovernment schools, the Commission has had no regard to the Government’s policy or, it appears, to the fact that most States are already assisting non-government schools at the 20 per cent ratethe Tasmanian Government has just announced in its present, budget that its grants to nongovernment schools will in future be equal to 20 per cent of the cost of educating children in State schools. It is worth noting also that in the beginning of 1973 the Whitlam Government adopted, and subsequently maintained, the 20 per cent principle in determining the level of State-type per capita grants to non-government schools in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory in addition to the national grants under the Schools Commission program.
In these circumstances, I have no hesitation in stating that the Government will not adopt the recommendation of the Schools Commission that it amend the guidelines. We will make our decisions having regard to those allocations of the Commission which are consistent with the guidelines. These decisions will be taken and announced as soon as the Government has had an opportunity to look at the report in more detail and has received comments from the States and the non-government school authorities.
I want to mention one other aspect of the Commission’s report. The report deals essentially with the recommendations for the year 1978. The Commission intends early in 1978 to produce a further report containing a detailed review of issues and needs for the period 1979-81. I accept that this is an appropriate course, having particular regard to the limited time available since the issue of the guidelines. I foreshadow that the Tertiary Education Commission, whose report should be available shortly, intends to proceed in a similar fashion. The second stage report from the Schools Commission will be helpful to the Government in formulating fresh guidelines for the rolling triennium to commence in 1979. 1 seek leave to move a motion to take note of the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The statement which has been made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) was accompanied by the Schools Commission report which is, of course, quite a detailed document. I thank the Minister for giving me a copy of the statement at about 9 o’clock this morning. As honourable senators will realise, it has been impossible for me to study this report in detail. In the time that I have had to look at it one thing has become apparent and that is that this report slams this Government’s education policies. If we have ever seen a breakdown between a government and a statutory commission- an advisory commission- we are seeing it now. This Government deserves the criticism that is contained in this report from the Schools Commission.
I realise that we have Estimates to deal with and that the Senate should be adjourning now. But I am not going to pass up the opportunity to refer to some extracts in this report so that we can see the collision that has occurred because of the policies followed by this Government in the area of education. I want to put to rest again one argument which we continually hear put forward by this Government, particularly by the Minister, about the way the Labor Government cut expenditure on education. The Government has overlooked the fact that in the last Budget of the Labor Government- the 1975 Budget- there was an increase in the appropriation for education. There was an increase in the Budget and that is where it counts. We should take no notice of the bulge in capital expenditures over two year programs which the Minister relies upon to defend his argument. The allocation for education was increased in the first year of the Labor Government by $237m. In those three years of Labor in office the average increase in real terms in allocations to education was 41 per cent. I ask honourable senators to compare that with the record of the first two years of this wonderful Government with its new federalism policy. It has increased the allocation to education by one per cent. Yet honourable senators opposite have the neck to come into the Senate chamber and talk about cuts in education in the third year of the Labor Government when the most they can do is squeeze the entire education system and give it a one per cent average increase over the first two years they have been in office and admit in this statement that funds are now frozen for education. That is the total picture of what this Government is doing under this new federalism policy.
But there is something more damaging than that. As I have said many times in the Senate, it is up to the government itself to determine how much money it is prepared to give to any sector and it reserves the right to amend any commissions’ recommendations within the financial guidelines and the financial responsibilities that governments have. I do not argue with that. We did it ourselves in 1975. It is a perfectly legitimate exercise. But there is an important difference here. The Labor Government established the Schools Commission for two basic reasons. The first was that it would take out this running argument, this running sore, that had been going on in this country for so long between the non-government and the government school sector- the so-called State aid argument. It was divisive to us as a community and it was bad for the education system. We introduced the Schools
Commission for the purpose of allocating funds on a needs basis so that it did not matter whether it was a government school or a non-government school. If on the criteria established by the Commission a school was justified in receiving government support, it would receive that support.
Having done that, we as a government accepted the manner in which the Commission determined those needs. Within the financial strictures that any government must apply, we adopted the principle that the Commission should be the body to advise the government where those needs existed. This Government is throwing that principle overboard and the Commission recognises that in this report. It is telling the Government and the whole of the education system of Australia what the position is. I hope that every educationist, every school teacher and every parent in Australia who has a child at school is mindful of what this means. The Commission states in paragraph 1.6 on page 2 of the report:
The guidelines for the 1977-79 triennium did not contain directions about how the funds were to be allocated within the total funds available.
We have a different story now in 1978. 1 might add that when the Labor government was in power and there was a need for the government of that day to restrict in its third year of expenditure the amount that was being allocated to education- after, as I have just indicated, an average 41 per cent increase in real terms in expenditure on education in those three years, including that third year, compared to the miserly one per cent increase in expenditure provided by this Government- this is what the Minister of the day wrote to Dr McKinnon, the Chairman of the Schools Commission, on 19 August 1975:
I would expect the Commission to take account of the Government’s guidelines that I have referred to above in preparing its recommendations. Nevertheless, this would not rule out some changes in procedures and methods of funding within the approved financial ceilings if the Commission were to consider this desirable.
Mr Beazley, the then Minister for Education, also stated in a letter to Dr McKinnon dated 7 August 1975:
I should be grateful if your officers would provide to the Department whatever details can be made available for inclusion in this statement.
That was a subsequent report that the Minister was seeking. He went on to say:
I should be glad to have the Commission’s detailed recommendations for the 1976 calendar year, within the agreed financial ceilings, as soon as practicable, together with comments oh any implications these recommendations may have for July-December 1975.
The importance of these two letters was that the Labor Government was not saying to the Schools Commission that it would determine where the money goes and that the Government and not the Commission would say where the priorities and the needs lie; it was saying that it would still accept the Commission’s right to advise the Government on where the priorities and the needs lie. Finally, in the statement concerning the 1976 program by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) presented in the House of Representatives he said:
At my request the Schools Commission has provided a Report which makes recommendations on programs for 1976 within these amounts, and accords with the guidelines laid down by the Government. This Report is based on a previous one by the Schools Commission, which I commend to the House, on 4 June last.
The Government is pleased to endorse the three basic themes for the Report, laying emphasis as they do on equality, on more open attitudes to educational issues and on wider participation in decision-making by the school community.
The Government also endorses the Commission’s wish to ensure a more adequate flow of information to the Government and the public concerning the intended and actual use of Australian Government grants.
Then he said:
All the program recommendations are accepted, with a modification to the method of administering grants to nongovernment schools.
The important point is that the Labor Government said that the Schools Commission would still retain the right to advise the Government on needs. The thing that has really upset the Commission and which has been coming for the last several months is the fact that that principle now is thrown overboard. I know I cannot take much time- there will be an opportunity to debate this in greater depth next week- but I take this opportunity to read into the record a couple of comments by the Commission. Paragraph 1.9 of the Schools Commission report dated August 1977 states:
The Commission views very seriously the implications of such prescriptive guidelines. In its July 1976 Report … the Commission noted a distinction between reporting on needs without financial restrictions and the task of advising the Government on the pattern and priorities for expenditure within given levels of funding. Either of these circumstances would allow the Commission to give useful advice on the priorities which ought to be given to various needs. The 1977 situation is different in principle because most of the internal priorities have already been established by direction making it difficult for the Commission fully to exercise its responsibilities under the Act.
Paragraph 1.10 states:
The Act requires the Commission when writing reports to undertake consultation with all interested parties. Prescriptive guidelines not only pre-empt the nature of the Commission’s advice but threaten the consultation and decisionmaking process by which competing needs and priorities, within and between the government and non-government sectors, can be reconciled.
Paragraphs 1.11 comes to the heart of what I was saying earlier about the divisive nature of this education debate over the years-divisiveness which the Commission has done so much to remove. It states:
A feature of the Commission’s work since its inception has been its success in drawing together the diverse interests in government and non-government sectors. Traditional barriers between these sectors have been substantially reduced and individuals and groups within them have been encouraged to work together in the common interests of educating all Australian school children to the best possible standards.
This is not Labor Party propaganda. This is included in the report of the Schools Commission. It goes on:
The operation of the Commission’s joint programs and the development of formal and informal planning relationships between government and non-government schools and systems are significant examples of the evolution of this consensus. This is a major outcome of the Commission’s work over the past four years and indeed may be one of the major achievements of the Commonwealth in its role in Australian education. The Commission views with great concern the implications of the guidelines for the maintenance of the situation.
That is a clear statement. I personally congratulate the Commission for having the courage to spell out in a document to this Parliament exactly where this Government is taking education in this country. I could read many of these extracts to the Senate today, but I know that there is not the time to do so and that there are many other things with which we need to deal. We will have the opportunity later.
I will refer to just one other matter which I think should be referred to, and that is the manner in which the Minister’s statement misinterprets what the Commission has said. The Commission is accused of not taking into account the alleged better fund-raising capacities of the States. This is a favourite theme of the Minister for Education, who is also in charge of Federal affairs. On page 7 of Budget Paper No. 7 the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) shows once again the percentage increases in payments to the States for a whole range of matters, including education. He shows there that in the first year of the Labor Government there was a 2 1 per cent increase in payments to the States. In the second year of the Labor Government there was a 53 per cent increase in payments to the States. These are total payments. That is what we are concerned about. In the third year of the Labor Government the increase was 29 per cent. In the first year of the new federalism there was a crash to 9.5 per cent, and this year the estimate is for a further crash to 9.2 per cent. Yet we are told that the States will have to pay more and more of their education bills.
The Commission is accused of not taking into account what is allegedly the States’ better capacity to finance education. I suggest that the Commission has done its homework just as well as this Government. In fact, I suggest that it has done it much better. On page 5 of the Minister’s statement we find this sentence:
The Commission has acknowledged that in the light of the events since 1972 the assumption of the Interim Committee for the Schools Commission in 1973 that resource improvements in government schools would be met increasingly from specific purpose Commonwealth grants is no longer tenable- see paragraph 3.16.
I suggest that that is a deliberate misrepresentation of what the Commission says in paragraph 3.16. This is what the Commission says:
The basis of joint State and Commonwealth contributions to the attainment of acceptable standards is also in need of review. The assumption of the Interim Committee that resource improvements in government schools would be met increasingly from Commonwealth grants is no longer tenable in the light of events since 1 972.
It is not talking about specific purpose grants; it is talking about the whole range of grants that a government gives. Paragraph 3.16 continues:
As the maintenance of acceptable standards rests on inputs from both State and Commonwealth sources, the respective responsibilities of each will need reconsideration.
I do not know what the Government is upset about. It wants the States to take over more of the responsibility. Obviously the Commission recognises that there is a need for a reallocation of input, but under no circumstances could one interpret that to mean what is contained in the Minister’s statement. It was inevitable, and has been for some time, that this would happen-that the Schools Commission would jack up on this Government- because it is sick of the way it is being interfered with. The whole of the programs it develops, the tremendous amount of detailed information it receives and the tremendous amount of work that goes into them is just being thrown out the window. The Commission can see the thin end of the wedge now. For straight out political purposes, this Government will destroy the principles which have been enunciated so ably in the paragraph that I read a few minutes ago. I suggest that this is indicative of where the Government is taking us in the education field. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday next at half past 2 p.m. I remind honourable senators that Estimates Committees D, E and F will meet at about 12.25 p.m. this day. Prior to the meeting, the bells will be rung for 3 minutes. Committee D will meet in the Senate Chamber, Committee E in Senate
Commitee Room No. 1 and Committee F in Senate Committee Room No. 5. Honourable senators are reminded also that Estimates Committees A and C are scheduled to meet at 12 noon on Monday next.
Senate adjourned at 12.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications upon notice, on 30 March 1 977:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions: (1)I have not yet called for applications for a public broadcasting licence for the Tamworth area. However, the Tamworth Broadcasting Society has expressed interest in a public broadcasting licence. This will be taken into consideration when a planning proposal is being prepared for the Tamworth area.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 25 May 1 977:
Are there any statutory authorities responsible to the Minister, if so, (a) what are they, (b) who are bankers for each authority and (c) which, if any, of the authorities may be termed ‘statutory authorities of a business nature’.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The statutory bodies are:
The bankers are:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
Is the current high level of imports of scallops into Australia threatening the livelihood of commercial fishing enterprises in Australia, particularly those based along the Queensland coast inside the Great Barrier Reef; if so, what action does the Minister intend taking to overcome this threat.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Although there are no separate statistics available, imports of scallops from North America are understood to have been high in recent months.
Over the past two years scallop landings in North America have approached record levels. These high catches have been related primarily to the abundance of scallops spawned in 1972 which began to reach harvestable size in 1975.
These catches have had a depressing effect on world scallop prices generally. For example, wholesale prices in the United States currently average about $A4. 10 kg, a fall of 33 per cent compared with early 1976. Present prices to fishermen in Queensland are$A2.00 kg compared with over $A3.00 kg last year.
The low overseas prices combined with a shortage of supplies earlier this year resulted in Australian importers ordering considerable quantities of scallops overseas. The arrival of these imports has coincided with the prospects of a good catch in Queensland and the market is now over-filled. [understand that as a result of this situation importers have stopped ordering from overseas and the level of scallop imports is expected to fall over the next few months.
The question of the protection or other assistance to the fishing industry is being examined by the Industries Assistance Commission. Hearings were held in capital cities in June 1977 and it is anticipated that a draft report for public comment will be produced later this year.
I would suggest that scallop fishermen and all other parties affected by imports present their case at the final Industries Assistance Commission hearing following publication of its draft report in order that their point of view be reflected in the Commission’s report to the Government.
Beef : DDT Contamination (Question No. 1187)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
Although non-compliant levels have been found at one time or another in various localities throughout New South Wales they may be somewhat more prevalent in the Namoi Valley region than elsewhere. Indications are that the incidence and magnitude of DDT residues are declining consistent with the phasing out of this substance.
The Department of Primary Industry has been exercising its surveillance over residues in export produce since 1 960 as part of its overall responsibility for export inspection. This enables the Department to identify possible problem areas and to make appropriate recommendations to State authorities.
Australian exports have achieved an excellent reputation in overseas markets for their presentation and freedom from residues.
All State authorities have co-operated in the phasing out of DDT from all uses for which alternative chemicals are available. Its use is now confined to only a small segment of Australian agriculture.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
How many frequencies are available in the FM band for use by radio stations now in:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
-On 16 August 1977 (Hansard, page 11) and 19 August (Hansard, page 346) Senator Bishop asked me questions without notice regarding shipbuilding and the proposals of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Senator Bishop referred to the fact that although the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, had received a reply from the Prime Minister, honourable senators had not. The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Senator Bishop and other South Australian senators wrote to me on 24 June concerning the recommendations on shipbuilding in the interim report of the Joint Committee and I replied on 8 July, saying that I would keep their views in mind. On 1 1 August I conveyed to the New South Wales and South Australian Premiers and the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, the Government’s decision to accept the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission not to vary the rates of assistance for shipbuilding, as payable under the legislation introduced by the previous Commonwealth Government.
In coming to this position the Government took carefully into account the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, as well as the views put forward by the South Australian and New South Wales Governments, the union movement and other organisations and individuals in Whyalla and Newcastle. A special Commonwealth/State Task Force reported on the social implications of a decline in shipbuilding for Whyalla and Newcastle. In these circumstances there would seem to be nothing to gain from establishing yet another committee to report on the industry.
It is accepted that the decision taken is likely to lead to the decline of large ship construction in Australia. The Government’s evaluations show conclusively, however, that the cost to the community oi” the assistance needed to protect the future of the shipbuilding industry would be well beyond the level that could tie justified on economic, social and defence grounds.
Television Advertising: Effect on Children
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 23 August 1977:
Has he seen a report in today’s Press from the Australian Children “s Television Action Committee recommending that advertising be removed from children’s viewing times on television? The Minister may be aware that the average child who left school in 1 975 spent 1 5.2 10 hours in a class room as against 1 7,520 hours in front ol’a television set. Can the Minister say whether either his Department or the Australian Broadcasting Commission is conducting any research into the effect of television generally and television advertising in particular on the minds and outlook of school children?
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A full-scale investigation into the effects of television generally, and television advertising in particular, on the minds and outlook of children would, of course, represent a very lengthy and most costly task. A vast amount of money and effort has gone into research of this nature in a number of countries overseas and many of the studies have provided considerable insight into the possible influence of television on children. However, I understand that few of these projects have provided definitive answers to some of the more critical questions on the manner in which television may effect the young, and that there is also frequent disagreement among some of the experts on the interpretation of many of the findings.
Some relevant research has also been carried out within academic institutions in Australia which has contributed to our knowledge on this matter, but naturally has not matched the scale of some of the overseas effort.
My Department has noi been involved in research in this area as it is one which is closely linked with station programming and therefore would be more appropriately undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
While a number of studies to viewer reaction or response to various aspects of programming have at times been carried out by the ABC or the former Australian Broadcasting Control Board, no major study of the magnitude required to investigate the wide range of complex and inter-relating factors involved in assessments of the overall effects of television have been carried out by an authority within my jurisdiction.
I am extremely conscious however, that this is a most vital and important area of research, and data available from local sources or overseas is being closely monitored.
Bulimba Hostels Pty Ltd
– On Tuesday Senator McAuliffe asked me a question without notice relating to the future of the Bulimba Hostels Pty Ltd in Brisbane.
I have since inquired into the questions raised. I have received a submission from the Department relating to the Hostel. I have not yet acted on that submission.
The Bulimba Hostel is located on Commonwealth land at Brisbane Street, Bulimba, an inner suburb of Brisbane. The complex comprises six timber and asbestos cement buildings of World War II vintage.
The property was initially operated as a Commonwealth Hostel until 15 July 1946 when it was leased to Mr and Mrs H. G. Lamble, who have continued to operate the hostel to date, recently as a private company.
The buildings have now reached the end of their economic life. They have been the subject of reports from the Department of Construction, the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board and the Brisbane City Council.
The hostel currently houses some 320 persons, primarily aged pensioners and other recipients of social security payments.
The present lease is due to expire on 30 September and in the light of the condition of the buildings the Chief Property Officer for Queensland advised the lessees in May 1976 that the lease would not be renewed. The lessees have been offered a three month carry-over from 1 October 1977 to wind down operations.
My main concern is for the welfare of the people living in the Hostel. If it is closed there will be a need to make arrangements for alternative accommodations. As a result I intend to have discussions with my colleagues as to what assistance can be provided. I shall not make any decisions on the future of the building until those discussions have taken place, and I am satisfied that the welfare of those people has been protected.
-On 6 September 1977 Senator Wheeldon asked me a question about the problems of Kambalda and the stockpile of nickel. I have been advised by the Minister for National Resources that he has arranged in conjunction with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for senior officials of the Departments of National Resources and Employment and Industrial Relations to visit Kalgoorlie next week for urgent discussions with local authorities, the mining company and unions to assess the extent of the problem caused by the nickel industry retrenchments and report back to the Ministers. Regrettably the world nickel industry of which Australia is a leading exporter, is iri a depressed state with producers ‘ stocks at an all time high. Leading Canadian producers have cut production in an attempt to bring some semblance of order into a deteriorating market. Unfortunately, it seems that it might take some years for the market situation to improve. Given the already high level of stocks in the industry and the acute over-supply situation, continued accumulation of stocks does not icem to offer a realistic solution. The Government is however, most mindful of the likely serious impact of the nickel industry retrenchments in the Kalgoorlie region and the officials will be reporting back to Ministers.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770908_senate_30_s74/>.